Architectural Narrative and the Promise of the Not Yet

Book chapter

Murray, L. (2021). Architectural Narrative and the Promise of the Not Yet . in: Di Mascio, D. (ed.) Envisioning Architectural Narratives University of Huddersfield. pp. 311 - 321
AuthorsMurray, L.
EditorsDi Mascio, D.

The painful aberration between academia and the practice of architecture continues to evade a clear affirmation; is it that we have no wish to heal old wounds, and instead pine for a constant severing. This disjunctive, an either / or has led to a neglect of the narrative within architecture that may be tacked on to soften the concept; whereas we argue that narrative instead must pervade the project.

Principally, many architectural projects commence with a broad analysis, such as the historical, contextual, or environmental. Yet, through processes of rationalisation, determination, functional requirements and dreaded cost, often, we settle for the ‘tried and tested’ model, shelving narrative and suppressing freedom.

The purpose of this paper is to present the power of the architectural narrative as the possibility of hope, the “not yet” (Bloch, 1954) and perhaps, the never to be. However, this does not mean that the question should not be posed We celebrate the academic portfolio as an opportunity to question a potential, arguing that narrative is necessary, not only to spark an idea, but to invigorate spatiality and atmosphere, for design that need not be tangible, nor a product, instead as an evocation of the imagination. We read a classic novel and sympathise for the protagonist because the narrative draws us in; without which, our desire to read wanes. Good narrative is the precursor to good architecture. Our paper will present narrative through an eclectic mix of academic projects, all aspiring to question positive social agendas for the 21st century, affording freedom to think, experiment, and refine a social position. We discuss the architectural brief and its facilitation of narrative inquisition, and how narrative may come in many guises, from drawing, to painting, to physical models.

Our paper will span a few years of academia and architecture, traversing new topographies of the “not yet”. A negative Utopia, one not afraid of the status of the unbuilt, instead recognising the power of the what if and the opportunity to think. An examination into what we already know, in order to challenge that which we don’t yet know, even if this ends in negative conjecture. Narrative stimulates connectedness and relationships from the mundane to the heroic, each has a place in the cosmos “Slowly I have learnt to understand how everything is connected with everything else across time and space.” (Sebald, 1994) We believe architecture must offer positive social change and that narrative informs this change for our future, even if it fails to manifest. Following Tchernychevski “Beauty is life as it is supposed to be in full reality until it has to be.” (Bloch, 1987) We argue that without narrative there is no beauty, and without beauty there is no we have no reality.

KeywordsDesign, Pedagogy, Studio, Architecture, Narrative
Page range311 - 321
Book titleEnvisioning Architectural Narratives
PublisherUniversity of Huddersfield
File description
PDF Excerpt of full paper
Publication dates
PrintJul 2021
Publication process dates
AcceptedJul 2021
Deposited13 Oct 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
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Related outputs

London South Bank University
Murray, L. and Rossi, F. (2021). London South Bank University. in: Time Space Existence 2021 Venice, Italy ECC Italy.