ARCH: spatial agency: a detail

CONTENT / Architectural details are often seen or even reduced to tools for solving technical issues and other things related to construction. Or they are described in relation to architectural styles. But what happens when we look at the detail and use the detail as a form of spatial agency?

Agency has to do with performance. It fosters relationships. Agency is the capacity of an actor (detail) to act in a given environment (whole). Within that mindset we wonder whether the architectural detail can go beyond the mere solving of a technical issue and thus having agency? What is the relationship between the architectural detail and the conceptual intent of the building to which it belongs? Is it only ornamental details that can have agency or do other types of details have spatial agency? If we would affirm that an architectural detail can have agency, then this implies that details could teach us something about important themes related to the Anthropocene…

Through this workshop you will be invited to find and explore the relationship between material, the place a detail has in a project and the overall concept and intent of the project. You will be asked to consider in what ways a detail can represent the whole? How can you use the development of an architectural detail to move the project forward? How can the detail highlight and address actual ‘spatial’ urgencies?

So basically, it comes down to this crucial question: ‘Can a detail save the world?’


AIMS / To identify a place as a desire. To work with the imagination as a real context. To describe a place with your experience. To find opportunities in your desires to start with a project. To introduce oneself to the class. To get to know the rest of the future members of your working group. To learn how to contribute to group work.


METHOD / Model-making, sketching, drawing, collage and annotating. Documentation of the process in a Leporello booklet A6.

1st day: Brings up to date regarding the state of your ongoing project or body of work developed during the semester. Formulate a clear intent.

2nd day: Individual work developing of the detail and documentation of the process. Discussion of the work in small peer-groups.

3rd day: Final crit.


TECHNIQUE / Documenting the process of the workshop through producing a small A6 Leporello booklet. No waste! Discussing the works in small groups. Organising a feedback carousel.

Together these Leporello booklets form a new collection of ‘details with intent’.



To consider that in a design process the arrow does not always point from the large to the small.

To think spatially in a multidirectional way.

To consider the architectural detail as an architectural gesture: something small that can have a big impact.

To get acquainted with the concept of spatial agency.

To experience documenting as an ongoing production and part of the design process.



Putting the architectural detail center-stage.

Exploring the impact of the small in relation to the whole.

To work on a very tactile thing, as a sharp focus, but which also has the potential for a greater impact.


SCHEDULE / 2-Week Workshop. Weekly 4-hour class arranged with the students:


Introduction / 30th April 2021.

Development / 3-13th May 2021.

Final Crit / 14th May 2021.



  1. Have I been able to formulate an intent for my project?
  2. Did I explore different options?
  3. Was I able to hold on to more than one line of thought simultaneously?
  4. Was I able to document my process and development in an understandable way?
  5. Did I succeed to communicate my insights and development in a clear way, both graphically and in annotating of the graphics.?
  6. Did I increase my knowledge on spatial agency?
  7. Was I able to express my thoughts and engage my peers in a conversation?
  8. How much did I use experimentation to move the assignment forward?


Bibliography / Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till. Beyond Discourse: Notes on Spatial Agency. Footprint: Agency in Architecture: Reframing Criticality un Theory and Practice, Spring 2009, pp 97-111.

James Corner. The Agency of Mapping. Mappings (Denis Cosgrove ed.). Reaktion Books, 1999, pp 213-252.


Faculty of Architecture KULeuven Campus Sint-Lucas Brussel/Gent /

Tomas Ooms (