What does it mean to decolonize? 3

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Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Studies 2020 - 2021



Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Studies 2020 - 2021

The Royal Institute of Art (RIA) in Stockholm is a leading art institution of higher education located in Stockholm with a long artistic tradition dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. The education offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Arts and postgraduate studies in Architecture. RIA also run an active international program with lectures, exhibitions and publications. www.kkh.se

The Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course is a part of a sequence of courses that together form a platform for higher education and research on the topic of Decolonizing Architecture at the Royal Institute of Art. The course uses the term decolonization as a critical position and conceptual frame for an architectural practice engaged in social and political struggles. The courses are led by Alessandro Petti, professor in Architecture and Social Justice in collaboration with Marie-Louise Richards, lecturer in Architecture and enriched by the contribution of invited guests. www.daas.academy



What does it mean to decolonize? – Alessandro Petti and Marie-Louise Richards


What does it mean to imagine radical change? – Marie-Louise Richards



Terziere di Morbegno, The act of recosmizing – Alice Pontiggia


Lex Bollmora, Mapping politics and navigating responsibility – Linnea Fröjd


The City Planning Board, Negotiating mutual exclusivity – Mikaela Karlsson


Undomesticated Homes, Home as a space of cultural and knowledge production – Silvia Susanna


The river Dommel, Unearthing the remnants of the zinc industry – Steffie de Gaetano


Sites for protest, In Our Backyard: Building Restorative Practice, Not Cages – Sue Jeong Ka


Liceu Artistik, The school at night –Valentina Bonizzi


International Student House, The Multidirectional Path of Building a Safe Space – Steffie De Gaetano, Alice Pontiggia, Silvia Susanna


The island of Skeppsholmen, Geographies of isolation – Linnea Fröjd, Mikaela Karlsson



What does it mean to decolonize?* Alessandro Petti and Marie-Louise Richards

“To decolonize” suggests a massive undertaking – and in many ways, it is. It needs to touch upon ghosts from the past and our fragmented and segregated present. The point of departure, therefore, must come from one’s own position, that is: from one’s own perceptions, and how one has come to know the world, and in turn, what knowledge one has gained from one’s own (embodied) experiences of passing through the world and how these are never neutral or universal. It becomes a question of what assumptions and beliefs one holds, and where these come from, and why? But also, to reflect on how this may manifest in how one comes to understand objects and others in pursuit of meaning and ask if it is possible to imagine otherwise. Whereas this endeavor seems to be a lot to take on, when we ask ourselves, “what does it mean to decolonize”? it becomes more than a question; it becomes an acknowledgment that our institutions, epistemologies, disciplines, practices not only need to be challenged, but also reframed or completely abandoned. We need to re-imagine ways of thinking, speaking and doing, in a world where colonial structures shape bodies, spaces, buildings and landscapes. “To decolonize” addresses our own positions as both practitioners and educators, and acknowledges that there are imbalances (and dynamics of power, produced and reproduced) that are inherent between colleagues, course participants, frames of references and most importantly the institution itself – its history and identity. But also how the history and identity of the institutions are embedded in a specific geopolitical context. We all have a position. It is time to make it visible and not hide on preconceived and silent assumptions. We believe that only a truly diverse environment can help to sharpen our own distinct positions. Decolonial approaches In the Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, we engage in a collective endeavor in experimenting with decolonial approaches. We do this work in dialogues with guests, texts, and, most importantly, each other. The group comprises a wide range of nationalities and ages ranging from the late twenties to the late thirties. Most of the course participants have experienced living in countries different from where they were born. Half of them trained as architects or urban planners, and the other half are artists, journalists, writers, graphic designers, curators, and researchers. The diversity of the group is one of our most significant resources. We share with the course participants the sense of being in a sort of ‘permanent crisis’: to radically rethink trajectories and how to practice; eager to experiment; to find a community of peers and a protected space to think together, or simply to find a way out of the non (or anti-)


critical and commercial dimensions of the architectural profession. The fundamental assumption of our approach to learning is that each participant is a source of knowledge. Therefore the starting point is to share personal experiences and desires, and based on those start forming alliances, building the communal where it is possible to learn from each other. After sharing their own experiences and positions and creating a safe environment where to take risks and be exposed, we ask them to respond to the course proposition to engage with the fundamental articulation between sites, concepts, and people. These are the three pillars that constitute the base of our pedagogical and research approach. Participants are asked to select a site, understood not only as physical space but also as a community, or a body, a source of knowledge and the anchor for their research practice and intervention. In parallel, they are invited to reflect on one or more concepts that emerge from the site, to theorize not by borrowing theories from books, but to ground their theories in the site and in their own practice. We invite them to cultivate a constant oscillating movement between the hard realities and limitations of the site and to reflect on concepts that open up a critical understanding of the site. These conceptualizations form what we call a “Collective Dictionary,” composed of individual and collective terms that provide the theoretical frame for individual and collective actions. The collective dictionary creates a community of peers that share different sites and concepts that nurture each other’s individual and collective research. This collective experimental and research based pedagogical approach is understood as a series of settings and practices that lead to the creation of meaningful individual and collective learning environments. What is at stake in those environments is for course participants, the possibility to be active learners by reflecting critically on their own practice by asking fundamental questions of why we do what we do, and how our own practice is framed in the larger social and political context. Therefore the course that we teach does not offer a prepacked system of knowledge, but helps the participants build their own individual and collective framework that gives meaning to actions and practices. Arts and Architecture By asking what decolonization means – rather than what it is – we addresse our specific context as facilitators of a course within an institution of higher learning, an institution of both art and architecture. It cannot be enough to simply think of decolonization in terms of the symbolic but that this always needs to be an active process, and therefore never a destination one can arrive at.


The Arts — we use the plural to take the distance from an understanding of art as a predefined epistemological field — is understood not as discipline, but rather unique constitutive space where meanings are created and realities formed. We are interested in an artistic and architectural practice that does not claim a specific disciplinary territory but instead claim the right to exist in its own specificity against all classifications. Needless to say, we see Architecture as part of the Arts, and not as a separate discipline. Architecture in our teaching and research practices is used both as material and immaterial form for thinking and interventions. Giancarlo De Carlo used to say that Architecture in fact is too important to leave it to the Architects. Before the modernist dogma that created the figure of the Architect as a separate profession, Architecture was thought of as a complex cultural and material practice as part of the Arts. Architecture in the process of colonization and decolonization plays a crucial role in organizing spatial relations and expressing ideologies, even when it’s abandoned and left in ruins, it is mobilized as evidence of political and cultural claims. The analysis of the ways in which colonial architecture has been reutilized is a new arena for understanding broader political and cultural issues around national identity and exile, senses of belonging or alienation, and social control or urban subversion. Historical processes of colonization and decolonization and today’s conditions of coloniality and decoloniality, have shaped the world order and continue to either sustain or struggle to dismantle, inequality, structural violence, systems of privilege and white supremacy. In this global scenario, architecture has always played a crucial role in organizing colonial spatial relations and reflecting or contesting modernity, its rationalities, ideologies and hierarchies. Architecture materializes ideologies, that in turn orders how the world is structured by such histories, of which narratives are made visible and contributes in how it positively or negatively affects people’s life chances; of whom can move freely, and of whom cannot. Even if we today in most cases, may not refer to the world as colonial, we are living the effects of colonial legacies. It, therefore, means what we deem a thing of the past, perhaps more active than ever. Whereas, the colonial suggests distance, both in time and space; “to decolonize” is to argue that colonial structures affect both internally as externally, on the scale of the individual’s mind and body and to the scale of global structures, both material and immaterial. That are both active here, in a place like Sweden, which does not associate itself with colonialism, neither in the past nor the present, despite the collective amnesia regarding nordic countries colonial ambitions, the ongoing colonization of Sami land as a site of extraction, and the government-funded eugenics that shaped decades of institutional racism. We see our roles as educators as a form of activism, and therefore we understand learning not less than a tool for liberation. One of us (Alessandro) comes from a southern italian family, from a region unknown also to Italian called Molise. No one


from his father and mother side went to the university. His brother and him were the first ones. One of us (Marie-Louise) questioned her own architectural education that involved the erasure of others, and the scripts she unconsciously followed and embodied to have her knowledge validated. Therefore we both see the university both as a site of oppression but also of potential liberation to become who we want to be, a transformative site for ourselves and the surrounding environment. Having both previously worked outside institutional frames in refugee camps and in segregated suburban neighborhoods, we do know the limits and the potentialities of practicing outside or inside the institutions. Our task for the coming years is to challenge a dominant structure of knowledge production from the place that we inhabit and at the same time open up artistic and architectural practices to forms, subjects and experiences that have been historically marginalized and devalued.

