Paying Attention


'Mineshaft' – micro-biosphere, Renata Tyszczuk, 2021.

This is an extract from a talk I gave at ' The Planetary, Precarities and Care', Postgraduate Symposium at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield on 7 November 2022.

An Architecture of Paying Attention

Isabel Stengers’ In Catastrophic Times calls for ‘the art of paying attention’ (2015). She relates ‘paying attention’ to a temporal cosmopolitics of ‘slowing down’ and caring for earthly entanglements and unfinished endeavours. Paying attention ‘is something that creates an obligation to imagine, to check, to envisage consequences that bring into play connections between what we are in the habit of keeping separate’ (2015). I would like to propose: an architecture of paying attention. What would this entail?

A preliminary assessment suggests that it is an architecture that embodies an experimental exchange between being attentive – pay attention, and being alert – ‘Pay Attention!’ It indicates a provisional architecture that responds to the dilemmas of the present moment with probing and with urgency, but at the same time is wary of claims of emergency.

An architecture of paying attention, both speculative and improvised, is involved with re-working daily practices of living, recalibrating the scope of possible interventions, to unsettling and re-thinking the broader frameworks of value and dwelling that render current approaches as the way things are, rather than asking how they could be otherwise.

This provisional series of investigations has probed what an architecture of paying attention, as both practice and as infrastructure might do.