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ON SITE r e v i e w architecture urbanism design infrastructure culture construction

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number 30 fall 2013 ethics + publics

ethics and publics

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$16 Canada/USA news stand display until April 2014


guest editor: Thomas-Bernard Kenniff


ON SITE

Francis Alys. ‘Sometimes doing something political can be poetic’ , video still from Green Line, 2004. francisalys.com/the-green-line/

r e v i e w fall 2013

ethics and publics u se d w it h p e r m issio n f r o m Fran c is Aly s , Cr e at i ve C o mmo ns L i c e nc e

PERFORMANCE pouf ! Cynthia Hammond and Thomas Strickland Shauna Janssen Corey Schnobrich Ted Landrum Steve Chodoriwsky

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Biting Back: art and activism at the dog park, Montréal Le Dalhousie, Griffintown: reimagining anOther public space, Montréal Public and Publics: the Occupy Movement, Berkeley and New York Park(ing) Day Word Park, Winnipeg Notes on ‘Exhausted Figure’

HOUSING Virginia Fernandez Rincon Hector Abarca Caroline Howes Duncan Patterson

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GroundTower: critical infrastructure, Caracas Revisiting PREVI: housing as a basic right from Lima to Vancouver Urban Resiliance: Maynard Lake, Dartmouth On Windows: liminal panes

ENVIRONMENT Michael Leeb Jessica Craig William Kingfisher Julian Haladyn

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City: near Hillcrest Mines, Alberta Positive Tension: terrain vague as public space, Toronto Urgency and the aesthetics of sustainability, Toronto Ethics and Politics: Ron Benner’s Transend: Metting Room, London

POST INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPES Sarah Walsh Dustin Valen

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Urban Hagiography: Saints of the City and the aftermath of utopia Fresh Perspectives on Foul: Fresh Kills Landfill

TRACES OF WAR Joshua Craze Novka Cosovic Dick Averns Jeffrey Olinger

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Is a building a witness? The Museum: how trauma reaches us 9/11 Architectural Artefacts: questioning the ethics of nomenclature Interstitial: the International Criminal Court

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SPACES OF DEBATE 2 18 80 82

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who we all are

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DETAILS calls for articles: issues 31 + 32 subscription form masthead

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Introduction to issue 30: opening thoughts Saint George’s Dragon, Guelph Mary Tremonte: reconstruction the commons Housing: an architecture of turbulence Who I design for; signs that things are not right

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Thomas-Bernard Kenniff Adrian Blackwell Michael diRisio Reza Aliabadi Ron Wickman

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i n t ro d u c t i o n | ethics and publics by thomas-bernard kenniff

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opening thoughts The key ethical responsibility of the architect lies not in the refinement of the object as static visual product, but as contributor to the creation of empowering spatial, and hence social, relationships in the name of others. — Jeremy Till

Like every spoken word, every line drawn is a social act: a division, a wall, a river, a connection, a window, a bridge, perhaps all at the same time like Michel De Certeau’s spatial narrative ambiguity. Every such act is social because it constitutes a proposal to redistribute social relations in space. Doubly so because it takes place within particular sets of social circumstances, modes of communication and production: a line drawn as threshold in a design studio, another drawn as a strategic security fence between geopolitical regions. As Francis Alÿs’ The Green Line (opposite) poignantly shows, the simple act of drawing a line can be deeply political indeed. The idea is excruciating, inescapable, but in the best possible way. It forces us to take position, to take responsibility and to answer. The single most important question you can ask a design student, Kathryn Moore once told me, is ‘why?’ and then ask it again, and again. It is with this in mind that the double topic for this issue of On Site review was developed. Ethics and publics not as separate issues, but as inseparable aspects of any intervention, proposed intervention or interpretation of the built environment. Transformation and interpretation, from any disciplinary position, inevitably involves these two things. First, a deep sense of deliberation fundamental to any design act (either thinking before, or thinking through, action) whether a line, a room, a conversation, a critique or a text. Every design act, in this sense, constitutes the turning of values into form. Second, an inescapable relation to other people. No act can exist outside the relations it has with others (a fictional user, a real client, a new public, an audience, an already existing dialogue); no project is without its publics. Within the many disciplines that deal with the built environment there is indeed neither individual alibi nor social isolation. As I write these notes from Québec City, new allegations are emerging from the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry. With moral failure and criminal behaviour in both the public and the private sectors intricately tied to the transformation of our built environment, it becomes increasingly urgent to take position and assert everyone’s right to the city, however difficult. It is both urgent and important to never stop questioning what we are producing, how we are producing it, why and for whom. Two seemingly unrelated issues appear highly relevant in this morning’s paper. The provincial government just published its controversial lists of values, re-opening