(*This text has been commissioned and written for Urgent Pedagogies by Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Program)


What does it mean to imagine radical change? Marie-Louise Richards What would a fundamentally transformed society look like? And more importantly, what would a fundamentally transformed society feel like? These were the guiding questions posited when two scholar activists, Angela Davis and the late Grace Lee Boggs, sat down for a public conversation in March 2012 at the Women of Color Initiative, which took place within the Graduate Assembly in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California in Berkeley. With the title, On Revolution, the conversation was rooted in Boggs’ activism and writings from seven decades of political involvement encompassing the major U.S. social movements of the past hundred years. In dialogue with Boggs was Davis, whose activism in the 1970s led to her imprisonment and caused shockwaves across the globe with a collective call for her release. At a rare moment in US history, these two women came together to speak about how central imagination, thinking and doing are to social and societal transformation. Both legendary in their own ways, this was the first time the two had come together in public. Today, we know that this was to be one of the last public engagements of Boggs, as she passed away only a few years later. Thus, to close this year’s cycle of Decolonizing Architecture, where we have sought to unveil the connections and relations between modernism and colonialism, and to speculate on possible projects of architectural demodernization, I would like to recall Grace Lee Boggs’ call for what she refers to as visionary organizing in facing challenges both globally and within our societies, and how her call relates to questions raised within the course. Boggs was born in 1915 in Providence Rhode Island as a child of Chinese immigrants. Boggs’ father had left his first wife due to her failing to give birth to a son, and married a younger woman, who was to become Boggs’ mother. Born Grace Chin Lee, she was the first child in her father’s second marriage, and one can only assume this was a great disappointment to him, before the arrival of her brothers three years later. Grace opens the conversation in March 2012 by stating: “because I was born to Chinese immigrant parents and because I was born female—I learned very quickly that the world needed changing. But what I also learned as I grew older was that how we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.” She began thinking about change, first as a young student at Barnard College, then in PhD studies. Later marrying activist James Boggs, she spent the better part of her life contributing to change, and more importantly to how we think about changing the world. Thinking about radical change, Boggs points to how the concept of revolution


itself has gone through conceptual shifts. She references Gramsci as an example of how the notion of revolution changed in the 1900s, in relation to the example of the Russian revolution. In Gramsci’s work, the focus is shifted from revolution of state power, to radically rethinking the power of social position. Boggs recalls Gramsci’s argument for the need to understand how we must transform ourselves and our institutions and challenge the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie. Further, she reflects upon how this began to change concepts of revolution, and how there is a need to internalize that enormous change and recognize it as imperative, even today. For Boggs, this work begins with the imagination, and to bring her point home she makes the following declaration: “In the 1950s Einstein said the splitting of the atom has changed everything but the human mind and thus we drift towards catastrophe. And he also said that imagination is more important than education. In other words, the time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to re-imagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to re-imagine revolution and think not only about the change we have to make in our institutions, but the changes we have to make in ourselves.” According to Boggs, revolutions begin with reimagining. It is up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect “them” – the powers that be – to do better. We are at the point of a cultural revolution ourselves, and we need to ask: How do we reimagine education? How do we reimagine community? How do we reimagine family? How do we reimagine sexual identity? How do we reimagine everything in the light that is so far reaching and that is our responsibility to make? We cannot expect them to make it. We have to do the reimagining ourselves. We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We have to reimagine. How do we do that? Boggs declares that she has approached this by combining activism with philosophy, and she continues to reflect upon how her approach relates to that of Angela Davis: “Angela and I, we are both philosophic activists, and activist philosophers. We cannot think anymore that all we have to do is act; we have to do a lot of thinking, we have to do a lot of imagination, we have to do what I call visionary organizing.”


I believe Boggs’ call for visionary organizing captures much of the work that we can hope to achieve from year to year within Decolonizing Architecture. Following her powerful statement that imagination is more important than education, we are invited to rethink and question assumptions that we hold. Modernity can only exist within a binary relation that involves disqualification and degradation of other approaches and other world views. Therefore, the task of how we think of changing the world would involve imagining architectural forms of demodernization, and in addition it would then perhaps also involve thinking about what we need change within ourselves as part of this reimagining. Under the headline Modernism and Demodernization, this year’s cycle of Decolonizing Architecture has engaged with ways to challenge modern approaches, locating and experimenting with approaches that seek to imagine a form of demodernization in architecture. The participants from both the first and second year of Decolonizing Architecture have approached these questions from their own positions, through their own practices, and drawing on their own experiences to guide their experimental processes – all of which offer wonderful responses to this year’s topic. During the pandemic, we have faced the challenge of not being able to meet in Stockholm – as a group or with guests of the course – for the majority of the year. As a result, the focus was set on matters closer to home, and the theme of isolation connected the course’s initial days in Långholmen Prison to the isolation of the island of Skeppsholmen, where the institution of the Royal Institute of Art itself is situated. The collective site of intervention has therefore engaged with issues raised within our own walls: how we relate to each other; how our institution relates to the rest of the world; belonging; and how to bring decolonial thinking and doing into our own house(s). Special thanks to all the guests who have passed through this year and engaged with us in our ongoing work with the course. Together with Nadira Omajaree and Shahram Kosravi we opened the year with a conversation on Decolonizing Education; and together with Corina Oprea, editior for L’Internationale, we have engaged in a collaboration on inviting guests to think together with us on the topic of Modernism and Demodernization. With Charles Eshe, we engaged in conversation with other art institutions in Stockholm, and practitioners who work with institutions, on Practices of Demodernizing Art Institutions such as the museum or the art school. The series of conversations continued with Temi Omoduso, where we asked What set of practices form a decolonized museum? In the Spring, the series of conversations continued with Hilde Heynen and Joar Nango on the topic of demodernization within both theory and practice. In collaboration with L’Internationale we hope to bring this series of discussions together in a publication, with contributions from additional contributors whose practices and thinking offer themselves up as possible architectural forms of demodernization. The year has been enriched by practices shared by invited guest Elof Hellström, who gave us a lecture-walk about the ‘Gentrification South Suburban Stockholm’. Ulrika Flink and Erik Annerbom hosted us at Konsthall C, 12

and guided us through the exhibition Under A Different Sun, presenting works which in different ways address the relationship between individual and collective voices, explored from historical and current perspectives. Jenny Richards hosted conversations around a virtual kitchen table over tea, reflecting on relationships to, politics of and perspectives around what we consider as home. Luis Rafael Berríos-Negrón showed the importance of ‘remembering to forget colonial memory, to learn to live, again’ by generously sharing his thesis Breathtaking Greenhouse Parastructures. Jasmine Kelekey gave us a comprehensive overview of The Racialized Politics of Crime Control: From Colonialism to Globalization. With Samuel Girma and Macarena Dusant, we discussed what it means to practice the decolonial. This year we also had the wonderful privilege of engaging with guests on a wider range of ways of writing to support practice or share our ideas. Daniel Urey generously shared his experiences of, ‘To be or not to be’: funds, applications, budgets and the story of never-ending paperwork in a workshop on writing applications, while Helen Runting showed us ‘An Architecturally Designed Discourse’ - on academic writing. Vera Sachetti, James Taylor-Foster and Shumi Bose guided us through a series of workshops rethinking modes of critique and suggesting critical narratives as practice, encouraging us to think about who we are in dialogue with and the formats with which we need to engage to support this dialogue and exchange. All of these guest contributions, as well as the work of the course participants themselves, have been invaluable contributions to the Decolonizing Architecture community.


