Accepted Paper:

On the Porousness of Architectural Borders— Plastic Boats and Marine Lifeforms  


Simon Peres (University of Aberdeen)
Carole Papion (Glasgow School of Art)

Paper short abstract:

Through the display of material samples and photographs from fieldwork in Aberdeenshire, we will use the modern composite boat as a paradigm of and possible site for the resolution of the descriptive difficulties faced by process-oriented architectural anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

A recurrent problem faced by the anthropology of architecture is the appeal of the finished, closed-off building. Theoretical proclamations notwithstanding, it seems difficult in practice to fully represent architectural phenomena as processes, both temporally (as ever-evolving, living structures that, through wear and tear, never finish being built) and environmentally (as highly interactive entities whose borders are, after all, quite uncertain).

We aim to reflect on the sources of this difficulty and its possible solutions by examining the case of boats, especially their hulls. Most modern leisure embarcations are constructed by the accumulation of layers: a plastic base structure is covered with fiberglass, before adding a coat of plastic resin. Finally, the user applies antifouling, a biocide paint that temporarily protects the hull from the accumulation of crustaceans. Here, every layer exists to protect the others while being supported by them. There is a tension between, on the one hand, this strong drive towards resistance and isolation, reinforced by common (pejorative) perceptions of plastic as lifeless, uniform matter, and on the other hand, the manifest mobility of a boat and its propension to fusing with its environment— gliding into the sea while slowly being colonized by multitudinous lifeforms. We will explore it by displaying material samples as well as photographs taken during fieldwork in an Aberdeenshire port. This will be the base for a discussion of the analytical issues we encountered, enabling us to critically examine the organicist and immunological metaphors that are often tempting.

Panel P086
A Museum of Architecture: Challenging Representation(s)