Stasis, Charging the Space of Change


  • Sarah Riviere The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London



This article fossicks through the fragments of historical understandings of the word stasis in ancient Greece – where stasis, in its extreme state, involved conflictual hostilities between kindred parties, often termed ‘civil war’ today. Through a series of readings of ancient Greek texts on topics ranging from pathology to literature and politics, stasis is revealed as a powerfully charged state of located dynamic exchange that operates through a precise temporal and spatial performance. This article teases out relevant aspects of the state of stasis – its high levels of spatial engagement, its inevitable resolution into energetic productivity, its precise restraint, its demand for full participation, and its role in the integration of change – all of which were acknowledged as part of the enactment and resolution of a stasis at that time. The intention of this article is to resurrect a more nuanced understanding of the state of stasis that can enrich current concepts of the dynamic in architectural and urban discourse. This understanding of stasis also poses new questions for the future design of spaces that can accommodate charged kindred engagement: lively spaces where contest becomes opportunity, and located spaces of kindred understanding that promise productive reconciliation as the common aim of all the parties involved.

Author Biography

Sarah Riviere, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London

Sarah Rivière is an architect based in Berlin. She set up her office as a sole practitioner in London in 1998, establishing the Berlin office in 2001. Her office’s most recent project for a five storey residential building in Berlin-Kreuzberg was completed in Autumn 2016. A member of the ARB, RIBA UK, and the Berliner Architektenkammer, she has also taught urban design at the Technical University Berlin. She is currently researching a PhD in Architectural Design at the Bartlett in London on stasis as a generative state of spatial engagement.


Alien. Film. Directed by Ridley Scott. London: Twentieth Century Fox, 1979.

Adams, Charles Darwin (trans.), Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 3:206.

Agamben, Giorgio, Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm: (Meridian, Crossing Aesthetics, 2015)

Aristotle, Aristotle in 23 Volumes, vol. 20, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1952)

Chambers, Ephraim, and Scott, George Lewis, A Supplement to Mr. Chambers’s Cyclopædia: Or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (London: W. Inngs & J. Richardson, 1753).

Otto Alvin Loeb Dieter, ‘Stasis’, Speech Monographs 17:4 (November 1950):345–369.

Eliot, T.S. The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (London: Faber & Faber, 1964)

Finley, M.I. Democracy Ancient and Modern, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1985)

Forty, Adrian, Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000)

Freeman, Kathleen, The Work and Life of Solon, with a Translation of His Poems (New York: Arno Press, 1976)

Gehrke, Hans-Joachim, Stasis: Untersuchungen Zu Den Inneren Kriegen in Den Griechischen Staaten Des 5. Und 4. Jahrhunderts V. Chr. (Munich: Beck, 1985)

Gray, Benjamin D. Stasis and Stability : Exile, the Polis, and Political Thought, c. 404-146 BC (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Homer, The Iliad in two volumes, trans. A.T. Murray (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1924)

Jones, W. H. S. The Medical Writings of Anonymus Londinensis (Cambridge: University Press, 1947)

Lane, Sir William Arbuthnot, The Operative Treatment of Chronic Intestinal Stasis (London: Nisbet, 1915)

Lintott, Andrew, Violence, Civil Strife and Evolution in the Classical City (London: Croom Helm, 1982), 34, 51, 75–6.

Loraux, Nicole, The Divided City: On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens (New York: Zone Books, 2001)

Loraux, Nicole, La Tragédie d'Athens, La Politique entre l'Ombre et l'Utopie (Paris: Éditions de Seuil, 2005)

Loraux, Nicole, ‘La guerre dans la famille’, Clio. Histoire‚ femmes et sociétés, 5(1997), published online 1 January 2005.

Lynn, Greg, Animate Form (New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1999)

Liu, Chongyun; Tseng, Angela; and Yang, Sue, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Modern Applications of Traditional Formulas (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2005).

Miessen, Markus, The Nightmare of Participation (Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality) (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010)

Mouffe, Chantal, Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (London: Verso, 2013).

Niven, Larry, Ringworld (New York: Ballantine, 1970)

Plato, Cratylus. Trans. Benjamin Jowett,

Plato, The Republic in Paul Shorey (trans.) Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969)

Plato, Timaeus 81e6–82b1, from W. R. M. Lamb (trans.) Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925)

Plato, Phaedo, in Benjamin Jowett (trans.), Dialogues of Plato (New York, Colonial Press, 1899)

Plato, Sophist, in John Burnet (ed.) Plato. Platonis Opera, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903)

Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives with an English translation by Bernadotte Perrin in 11 Volumes, vol. 1, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967 [1914])

Prothero, Donald, ‘The Mysteries of the Tar Pits’, Skepticblog, 27 March 2013,

Raunig, Gerald, Dividuum. Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution, vol. 1, trans. Aileen Derieg (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016)

Reich, Wilhelm.

Weed, Ronald, Aristotle on Stasis: a Moral Psychology of Political Conflict (Berlin: Logos Verlag, 2007)

Williams, Raymond, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (London: Croom Helm, 1976)

Xenophon, Xenophon in Seven Volumes, vols. 5 and 6, trans. Walter Miller (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914)

Zadorojnyi, Alexei, ‘“Stabbed with large pens”: trajectories of literacy in Plutarch’s Lives’, in Lukas de Blois, et al., eds, The Statesman in Plutarch’s Works, vol. 2 (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2008).