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Architecture is co: an ethnography of architectural presentations and representations in Copenhagen



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Hoehn, Dominik 


This dissertation explores some of the ways in which architecture and design were practised in the Danish capital of Copenhagen at the end of the 2010s. In 2018, a building called BLOX was opened on Copenhagen’s harbour front after more than a decade-long period of design, planning and construction. Most of the fieldwork for this thesis took place in and around this new building complex. Supported by the Danish government and by a private foundation, BLOX was to become the meeting point for ‘Denmark’s world of architecture, design and new ideas’, housing the Danish Architecture Centre and other organisations. Establishing BLOXHUB, the name of a new co-working space inside BLOX, was one key decision through which the ambition to ‘co-create’ was to be realised. ‘The future is co’, as the director of BLOXHUB put it. Both BLOX and BLOXHUB figure centrally in the thesis chapters. The Danish word for design is form-givning, literally meaning ‘giving form’. Architecture is a professional practice and a discipline, usually practised in architectural studios and schools. But it is also given many other forms and practised in other places. This dissertation explores some of these other forms of the architectural and examines the workings of architecture under co-working logics. The chapters move from the BLOX building itself to BLOXHUB and to other organisations and places in and outside BLOX. The architects and other professionals that form part of the BLOXHUB community (as they call themselves) enact architecture through a variety of everyday practices that include producing oral and written outputs that animate, define and explain their work and views. Architecture is often described as a business now and, in the context of BLOX, its aim is expressed in the rhetoric of producing ‘solutions’; this is conceptualised as a necessity but also as an opportunity to address ‘global challenges’. Economics and the language of business have become a shared language across professions. This has resulted in additional perceived pressures for architecture as a professional practice and, in consequence, architects look to and cite these other domains of knowledge and practice that appear more persuasive. This dissertation examines some of these developments and transformations that are coordinated in the name of ‘architecture’. At the same time, the chapters are exploring throughout the practices of presenting and representing, especially through talking and writing. These are all practices of architecture – modes of ‘doing architecture’, we might say – but are often ignored or subordinated to other, more familiar architectural forms. In focussing especially on this mode of doing architecture, this dissertation contributes a different focus from that of most of the anthropological literature on the architectural profession; it is a focus from fieldwork based outside the architectural studio, and explores how architects and other professionals seek to re-work architecture.





McDonald, Maryon


anthropology, anthropology of architecture


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC (1801487)