Architecture is politics in matter, a form of political conflictual practice that negotiates culture. This research project aims to investigate the architecture of ‘other markets’: informal spaces of exchange that have become paradigmatic sites for the emergence of ‘networked ecologies’ in 21st century urban transformation. Spurred by economic deregulations and the intertwined mobilisation of people and goods, informal systems have taken on a global dimension in structuring how we connect to each other, how we inhabit our environments, and how we engage in political and social operations. Nodal points of these transformations, informal markets entertaining long-distance relations have emerged on the fringes of major cities as well as on the borders between different states. Amidst the economisation of all aspects of life and the expansion of transnational spaces, these sites have evolved into prototypes of novel and extreme material configuration.
The investigations focus on the modalities of socio-spatial production in informal markets and their implications for new models of co-existence and exchange. While these globally distributed nodes of the informal economy are often effects of political upheaval, economic destabilisation, migratory movements and new labour situations, they shape complex systems of alternate relations wherever and whenever institutional protocols have come to a deadlock. The research approaches these dynamics through theoretical and empirical investigations into the visual culture of informal markets. It situates the architectures of informal markets as performative practices indicative of globally enacted juridico-political alignments and examines their workings by way of field studies and on-site transdisciplinary exchange in three different world regions (China/Southeast Asia; the Americas/US borders; Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean).
These findings are correlated with the recent geocultural discourse on graduated mobility, transient land use and flexible citizenship: What roles can informal sites play in new regimes of governance and in alternate systems of exchange? This theoretical framework on the development and operation of ‘networked ecologies’ traces the relational structures, spatial formations and cross-cultural trajectories of informal markets to explore the ambit of informally co-ordinated urban conduct and translocal sociality that transgresses the realm of established institutional operations. An accompanying ‘atlas’, produced by the research, illustrates how strategies of spatial appropriation, self-organised exchange and urban participation respond to the changing socio-economic condition of urban space and its tendencies to marketisation, transnationalisation and fragmentation. These results demonstrate the catalytic potential of architecture in the translation of global practices into situated cultural logics and thus provide an essential contribution to the transdisciplinary discourse on 21st century urban transformation.
Dr Helge Mooshammer
Informal Market Worlds – ATLAS
Informal Market Worlds – READER
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P 22809-G17