Architecture for Dissent

We live in an era of social media, where technology is accessible to a large spectrum of people. Technology has given every individual a voice, to voice themselves up on a social platform and encourage an affirmative towards it. Many times, these scenarios also lead to protests or marches. These protests include a massive quantity of people in a single congregative space. In some scenarios, these congregations can lead to stamped or other life-threatening situations due to an uncontrolled crowd with a gathered motive. Architecture for dissent is an active response to these occurrences.

Expression of Dissent over the years

Urban cities have become a barrier to social movements. In historic times, each city had its own squares and other congregation spaces where the people could be gathered in a large number to exercise certain practices. European countries used their squares for public executions also. Even the Nazi rulers used their architecture as a way to pronounce their dominance over the ordinary. The spaces were scaled to exercise this expression through architecture.
  • In the 19th century, the city of Paris went under renovation which was directed by Baron George Eugene Haussmann. He demolished public neighborhoods such as markets, squares, etc. to build boulevards. This was done to ensure the military abilities to maneuver large forces at one time. The overcrowding of structures was avoided to make the city’s civic power more dominant in nature.
boulevards in paris
Boulevards of Paris
  • Even other countries like Israel have used architecture as a defense against the Palestinians. They created a ‘living wall’ on higher altitudes to keep an eye on the Palestinian territories that resided beneath. These walls had guarded fence over them to ensure the safety of the inhabitants. Israel has been into a constant state of unrest, due to which the architecture of this country is a response to the situations. The motive behind each space is more civic than the public. Even the IDF (Israel Defense Force) during the times of warfare used the privatized settlements to move towards the enemy instead of using the alleyways and public squares. The bulldozers demolished the privatized space to make the warfare movement. In such scenarios, the public zones became private and vice versa. Due to which the city life and architecture was always in a state of change where no activity was confined for a longer time frame.
  • In recent times, the city of New York has seen many protests. The city is one of the most populous in the United States. In a populous precinct like that, protests can be life-threatening. There is a need to have spaces where dissent can be expressed socially.
Protests in Newyork
  • A “die-in” protest was held in Perth, Western Australia on 22nd February 2003 were people protested after the war was declared on Iraq. This protest was almost a spontaneous march as it was arranged overnight through social communications platforms.  


These spaces are a city mandate as they allow the people to voice up their opinions about social issues. They contribute to building a communal spirit. In this era where social media can impact an entire generation in minutes, these protests can happen in an even less time frame. There is a need to design an architecture for dissent where people can congregate and voice up their views. These spaces needn’t be centric to a single purpose; they can be multi-faceted. Although in an urban city where land availability is a crunch, these spaces help in making a better city for the people. Apart from being used as a space to express dissent, it can be used to have other secondary programs. These spaces will help people to gather, coordinate, and maintain a socially viable form of expression. And they will help in holistically improving the city life for a greater good.

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Saili Sawantt
Saili Sawantt
Architect and Interior Designer by profession, Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals like ParametricArchitecture, FOAID (Festival of Architecture & Interior Design), Rethinking the Future (RTF), La Polo International, etc. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog 'The Reader's Express'.

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