Dissident Designers & Social Piracy

Ishan Pal Singh

‘Canary’ed, Yellow’


Perry Kulper


Unlike most superhero movies, our cities have their super villains before it’s superheroes. These villains have created highly technical monsters that eat their way into cities, by not always reducing, but adding built formats, architectures, policies, spaces to help create more profit for the few. These monsters have incredibly specific functions and are invisible to most. They move quietly, hiding behind many layers of secret deals, complex policies and stretched time.

There are a few who can see these monsters.  They are angry and tired of not being able to do much about this.  They realize that they are guilty too working for these villains. But no more. Fed-up with being neoliberal tools. Tired of not being able to help the people in need. Tired of not having the power to do so. They realize the only way to take back the city is by stepping out of line. They decide to become the Dissident Designers.

The thesis is interested in novel ways architects can participate in social change, spatial policies and legal loopholes, quasi-legal built formats and the re-appropriation of the contemporary city to bring “public-ness’ back to the neoliberal city. It steps away from the common linear process of participating in architecture to rethink a dynamic format of reimagining our spaces to break out of the further propagation of neoliberal spaces.

The thesis sets up a para-fiction, utilizing Manhattan as a vehicle to explore these techniques. It uses sites such as The Vessel, the High Line and 432nd Park avenue as prototypes, and metaphors for phenomena taking place in all globalized cities around the world linked to the privatization of space. It leverages ideas of piracy from the 1970’s, symbiotic relationships in built environments, hacking techniques, and guerilla activism to actively participate on these sites—enabling other architects, dissident by disposition, now empowered.