PhD: Participation in Architecture : agonism in practice

2018, Ammon Beyerle, supervised by Karen Burns and Kim Dovey, The University of Melbourne


Literature about participation in architecture promised architecture the restoration of a moral dimension, arguing that participation would offer opportunities for empowerment and deliver broad benefits. To its disservice, the field of participation has been dominated by a rational ideology, and a focus on agreement and decision-making – incorporated in the term ‘consensus’. The dominant approach to participation has been at the expense of difference, passions, arguments, resistances and tensions present in the participatory process – incorporated here in the term ‘agonism’. Exacerbating this gap between consensus and agonism, a lack of real-world examples and analysis of everyday participation, has led to a quite limited practical language about participation or descriptions of the concrete process of participation in action, and arguably an avoidance to design and critique participatory processes in architecture and urban design. This Doctor of Philosophy attempts to do participation in architecture through a series of Creative Works in practice, by carefully considering approach, and, designing for difference and bottom-up empowerment of others with social, physical, emotional and psychological benefits specific to each project. The methodology exposed the realities of participation in architectural design practice with communities, highlighting social themes for exploration and multiple modes for practice. This research project demonstrates that agonism is an action-orientated way forward for participation, arguing that the tension between architecture and participation is actually productive. It concludes that difference rather than consensus is crucial to participation, suggesting for architectural and urban design practice that the philosophical role of an architect is to consciously create and maintain opportunities to keep alive the participatory process in the world, by critically designing participation.


Participation in architecture: agonism in practice.

Download the Thesis and Creative Works Booklets 1, 2, 3 and 4 from the University of Melbourne repository:

Booklet 5: Other Projects

A compilation of project fiches exploring architecture, agonism + participation.

Please contact us for a printable copy.