Marco Paladines | Sociology of Architecture

Can you give us a short background of yourself?

I studied Social Science in Ecuador, where I was born, and at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where I also live right now; my focus has been on sociological theories and social philosophy. I’m also interested in the intersections of sociological theories with other theoretical frames like aesthetics, media, politics, ecology and recently architecture. I’ve been working on the sociology of architecture for the last year. My Master thesis “The concept of atmosphere and the sociology of architecture” was dedicated to this topic. The interplay of social, cultural, mental and material layers, as well as the spatial and temporal framing of human experience is what attracted me to this field.


How would you define sociology?

Modernity gave birth to both new social relations (capitalism, new cultural forms and identities) and new forms of social organization (e.g. the modern state, modern cities, mass media, techno-science, etc.). But it also gave birth to new forms of understanding phenomena.

Sociology is the self-observation of modern societies and the attempt to describe and comprehend their organization and transformation by means of scientific analysis and interpretation. Thus, sociology is a modern form in which societies understand themselves.

And specifically, the sociology of architecture?

Architecture maybe understood as a medium in which society takes specific forms. The sociology of architecture tries to understand different societies through the interpretation of the changing relationships with their own architectures (what does a specific building says about the society that built or uses it?), as well as through the observation of the influence that architectural programs and spatial organization have on social interaction and organization (which forms of interaction and organization are permitted or prevented by specific architectural programs?).

What is the theoretical and the practical contribution for offices or institutions?

The incidence of the sociology of architecture on architecture itself hasn’t been direct, but indirect. Mainly because the aim of this novel discipline is rather to produce knowledge about the role of architecture in social reproduction than to create a new architectural movement or manifesto. On the other hand, there has been always been an interest for architecture among social thinkers (Maurice Halbwachs or Walter Benjamin are therefore relevant figures), but not too much interest from architects on the discussions of social science; which is not to say that they aren’t interested on social issues at all, because they certainly are. However, after watching the historical transformation of societies, it would be at least naive to underestimate the potential influence of knowledge in the real world and in everyday life.


Which contributions are to be considered on the political?

The regulative and cohesive power of architecture has been well know throughout history. You just have to think about Hausmann’s renovation of Paris, or Foucault’s analysis on prisons. Some investigations are also been oriented towards the subtle influence of architecture, a kind of soft-power that goes normally unnoticed by the users. It is used to create specific political or consumerism habits, through the design of atmospheres. Beyond that, there is a structural warranty for contingency attached to architecture, which means simply, that beyond any architectural program, there will always be possibilities to cognitively and practically use buildings in other ways. The users of building are the ones who, if they have the liberty to, will decide on the usage of spaces.

Thank you for your time.

It’s been a pleasure.




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