Second Supervisor: Dr. Maria S. Giudici
Georgios Eftaxiopoulos is an architect living and working in London. He is trained at the Architectural Association, where he is currently pursuing his PhD in Architectural Design. Georgios has previously worked in Belgium and Switzerland.
Flexibility, nowadays, constitutes the canon. Together with words like resilience, it is used to describe almost every architectural space and project. Having the capacity to cope with future uncertainties, it is applied as a technique in order to achieve living spaces that are able to accommodate a series of different occupations, lifestyles and needs. Within an environment of constant estrangement and uprootedness, flexibility claims to introduce and articulate a sense of place and belonging, providing its inhabitants with comfort and the feeling of taking control.
This thesis argues that flexibility, antithetically, operates as an architectural tool towards the transformation of spaces that become far from being ‘free’, and instead alienate and restrict their inhabitants. In a period during which production has become a totalizing condition and has spread into the entire city, flexibility translates into a contemporary disguise covering the rigidity and stiffness of the market. Camouflaged through its rhetorical etymology, it produces a strange paradox; on one hand, enabling change and potential, and on the other hand, dictating it.
Introduced in parallel to the rise of industrialization, flexibility’s embodiment became the architecture of the industrial city. Providing a more efficient organization of production and larger construction possibilities capable of housing the grand machines of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it manifested itself through the implementation of capital’s demands. From the multi-story building, to the invention of the assembly-line and the single-story multi-functional shed, flexibility offered a high level of optimization, surveillance and control. Shortly thereafter, in an atmosphere of euphoria, it expanded beyond the realm of the factory to warehouses, shopping arcades, and exhibitions; all of which became celebrations of the particular culture of (mass-)production. Influencing both sides of the Atlantic, flexibility inscribed, among others, the Universal Space (universality) and defined the Typical Plan (genericness) as an apotheosis of the multiple choice concept. It was its embedded attribute – to anticipate changes and develop a fertile ground for production to advance – which after the middle of the twentieth century emerged into a rationale for the unfolding of the domestic life and the guarantor of new ways of living. In our era of perpetual variability during which there is no longer a clear distinction between living and working, flexibility is used to praise and, ultimately, instrumentalize our precarity and uncertainty. It is a shift from an industrial and working space typology to that of the domestic space, and the city in its entirety, redefining our living norms at large.
Being a term that represents change and progress, the project will read flexibility in its critical dimension, conceptualizing it through the idea of stasis. In particular, it will claim that, within our constant flux, flexibility unfolds itself as a technique to achieve a state of stillness and stability, relinquishing change and fixity as a mutually exclusive condition. With the intend to look beyond its phantasmagoria, the thesis, rather than distinguishing between ‘bad flexibility’ and ‘good flexibility’, will claim that flexibility can neither act nor represent the potentiality and the refuge from production and exploitation; suggesting a new condition. Re-hierarchizing our contemporary needs, it will develop a new architectural grammar by means of writing and drawing, with the latter abandoning its normative supportive role and becoming into a technique for argumentation. To conclude, the project will propose a design system that, beginning from the scale of the unit, will evolve towards a proposal that encompasses the scale of the building and ultimately, the city.