Decolonizing Education, Skeppsholmen, September 2020

YEAR IV 2020-2021

Modernism and demodernization

With an increasing presence in European cities of populations with a migratory background, the struggle of decolonization, once primarily located outside of Europe, has today moved within its borders. Historical processes of colonization and decolonization, as well as today’s conditions of coloniality and decoloniality, have shaped the world order and continue to either sustain, or struggle to dismantle, inequality, structural violence, systems of privilege and white supremacy. In this global scenario, architecture has always played a crucial role in organizing colonial spatial relations and reflecting or contesting Modernity, its rationalities, ideologies and hierarchies. The specific focus of this year’s course is to unveil the connections and relations between modernism and colonialism, and to speculate on possible projects of architectural demodernization. The European colonial/modern project of exploitation, segregation, and dispossession has divided the world into different races and nations, constructing its identity in opposition to “other projects” labeled as traditional or backwards. The suppression of alternatives was, and is, an attempt to create a singular modernist/colonial epistemology, and hence modernity cannot exist without the disqualification and degradation of other approaches, and world views. While architectural modernism, in particular, continues to be celebrated for its progressive social and political agenda, what the modernist rhetoric of progress and

innovation obscures is its dark side, namely its inherent homogenizing, authoritarian, and segregational dimensions. These modernist conceptions are still present in contemporary architecture and urban planning; where in the name of modern architecture, entire communities, forms of lives, and historical sites, are erased. While alone, a critique of modernism is not enough, having already been conducted by postmodernism, the task of the present is, additionally, to imagine architectural forms of demodernization. The course is intended for those with a background in architecture, art, urban research, decolonial theory or activism who are interested in the ideological, social and political dimensions of Architecture. It welcomes applicants from diverse backgrounds committed to developing an artistic, architectural and collective practice that is both theoretically and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. The course is particularly relevant for participants interested in collaborative forms of knowledge production that emerge from collective discussions, peer to peer learning and engagement with specific sites and communities.

Terziere di Morbegno VALTELLINA

The act of recosmizing Alice Pontiggia


Image: Saverio Monti

Adda is the river that sprouts in Val Alpisella, in the central Italian Alps, flows into Lake Como, crosses the Pianura Padana and joins the river Po until it reaches the Adriatic Sea. Adda crosses Valtellina for 122 of its 313 km, collecting waters from lateral valleys and glaciers. The western, lower part of Valtellina runs perfectly from east to west, and its floor, defined by the slopes of the Rhaetian and Orobic Alps, has a width between 700 m and 3 km. This part of Valtellina is geographically delimited from the east by the earlier hill Còlmen and the conoid of the Masino torrent, and from the west by the mouth of the Adda plunging into Lake Como. Here, Valtellina connects with the Larian branch of Lecco running all the way to Milan, the side of Como bridging to the helvetic Canton Ticino, and Valchiavenna, the Mera river valley that connects to the swiss Canton Grigioni. The area circumscribed above has been recognized as “the lower Terziere” since 1512, when the Grigioni occupied what is now the Province of Sondrio, dividing it in five jurisdictions and marking the end of the Middle Age for the area. The word terziere came from the number three and defines each of the three parts into which a territory is divided. We can therefore deduct that the east-west floor valley of the three Terzieri of Morbegno, Sondrio and Tirano was usually read as a whole. Nowadays, the Terziere di Morbegno bureaucratically outlines the land belonging to twenty-five municipalities, that are in turn divided into centers, fractions, localities, pastures, alps, humps, mounts, and other toponyms. The human occupation is currently concentrated in the floor valley, as a result of the promotion of a series of land reclamations and a gradual migration from higher shelves of the main slopes and side valleys. Since the thaw era, around 15 to 10 thousand years ago, this area has been land of slow exploration for humans, and later a real melting pot of roads and people. Despite the late opening of archeological studies in the area, we know that here Celts, Romans, Swiss and many others were trying to impose their power to gain sovereignty over the vital alpine passes. Within this context, my research will highlight sites occupied by the earliest prehistoric communities. The recollection of information about previous land use and structure, the existing material about local prehistoric populations, and recurring field visits, will guide me in understanding the construction of their cosmotechnics, mediances, and logics of habitation. Palafittes remains were discovered in the Careciasca locality, at the foot of the mountain slopes, at a sight distance from the Forte di Fuentes hill, where various relics where found. Two castellieri, fortified villages built in an easily defensible elevated position, were thought to have been located on the utterly exposed northwest side of the Còlmen and in the Scheneno fraction of Ardenno, located at the bottom of a deep creek, hidden and protected by multiple hillsides. A third castelliere might be located in the shady woods of Morbegno, intersecting the engraved crosses, cupels and canals discovered in the Tempietto locality, on the way to the Valli del Bitto, where a constellation of iron mines and ovens are still recognizable. How can the information recollected through the study of local prehistoric narratives be useful for the present of the Terziere di Morbegno? Will these analyses help us in building new local mediances and change the current perception and approach to land, landscape and architectural heritage? 21

{ to recosmize }

“There is no space independent of subjects” — Jakob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans Jakob von Uexküll stated that we sit too comfortably in the illusion of the existence of a one and only space and time for all living beings, one world for all. Instead, he claims, the world for us is a constant repetition of multiple functional cycles between subject and object. For Augustin Berque, mesology is consequently the discipline for the study of a subject’s relationship to the specific interval of space and time it lives in; and mediance, “the structural moment of human existence”, is thus constituted by the process linking the inseparable halves of the individual physiological body and its ecological-technical-symbolic environment. For him, this knowledge is based on how the subject is perceived and interpreted by the predicate. How is the grass perceived by the cow? As food. How is the Earth perceived by humankind? For Karl Marx, “the human metabolism with nature” is a highly dynamic, interdependent relationship. Labor is, in this relationship, the interpretation, the trajection, namely the process through which the human mediates and regulates nature. Considered so, he deducts that industrialization, implying the use of chemical fertilizer in agriculture and the migration of population from countries to towns, has caused a rift between human beings and the soil. This is also evident on a more global level: whole colonies saw their land and resources robbed to support the capitalization of the colonizing countries. Functional cycles are altered by the matrix of power, in Quijano’s words. But acknowledging consciousness to the campesinos and indigenous communities, and to “Mnemosine of thousand names” itself, we now see that if we want to overcome modernity, we need to subtract the modern individual from being an exploited, alienated, secular, algorithm driven consumer, so it can reclaim its humanity and create collectivities that consider land as life, not land as profit.


But what are the moments of disruption in the relationship between human and land? Is there a way to instill the kinship feeling tying human and nonhuman presences in the individualized modern subject? Have the myth and the ritual preserved their power? We see that researchers make great efforts in recovering ancestral knowledge from lost pasts. But then, how can we make use of these understandings in changing our ontology? In her articles about the Camunian petroglyph site Naquane, Sandra Busatta reconstructs their mediance, binding the selection of the site with the presence of the Oglio river, soundscape, orientation, mines, the myth of the Aquane, the deer, and other factors to advance the hypothesis of an ancient Indo-European shamanism. In which way is this investigation relevant for the contemporary inhabitants of that land? I propose to begin reweaving our histories from the specificity of every milieu, selecting how we want to re-exist by building new communal metabolizations. Independent processes of recosmizing in a world where many worlds fit, as Zapatistas would say.