the debate on the public display of religious symbols and raising valid questions on those spaces we qualify as public. Simultaneously, Québec City’s mayor, who we thought had supported the dialectic between good urban design and civic identity over the last six years, is backtracking on the city’s Sustainable Mobility Plan with Rob Ford-like plans for increased car-oriented development (elections are looming). The point is that like the Charbonneau Commission, these two developing issues have potentially significant social, and thus spatial, consequences. The polyphonic landscape of spatial production, as Mireya Folch-Serra reveals, is ‘a dialogue whose outcome is never a neutral exchange’. The call for articles on ethics and publics opened with Giancarlo de Carlo’s 1969 rhetorical question, ‘who is architecture’s public?’ which he answered himself saying that the public of architecture is anybody who uses it. The quote can be understood in its historical context as a humanist counter to the abstraction of Modernism’s Universal Man or what Adrian Forty identified as the ‘subject of the welfare state’. Aside from the construction industry’s relationship with state-supported housing programmes, ‘who is architecture’s public?’ is still relevant for any project of transformation or interpretation of our current built environment. It forces our reflection toward those affected by our actions, their right to the city, and our modes of practice. As Jeremy Till suggests, responsibility runs deep within design. If we accept that the built environment has any effect on social behaviour (and vice-versa) then treating design other than a social act might amount to what Jean-Paul Sartre disparagingly called bad faith. What On Site review’s open call sought to capture was what might be called an ‘ethical turn’ that has developed over the last twenty or so years. Quite positively, reflections on practice, responsibility, agency and representation are now common and fundamental. There is a rising interest in modes of practice that integrate critical participation, and in interdisciplinary methods that open up possibilities for collaboration. Design acts, rather than being seen as end products, are now seen as actors in larger networks. The reflection is both timely and vitally needed. The range of subjects that are addressed in this issue of On Site review indicates the importance of such reflection, whether it is at the scale of one’s own window or the scale of war crimes. We have evidence of the current significance of what Jane Rendell calls critical spatial practices in the assembly of unheard voices

de s ign age n c y re s po n s ibility re pre s e n tatio n pr ac tic e

Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic. – Francis Alÿs   The Green Line, Jerusalem 2004 In collaboration with Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones and Julien Devaux 17:34 min www.francisalys.com/ greenline/ Francis Alÿs traced, with a dripping can of green paint, 24km of the Green Line that in 1948 had been drawn on a 1:20,000 map of the Jerusalem area. It signified the position of the Israeli front line after the agreed cease-fire.


www. f ran c i sa l ys . c o m/ gr e e n li n e

Forty, Adrian. Words and Buildings. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000 Till, Jeremy. Architecture Depends. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009

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Folch-Serra, Mireya. ‘Place, Voice, Space: Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogical landscape’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 8, 1990. pp 255-274

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de Carlo, Giancarlo. ‘Architecture’s Public’ in Architecture and Participation, Jeremy Till, Doina Petrescu and Peter BlundellJones, editors. London: Spon Press, 2005

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Beasley-Murray, Tim. Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin: Experience and Form. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008

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in the midst of urban development and in the theatre of development dynamics. Relational art practices, the concept of the Commons, infrastructure in informal settlements – all are reminders that indeterminate territory and basic needs and services can be common ground. On the other hand, the failure of representation of both the city and its multiple publics – the paradoxes of public space and the relationship between architecture and dialogue, point out the difficult task of transposing particular collective connections, institutions and traumatic experiences into architecture. Ultimately, this issue is about the assemblage of public space and the agency of its publics. * Tim Beasley-Murray writes that ‘dialogue bears the imprint of its own failure’, meaning that, quite positively, dialogue fails to signify completely because it leaves room for response. The call for articles that went out was more the messy text of a conversation between Stephanie White and myself than a cleanly wrapped call, and one that indeed generated some reflection and exchanges on the ethics and publics of On Site review itself. The proposals that came in covered a wide range of subjects in the best possible messy way. Some had direct relations to ethical dilemmas and aspects of public representation, others teased out the latent ethical and representational issues within projects and processes. What stands out is the degree to which each contributor deals with critical self-reflection and sets up their own particular capacity for response. Each raises specific questions about assumptions, methods and hypotheses, courageously failing to signify completely. Whether it is in inviting critical reflection on ethical dilemmas at varying scales, or inviting a performative yawn/bark in the best dialogical way, the words and lines assembled here are opening thoughts, begging for response. c


