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Urban ageing, spatial agency: generating creative agency through the medium of cohousing

Hammond, Mark Edward (2017) Urban ageing, spatial agency: generating creative agency through the medium of cohousing. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Population ageing and urbanisation are two of the defining social changes of the 21st century, but many older people experience a loss of agency within society. Cohousing presents a potential medium for older citizens to increase their agency, but this is limited by the current conception of the architect-cohouser relationship. Spatial Agency provides an alternative approach to architectural practice in cohousing, based on the inclusion of citizens in architectural processes. This thesis investigates the limitations and opportunities of using spatial agency as the basis of the architect’s role in older people’s cohousing across two parts; a theoretical expansion of spatial agency in relation to existing examples of cohousing, and a practical testing of this expanded approach through a live collaboration. The first part of the thesis develops a hybrid theoretical framework for spatial agency that marries Bourdieu’s theories of ‘habitus’ and ‘field’ with Giddens’ concept of ‘structuration’. This interprets agency as the capability to act creatively, produced by conceiving design as a mutually enabling discourse. The second part of the thesis tests this expanded interpretation of spatial agency through a two-year design-research collaboration with Manchester Urban Cohousing (MUCH), an older people’s cohousing group. This identifies barriers to spatial agency in cohousing and proposes how they may be overcome. This is achieved through practices that develop a spatial discourse between architect and cohouser, empowering all parties to act creatively through the exposure to ideas and knowledge that is otherwise unavailable to them. This enables the architect and cohouser to negotiate and realise their social, political and ethical vision through creative action.

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