Critical Spatial Practice

Time on Site (2019)
  • Prue Chiles | UK

  • Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 Image 6 Image 7 Image 8
  • Time on Site (2019)
  • Prue Chiles | UK
  • A series of images on site, stitching overlapping, resonating narratives, expanding and uncovering the site of construction in other ways. We prioritise the many people involved and the relationships they develop and their connection to building and dwelling in time and place. Bonds are created, liaisons and common interests encountered and links made. Memories of the building, as new, in the 1970’s are explored and dissected as a new home is emerging. This work highlights the importance of time and messy, feminine, everyday process of getting to know each other, running alongside a more formal economic and practical process of building where everything is mapped out and kept to time, or is it? These effects spill over into the formal. The images show the intensities and banalities of common experiences and strange encounters and the lingering resonance of past events. This is another reading of work on a restless site.

    ‘A place as living rather than lived space.’ (Amin and Thrift, 2002. 49)

    Memories, interests, histories and artefacts, both fantasy and reality are woven into the fabric of the buildings.

    As historical characters emerge from the shed and quiet, un-confident clients find a voice. This house and garden was an obsession of an engineer and his family that imagined it in the 1960’s and the architect interpreting their wishes then. It has been a lived in for 50 years by the same family and the next generation have inherited a period piece – and they are approaching it anew. The tacit, embedded ordinary affects and the history of the design and the building of the house are helping them inhabit their dreams and their consciousness of the architectural language of this house, built by the new owner’s father. 

    The contractor meanwhile emerges as an expert on 1960’s Californian modernism and an appreciation of the original construction on site creates both pleasure and worry on site as talks of the ‘white heat of technology’ at that time, are translated into new technologies.

    A recent turn to ‘the question of time’ is vividly explored in Lisa Baraitser’s Enduring Time. The impact of technologies accelerating time is described. This is combined with the collapse of twentieth-century modernity’s belief that we can dominate our future; instead things are rapidly becoming more uncertain and unpredictable. The energy debate and the consumption of fossil fuels are at the centre of this uncertain future and working around this with the owners there was a palpable feeling that it was ‘time to do something’. 

    Time and people are intimately wrapped around each other and this became a particular concern as a heterogeneous group of people share time together to achieve a new project.

    We are borrowing here Lisa Baraitser’s ‘temporal tropes’ of staying (image 1), maintaining (image 2), repeating (image 3), waiting (image 4), delaying (image 5), preserving (image 6), enduring (image 7), and recalling (image 8) to show practices where ‘care takes the form of an affective engagement with others’ (Baraitser, 2017: 14)  

    This project and others are part of a series of new research through design, creative practice portfolios and future publications looking at the creative and sometimes enduring relationships that make built form. 


    Prue Chiles is a teacher, practitioner and writer on architecture and the people involved ‘in doing’ architecture; and developing and supporting research through design and creative practice. 


    Prue Chiles is part of CE+CA, an architectural practice that has worked together for nearly 20 years. As teachers and practitioners we all try and embed the same ethics and care into our work and collaborations, whether a participatory neighbourhood plan, a small public building or a new or restored house. This is particularly important on site. As with all other projects, this was a collaborative effort, with particular thanks to all at CE+CA.

    Collaboration, Time & Temporality, 1960s architecture, Messy everyday processes, Transdisciplinarity, Spillover effects, Ordinary affects


    Sophie Ernst, Home: Architecture of Memory, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2012).

    Lisa Baraitser, Enduring Time, (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).

    Julia Kristeva, ‘Women’s time’, Signs 7.1 (1981) 13-35.

    Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects (Duke University Press, 2007).

    Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, Cities, Re-imagining the Urban, (2002).


    Barn, Newcastle University APL Exhibition (2019) and a portfolio on the enduring life of the barn

    Prue Chiles, and Carolyn Butterworth, ‘Field Diaries’, in Suzanne Ewing, Jérémie Michael McGowan, Chris Speed and Victoria Clare Bernie (eds.) Architecture and Field/Work, Critiques series (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 129-137.

    Other projects
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