Thomas-Bernard Kenniff is currently an invited professor at the École d’architecture de l’Université Laval, Québec City. His work focuses on the relationship between design, public space and dialogue. His introduction to On Site review 30: ethics and publics begins:
Like every spoken word, every line drawn is a social act: a division, a wall, a river, a connection, a window, a bridge, perhaps all at the same time like Michel De Certeau’s spatial narrative ambiguity. Every such act is social because it constitutes a proposal to redistribute social relations in space. Doubly so because it takes place within particular sets of social circumstances, modes of communication and production: a line drawn as threshold in a design studio, another drawn as a strategic security fence between geopolitical regions. As Francis Alÿs’ The Green Line (images are in the pdf) poignantly shows, the simple act of drawing a line can be deeply political indeed. The idea is excruciating, inescapable, but in the best possible way. It forces us to take position, to take responsibility and to answer. The single most important question you can ask a design student, Kathryn Moore once told me, is ‘why?’ and then ask it again, and again.
It is with this in mind that the double topic for this issue of On Site review was developed. Ethics and publics not as separate issues, but as inseparable aspects of any intervention, proposed intervention or interpretation of the built environment.
To read his entire introductory essay, here is a pdf of it.