– Alice Pontiggia


Lex Bollmora STOCKHOLM

Mapping politics and navigating responsibility Linnea Fröjd


During the first half of the 20th century, the housing queue in Stockholm was overcrowded. Just like today, the lack of homes was extensive. In the 1950s, politicians in Stockholm began to pursue a hard-line land policy. In twelve years, they bought over 30,000 acres of land in surrounding municipalities through the company AB Strada. The local politicians were often unaware of these land acquisitions. In 1959, Lex Bollmora was adopted—a new law initiated by Hjalmar Mehr, the main actor in the radical modernization of Stockholm. This new law made it possible for one municipality to build within the boundaries of another municipality. This meant that the city of Stockholm, through its previously purchased land reserves, could now build housing in the sparsely populated surrounding municipalities. The name Lex Bollmora comes from the fact that it was in Bollmora, in Tyresö, south-east of Stockholm, where Stockholm’s municipal housing companies built their first apartments outside their own municipality. The law opened up for a completely new modernization project. The city of Stockholm built almost 16,000 apartments within the framework of Lex Bollmora. These apartments were then populated by people from the city of Stockholm’s housing queue or by those who lived in old-fashioned inner city apartments in need of renovation. Without Lex Bollmora, urban development in the Stockholm region would have been completely different, and the Million Program (1965-1975) would have been difficult to implement in its current form. Since the mid 1990s, the Lex Bollmora stock has been gradually divested from public utility over a 25-year period. Some properties have become tenant-owner associations and others have gone from one owner to another. No one seems to take long-term responsibility for these properties. Today, the Lex Bollmora stock is undergoing extensive and muchdebated renovation, making it a highly topical example. Lex Bollmora was primarily the work of politicians, but it was implemented by planners and architects. As an urban planner I am a part of the realization of today’s housing policies. 70 years after Lex Bollmora was adopted, Stockholm is once again suffering from a serious housing crisis and housing inequality. The undeniable fact that I am a cog in this system makes me uncomfortable and anxious to better understand my own role and responsibility as a planner. I know there are others who share this feeling. So how can we as planners and architects discuss the issues of contemporary housing politics? And how can we use our knowledge and experience to create something new beyond the current situation?


{ introspect/outrospect }

Planning and architecture are part of political activity and deal with several societal issues with widely differing goals. These goals often contradict each other. For planners and architects, their work consists of navigating between different possible choices. The decisions made by politicians and officials require the planners to take a stand and navigate amongst the demands and conflicts that exist. Based on the aforementioned conditions, architects create visions of how our surroundings should be designed. The most visible perspective is easily taken as the most reasonable. A perspective that is presented as natural therefore becomes an effective instrument of power in planning. But how can I reveal a power so taken for granted that I cannot see it? It is not easy to understand one’s own role and what the pre-given rules are. “To understand human action is not to blame but to see that actors are so entrenched in their roles that they take the shadow play for reality and reality for the play” (Gunnar Olsson, 2017). Responsibility for how we build and plan is shared between legislators, government officials, private companies and architects. The act of planning becomes everybody’s and nobody’s responsibility. There is no one to blame. We all have many layers of different experiences, which in turn give us different motives. This makes us both interchangeable and unique. If the politicians follow the ideals of their own time and the private market wants to make profit fast, the architects need to understand the long-term significance of the built environment that we leave behind for the coming generations. According to the principle of alternative possibilities, a person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise. But what does it mean when one’s profession involves imagining alternative possibilities by creating visions? And how can I imagine something new to navigate towards without replicating what I am criticizing? We need to introspect about our1 own intentions before we imagine how they will materialize in physical structures. We also need to outrospect about the forces that create changes in society before we can imagine good alternatives. But it is also our responsibility to imagine alternatives. Without visions, we have nothing to navigate towards.

– Linnea Fröjd

1. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/our



The City Planning Board STOCKHOLM

Negotiating mutual exclusivity Mikaela Karlsson


Urban planning is often simplified to the profession responsible for producing programs and documents that frame the use of space in a given region or municipality. While its simplified understanding is the most pervasive one, urban planning is very complex in its impossible negotiation of a variety of forces – social, economic, cultural, legal, political, ecological, aesthetic, and more – that collectively shape the built environment. The simplification of such a complexity and reduction to a profession with a defined working language and skillset is one that carries political weight to begin with, and academic and background requirements privilege technical training over lived experience in shaping communities. Additionally, urban planning is complicated even without going into its particular complexities, given that planners dictate land use for land that is often stolen. In many ways, urban planning is a practice that is complicit in the production and maintenance of spatial oppression. I pursued urban planning in search of a toolkit to help construct a better world. I saw the planner as an advocate and facilitator, translating the needs and desires of the community into spatial languages of maps and comprehensive plans. The planner negotiates collective desire, applies it to space, and acts as a defender of it, standing up to political and corporate interests who may seek to push another overarching desire to the center. I wanted urban planning to be an extension of community organizing, coordinating cooperative efforts by local residents to promote the interests of their community, with an added set of spatial tools to shape the built environment into an ally and catalyst of change. I once understood the urban planner as most accountable to people and inhabitants, but I am increasingly understanding that planners often respond first and foremost to the state and private, profit-seeking interests. Currently, I find myself within a different realm of urban planning – that of party politics in city government. I stumbled into a seat on Stockholm’s city planning commission (Stadsbyggnadsnämnden), as a foreigner who is only Swedish on paper and knows very little about Swedish politics. This realm of urban planning is another layer of power that further separates urban planning and spatial decisionmaking from residents. Each meeting clubs through at least fifty planning and building proposals in under an hour, leaving little room for discussion on cases that are already reduced to impersonal language of policy and zoning laws. It is often not until getting an email from a resident expressing concern over the impacts of a decision that one realizes the full implications of a certain case, as affect is often omitted from planning language. My inquiry uses the Stockholm City Planning Board as a point of departure for confronting spatial politics and political processes of space-making. My political ideology is most closely aligned with some version of anarchism, a philosophy that generally rejects imposed hierarchies and the state, yet here I am as a party politician. My site can be extended to the internal space of conflict that is created when occupying or embodying multiple identities or occupations that seem to be mutually exclusive of one another. While this space of conflict is most often internal, these points of contention can manifest physically when these personal contradictions require you to exist in each realm separately, or in instances when one realm clashes with another in practice and not only in theory. 29

{ queering space }

“The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.”1 I often find myself occupying in-between spaces, whether they be spaces of conflict, negotiation, or reconciliation. Urban planning is one such space; while it has been historically complicit in segregating cities and leaving entire neighborhoods without proper infrastructure, amenities, or access to economic opportunity, planning seeks to be the middle ground in negotiating spatial needs of inhabitants with municipal government and private actors, in pursuit of a balance that can yield a better world—a seemingly impossible task in an urban landscape of increased polarization and economic disparity. But can the master’s tools of urban planning ever renovate the master’s house? Or will they simply reproduce problematic spatial configurations and materializations of power and capitalism, despite positive intentions? Can a new version of urban planning and party politics forge a space of reconciliation that is accountable to communities rather than the state, or do we need to abandon the system entirely? When is an in-between space not enough? Occupying an in-between space can sometimes mean the coexistence of conflicting or mutually exclusive ideals, or the obliteration of binary notions altogether. I am several parts anarchist and some parts party politician; I am somewhere between an urban planner and urban designer, perhaps a combination of both (or maybe neither of the two); I am both Swedish and a foreigner, and while I can speak Swedish rather fluently, it will never be my mother tongue (and most will always be able to tell); I am a girl who is also nonbinary. I am seeking a threshold, a queered space of negotiation, contradiction, and perpetual fluctuation, that can find symbiosis in mutual exclusivity and oscillate between or obliterate the binaries imposed by ideals and identities deemed to be contradictory to one another. This “queer space” of negotiation has been proposed as a counter-architecture that appropriates, subverts, mirrors, and choreographs the orders of everyday life in new and liberating ways.2

1. Audre Lorde. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. 1984. 2. Aaron Betsky. Queer Space: Architecture and Same Sex Desire. 1997.


While there are many systems that I would like to eradicate altogether, urban planning and party politics are two systems and spaces that I will first try to queer, exploring the potential for a practice of dismantling and reconfiguring, appropriating and subverting from within. But if the master’s tools will in fact never dismantle the master’s house, can the master’s house be renovated in the meantime or must we sit helplessly with the master’s tools while we wait for better ones? What new tools are needed, and how do we go about finding them so that these new ones aren’t just as harmful as those of the master? Does my practice of Politics undermine my politics? Can urban planning be reformed, or does urban planning as we know it need to be abolished entirely? Can anarchism and state governments synchronize, or maybe even collaborate, in their shared quest towards a better world? What spaces of conflict and contradiction can be queered and negotiated to allow for these collaborations and synchronicities to occur?

