Creative Activism: a pedagogical and research tool

Ruth Morrow

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Environmental activism has a long history in protest, addressing issues of degradation and segregation that threaten existing ecologies, social and built fabrics. Environmental activism is traditionally understood as a reaction, chiefly by groups of people, against a perceived external threat. In the 60’s and 70’s, an activist stance began to emerge in the work of some artists and architects, who used creative methods such as performances, happenings, temporary spatial interventions etc to convey their political/aesthetic messages. Some of this work engaged directly with communities but predominantly it was the production of one individual working ‘outside’ society. However such actions demonstrated not only the power of the visual in conveying a political message but also the potential of conceptual creative approaches to reveal alternative values and hidden potentials. This marked a shift from activism as protestation towards an activism of reconceptualisation. Recently, activist groups have developed a more politically informed process. Whilst their ‘tools’ may resemble work from the 60’s and 70’s , their methodologies are non-traditional, ’rhizomatic’, pedagogical and fluid; working alongside, rather than against, the established power and funding structures. Such creative processes build new, often unexpected, stakeholder networks; offer neutral spaces in which contentious issues can be faced; and create better understanding of values and identities. They can also lead to permanent improvements and development in the physical fabric. This paper will discuss a pedagogical example of activism in architectural education. The event ( is in its fifth year of existence and as such has revealed a value and impulse beyond its learning and teaching value. The paper will discuss how the event contributes to the university’s outreach programme and how its structure acts as a seedbed for potential research projects and partnerships. UK Universities talk extensively about applied research but have few actual strategies by which to generate it. Fourdaysontheoutside offers some potential ways forward.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)60-68
    Number of pages9
    JournalArchitectural Research Centres Consortium Journal
    Volume4 (1)
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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