Anecdotal evidence by Michael Banney

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This research investigates an anecdotal approach to architecture. Simply put, an anecdote is a short story, interesting in nature. I have realised that through being receptive to such stories, reframing stories, recalling past anecdotes or inventing new ones, I am able to find an impetus for architecture.

How does this work in projects in practice? In the first instance to come into a project in a state of ‘not knowing’, so as to be receptive to what it has to say. For this to occur successfully, positioning is critical – posturing to become privy to things of interest that could come from anywhere.

It results in the gradual build-up of anecdotes – to the point that they yield a kind of meta-anecdote – the most interesting short story of them all, and one that beautifully draws the others together, and offers a glimmer of architecture.

This approach is latent in my personal history, way of working and body of work. Through this PhD it has been revealed and made conscious, realising a discernible shift in practice. It has been the basis of this dissertation and the presentation and exhibition, all of which are considered projects in their own right.

It has been put to me that in my work I use – anecdote as a decision making armature, beyond the normalcy of decision making. Since working more explicitly in this way, I have noticed the emergence of three kinds of anecdotes. One is the use of anecdotes from the archive, another is real time anecdotes, and the third is the notion of the speculative anecdote. I do not have a preference for one over the others, and in fact, I have noticed that projects are often a mix of all three. There is also no preference for the type of meta-anecdote, and nor is it contingent on the types of anecdotes that facilitated it.

Anecdotes from the archive are those brought back from memory, that have particular relevance to a project situation.

Real time anecdotes are those that emerge from/about the project situation itself. They may be direct transcriptions, or the editorial of an ordinary story to render it with interest.

Speculative anecdotes are those that extrapolate from a known or tangible position, actualities re-cast to give impetus to a future possibility.

I have come to realise the cut through of anecdotes. The way that committing to anecdote an occurrence, can make it an occasion, committing to anecdote the inanimate can make it animate, committing to anecdote the ordinary can make it extraordinary…………

Importantly, these are not generally anecdotes about architecture, they are anecdotes about anything except architecture – but they offer a glimmer of architecture – and then they become architecture.

From this, I now have faith in submission – submitting myself both to the project situation in which I find myself, and to the process I have described. I realise that when things are not clarifying, it’s usually because I need to go further outside of myself.

I have likened my approach to building up a case based on anecdotal evidence in a legal sense – a series of anecdotes that corroborate one another, in search of a meta anecdote – a conviction that needs to be reached.

The dissertation is a project – it too is a collection of anecdotes, that concoct my conviction – my way in to architecture. It includes anecdotes that describe a personal history, a way of working and a body of work. It is intentionally structured in anecdotal fashion. Each anecdote is just that – an interesting short story. In the way of great stories the anecdotes are illustrated – the text and the illustration offering mutual support, as in my project work.

The exhibit and examination was structured similarly – a series of anecdotes, that provided a construct for the occasion, about which architecture was formed.

I have come to realise that in my work, anecdotes allow me to go places. They open up possibilities that other processes do not.

I have also realised that anecdotes start conversations, conversations form relationships, and relationships make architecture. This is true of both my approach within and external to the practice.

I have realised an affinity with a range of architects whom I consider to be ‘deferential’. And because I am situated in that realm, I am less obsessed with the other architects who occupy it, than in the situations in which I find myself. This approach, formed by my personal history, has yielded a way of working, resulting in an idiosyncratic body of work.


Examiners: Ms Maggie Edmond, Dr David Wicks   Supervisors:  Prof Leon van Schaik, Dr Michael Spooner

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