– Mikaela Karlsson


Undomesticated Homes VENICE , MEXICO CITY , AND MORE Home as a space of cultural and knowledge production (or, the unreproducible art of un-commissioned Inhabitants) Silvia Susanna


“It all started some years ago...” said me Bruno Cuervo on the terrace of Casa Gomorra. Bruno, Ana, Mirushka and Letto rented a cheap big apartament in Obrera to live together and taking advantage of this big space for supporting self-managed projects that work in favour of the LGBTTTI community. “We decided to live together as we had the same interests: gender studies, feminism, transfeminism, pornoterrorism, and queer philosophy. We wanted to open a safe space to our community without prejudice, where there is respect for the identity of others” (Extract of / my travel diary: Interview to Bruno Cuervo from Casa Gomorra, City of Mexico)

“Inicio como habitar junto de algunas personas y creciò para projectos. La casa sempre se transforma,no estan espacios por classes distinctas, cocina, privado, todo va transf ormado con el projecto y qui participan van cambiando el espacio de la casa. (Extract of / Transcription of the audio-interview I made to Israel from Bikini Wax, City of Mexico)

[...] In 2016, I was living in Venice and by word of mouth, I learned of a special event in a “clandestine location”. I followed the white rabbit and an incredible dimension embraced me. From the campiello a unique flux of people was moving into a mystical indoor space to a softly lit garden. A flow of people was inhabiting a cosmos made of urban Venetian singularities, exhibition rooms and, convivial places. The outdoor merged with the indoor in a unique pluriverse without fences for joyful and vibrant discussions where the urban world, the domestic realm, and a specific cultural production interweaved: it was life! When I met Tobia Tomasi, founder of Casa Punto Croce, the following year, it was evident how this social, generous, dance-loving creature mirrored the atmosphere of Casa Punto Croce. [...] (Extract of Inside the Domestic Culture of Italy Interview with Jean-Lorin Sterian. Me describing Casa Punto Croce, Venice – https://schloss-post.com/inside-thedomestic-culture-of- italy/)


Home is a space of cultural and knowledge production when any superimposed common sense1 is interrupted by a plan of immanence that calls into crisis the modern structure and, therefore, triggers what Jane Rendell named critical spatial practice. My interest in exploring the meanings of home as a space of cultural and knowledge production arose two years ago, after realizing that over the last decade I had come across a series of extemporaneous, independent home-made cultural programs2. Elaborating a discourse from these premises meant opening some dispersed intuitions publicly (Demanio Marittimo) and, in parallel, searching for new home-projects by word-of-mouth. Each practice met so far emerges for specific contextual reasons that reflect the cultural-social identity and background of its un-commissioned initiators. Nevertheless, all the practices I have found stand as a reaction to a lack of spatial representation or belonging to their environment; as an answer to a shortage of experimentation in local institutionalized spaces; or for a fervent desire for community in a safe, temporarily suspended home space. All the home-projects encountered in my research disrupt the modern agenda of domesticated life, give space to a specific community, and are positioned far from the aggressive global corporate capitalism logic. By subverting standardized modern functions — spatialization of typological human activities — and overcoming normalized dichotomies — private/public, guest/host, tradition/innovation — these practices produce a realm for cultural production, social encounter, and community exchange. They are agents of a right to the city through a process of de-modernization. This specific, unreproducible, subtly ground-breaking way of creating community and producing knowledge is the core of these practices. And yet, the reason it seems to be worth formulating a discourse on this phenomenon is not for their similarities, but for the strong differences between them. In fact, their specific cultural programs link specific relative networks; are independent from any other home-made experiences; and emerged without any centralized control, online mediation or offline platform.


1. Common sense: The things we say we know with absolute certainty are things we have learned. The cognitive expression of numerous common sense beliefs hides their origin in a social training that induces norms, paradigms for describing the situations that surround our life in the clothes of our behavior. (Italian preface of On Certainity Ludwig Wittgenstein by Aldo Gargani) 2. The definition of home-made cultural program is by Jean Lorin Sterian, one of my lucky encounters. Jean-Lorin Sterian is a researcher, writer, artist and performer currently based in Bucharest/Romania. In 2008, he opened Iorgean theatre, the first living-room theatre in Romania. He has published several fiction books and one anthropological work related to his experiences of turning his house into a public space for performances. Currently, he is researching signs of what he has stated to be “homemade culture”, meaning theatre, visual and performance art based only in private spaces from all over the world.


{ language }

(prison, virus , art, home) “Knowledge cannot rightly be assimilated to a well designed language, because it operates at the conceptual level.” – Lefebvre, The production of Space “Language is the medium and the site of constitution of the subject, it follows that it is also the cumulated symbolic capital of our culture.” – Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects “Language is the house of being, in its home man dwells.” – Heidegger “Language is a Virus.” – William S. Burroughs > Laurie Anderson “The question: “Do these words make sense?” isn’t it similar to this one: “Is this an instrument?” question that arises while someone shows us a hammer. I say: “Yes this is a hammer”. But what if elsewhere what each of us considers a hammer were for example a conductor’s baton?” – Wittengstein, On Certainity “The fundamental codes of a culture—those governing its language, its schemas of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practices—establish for every man, from the very first, the empirical orders with which he will be dealing and within which he will be at home.” – Michel Foucault, The Order of things It is through language that we constitute our thinking and the social space. A language is a tool that allows many uses; words are like handles that make the most varied operations possible, as they are mobile and precarious constructs. Stretched between the performative stereotypic automatisms and the ritualistic social order, language spreads like a virus but can also imprison like a jail. Because we were trained through a wide range of linguistic games it requires a certain critical distance towards our mother tongue in order to grasp how has worked on us and to which extent, we are mechanically reproducing inherited dynamics of power. Poetry, for instance, works in language by deactivating its mere function. Creating new languages means creating new forms of life, new homes.


– Silvia Susanna



Unearthing the remnants of the zinc industry Steffie de Gaetano


My journey begins with the Dommel, a natural fluvial system extending for the length of 146km which joins the river Meuse after passing the cities of Eindhoven and ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Following my initial curiosity at the sight of the scraped down river banks of the Dommel, I began noticing multiple anthropogenic interventions in the river along its course; these were consequential measures in response to the high levels of cadmium and zinc contamination in the soil of the river bed. The pollutants were emitted by the nearby zinc-ore smelters in the Flemish Neerpelt, right across the Dutch border, which have been active in producing zinc blocks and sheets for over 125 years. The process of zinc extraction and fusion from metal ores was particularly polluting in the past due to the release of toxic gasses and contaminated water with dissolved zinc and cadmium particles. These industrial waste waters have been dumped for over a century into a ditch, the Eindergatloop, which runs along the border of the terrain, where the water stream carried the pollution further along to merge into the river Dommel. In the 1980s, after 85 years of uncontrolled industrial discharge, it became evident that the river bed of the Dommel had particularly high levels of zinc and cadmium, both heavy metals which settle and attach to the sediment once the water stream slows down. Soil decontamination projects have been carried out by the organization Waterschap de Dommel, by scraping the river bottom and banks and displacing the contaminated ground elsewhere. Despite the interruption of direct pollution from the smelters, the concentration of zinc and cadmium in the river sediment is still dangerously high for both aquatic and terrestrial creatures. These metals have permeated through bodies, from the river into the aquatic flora, and from the displaced earth into the nearby vegetation. Cadmium has also permeated into the bodies of macro invertebrates such as earthworms, and microalgae such as diatoms. These biotas serve scientists as river pollution indicators, and in this story, cadmium and zinc will act as tracers as they continue their permeating journey, leaving behind a trail which reveals how entangled, contaminated and polluted our beyond-human encounters really are. The leitmotif of this story is the ability of zinc and cadmium to permeate through time and environments, and as we will discover, it also has left a thread to follow to its geological origins in Queensland, Australia.


