Contested Ground: Resilient Discourse in the Contemporary City

‘It is in the city that the strangers who, in the global space confront each other as hostile states, inimical civilisations or military adversaries, meet as individual human beings, watch each other at close quarters, talk to each other, learn each other’s ways, negotiate the rules of life in common and, sooner or later, get used to each other’s presence, … find pleasure in sharing company.’

Zygmund Bauman ‘City of Fears, City of Hopes’ 2003


The thesis project explores ideas and architectures of encounter. This encounter in a civic context being with ‘the other’, the fellow citizen who one must engage with and contest within an adversarial context if the city is to be one of resilience. The interplay of spaces of the city where this encounter occurs feeds into the design project that attempts to emulate these spaces of civic contest and civic virtue. The project provides a meeting place for the Citizens’ Assembly of Ireland, the Assembly’s processes prescribed into the elements of program. It becomes a sequence of spaces for daily and occasional gatherings, encounters, and contest.


The design project manifest itself in the form of a cloister within the city. The  ground condition is about enclosure and access upwards into the large gallery corridors that connect the elements of the program together and look into the external civic spaces below, in turn framing and defining these civic spaces. Here, cellular office rooms contrast the larger communal rooms providing more private space for conversations amongst smaller groups within the larger collective. These cellular rooms become stacked at the tower as visible hierarchies and becomes a place-making symbol to the square below. The scheme is one of a layering of civic activity above and below a new civic ground.


The architecture that is informed by the thesis research is one that encounters the city context in which it is found. Context is the catalyst to design orientations and the architecture is a derivative of its setting. It encounters the ‘the other’, the existing representations in the city, and reacts to them as becoming part of the city and not of an external concept. The architecture is a space of places within a space of flows, it is a layering of encounters through an assemblage of structure.