C i ty o f M o ntre a l Archi ve s , co l l e cti o n “ vue a e r i e nne ”

View of Griffintown, 1947. The white circle indicates the location of Parc Gallery

urbanism | pa rt i c i pat i o n by p o u f ! a rt + a r c h i t e c t u r e

Biting Back

art and activism at the dog park

In 2010, pouf ! art + architecture began a site-specific project under the rubric of Urban Occupations Urbaines (UOU), a year-long, neighbourhood-based curatorial platform located in the rapidly gentrifying, post-industrial neighbourhood of Griffintown, Montréal (above). Curator Shauna Janssen, also a contributor to this issue of On Site, devised UOU to engage artists in an urban space of dramatic transition. The site of pouf !’s intervention was a well-used dog run known as Parc Gallery. Yet, beyond the humans and dogs who frequent it every day, this green space is little-known and is thus vulnerable (below).

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Parc Gallery was privatised in 2007 in preparation for condo development (opposite, top). Our two-year collaboration with the users of Parc Gallery asserted the publicness of Parc Gallery, using art and outreach to show its history, present use and future importance. Our motivation was to present a counter-argument to city officials’ and developers’ claims that the park was empty space, and to create a rationale for saving the park. In Elizabeth Grosz’s term, we ‘made visible’ Parc Gallery’s inter-species vitality, its meaning as shared space and what we discovered about its surprising heritage.

View of Parc Gallery, Griffintown, 19 August 2012

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Devimco urban plan view for Village Griffintown development, by Arbour and Associates, 2007

Griffintown’s urban morphology and social history are part of Montréal’s larger transition from a hub of industrial production and shipping in the nineteenth century to its current emphasis on leisure and consumption. Since 2005, the re-purposing of Griffintown’s industrial urban landscape for waterfront parkland and upscale condominiums has signalled this shift. In the latenineteenth century, labourers lived and worked in this heavily industrialised district, separated from the city’s salaried and professional classes by a steep slope and several railway lines. The impoverished living conditions of French, Irish and English immigrant workers inspired Herbert Brown Ames’ 1897 book, The City Below the Hill: A Sociological Study of a Portion of the City of Montreal. pouf !’s intervention took place on a lot that was once at the centre of this district. Archives indicate that after the Ogdensburg Coal and Towing Company closed towards the end of WWI, this rectangular plot of land was abandoned. Heritage specialist, David B. Hanna notes that Irish community activists fought in the 1930s to create the first public green space on this site, called the Basin Street Playground (below). In 1945 the City of Montréal purchased the land and it became known as Parc Gallery.

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2 The normal social contract between a city and its citizens is buried under the grandiose legacy projects of politicians, a mafiadriven building trade and widespread corruption. Citizens believe that power in this city is not looking out for them — roads are a commonly-cited example, poorly built and then re-built at great expense by an industry that through huge campaign contributions directly puts mayors and councillors into power. The Charbonneau Commission has made this open secret more open, but so far there has been no change. There are also wildly different rules regarding public space from one district to another. For example, you can be fined for sitting on the grass in public parks in the Central South borough while in other parts of the city these laws either do not exist or are not enforced.

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1 All official dog parks in Montréal have signs on their gates identifying them as such (there are many informal dog runs too, which do not have these signs). Although Parc Gallery lost its standing as public space in 2007, the sign remained, one of the reasons why the park’s users didn’t realise the space was slated for development.