The zinc industry in Neerpelt operated under various company names, over time fusing with other corporations such as Umicore, the Australian Zinifex and nowadays, Nyrstar. In 2000, Zinifex began importing raw material from the Australian Century Mine, also owned by the then Zinifex corporation. Between 1999 and 2016, Century Mine was one of the world’s largest open pit zinc mines. Located in North Queensland, an Australian region known for its vast mineral deposits of zinc, copper and silver, the mine sits 250 km north-west of the city of Mount Isa. The surrounding territories to Mount Isa have been the land of the Kalkadoon people for over 60000 years, an indigenous tribe that resided in the Emu Foot Province. Their land was dispossessed in 1884, after the Kalkadoons’ final battle against colonization by white settlers. This war is remembered today as ‘Battle Mountain’, during which 150 Kalkadoon natives were massacred for resisting settlers. Over the course of the following 6 years, between 1878 and 1884, it is estimated that up to 900 Kalkadoon people lost their lives while defending their people and land from incursions. 255 years prior, in 1606, Dutch colonial navigator Willem Jansz had arrived as the first European in Australia by approaching the shores of northern Queensland. His explorations and first European mappings of the continent opened the doors for Australia’s European colonization and exploitation.


In conclusion, through the lens of permeability, the chain of events uncovered by soil contaminations and abnormal biota indexes have led upstream to Australian colonial history, and as a result, the story of the Kalkadoon people has become linked to the pollution of the river Dommel.


{ permeance }

In this project, I would like to propose permeability (or to permeate, permeance, permeation and permeating) as a conceptual lens through which to approach the entanglements of earthly life. In many ways, permeation is similar to the organic process imagined by Donna Haraway as a zoophagous chain of critters engulfing one another. However, I envision permeability also as a mode of operating through principles of physics and chemical processes, as well as molecular exchanges and biological absorptions. In the book ‘Staying with the Trouble’, Haraway also reflects on rehabilitation, or making livable again, if we manage to recognize “the porous tissues and open edges of damaged but still ongoing living worlds” (p. 33). Comparably, permeability can also stimulate exchanges between bodies and natural entities. Through a permeable vision we all, living and non-living, become part of a greater, more penetrable world. The impermeable membranes, so desirably sought after by modernity’s categorizations, deteriorate into a pile of compost which stimulates exchanges of substances, nutrients, molecules and microorganisms. Permeance also implies an awareness of our participation in symbiotic relationships with Earth. Dismantling our parasitic use of the environment and its forms of life requires us to permeate through them in mutualistic, reciprocal encounters. Anna Tsing in ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World’ writes that “we are contaminated by our encounters’’ (p. 27); we cause and absorb pollutions through our interactions with earthly beings and matter. We all, living creatures, also carry the record of past encounters. This is the key to evolution; it is in the matter that composes our beings that we hold the histories of our contaminations. Not only do we carry pollutants in our biology, in our permeating encounters we contaminate through social interactions and relations to the land — colonialism and extractions are among those practices — generating a “contaminated diversity [which] implicates survivors in histories of greed, violence and environmental destruction” (Tsing, p. 33).


Permeance uncovers the tracks of such happenings, allowing us to look into the past by following contaminations along a chain of events. Tsing states that in order to acquire the necessary skills to be able to live in ruins, we must be able to recognize and accept these contaminations. In contrast, the notion of permeability enables us to trace and understand the ruins we inhabit. This emphasis on permeance as past remains can be aligned to the exposition of contamination as ‘tracer’, as Tsing writes in ‘Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet’: “Our modes of noticing, however, are themselves monstrous in their connection to Man’s conquest. Much of what we know about ecological connection comes from tracking the movements of radiation and other pollutants. Contamination often acts as a ‘tracer’—a way to see relations. We notice connections in part through their ruination.” (p. M8). This research indeed follows a history of pollution, which has been the ruination of both ecosystems and indigenous cultures. Unfortunately, these histories still need to be uncovered, as the ability to notice has yet to be refined by the Western eye. Too often we—in the West—are blinded by our perception that our actions are impermeable. Instead, permeating is only possible if we see beyond our limits and borders: rivers flow between confines; histories of pollution can be displaced but not erased; contaminations can be absorbed but do not vanish; material histories can take you back to their geologies; and along them stories of extractions and colonial violence emerge. Permeating unsilences.

– Steffie De Gaetano


Sites for protest FROM NYC TO ONLINE

In Our Backyard: Building Restorative Practice, Not Cages Sue Jeong Ka


photo: Paulo JC Nogueira Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“Modern facilities would replace the outdated jails of today. These new facilities would be integrated into the look and feel of the neighborhood. Their interiors would be built with state-of-the-art design for a more humane, safer environment that promotes better mental health and medical services. Their exteriors would include retail and other amenities to serve the neighborhood.” — Beyond Rikers: Towards a Borough Based Jail System, published by the City of New York, 2018 In 2019, the City of New York released a final new jail plan that included a “new, modified or renovated” facility to replace the existing Manhattan Detention Complex at 125 White Street in Chinatown.1 Designed by Van Alen Institute, a New York City-based architecture organization, the proposed facility sparked a storm of controversy. It resembled other high-rise buildings, which had been the cause of serious arguments about gentrification in the neighborhood. Merging the aesthetics of corporate gentrification with the criminal (in)justice system only renews the history of modernization of colonialism, the prison industrial complex. Since its beginning, Manhattan Detention Complex, known as the Tombs, was a symbolic monument that mirrors a local history of colonialism and the carceral state. The first Tombs were constructed on the Collect Pond reservoir, which was possessed by the Indigenous Native American Lenni Lepane until European colonizers took over. In 1817, they decided to fill it in due to severe pollution created by commercial enterprises, and built the Tombs on the reclaimed land to imprison criminals, including members of the world-wide notorious Irish immigrants, Five Points Gang. After its first construction, the Tombs building was demolished and replaced multiple times with new architectural styles—from Egyptian Revival to French Revivalist to Art Deco. Each time it was replaced, it was bigger and taller.

1. The City of New York, Borough Based Jail System, 2019 https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/cpc/190333.pdf


Chinatown residents who have lived here for generations know by heart the history of colonial architecture repeats. That is the reason why most residents of Chinatown reacted furiously to the Mayor’s plan for the new jail construction on White Street. Some of the local residents who manage mixed-use buildings right across from the jail argued that “De Blasio forever wants to be known as the ‘mayor who closed Rikers,’ and he’s willing to trample over members of this community”; and “the process employed by the Mayor’s office to achieve this goal focuses on only half the equation—the people inside the jail. It ignores the other half of the equation—the people in the surrounding community.”2 We should now question why local residents, specifically immigrants, believe that the City is less concerned about them than the incarcerated. Is the new jail building a real problem? Whether or not the correctional facilities on Rikers Island will be closed, we must take responsibility for making the criminal (in)justice system accountably visible to everyone, in order to bring about change and move towards demodernization, decolonization, and prison abolition.


2. Allen Arthur, What Does Chinatown Hate About the Plan to Close Rikers? Almost Everything. Documented, September 25, 2018, https://documentedny.com/2018/09/25/what-does-chinatown-hate-about-the-planto-close-rikers-almost-everything/


{ boundaries of power }

There have been many nights when, on my way home, the New York Police Department closed the streets between two correctional facilities, both just blocks from my apartment, to move people between them. It was on one of those nights that my undocumented friend confessed her fear of being arrested and detained by the police some day. She told me that she’d rather choose to walk a long way, so as not to encounter the correctional facilities, to travel to downtown Manhattan. I remember the day that my friend and I ran into people from one of the facilities in the courthouse elevator. Between the three of us, there were the police who created the invisible boundary. The experiences of policing that all social minorities—from Indigenous people, to black and brown people, to (un)documented immigrants, to Muslims, to LGBTQ+ people, and so on—have been through demonstrates what American police do. They constantly experiment with what the boundaries of their power entail. This is not only fatal police power but also the everyday force. What if the state sanctions violence by pushing and shoving the boundaries further? What if such violence becomes their everyday practice? This is what we are facing now; the moment violence becomes policing.1 #BlackLivesMatter, #GeorgeFloydProtest, the consequences of #COVID19 on policing.

