Critical Review of ‘Framing places’ by Dovey Kim Essay Example

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Critical Review of ‘Framing places’ by Dovey Kim

September 13, 2011

Critical Review of ‘Framing places’ by Dovey Kim

I find the book “Framing the places” by Dovey, Kim to be one of the most auspicious analyses and commentaries on aspects that relates to architecture and general art impression on the face of society and the people. Dovey, Kim is a prominent Australian architectural critic and this book framing places is an explorative insight on the theories of places as a fundamental mediator of the concept power. It incorporates cases that emanate from aspects like housing, politics of public space, corporate powers and shopping malls. The book gives us an insightful perspective on the ways in which the built forms of imagination, urban design and architecture plays the critical role as mediators of power in the context of social practices.

Critically, what the author posits that the essence of architecture and the aspects of general urban design enable the players to practice the arts of coercion and seduction, thus legitimizing authority and control over civilian populations. The other element that I decipher from the work is the there is concerted effort by the author to draw in from various and broad range of social theories and deploys the three primary analyses in reference to built form which includes analysis of spatial structure; interpretation of lived experience and interpretation of constructed meanings.

Power is a widely used and misused term to refer to various quarters of effects and capacities. In human context and affairs, power entails the capability to control other people in a specific area, region, country, organization or group. In the architectural perspective, power is the ability for one to come up with built environment through imagination, construction and inhabiting which is better from the contemporaries and he referred to as empowerment (Dovey & Dickson, 2002)1. Power and empowerment can also be described as the capacity to appropriate room or even chooses residence and walk to the beach while criticizing the limitations and inadequacies of urban designs. In my own view, what Dovey meant is that when someone is empowered or possesses power his or her capacity to act is enormously increased and can even have an accentuated sense of imagination.

The general element of power can either be positive or negative depending on the context and how it is exercised for a specific objective. It is doubled edged in the sense that it can liberate and at the same time it can be used an instrument of oppression. The author zeroed in on the positive dimension of power and ascribes it as the primary notion on the human capacity to utilize his or her imaginative skills to bore ideas and create a better built environment. There are various forms of power illustrated on various distinctions between effects of power which includes authority, seduction, manipulation, force and coercion. Force is the overt exercise of power to create a phenomenon whereby the subjects are stripped off their element of non-compliance (Dovey & Dickson, 2002)2.

In reference to the architectural perspective the aspect of force is manifested from the typical examples in built form, which includes various kinds of developed spatial confinement, such as, institutions of incarceration and prisons. Spatial exclusion in built forms is also another manifest and it is best illustrated in the housing enclave, bars, the medieval fortresses and walls. Coercion is also another form of power, which Dovey Kim describes it as the threat of force that players in art and architecture often use so as to secure compliance from the enthusiasts and the subjects.

Architectural coercion, according to Dovey (1999) comes in different forms that can either be domination, manipulative, seduction or authority. In terms of domination or at times known as intimidation, there is tendency by artist and architectures to come up with spatial behavior and urban designs that in essence express or signify the threat of force (Dovey, 1999)3. This can be illustrated by exaggerated scale of built forms or in monuments that depict past ideas, behaviors, activities or lifestyles. Coercion can also bear the aspect of manipulation in the sense that there is development of forms that operates in a manner whereby the subject are blacked out by keeping them ignorant so as to minimize the possibility of resistance from them.

Over centuries, the field of architecture built forms were meant for living or any other utilization, but the aspect of seduction has sneaked in to this discipline, which according Dovey is also a form of coercion. In this process there is concerted effort to manipulate the interests and desires of the subjects towards certain built forms. Architectural coercion as a subsequent of power can exude the phenomena of authority, whereby, there is marked absence of criticisms or counter arguments but the subject must rely on compliance and unquestioned recognition. It is a form of power that can enable one to circumvent any argument and be the capricious element in setting of terms of reference in any platform.

In taking the aspect of architectural power to broader perspective in terms of relevance and impact on societies and people, the most problematic buildings and urban designs that can be witnessed to the contemporary world are often of complex mix (Dovey, 1999)4. This integrated mix is compounded by elements of coercion, authority and seduction and this are the prima facie that have revolutionized and in some cases trivialized the concept of architecture (Owen, C. & Dovey, 2007)5. What Dovey meant here is that building has enormous metaphoric connotations in the sense that they are engineered to represent as well as mask the associations of power that are own, inhabit or involved in its development.

One of the perspectives that I find to be critical is the author’s appreciation of the concept of imagination as the critical item in the process of marking the discourse of power because it facilitates the perception of real interests and bolsters its integration to the imagined future of the time. This appreciation calls for the affirmation that urban designers and architects should be the agents of imaginations and they should develop the capacity to trigger desires and broaden the imaginative abilities of the public so as to augment architecture power.

The other perspective that the author endeared which forms substantial basis in thinking and act of architects is the idea of taking a philosophical angle on the concept of architecture and he postulated that success in architecture and other forms relies mostly on the aspect of self deceit through power of aesthetics. He referred to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche by reframing his view that the impulse of aesthetic is enormously founded on the repression of power will and art is the critical element that can bridge gaps and “spaces” instigated by such repressions.

There are borrowed the argument and world view of a architectural contemporary Harries the position that architecture possesses powers to strike a balance between the concepts of world and being in reference to lives of human beings. Architecture defends humans from terror that are meted on us by both the aspects of time and space and it is therefore a deliberate act of self assurance against the effects of the infinite. Moreover, built forms and related things like shopping mall, house enclave and the corporate tower according to him are some of the things that have created a complicated link with the mediation of power within the auspices of architecture. These aspects have come up because of the global types and in response to capitalism and other related historical conditions. Ideology is another issue that surrounds the body architecture and associated forms. Ideology constructs place experience and design because it is the structure that holds the necessary frameworks of common human attributes for instance the belief in good life, identity, property, human rights, family or nice home.

In my opinion, this book is indeed a master piece in the sense that it carries enormous and deep insight into the essence of architecture as a discipline or profession and as crucial element in the lives of people in societies. It is rich in intellectual posits, analysis and commentaries and I find it informative in the process of comprehending the fundamental tenets that informs and built architecture and art in general. It is a book that I highly recommend everyone to read especially those who are interested in architectural criticism and related fields.


Dovey, K. 1999. Framing places: mediating power in built form. London: Routledge.

Dovey K. & Dickson S.N. (2002) «Architecture and freedom? Programmatic innovation in the

work of Koolhaas/OMA». Journal of Architectural Education, 56(1):5-14.

Owen, C. & Dovey, K. ‘Fields of Sustainable Architecture’, Journal of Architecture, 13 (1), 2007, pp.9-21.

1 Dovey K. & Dickson S.N. (2002) «Architecture and freedom? Programmatic innovation in the

work of Koolhaas/OMA». Journal of Architectural Education, 56(1):5-14.

2 Dovey K. & Dickson S.N. (2002) «Architecture and freedom? Programmatic innovation in the

work of Koolhaas/OMA». Journal of Architectural Education, 56(1):5-14.

3 Dovey, K. 1999. Framing places: mediating power in built form. London: Routledge.

4 Dovey, K. 1999. Framing places: mediating power in built form. London: Routledge.

5 Owen, C. & Dovey, K. ‘Fields of Sustainable Architecture’, Journal of Architecture, 13 (1), 2007, pp.9-21.