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Plan view of Parc Gallery, indicated by the large dark rectangle at centreleft of the map. St. Anne’s Church is directly above the right-half of Parc Gallery. detail, St. Ann’s Ward, Land Use Map of Montréal, 1947

Economic decline and depopulation followed the closing of the Lachine Canal in 1959. In 1962 Griffintown was re-zoned light industrial and the City no longer maintained social services in the area. By 1967 one public document described Parc Gallery as abandoned. Despite the absence of lighting and water fountains, the park remained in continual use as a baseball field and, by the 1990s, an official dog run.1 People from across the southwest of Montréal bring their dogs to this space for fresh air and exercise. The chain-link fence that surrounds the park today marks the exact borders that activists created eighty years ago. Rosalyn Deutsche argues that publicness is not a given or a natural feature of urban parks and squares. For Deutsche, and David Harvey, it is only when space is the site of conflict, not consensus, that its publicness is exercised and is thus meaningful. Taking this critical stance as our guide, pouf ! called upon park users to resist the City’s decision to strip Parc Gallery of its public status and to insist on their collective ownership as citizens of Montréal.2 In this way, the moment when the imminent loss of the park entered its users’ awareness became the moment in which its ‘publicness’ began to actualise.


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Thomas photographing Maurice for his portrait, 2011

In September 2010, pouf ! took a team of graduate students from Concordia University to interview park users about their knowledge of and experiences in the park.3 In exchange, we offered photographs of the dogs (who proved to be charming subjects, above). This delightful day led to the accumulation of interview matter from twenty-five individuals and hundreds of photographs of dogs, dogs and people, and the park itself. pouf ! then did archival research about the history of the park, through which we discovered its activist origins. To keep the project in circulation during our research phase, pouf ! built a blog: fifty posts provided updates, links, photographs and archival findings to the growing community of concern about the future of Parc Gallery. As time went on, we diversified our efforts. In addition to creating a petition, launching a letter-writing campaign and producing several documents for the City of Montréal’s Office for Public Consultation (OCPM)4, pouf ! designed, wrote and published a bilingual publication, below, about the park’s history and present use, detailing the uncertainty that threatened the park’s future.

5 Thomas Strickland and Evan Kirkland were the portrait photographers; Shauna Janssen documented the event; Cynthia Hammond, Marie-France Daigneault-Bouchard, and Nuria Carton de Grammont undertook interviews. 4 The office for public consultation is a supposedly non-partisan group that acts as a liaison between the public and the city with regard to new development, construction and major changes to the urban fabric. One of the major controversies surrounding Griffintown’s development was the lack of public consultation – the OCPM only became involved after several rounds of proposals from developers were accepted and revised, and only then after a lot of bad press. The consultation was reluctant at best and, for many, came in too late to have any effect. Another facet of this issue is that the OCPM has no power to actually change outcomes. They can only advise the city on public opinion and provide venues for the expression of that opinion. Yet even this is weak, in practice. At the OCPM meeting about Griffintown in January 2011, for example, politicians were given the microphone at the start of the talks, and left before members of the public spoke. At another event organised by the OCPM in the same year, again the competing political parties were given the space to speak first, without any limit on their time, and only after they had finished (and some left) did the public have a say.

dog parc gallery publication. pouf! art + architecture, 2011

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Portrait of Maurice, 2012


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below: dog park gallery vernissage at Parc Gallery, 27 August 2011

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above: Invitation to dog parc gallery vernissage. pouf! art + architecture, 2011

Cynthia Hammond presenting dog parc gallery, Maison de l’architecture du Québec. À qui profite l’espace public? Café des z’architectes, 21 February 2012

In all cases, we undertook these initiatives as artworks; the visual and symbolic aspects of everything we produced had intentional aesthetic qualities, top, designed to give continuity to all facets of the project. These vectors aligned in our August 2011 exhibition, dog parc gallery, a selection of twenty-five dog portraits, enlarged and printed on weather-proof vinyl, facing page top right, and hung on the fence so important to the park’s morphological and activist origins. The opening event brought over sixty people and just as many dogs to the park, above, reinforcing the fact that it would not only be humans who would lose this special place if condos were built here. Park users began to extend the activities that pouf ! had begun; an inter-species community began to self-identify and mobilise around this half-acre of grass. In 2011-12 we accompanied a core group of park users to meetings with politicians and supplied materials —images, publications, powerpoints, right — to the community in their outreach efforts. As one regular park user, Jesse Fuchs told us, “before your project, we didn’t know we were a community. With your photographs, you helped us to see what we had in common.” 5 From the beginning, pouf !’s aim was to foster and eventually hand the project over to the community. As the group solidified and gained confidence, we were able to step aside, ensuring that official response would be to local taxpayers and voters, not to us. We saw in real time how community forms; not, as Rosi Braidotti points out, around some essential idea of shared identity but rather around a matter, object, or place of shared concern. The Parc Gallery dog run was one such place.

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5 Jesse Fuchs, conversation with Thomas Strickland, 27 August 2011.