– Sue Jeong Ka

1. Critical Resistance. “Dylan Rodriguez, It’s Not Police Brutality.” YouTube video, 6mins 43 sec. Sep. 14, 2017.



Liceu Artistik TIRANA

The school at night Valentina Bonizzi


courtesly: Valentina Bonizzi photo: Giulia Dajci

In January 2021 a performance was announced to happen at the courtyard to the Lyceum Artistik in Tirana, Albania. The school was established in 1946 - just at the fall of the fascist occupation and the rise of the communist regime - and was named after WWII hero Jordan Misja, who was also a painter. In the early 1970s the former communist dictator of the country, Enver Hoxha, expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of attention the school was paying to the posters portraying big characters which filled the walls of the school’s architecture. After the fall of the regime in 1991, it is said that many protests happened in front of the school. Since 2016 an artist lives in a building constructed in the 1990s, her 7th floor balcony directly overlooking the school courtyard. Every day she hears the voices and the music of the school’s students, who are aged between 6 and 18 and are taught music, choreography and the visual arts. Around the school there is a sound mixed with that of the bulldozers who are rapidly swallowing many buildings around the neighbourhood, to be replaced by neat architectural plans for the future new and shining self-portrait of the city. Every night from her balcony, the artist smokes cigarettes, while she dreams of switching off the lights of the school and working with the children to figure out another picture, other posters portraying an imaginary site for the many pieces swallowed by the bulldozers. She wishes for these new images to be accompanied by a single sound that everyone could feel part of. She dreams for many nights to see that happening from above, from her balcony. On the night of the performance, all the lights were off, the DJ was ready with the sound piece and the children with their drawings. It is said that it was the coldest night of the year in the city, and the artist experienced the ground floor of the courtyard together with the children, whilst the vision of her dream remained frozen, up on the 7th floor.


{ narration }

Dionisio is ten years old and he goes every day to Gjon Buzuku school in Tirana. The school is located in an area called Porcelain in the north east part of the city. It is called Porcelain because porcelain used to be produced there. One day, Dionisio is invited by his school to take part in a drawing workshop initiated by an artist living in the same city as him. Dionisio does not know what the artist does precisely, but he loves drawing so he decides to take part. For two weeks he walked four kilometres from Porcelain to Rruga Myslym Shyri, located in the south east of the city, where the workshop happened. On the first day he met other children like him, coming from different schools in the city. In the beginning they were all sitting on the floor of the workshop room while listening to an engaging actress who told them about the physical characteristics of insects who live by night. Dionisio drew the insects - with a pencil and then fluorescent colors, on a long piece of paper placed on the floor - without knowing what the insects were called. Before he knew how to name them, together with the rest of the group, he was taken with a small bus to some buildings in the city capital where, they were told, the insects were currently living. The children were given some information about the buildings, such as when they were built and some humans who had lived inside in the past. No one was allowed to enter them, or at least not through the main door. On the bus windows and on the streets facing the buildings, the group of children was given coloured acetate paper to draw the lines and the details. One day, back at workshop, Dionisio thought about the patterns he had seen and drawn: all of them seemed to have something in common – a sort of solitude perhaps. So Dionisio recalled the same courage he had needed to walk four kilometres to cross the city and frequent the workshop initiated by the artist whose work he was now enjoying – and he asked: “Why do you take us to these buildings?” “Why do you think?” After a moment, Dionisio replied: “Because by drawing them we make them less lonely.”

– Valentina Bonizzi



International Student House STOCKHOLM

The Multidirectional Path of Building a Safe Space Steffie De Gaetano Alice Pontiggia Silvia Susanna


Being non-Swedish short-term students, both in terms of the one-week-a-month structure of the classes and the one-year duration of the postgraduate course, we have witnessed a complex process for integrating ourselves in the city and in the school. We initially experimented with different accommodation possibilities in the city during our academic stays in Stockholm, but the path has been revealed as full of obstacles, intersections, overlappings and collisions which took us in a full circle back to the university’s infrastructure. Therefore, we came to the idea of reclaiming a space for the international student body which would represent a place for us to come together and create a community, sharing difficulties and, first and foremost, building a safe space. For us, carving a place within the academy would represent not only a solution for accommodation, but also an extension to maintain, extend and nourish the collective social space and time shared at the academy. We foresee the “international student house” as a safe place to push forward our confrontations and conversations while building together a real community which works around possibilities for future realities. Due to the communal effort of taking care of the space and engaging in the organization of events and activities, we hope to strengthen the cohesion of the group. With the aim of being assigned a space in the academy and inserting it within the KKH structure, we have initiated a conversation with different agents within the institution. Due to the current isolating situation created by the pandemic conditions of these months, we have also started a Cineforum project as a way to nourish our discourses. The gatherings of the Cineforum offer us a way to keep on building community and slowly introduce discussion points, while reaching out to counter the current physical and emotional distance within our community.


{ assemblage }

Keywords: carving, making space, coming together, gathering, to assemble, safety vs security “There is no space independent of subjects,” wrote Jakob von Uexküll in his volume A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans (1934). Each living subject, in the opinion of the Estonian biologist, lives in its own bubble of subjective constructs; as a product of perceptive signs awakened by the external stimuli needed for activation of the multiple functional cycles in which it is involved. So, what is the relationship that defines the encounter of various subject bubbles in a specific environment, namely a defined time and space? Can they form a community? If so, how? Since our coming together, our journey has been far from straightforward. The multiplicity of events, restrictions, closed doors, and unpredictable setbacks have, in fact, scattered our project into many tracks that we are simultaneously working on. We have embraced the multi-directionality of our happenings, welcoming the contaminations of our encounters, as an unintentional and spontaneous form of what Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing calls “assemblages” (The Mushroom at the End of the World, 2015), as we work among the environments of the Royal Institute of Art of Stockholm and its international student body during our temporary stays there and beyond. Tsing further identifies assemblages as a polyphonic ensemble of “autonomous melodies [which] intertwine”, challenging the notion of unity of progress with a pluriversity of voices and trajectories, through harmony and dissonance, in the assemblage of our coming together. Tsing seems therefore to suggest that we need to make conscious decisions about our way to proceed, in writing our histories. If so, how do we want our assemblages to be? Aware that the main modern obstacle for inhabiting a non-domestic space is the creation of safety, we would like to investigate this term in greater depth, from its origin to its difference from the modern concept of security. We will also work on uncovering how knowledge of security performs in the everyday, in preand post-pandemic perceptions, and in how the military structure of the island is still reflected on its actual spaces. One of our goals is the activation of a series of communal debates on these topics.

– Steffie De Gaetano, Alice Pontiggia, Silvia Susanna



The Island of Skeppsholmen STOCKHOLM

Geographies of isolation Linnea Fröjd Mikaela Karlsson


Stockholm is built upon islands. Sweden’s capital and most populous urban area is spread out across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, and the Stockholm archipelago island chain hugs the eastern coast outside of the city. The islands that together form Stockholm include Beckholmen, Djurgården, Helgeandsholmen, Kastellholmen, Kungsholmen, Lilla Essingen, Långholmen, Reimersholme, Riddarholmen, Skeppsholmen, Stadsholmen, Stora Essingen, Strömsborg, and Södermalm.1 Stadsholmen, Riddarholmen, and Strömsborg together form Gamla Stan. Stockholm’s islands are connected or disconnected in various ways, to each other as well as to the outskirts of the city, both physically and socially. Stockholm is also a city that is very segregated. Stockholm’s outer suburbs are lower-income neighborhoods with higher concentrations of immigrants and ethnic minorities.2 Although the suburbs may not be categorized as islands by geographical standards, they can be understood as ones that become increasingly remote the farther out one moves along a metro line. But the suburbs as islands are perhaps not what should be explored here; perhaps the inner-city of Stockholm and its degree of (in)accessibility is the island that needs to be interrogated. While many articles about segregation focus upon the situation of immigrants and ethnic minorities, there are very limited efforts to problematize and evaluate the role that more privileged populations play, as it is the migration patterns of the most privileged groups that have the most impact on the housing market and demographics in Nordic cities.3 The island that is Stockholm becomes ever more isolated from the surrounding city as rental apartments continue to decline and public property continues to be sold off. The island of Skeppsholmen, although centrally located and a short bridge away from the Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum, seems rather separate from the bustle of the city center. It is accessible by foot from Kungsträdgården, by bus, and by boat from Slussen. Skeppsholmen has largely been left out of the development the rest of the city has undergone, making it feel like a non-place. Traditionally housing several military buildings, today the island is characterized by the presence of several museums including the Museum of Modern Art (Moderna museet), the architectectural museum (ArkDes), and the East Asian Museum (Östasiatiska museet).

