Agency and Architecture: How to Be Critical? (Scott Lash and Antoine Picon, in conversation with Kenny Cupers and Isabelle Doucet. Comments by Margaret Crawford)


  • Scott Lash
  • Antoine Picon
  • Margaret Crawford



Agency is a notion that brings together a variety of concerns that currently echo in diverse segments of the architectural debate. This article, in the form of a conversation, addresses this multifarious notion and attempts to bring to the fore points of intersection between agency-related concerns too often perceived as disconnected. The article has been assembled out of separate interviews with three prominent scholars who have, from different fields, made particular contributions to this theme: Antoine Picon, historian of architecture and technology; Scott Lash, professor of sociology and cultural studies; and Margaret Crawford, professor in architecture and urban studies. This conversation interrogates agency theoretically, and does so through three major questions. One question relates to agency’s binary coupling with structure, perhaps one of the most central concepts in the understanding of modern society. Secondly, because agency is intimately linked to the idea of ‘other’ possible actions and futures, it assumes intentionality and criticality, both of which resonate strongly in the architectural debate. Finally, in order to understand agency better within the specific context of architecture, the article addresses the condition of the architectural object and its relation to the individual and the social.

Author Biographies

Scott Lash

Scott Lash is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldmiths College (University of London). His publications include The End of Organized Capitalism (with J. Urry, 1987), Reflexive Modernization (with U. Beck and A. Giddens, 1994), Another Modernity, A Different Rationality (1999), Critique of Information (2002), and Global Culture Industry (with C. Lury, 2007).

Antoine Picon

Antoine Picon is Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he is also serving as director of the doctoral program. He has published extensively on the relations between architecture, urban design, science and technology. Devoted to the perspectives opened by the development of digital architecture, his next book will deal in more detail with some of the issues he addresses in his interview.

Margaret Crawford

Margaret Crawford is currently Professor of Urban Design and Planning Theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her research focuses on the evolution, uses and meanings of urban space. Her publications include Build­ing the Workingman’s Paradise: The Design of American Company Towns; The Car and the City: The Automobile, the Built Environment and Daily Urban Life and Everyday Urbanism. From Fall 2009, she will be Professor of Archi­tecture at UC Berkeley.