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Scr e e n s ho t o f the we bs i te , a cce s s e d 14 Fe br ua r y 2012

aftermath dog parc gallery is a success story in many ways. In 2012 the city, in agreement with developers, responded to our pressure and re-zoned Parc Gallery as public, green space once again. On 4 July 2013, borough representative Véronique Fournier addressed a press conference in Parc Gallery to announce that this land would continue its existence as a dog park for the foreseeable future. However, by making the park’s history of activism and currentday vitality visible, pouf ! unwittingly contributed to a celebratory discourse on post-industrial redevelopment. The major developer in the area, Devimco, plagiarised one of our publications to promote their heritage-conscious, ‘green’ approach.

Description of Parc Gallery found on the ‘District Griffin’ website. The text box and image pop-up when the little tree located on the park — to the left of the text box in this image — is selected.

The company’s website today quotes directly from, but does not acknowledge, our 2011 exhibition catalogue. above. Prospective condo-owners will find our own description of the value of the park as they peruse images of Devimco’s newest project: Sur Le Parc - District Griffin. In this way, pouf !’s assertions of the value of Parc Gallery were deftly folded into the very development scheme we had aimed to critique. Devimco’s appropriation of pouf !’s text is a clear example of what Ipek Türeli describes as “the free or near-free labour of the architect-artist” and how such labour can, despite intentions, “be used to generate capital”.

Plan of Griffintown in a booklet prepared by the Office de la consultation publique Montréal for a neighbourhood “open house” and planning workshop held on January 20-21, 2012. The white circle indicates Parc Gallery. As of January 2, 2012 it was being represented on public documents as an existing park!

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In the end, then, what did we accomplish? Is saving a public green space enough compensation for the ways in which dog parc gallery ‘generated capital’ for the forces we would otherwise have hoped to challenge? While it is undeniable that our work was co-opted and the now-protected park was exploited for private profit, there are several distinct results from our process that deserve a final underscore. First, in an irreducible, material way, the park as historic space remains. For those who wish to learn more about its activist heritage, our public artwork, publications and blog are accessible traces. Second, the project foregrounded a type of urban resident very rarely prioritised in planning and development initiatives: dogs. In saving the park as a space of inter-species connection, dog parc gallery made a small but meaningful contribution to the greater recognition and inclusion of urban animal dwellers — in particular what Donna Haraway calls companion species, in Montréal’s built environment.

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For us, dog parc gallery has inspired a sustained reflection on the process and consequences of community-engaged, site-specific work. While one cannot ignore the risks of interventionist spatial practice, the rewards in this case inspire us to continue to work through the ethics and rewards of the ongoing creation of truly public space. c

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Despite the intensification of capitalist processes around the park, the collaborative efforts of artists and resident-activists prevented private development on this citizen-created place.

Braidotti, Rosie. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013. Deutsche, Rosalyn. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996. Grosz, Elisabeth. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Haraway, Donna. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003. Harvey, David. Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. 2006; repr., London: Verso, 2008. Harvey, David. Spaces of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Latour, Bruno. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005. Tureli, Ipek ‘‘Small’ Architectures, Walking and Camping in Middle Eastern Cities.’ International Journal of Islamic Architecture 2, no.1 (2013): 5-38.

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va l i dat i o n | performance by s h au n a j a n s s e n

th e atre me ga-plan n in g in timac y e r as u re re s is tan c e

Le Dalhousie Griffintown

left: Dalhousie Street,1909. Fire Insurance Map,Volume One, No.13582 - 02

reimagining anOther public space

below: satellite version of Le Dalhousie, 2013. James Lane is perhaps the only point of reference here. at the bottom: Corridor Dalhousie Plan of 2009

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Dalhousie

Anne C har l e s E Go a d

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In September 2009, the City of Montréal announced preliminary plans for a regional bus corridor expected to move approximately 1400 buses and 42,000 commuters daily between Montréal’s south shore and the city centre. This bus corridor coincided with the city’s plan to revitalise its harbour front and to reorganise the Bonaventure Expressway, one of Montréal’s major transportation routes on and off the island. The site of the bus corridor was on the remains of Dalhousie Street, located in Griffintown, one of Montréal’s former working class neighbourhoods. Located west of Old Montréal, a popular tourist destination, and just north of the rapidly gentrifying Lachine Canal district, Griffintown is resonant with Canada’s pre-industrial history. In the nineteenth century Dalhousie appeared as a short street running four blocks along a north-south axis. It was transformed from a street into a cul-de-sac with the construction of a Canadian National Railway viaduct in the 1940s. The Dalhousie cul-de-sac now sits between the massive concrete wall of the railway viaduct to the east and to the west, the façade of the iconic, historic, nineteenth century New City Gas buildings.

