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Situating the Situationists:  The Disruption of a Domesticated Architecture

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:54 authored by Keane, Ross

This research seeks to place Situationist theory into a domestic context through a critical reading of Guy Debord and the Internationale Situationnistes’ writings. Challenging the notion of a domesticated architecture, Situationist techniques and strategies are used to test new ground in the interpretation of a domestic situation. Two techniques explored are the dérive and détournement. In Guy Debord’s Theory of Dérive, the dérive is described as "a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences (Knabb 52)." This technique was used by the Situationists as a way of experiencing a city through the possibilities provided by the "terrain and the encounters they find there (52)." Adding to this definition, Jonathan Hill in Actions of Architecture describes the dérive as "confront[ing] the habitual and functional experience of the city (Hill 67). Détournement, described by the Situationists as 'the re-use of pre-existing artistic elements in a new ensemble (Knabb 67)." is a way of constructing new meanings and expressions for previously defined elements. In A User’s Guide to Détournement, Debord outlines several 'laws' defining the use of détournement as ways of creating situations, which he explains is 'the ultimate goal of all our activity (16)." To dérive in the domestic suggests possibilities of a continual exploration of the spaces within the home. Traditional notions of the home’s function and meaning are reconfigured in order to construct new situations; how do the spaces within a home contribute or hinder these explorations? What role does each room play within the domestic as a whole, and what are their relationships to each other as individual spaces? Détournement links in closely with the exploration of spaces within the domestic. Using it as a way of challenging the traditional functions of both the spaces themselves, and the artefacts contained within [the artefacts being the markers of function in most cases], what are the implications of this misappropriation of artefacts and space? Will these interpretations bring a greater understanding of the artefacts and spaces themselves, as well as create new meanings? The contextual critique of the domestic through a critical reading of the Situationists’ theories will deepen the possibilities of how the domestic is understood. This understanding is visualised through a reworking of an existing domestic framework, a New Zealand state house. Architectural interventions are used to create new modes of inhabitation that modify behaviour and habitual living within the domestic. Here, the role of the artefact and space within the domestic is challenged and altered to create new manifestations.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter