ESR 2 – Anna Livia Vørsel

Becoming evident: material knowledge in Swedish post-war housing


Project Description

This research project approaches tacit knowing from the perspective of it as embodied, situated and embedded, and situatesquestions around tacit knowledge in architecture within a feminist, critical and new materialist theoretical framework, questioning what would be at stake within architecture in including other forms of knowing, questioning what knowledge have validity, and who or what can carry it.

Situated in Sweden, this research project engages with Swedish post-war housing built in rekordåren (the record years) 1961-75, particularly buildings that have experienced a form of ‘event’: a renovation, restoration, conversion, or a shift in materiality, ownership or value. Writing within architectural history and theory, the work is situated within a large existing trajectory of critical feminist theory in architecture, and an extensive body of research on post-war housing in Sweden. Working with Swedish housing situates the research within ongoing discussions on the historically complex economic and political context of the Swedish welfare state and its recent history of privatization. The research will expand on this through a critical study of neoliberal political and economic structures affecting architecture and housing today.

Utilizing the notion of the ‘event’ in the context of these particular sites allows me to engage with the same physical architectural materials at different points in time. Thinking of the life of a building as a continuous chain of overlapping events that can be accessed through different means and media at different scales. I am particularly interested in working with sites affected by the contemporary neoliberal form of turning around properties under the ‘buy it, fix it, sell it’ model, applied heavily since the financial crisis by international investment firms like Blackstone.[1]As a method for disentangling and questioning how forms of knowledge materialise in artefacts the research applies artist and researcher Susan Schuppli’s operative concept of the Material Witness. Defined by Schuppli: “Matter becomes a material witness only when the complex histories entangled within objects are unfolded, transformed into legible formats, and offered up for public consideration and debate.”[2] By conducting a microanalysis of the material record of these events, and slowly unpacking them, the research will examine and disentangle the ‘assemblages’ that these buildings operate within, questioning how forms of knowing materialise in architecture.


More questions? Send Anna an email.

[1] In March 2019 the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner addressed concerns to the Swedish government over its ‘practice of adopting laws and policies which treat housing as a commodity’ and the recent financialization of housing in Sweden. Surya Deva and Leilani Farha, ‘Mandates of the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises and the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in This Context’, 22 March 2019.

[2] Susan Schuppli, Material Witness: Media, Forensics, Evidence (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2020), 18.