Hennie Jurie Reynders
BArch, University of Pretoria, South Africa; MArch, 2002, University of Illinois at Chicago. Exhibitions: Museum Africa, Johannesburg; School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Lectures: Edinburgh, Pretoria, Chicago. Publications: Selected Readings on the South African Vernacular, Johannesburg (2001); 5th European Academy of Design Conference (2003); Edinburgh Architectural Review (2006); Chapter in 10 Years-100 Buildings: Architecture in a Democratic South Africa. Research: Cluster on Designing for the 21st Century, AHRB EPSRC, UK. Board Member of the International Federation of Interior Architects (IFI). Director, Studio Alabaster Blue LLC.
Experience at SAIC
What makes the opportunities of teaching at SAIC particularly valuable to me is the opportunity of learning and teaching within the framework of a triangulated relationship that exists between moments of critical reflection, the deep exploration of community concerns or of specific sites, and the rigorous translation of insights into propositions with significant meaning crossing the boundaries of art, design and science.
My research exists outside the boundaries of the traditional expert disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning and as framed by the governing definitions of professional practice. Under the larger umbrella of a more pluralistic research methodology and to wit, with a willingness to allow for a degree of dialectic discourse in the relationship between art, design and science, my research focus includes:
The relationship between convention and invention; spatial expressions of ownership and subversion in the urban field; notions of difference and the relationship between power, space and identity; the strategic potential of the mandate entrusted to those involved in the city building process; informality, autonomous practice, citizen infrastructure and the commons.
I believe that my particular strengths are in working within such a triangulated condition where theory courses, empirical analysis and studio seminars inform the overall curricular structure. An opportunity to teach and contribute research that seems even more significant when making use of interdisciplinary opportunities within the school and the collaborative research opportunities envisioned for the future. There is certainly no greater gift than being able to share insights, create opportunities and be part of a collective process of thinking and making that has the potential to impact on society and change disciplines from the inside out.
Concepts that attempt to describe the notion of city or urbanity are becoming increasingly contradictory as urban agglomerations compete with fundamentally altered natural ecologies and as traditional boundaries between formal and informal social expressions of everyday life erode. We experience the speed at which technological mobility and highly networked infrastructures create opportunity with the one hand, while denying access with the other. With such unevenness come innovative forms of resistance and new forms of social expression that render archetypal notions of the city—as being stable or the built project as being instrumental in creating stability—powerless and outdated. In this process of constant mutation, acts of appropriation and acts of subversion take place at the intersection of place and space and manifest as intersecting layers of traditional and emerging hybrid environments. A paradoxical rendering that describes the enigmatic relationship existing between convention and invention and by implication, the relationship between structure and agency. I belief that our interventions within the urban field are not innocent and therefore, by implication, suggesting that city building processes will always be disruptive and transgressive through curatorial obsessions and insurgent characteristics. This is the radical nature of the disciplines that defines and curates spatial relationships on behalf of others. Exploring a more revolutionary stance can yield a revised mandate and is predicated on precisely this characteristic—the fact that radical interventions emerge from asking questions that have not been asked before. Questions inadvertently harbor promise as much as problems contain opportunity, and new technologies contain the seeds of future accidents. Those disciplines mandated to innovate city building processes can only remain relevant and reclaim a radical, productive and critical role through the negation of the current limits of our understanding of difference, inequality and exclusion, while at the same time freeing itself from any complicit relationships with practices that sustain socio-cultural and political hegemony.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.