Design ambitions and logics in construction – a performative approach
Susse Georg, Tor Hernes and Kjell Tryggestad Copenhagen Business School, Department of Organization and Center for Management Studies of the Building Process. Abstract Skyscrapers are often often seen as powerful symbols and important symbols of power; views which generally render the skyscraper as nothing more than a passive object representing people’s design ambitions. Rather than continue in this representational vein, the paper develops a performative approach emphasizing the role of materiality in constructing design ambitions. Based on a case study of the construction of a skyscraper in Sweden, “The Turning Torso”, we show how personal and collective design ambitions are transformed and even scaled up and down as the materialization of the building poses new and unexpected design requirements. We trace how an object of art, “The twisting Torso” – as depicted in sculptures, drawings and pictures – morphs, circulates in the hands of others, and participates in the construction of not only architectural design ambitions and the skyscraper, “The Turning Torso,” but also in the construction of a design strategy for urban and regional renewal/identity. Articulating and representing the future in the present and by persuading others to act accordingly “The Twisting Torso” is considered as a device active in folding time, space, ambitions and identities, whilst “The Turning Torso” in the course of its construction not only shaped design ambitions, it also – de facto – shaped important cultural understandings and practices concerning living standards, citizenship, professional roles and identity, i.e. the project’s institutional context and logics.
Introduction How do design ambitions emerge? The literature is replete with references to how important the architect’s ambition is for a building’s design and scope, and as such ambitions reside in the heads of architects. In organizational research architecture is – like other artefacts and technology – generally treated as a symbol (Schein 1992) of an already given culture and as a means to reinforce its identity (Scott and Meyer et al. 1994, Meyer et al. 1994). Hence, architectural ambitions are likely to be influenced by forces in the wider institutional environment of which the architect is part. However, notions like symbol and means tend to treat architecture, technologies and artefacts as passive objects that reflect ambitions existing elsewhere else, i.e. in the minds of architects, in a specific profession and/or cultural context. The artefacts, technologies and architecture are either overlooked or not considered as making any constitutive difference. As an alternative to these strands of organizational research, we develop a performative approach and argue that design ambitions are emergent and depend upon the building under construction. The purpose of this paper is to explore in what sense architecture, artefacts and technologies can actively participate in organizing and changing existing ambitions, practices, and cultural understandings. The paper develops an endogenous understanding of cultural and institutional change in which objects and their cultural context are seen as mutually constituted or co‐ produced. Rather than considering action as shaped or influenced by ‘forces’ exogenous to the actor and the objects that actors use merely as means to an end, we reverse this ‘outside‐in’ argumentation and with the help of actor network theory develop an ‘inside‐out’ argument that sheds light on how material objects – like buildings and some of the artefacts/technologies needed to construct buildings – can create, transmit and change institutions. Our aim is to contribute to a process‐based approach to understanding how ‘things’ – like buildings and ...