G o o gle m ap s

The urban public sphere is constituted differently depending on the time and condition of a day. After dark, boundaries between what is public and private slip away; weather patterns, seasons and a city’s morphology have much to do with the conditions from which public spaces emerge. The publicness of urban space reminds us of Rosalyn Deutsche and her examination of the public nature of subjectivity, where social relationships are critical to the meanings given to the public sphere: ‘What does it mean for space to be public – the space of the city, a building, exhibition, institution, or work of art?’1 I consider how the concept of publics, and publicness, may not always be a product of the designed built environment and ask: under what urban conditions are spaces being re-imagined as public?

1 Rosalyn Deutsche. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998


right: Le Dalhousie cul-de-sac, a wedge of space between the CNR viaduct and the New City Gas buildng

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below: a still from Théâtre Nulle Part.’s ‘L’espace quotidien’

reorients the discourse away from the tropes of historical preservation and resistance, and towards a re-conceptualisation of what constitutes public space. Spatially, Le Dalhousie is a wedge that defies those spatial boundaries typically associated with what constitutes a public space, such as the public square. Le Dalhousie is shadowed by two historically modern structures that frame this recess in the city. From a performative point of view, the surfaces of Le Dalhousie’s edges provide a number of scenographic possibilities. The mouth of the cul-de-sac increases its volume. Its texture is characterised by a bruised and cracking surface on the remains of the New City Gas building and rust etching itself into the skin of the Canadian National Railway viaduct. Le Dalhousie has an evolving ecological life: a tree grows out of the viaduct façade and peeling asphalt reveals weeds pushing through the street’s original nineteenthcentury cobblestones. From an architectural perspective, Griffintown, and likewise interstitial urban spaces like Le Dalhousie, while perceived to be indeterminate, are in fact determined by more than the residue of the site’s urban morphology.

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The transformation of the Dalhousie cul-de-sac was just one of many debates over the city’s contentious plan to revitalise Griffintown. Local stakeholders — business proprietors, residents and members of the ad hoc Community for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown (CSRG) opposed the Dalhousie Corridor project and circulated a petition to stop its development.2 Key issues were increased air and noise pollution, high density traffic, the projected and prohibitive cost of the project (originally estimated at $119 million) and how the change would compromise the integrity of existing historic buildings in the neighbourhood. These concerns were presented to city officials through a series of public consultations. In June 2010, the community initiative Le Corridor culturel de Griffintown named this cul-de-sac ‘Le Dalhousie’, and launched a number of community events on the site. Between July 2010 and August 2011, Le Dalhousie became a site that invited creative responses, rehearsing its own publicness. The site’s reclamation for public and social activities appeared as an act of resistance to municipal plans for the bus corridor. Equally, those temporarily using the site were determining another kind of space that

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2 As a result of the public consultations the original proposals for the Dalhousie Corridor were revised in 2010. To date, it appears the Dalhousie Corridor project has been terminated. See www.griffintown.org


left: Théâtre Nulle Part. ‘Fenêtres murées/ Daylight Robbery’ a site-specific performance, based on images of condemned buildings and boarded up windows, that explored the dialogue between a building’s interior private spaces and the public exterior environment.

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below: Théâtre Nulle Part is a collective of four artists: Mélanie Binette, Maryse Beauchamp, Roxanne Robillard and Catherine Dumas.

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Urban Occupations Urbaines is a curatorial platform that I developed for creative and critical engagements with unresolved urban and architectural conditions.3 In September 2010, I invited Théâtre Nulle Part, a sitespecific theatre company, to create a performance at Le Dalhousie. Théâtre Nulle Part used Le Dalhousie as a site to examine, over three weeks, the memory of place, the history of Griffintown’s working class community and the politics of displacement. In the public performance, the façade of the Canadian National Railway viaduct was used for a narrative of shadows, evoking the spectres and history of a bygone community. The performance encouraged spectators to move freely within the cul-de-sac whereby a certain shared, communal and public empathy with the site was elicited. In this way, Théâtre Nulle Part’s spectators collaborated with the spatial agency of the site to form, temporarily, a new political and public space.4 Distant traffic and city sounds ricocheted in whispers, loose rubble crunched under foot, the brrrring and restless flapping of pigeons reverberated in the rafters — all this collaborated in shaping a social, sensory, spatial, collective and public consciousness. Théâtre Nulle Part’s performed interventions restore a tradition, largely eradicated in the nineteenth century, of using streets for theatre.

