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The living building: towards a geography of maintenance work

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Abstract:

This paper is concerned with the routines of concierge workers in a multi-storey housing estate: Red Road, Glasgow. Adopting a praxiological perspective, the paper focuses specifically on the work executed by concierges when they engage in an activity they describe as 'block checks'. The block check comprises a systematic walk up and down the multi-storey block using lifts and stairs. As concierges swing down from one floor to the next, they monitor and assess the building, co-ordinate their route and carry out minor maintenance work. Drawing on ethnography and consensual video-tracking of the concierge personnel, the paper documents the architecturally sensitive and socially organised features of the block-check routine. Bringing such routines into view works against the static descriptions of architecture that can be found in many housing studies or literature on urban form. It is in and through the block-check routine that the high-rise gains momentum as a living building. The living building is both a function of the problems that the concierges encounter in their work routine, and of the practical ad hoc problem-solving solutions they adopt.

Keywords: Glasgow; Red Road; building maintenance; high-rise; living building; workplace studies

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2011.564732

Affiliations: ETH Wohnforum—ETH CASE, Faculty of Architecture, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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