Call for Abstracts: Writing Place series #10: Poetics of Place

Editors of this issue: Angeliki Sioli, Jeremy Hawkins, Vincent Cellucci, Klaske Havik

Deadline: 2 images by February 20, 2024.

Through poems, perhaps more than through recollections,
we touch the ultimate poetic depth of space.
—Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
 —Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury” from The Selected Works of Audre Lorde

The next edition of the Writingplace series, Poetics of Place, seeks to investigate how the connections between architecture and poetry can offer insights into the production of spatial understanding and the design of place. We are particularly interested in methodological considerations that inform spatial designers about the poetics of places, and in forms of architectural practice that make use of poetic devices – beyond the romantic image. We are looking for new ways to take account of poiesis as it evolves between poetic language and the constitutive elements of situatedness and place. 

While Bachelard, in his seminal The Poetics of Space (1958)[1] introduced a poetic perspective to the study of intimate spaces, taking the poet’s presentation of spaces as a point of departure to build a philosophy, our starting point is different. We wish to begin from the multiplicities of place itself and the potential of poetic practices to capture these multiplicities and generate design propositions. Bachelard’s notion of the poetic image of space, recognized by the poet and translated into a communicable text that reverberates in the reader’s mind, deserves an update if we are looking for poetic practices that engage with the social complexity of places: their different meanings, memories and imaginations as felt and expressed by their different inhabitants and users. Beyond the intimate spaces addressed by Bachelard, we are thus interested in ambiguous, contested, and pluralistic places – public urban places for instance, used and inhabited by multiple human (and non-human) characters. How can public urban places, for instance, be characterized by multiple poetic images, or how could a single poetic image be polyphonic? 

Complexity of Place

While the idea of a ‘genius loci’, a specific identity of place defined by aspects such as  topography, climate, material and cultural history,[2] may be a tempting point of departure when investigating the poetics of place, it fails to address the complex dynamics of place interpretation. As Doreen Massey argued, each place consists of multiple identities, experienced differently by different people. She pleas for “an understanding of place as open (…), as woven together out of ongoing stories, as a moment within power-geometries, as a particular constellation within the wider topographies of space.”[3] Jeff Malpas, in Place and Experience (1999), calls for a relational understanding of place: “Place possesses a complex and differentiated structure made up of a set of interconnected and interdependent components – subject and object, space and time, self and other […] the complexity of place does not entail a dispersion of elements but rather enables their “gathering together” – their interconnection and unification – in such a way that their multiplicity and differentiation can be both preserved and brought to light.”[4]

Poetic practices

We are also interested in examining how poetic forms of investigation can help to address this complexity of place in design questions. In terms of methodology, we are curious to find examples of how poetry can help architects understand places in ways that go beyond the scope of the conventional architectural tools (such as sketches, drawings, models, diagrams, maps, photographs). What can be learned from the gaze of the poet, from the methods used by poets to observe, to invent , deform, erase, or to construct? What specific topics and details do poets of place gravitate to, and does the use of poetic form and structure resonate with architectural form? How does poetry emerge from place and what can poetry reveal to architects about it? Given that poetry can unveil and multiply the experiential aspects of a place, how can it guide architects to prioritize these qualities and, for instance, enhance the embodied experience a designed place affords?

We are particularly looking for examples of architectural practices which have developed a poetic practice to understanding and designing public places. This may relate to the ways in which language is used in architectural practice, not only as a descriptive device, but almost as a material to investigate, and build with. How can we design language to convey architectural concepts?

We hope to present contributions that show how situated knowledge can be produced and how it can challenge conventions to tackle the fascinating complexity of place through poetic practices. 

We invite architects, designers, literary writers, philosophers of place, doctoral candidates  and those who more generally deal with the productive links between architecture and poetry to submit an abstract of 500 words maximum, including keywords, references and max. 2 images by February 25, 2024. Proposals for poetic or other hybrid, exploratory essay forms are also welcomed.

Please note that all full research articles are subject to a blind peer-review process. For authors guidelines and the submission procedure please check here

Editors of this issue: Angeliki Sioli, Jeremy Hawkins, Vincent Cellucci, Klaske Havik

[1] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon Press 1994, p. 8
 [ translation 1964, from the original Poétique d’ Espace, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1958]

[2] Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci – Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (London: Academy Editions, 1980 [1979])

[3] Doreen Massey. For Space. (London: SAGE Publications, 2005), 131

[4] Jeff Malpas, Place and Experience, A Philosophical Topography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). pp.173-174


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