The urban stage, or the city as a theatre of social action, calls to citizens to drop their dependence on cultural institutions to revisit and reflect on the performative qualities of public spaces. Le Dalhousie is not ‘public’ by definition. Its reputation as a public site is as a site of public interest for artists, the community and spectators which evolved with its temporary and tenuous occupation. Cynthia Hammond says that ‘the publicness of space is not a given; rather, it is something to be continually rehearsed and negotiated, exercised, and sometimes lost’.5 The temporary use of Le Dalhousie shows that although there are spatial practices that feed dominant divisions of power and space, there are also dialogical processes that contest and negotiate these divisions. Le Dalhousie ‘s public identity was cultivated by the imagination of its users. Despite the initial controversy regarding the reuse of the cul-de-sac as a bus corridor, the economy of public exchange that occupied the site of Le Dalhousie in 2011 showed what dialogical processes hold for the production of publics. Participation and dissent, social processes, contingency and contestation (re)write relations between multiple subjects. They also outline a wide ethical concern for the future of marginal and interstitial urban sites such as the Dalhousie cul-de-sac. c

3 www.urbanoccupationsurbaines. org 4 See Spatial Agency, an online initiative created by Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till, for an evolving critical discourse and archive on the subject, theory and practice of spatial agency. www. spatialagency.net 5 Cynthia Hammond. ‘Urban ‘Truths: Artistic Interventions in Post-Socialist Space’, in The Post Socialist City: Continuity and Change in Space and Imagery. Marina Dmitrieva and Alfrun Kliems, editors. Berlin: Jois Verlag, 2010


Public and Publics

p u b l i c s pac e | rights by corey schnobrich

the Occupy Movement

c o mmo n s pro te s t e n c ampme n t c o mmu n ity de mo c r ac y

Kaldar i. U se d u n de r a Cr e at iv e Co m m o n s CC0 1 .0 U n i ve r s a l Publ i c Do ma i n De di ca ti o n

Police and protesters face off following Occupy Oakland’s eviction, November 14, 2011

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This was not the first time Occupy was accused of failing the public good. Though the movement was ostensibly inclusive, epitomised by ‘We are the 99%’, the encampments themselves were seen as an unlawful, exclusive appropriation of public space. Critics upheld the protesters’ right to freedom of speech and assembly, but argued that the way the protesters exercised those rights, through continuous occupation, impinged on other people’s ability to do the same — the many groups that participated in the Occupy movement did so to the detriment of the greater public. The rights of a few usurped the rights of the many, so the criticism went. This argument has an intuitive, almost unobjectionable appeal. But it is a dangerous one, both for rights generally, and specifically for the exercising of those rights in public space. By privileging the majority preference over minority protest, democratic participation can be squelched. And by barring this protest in public space, voices that have no other public forum, no presence in the media or political lobby, can be silenced. The idea that individual or group rights should be subordinate to collective or societal rights stems in part from the notion of a singular public. ‘The public’ is a broad term, encompassing all people of a place and time. In contrast, the term ‘publics’ better captures the ever shifting group identities we each either subscribe

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On November 9, 2011, protesters with Occupy Cal attempted to establish an encampment next to Sproul Plaza, the Berkeley campus’s symbolic heart. A handful of tents were barely up before police in riot gear clubbed their way through a line of protesters to pull up the stakes. The police broke several students’ ribs and pulled to the ground, by the hair, a professor presenting herself for arrest. Videos went viral; international media covered the ensuing outrage. The following day all students received a message from Robert J Birgeneau, the university chancellor. He called the protesters’ actions ‘not non-violent civil disobedience’, and urged them ‘to consider the interests of the broader community — the tens of thousands who elected not to participate in yesterday’s events’. What he meant by ‘the broader community’ remains a mystery. Student and faculty councils condemned the police violence and the student senate passed a resolution supporting the goals of the movement — but by invoking the ‘interests of the broader community’, the chancellor implied the protesters were a minority at odds with their peers and the common good. At best misguided, at worst, selfish, radical and exclusive.


