‘Agency’ is a beguiling word. It has the immediacy of a call-to-arms and the remoteness and anonymity of a bureaucratic function. Agency, as action in the world, underpins revolutionary social change, and the representation of someone else's interests – usually at a distance – in a governmental or business context. It is implicated in both the agitprop of the Reclaim the Streets network, or Brazil's Homeless Workers Movement, and in state bureaucracies such as the UK Border Agency, or commercial franchises such as the Western Union. The term encapsulates two quite distinctive forms of action: one individuated, collective and immediate; and the other systemic, anonymised and bureaucratic. It is no accident, then, that in academic literature ‘agency’ is often paired with ‘structure’, and in the binarised form, structure/agency, is used to refer to the tension between the creative actions of individuals and the social, political and economic structures that supposedly constrain them. The fact that architects are expected to exercise agency in both of these senses – as creative actors and as representatives of their clients' interests – gives the theme further significance.