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CAS SEE Seminars with Guests: Marjan Hočevar

Assoc. prof. dr. Marjan Hočevar is a sociologist who lectures and researches socio-spatial issues. He is employed at the University of Ljubljana at the Faculty of Social Sciences, where he is the head of the Center for Spatial Sociology and at the Faculty of Architecture. His main research preoccupation is the study of territoriality and »placemaking«, especially the processes of urban transformation and modern urban dynamics in the context of local/global interplay. He comparatively and longitudinally researches the spatial and environmental attachments, cognition of built space, and residential mobility (within wider social values patterns) of the Slovenian population at subnational scales and in the European and global context. He participates in the development and planning projects of some Slovenian cities, especially Ljubljana and Koper in the creation of spatial plans, consulting on public participation, urban revitalization activities, and matters of integrated mobility modes. Since 2018 he has been the chairman of the supervisory board of the Urban Institute of the Republic of Slovenia and since 2021 a member of the Spatial Development Commission and a member of the Spatial Vision core group at the University of Ljubljana. His publications focus on spatial networks, trends of de-hierarchization of European urban systems, and changing the role of urban centers under the influence of emerging lifestyles, gentrification, and urban tourism. Recently, he has been working on the scientometry of spatial studies. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Faculty of Social Sciences: Introduction to Sociology, Spatial Sociology, Studies in Tourism and Travel, Sociology of Architecture (in English, Erasmus program), and Urban Planning. He teaches Urban Sociology and Contemporary Theory of Urbanism at the Faculty of Architecture. For several years he lectured on doctoral studies at the University of Trieste (ISIG, Gorizia) within the International University Institute for European Studies. He is an evaluator of doctoral candidates in the international architectural education network Ca2re. He was the coordinator of the thematic group TG06 local/global sociology at the International Sociological Association. From 2003 to 2005 he was the head of the Department of Analytical Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, and from 2005 to 2008 he was the president of the Slovenian Sociological Association. From 2018-to 2021 he was the editor of the journal Družboslovne razprave (Social forum).

How an Architect Reflects Society

On Thursday, April 14th at 12 pm (CET), we hosted the CAS SEE Seminar with Marjan Hočevar, presented by Marko-Luka Zubčić and Sanja Bojanić.

The title of this presentation suggests a confrontation and critique of architectural practice. But that’s not the point. Architects are often right when they believe that confrontation with sociologists and social scientists, in general, is not dialogical. And indeed, many times criticism remains on the proverbial level “in the eyes of the beholder.” We must first abandon the unproductive dilemma of who shapes whom: space society or society space. In my opinion, this issue needs to be approached from the point of view of the key issue of socio-spatial relations. For me, it is the dialectic of the integration of diversity. Georg Simmel, an enfant teriblle of early sociology, who emphasized the permeation between form and content and materiality and social relations on both a symbolic and explanatory level was the first to attract architects and they attracted his insights. His observation that architecture strongly resembles (material) forms of social organization was a reference for the architect Mies van der Rohe and later for Le Corbusier. The theory and practice of architectural modernism and social modernity have been, often really, “lost in translation” (with unintended outcomes). But the interference of both perspectives on society and space gained momentum. The wall was not entirely impermeable, as evidenced by the take-off of urbanism as a dialogue between spatial disciplines on built space in the early twentieth century. 

However, the wall was and still is not porous enough to really integrate epistemic cultures in academia and practice. In dealing with socio-spatial assemblages, especially cities, dialogue between builders, designers, and social analysts is gradually gaining ground, although the “Hausmanian” engineering approach still predominates in urban planning departments. The management of the current post-urban complexity and socio-spatial instability (fluidity) forces the integrative functioning of professions, even beyond matters of urban or public and collective, which is why urbanism came into being in the first place. It requires more than a consultative dialogue between a social analyst and an art engineer. The architect’s and sociologist’s cognition must come together somehow. Those of us who work with science know how challenging it is to put into practice, not just talk about the cross, multi, and -interdisciplinarity.

The presentation will take place by first presenting the idealized (Vitruvian) and then a more modern, inclusive (modernist) architect’s logic of understanding society and the notion of it. I will assume that this transition can be explained both by changes in the notion of the architectural profession (de/professionalization) in society and by the scientification of architecture, which puts it in dialogue with other disciplines. I will then substantiate the specificity of “double cognition”, fine arts (visual, artistic), and engineering (logical, geometric), which is otherwise well known among architects as the form/function dilemma. This double cognition faces a third, analytically narrative cognition, characteristic of sociologists, philosophers, cultural critics, and others in the fields of social sciences and humanities. In doing so, I will refer in part to three authors: Lefebvre, Foucault, and Bourdieu. The architect’s premise is often that his humanistic »basic instinct« and therefore his/her social analysis is intuitive, so he/she does not need to systematically acquire this kind of knowledge. To illustrate the awareness of this problem, I will cite some contemporary architects, Aravena, Koolhaas, and Scumacher, and compare them with the social logic of the earlier modernist Le Corbusier. 

I conclude the presentation optimistically with the assumption of the principle of autonomy of integration, ie the integration (not dominance or homogenization) of the diversity of professional cognitions in practice and the convergence of epistemic cultures in academia. Social complexity is not only a challenge of everyday life, but it demands a dialectics of the independent and connected from various professionals who deal with the built space (producers). This, of course, also applies to the sociologists who explain this phenomenon. Basic knowledge will be needed to immerse oneself in the other two cognitions, such as the notion of the laws and methods of spatial projection.

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