The second interview in the lead-up to Libidinal Circuits: Scenes of Urban Innovation which runs from 8-10 July 2015. This week we chat with Dr. Robert Macdonald, Reader in Architecture at Liverpool John Moores University. An outspoken and passionate urban planning expert, Dr. Macdonald will be presenting a paper on the DIY City: Exposing Hidden Histories and Thinking of the Future. He explains that‘I seek out the shadows and memories embedded in the history of the City. This is the Soft City that can be revealed from engagement with people, culture and places’


Can you tell us a bit more about the journey your research has taken?


During my early education I lived with The Taureg Nomads in the Southern Sahara. I came to understand and appreciate how these indigenous people lived and survived in extreme conditions. This is how I became interested in the Soft aspects of living and how people interact with The City.


My doctoral research was about investigating Housing Cooperatives using "Participation Observation" methods; I feel that I have a heightened sensitivity to my "life-world" which enriches my research, teaching and engagement with the City. I appreciate the nature of "derive" and The Situationists.


How do you define a Libidinal Circuit?


Libidinal is a word that I have never come across in everyday usage. I understand its root is in Libido and Sigmund Freud was interested in this. Strictly speaking it's about sex drive which I guess propels the human race forwards. In contrast, Carl Jung, who dreamt that Liverpool is the Pool of Life, believed in the soul as the motive life force. At different stages of life we are all driven by sex or the soul. I have probably lost my sex drive but my soul is still strong!


How is sex/soul ‘thing’ expressed in Liverpool?


Sexy Cities vs Soulful Cities?


Well, for me Liverpool is a Sexysoulful City. At times it maybe even a little sinful ? There are places where sin just happens and places where we go for the good of the soul. For me Circuits (and Circuit Boards) connect all these disparate urban, complex cultural systems, activities and spaces.


Can you tell us more about your paper and how it intersects with the theories which underpin Libidinal Circuits?


My paper is about The DIY City, exposing hidden histories and thinking of the future. It's about the Soul of the City and how Soft methods and DIY Cities can lead towards the self-organisation of people in urban situations.


My paper intersects with Libidinal Circuits by bringing together multi-media and transient exhibitions. My paper starts by considering The Shrinking City in a period of Austerity, mapping the City and the deep memory of the City. DIY City brought together over twenty inner city neighbourhoods and enabled communities to express their own ambitions and visions for their city and districts. The driving Libidinal Circuit of DIY City is about imagining a new inner city in the context of a declining government organisation and development. DIY City leads towards Libidinal Circuits and self organised groups of people in social-anthropological urban situations. 


The Libidinal Circuits conference takes place at FACT and University of Liverpool from 8 - 10 July, with an accompanying exhibition of work in FACTLab.