The Creative Practice of Spatial Misuse

“For a long time, my chief interest had to do with cities in general, and the extent to which an entire city could be transformed by an act of creative misuse…I was interested in how people with a particular intent could take over certain parts of the city with an action that could transform the way the city was used.” Motivated individuals or groups, he observed, could use “the complexity of the city against itself,” uncovering the possible behaviours that a building or space unintentionally allows, then adapting them to stage a protest, overthrow a government, demand political representation, or, yes, simply to commit a crime.”  – Bernard Tschumi

Each and every one of us looks at the world surrounding us differently. What if we could borrow each other’s vision? What if ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’ was as simple as exchanging glasses and seeing what the other sees? What are the ‘alternate’ ways of seeing the environments we inhabit? How do we move through space when we stop using it for the purpose it was designed for? 

The environments we inhabit are bound by rules and frameworks that dictate how we use them. We go through doors that an architect puts in place. We use the streets in the way we are meant to as decided by the urban planners or the police. Notable architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi challenged this notion by pointing out that if the design of a space or a building tends to influence what occurs within it, then the role of the avant-garde designer is to push past this and to find new ways of challenging or disrupting architecture’s behavioural expectations.

And there are already these other groups of people out there who are engaging with the exact same things that everyone else is seeing, but they are using them in these incredibly different and albeit illegal but very creative ways; think Parkour enthusiasts, construction crane workers or burglars.

For me, looking at the environments we inhabit, in different ways that the everyday users don’t, taps into the imaginative allure of my love for fictional alternate realities; where the real environment of our world is governed by a different set of rules. It’s about exploring the idea that under our current metropolis is a darker alternate one embedded within, that we don’t see. And these ‘alternate professionals’ misuse or use unconventionally, the very elements of our spaces that we take for granted. In this process, they inadvertently reveal different aspects and possibilities within the city that we probably wouldn’t notice otherwise.


– Tschumi B. (1996), Architecture and Disjunction, MIT Press, Cambridge
– Tschumi B. (1977), Advertisements for Architecture [Online], Available at (date accessed 24 May 2020)

Ankita Trivedi, Assistant Professor, School of Interior Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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