chapter  21
9 Pages

Domestic, production, debt: for a theory of the informal

In recent decades, the unprecedented concentration of people in cities around the

world, coinciding with the collapse of any safety net that welfare state policies used to

provide, has provoked a series of staggering effects, a ‘housing crisis’ possibly similar to

the one experienced in nineteenth-century industrial centres. Decency and basic rights

are ignored, and social responsibility or even a philanthropic agenda are replaced by the

rhetoric of ‘bottom-up’ and DIY. Unapologetic entrepreneurialism is often disguised and

sold as emancipation. Spaces and neighbourhoods of extreme poverty in Cairo, Rio,

Tunis, Athens or Shenzhen are celebrated as cases of improvised urbanization and self-

building ingenuity. Yet, there is no cause and effect relationship between space,

architecture, the economy or the political. There is no architecture as a ‘representation’

or a ‘diagram’ of a power relation external to its own production. The domestic is not a

scale of design, a response to a given, predetermined framework, but the construction

of the problem itself. The most emblematic object from the discipline of architecture

that is used to unpack the above is Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino. Yet, it remains

rather ambiguous. Seen often as a pure diagram of power relations, or just as an object

that is often reduced ‘stylistically’ to its abstract, formal qualities, it is probably as

enigmatic as in 1914.