“The Office for Soft Architecture came into being as I watched the city of Vancouver dissolve in the fluid called money. Buildings disappeared into newness. I tried to recall spaces, and what I remembered was surfaces . . .” Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, 2003
If urban space is often perceived in terms of grey tones and hard surfaces, then the Office for Soft Architecture insists upon the city as yielding, expressive and immanent. The Office’s ambulatory path through the urban fabric examines civic textures and surfaces, colours and form to produce a reading of space that revealingly insists on the social value of the ornamental, the transient and the weak.
The book titled Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture collects essays on shacks, Vancouver fountains, suburban childhood, Value Village, the history of scaffolding and the persistence of the Himalayan blackberry. There are also seven walks through sites inflected by Vancouver neighbourhoods, but which finally remain more psychogeographic than specific; narrative walks that meandre through the overlooked and the banal, the quotidian and the extraordinary alike.
Through these perambulations, the Office for Soft Architecture asks us to reimagine the city as potential, creating a speculative space for an alternative thinking about the city and its political subjects. Recorded by the Office for Soft Architecture for this exhibition, these texts exist at the crossroads of poetry, theory, urban geography and cultural criticism.
The Office for Soft Architecture is an ongoing project by Lisa Robertson, a Canadian poet and essayist. Robertson maintains the Office to construct propositions and reports for “the advancement of a natural history of civic surface.” She is the author of six books of poetry, and her prose has appeared in many magazines, catalogues and monographs in Canada, the USA and Europe.