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Stockholm 2. https://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1299557/FULLTEXT02.pdf 3. Ibid. 61

The Royal Institute of Art (Kungliga Konsthögskolan), commonly referred to as Mejan, is another major institutional presence on Skeppsholmen. Having moved to the island in the 1950s, it is housed partially by an old military building as well as one that was custom-built for the school. Mejan is the most exclusive of Sweden’s art institutions in its small size and consequently low admission rates, making it an island of prestige in the larger landscape of Swedish higher education. Mejan is also a part of the societal island that is the art world. The island geography permeates into the interior of the building and is reflected in the culture of the school. Each student is nurtured into becoming an isolated ‘genius’, developing their practice largely from within the confines of their individual studio behind a closed door; each studio an island, situated in proximity to one another to form the archipelago that is Fine Art at Mejan. But proximity does not imply connection; the architecture department, while in the same building, is its own island that is largely separated from the rest of the school. The island architecture of the studios and the school, both physical and cultural, can make it seem as if Mejan is an island that is largely deserted.


Island has always been the point of departure for this year’s Decolonizing Architecture course. The course began on another island, Långholmen, at a hotel that used to be a prison; this is another iteration of island architecture in its arrangement of separate, proximal cells (but one that carries a very different weight). With Skeppsholmen as a point of departure, the site of the island can be explored inwardly at Mejan, and outwards, to the city of Stockholm. How does Stockholm reflect or culturally uphold its island nature and the isolation and separation that such a geography entails? How have islands in Stockholm been created or reinforced under the conditions of a global pandemic? How can we build bridges?


{ isolation }

To be isolated is to be secluded. To be cut off from surroundings or contexts. Over the course of the last year, many of us have been separated from the ones we love, from places we belong to or the contexts we want to be part of. People have different relationships to isolation. Most people want to live close to others and to socialize, while there are others who prefer to keep to themselves. That people live separated from one another doesn’t need to be something negative in itself. But it should be noted that there is a difference between isolation and exclusion, and that isolation does not always mean loneliness. If isolation is combined with a feeling of not being able to control one’s own situation, or if it creates prejudice, it could be problematic. Under isolating global circumstances, how can spaces be created that can be experienced as rooms of community? How can architecture be a project of de-isolation? In a pandemic world, isolation has become a global shared experience. Isolation has intensified, and it attempts to intrude upon every aspect of our daily lives. School is on the internet and collective practices are developed through screens. We have turned to digital alternatives to festivals, concerts, dating, and other means of human connection. Under the conditions of a global pandemic, isolation is sometimes reserved for those privileged enough to be able to work from home, avoid public transportation, get meals and groceries delivered, and have a living situation that allows them to quarantine when necessary. Isolation has punishing effects on mental health, however, that even the most privileged are not always able to escape.


Isolation manifests itself at Mejan and on Skeppsholmen in many ways. The required curriculum for Fine Art does not extend beyond participation in a professor’s group, limiting the number of interactions between students. The studios in school are configured as individual cells, an architecture of isolation that favors individual over collective practice. There is an isolation between the Fine Art students and the post-master students in Architecture. The structure of the post-master courses isolates students from Mejan and Skeppsholmen, as many face economic and logistical barriers to traveling to Stockholm. Architecture and access cards also separate the post-master programs from Mejan, as post-master students do not have a studio space nor easy access to the school’s workshops and on-campus resources. The situation during the last year has given us all new experiences linked to isolation. How do our pre-and post-pandemic understandings of isolation differ or remain the same? What happens to solidarity when isolation intensifies? How do we care about others when we never meet other people outside of our inner circles? Beyond the vaccine, what tools of de-isolation can help curb a pandemic of hate and individualism? What other forms can community take when physical gatherings are limited to eight people?

– Linnea Fröjd, Mikaela Karlsson



Decolonizing Architecture Course participants

Alice Pontiggia is an architect, researcher and musician from Valtellina, Italy. Her current project explores the mesology of prehistorical communities in lower Valtellina. Previously, she has worked on the evolution of traditional dwelling in Shanghai, and on the ecology of Becerra river in Mexico City, among others. She presents her research through writing, architecture, film, sound and workshops. She has worked as an architect, collaboratively and independently, in Mexico and Italy, where she currently practices as a freelancer. She holds an M.Arch. from Politecnico di Milano and Tongji University, and a bachelor in Environmental Architecture. Linnea Fröjd is an urban planner and landscape architect based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has an interest in the political aspects of planning and architecture and how these affect the social inequality of the city. Her work explores the relationship between language and power and its connection to contemporary norms and ideals within architecture. Her current research is about housing politics and the role of the planner therein. Mikaela Karlsson is an urban planner from the US currently based in Sweden, who oscillates between Stockholm, Malmö, Boston, and Providence. She pursued degrees in urban studies and sustainable urban planning and design under the guise of the city as a locus for social change and the urban planner as the changemaker, but she is somewhat skeptical and often turns to collective and community practice instead. An anarchist politician and foreign Swede, Mikaela finds confusion, comfort and fun in contradiction and performativity, and uses queerness as a point of departure in her work.

Silvia Susanna is an architect and independent researcher based in Rome. Her interests are in critical spatial practices, community-driven projects, speculative design research and storytelling. Her focus is primarily on projects that are questioning or reflecting established assumptions of the built environment and its relative social, cultural and political implications. She has collaborated with architectural firms and informal collectives as architect, design researcher, assistant curator, project manager, and recently filmmaker in Italy and abroad, often in multi-disciplinary groups. Currently she is running a research project on “home as space of cultural production.” Her work has been part of BIO50-Biennial of Design Ljubljana; Art and Architecture Venice Biennale; Milano and Vienna Design Week. Based in Eindhoven (the Netherlands), Steffie de Gaetano is a Dutch-Italian interdisciplinary researcher merging architecture, art and anthropology. Her condition of ‘in-betweenness’ predisposes an attunement to questions of identity and otherness, while she finds complicity in the divergent thought of unexpected realities. She aims at critically unbuilding the field of architecture by uncovering colonial entanglements and implications of the industry for nature. Her research is situated at the intersection between (interspecies) anthropology and artistic expression. After graduating in Architecture at the TU Eindhoven in 2016, she is currently enrolled in two postgraduate programs: Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Studies at Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, and Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies at KU Leuven. Sue Jeong Ka’s work seeks to meet communal needs. From commemorations of female Asian immigrants from the 19th century, to a trilingual community newspaper and a piece assisting queer and immigrant homeless youth in New York in applying for federally issued IDs, she mobilizes traditional art spaces to provide community services and in so doing to critique the public structures in which we exist. Inspired by recent protests against New York City’s plan to open new borough-based small jails, Ka is currently working on a manuscript that examines the geopolitical relationship between the jail locations and socially marginalized communities in NYC, with support from the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University and Decolonizing Architecture at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Digging into archives and communities, Valentina Bonizzi’s work highlights issues of social justice in relation to the politics of time in specific contexts. She has developed her work and research with communities in Scotland, the region of Molise in Italy, Deheisheh Refugee Camp in Palestine and the city of Kamza in Albania. Valentina works with a variety of media such as film, photography, literature, sound, and actions in public spaces.


KKH (Royal Institute of Art) Stockholm Alessandro Petti Marie-Louise Richards

Students 2020/2021 Alice Pontiggia Linnea Fröjd Mikaela Karlsson Silvia Susanna Steffie de Gaetano Sue Jeong Ka Valentina Bonizzi

Graphic design Diego Segatto Proof-reading and editing Hannah Clarkson

Inquiries info@daas.academy

Issued in June 2021

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