to or are placed in by others. The theorist Nancy Fraser best articulated this: if the public is a homogenous entity interested in consensus, then publics are diverse, predicated on difference and willing to argue and agitate for their concerns. And while a rule governing a public space may be desirable for the public, such as ‘No Sleeping Overnight’, it may not be good for a public, such as the homeless. Occupy’s critics often invoked the interests of the public as a way to isolate the protesting groups and, ultimately, their messages. I will look in detail at how this criticism impacted two encampments – Occupy Wall Street in New York and Occupy Oakland. Though the same argument was waged elsewhere, these two cities received intensive media coverage and, thus, greater condemnation. In both places civic leaders successfully appealed to the public to close the encampments, though their subsequent actions showed little regard for any public.

with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else.’ The New York Daily News concurred, arguing that the protesters excluded all other people: ‘The need for eviction would be true no matter the message. No one group — whether they are doing Tai Chi or playing piano or lambasting capitalism — has a right to commandeer a public space to the exclusion of others for an indefinite period.’ Even the judge that heard and then denied the protesters’ appeal of the eviction cited the public’s interest: ‘The movants have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park . . . to the exclusion of the owner’s reasonable rights and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park, or to the rights to public access of others who might wish to use the space safely.’

Da vi d S ha n kb o n e . U se d un d e r a Cr e at iv e Co m m o n s At t r ibu t io n 3 .0 U n p o r t e d lic e n s

One of Occupy’s publics, families, gather in Zuccotti Park on October 22, 2011

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Not much media coverage accompanied the call for Occupy Wall Street, announced by Adbusters in July of 2011. Neither did the original occupation of Zuccotti Park which began two months later on September 17. Only as the occupation persisted, and the days stretched into weeks, did the movement’s momentum grow, along with the voices of its detractors. Nearly two months after the occupation began, the park’s private manager posted new rules banning lying down and the use of tarps and tents. On November 15, police cleared the protesters from Zuccotti. In a statement later that day, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave this reason for the eviction: ‘The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied

Critics levelled similar arguments at Occupy Oakland, despite differences between the protesters’ tactics and their relationship with the city government. Unlike New York, Oakland’s mayor supported Occupy’s goals and one city council member even slept at the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Instead, local business organisations led the condemnation, claiming the encampment scared customers away. Perhaps because this argument alone seemed too self-centred, they also invoked the interests of the public versus the interests of the protesters. In a letter to Mayor Jean Quan, the Downtown Oakland Association and the Lake Merritt/ Uptown District Association wrote: ‘Unlike Zuccotti Park in New York, this is a public space — to be enjoyed by all the people of Oakland, not just a minority who have now had their moment and the headlines; it is time


for them to move on.’ The mayor’s most vocal critic, city councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, also supported the encampment’s removal by appealing to the rights of all citizens: ‘I believe we have the duty and responsibility to protect not only their [the protesters’] rights, but other people’s rights – businesses and people that work downtown in the City of Oakland. So at some point you have to take action because you are responsible for that.’ In the arguments against both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland, critics always affirmed the protesters’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly. But they contested the particular practice of those rights, in the form of occupation. The courts agreed, showing

goal – instead, this mindset leads to suppressing differences and marginalising voices that obstruct consensus. A better-functioning democracy takes precedence over a truer democracy, in which every individual or public has a voice. It is the singular notion of community or public, and privileging the rights of the many over the rights of the few, which troubles me about Occupy’s critics. While they affirmed ideals of speech and assembly, the evictions helped silence debate and stop coordinated action. In fact, the evictions did little good for either the idealised public or any other publics. First, many spaces chosen by the protesters were little used before their occupation. Zuccotti Park and Frank Ogawa Plaza were not household names and like many Occupy sites, were chosen because they were central, not because they were popular. Jon Stewart described Zuccotti Park as ‘the park

D av id S han kb o n e . U se d und e r a Cr e at iv e Co m m o n s At t r ibu t io n 3 .0 U n p o r t e d lic e n se

Portrait of a Occupy Wall Street protester on November 2, 2011

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no one, even those of us who live across the street from it, had heard of until the Occupy Wall Street movement’. Certainly there were many more publics using these spaces during the movement than before or after. Second, the Occupy encampments were largely inclusive, in both the ideas debated and how space was used. Far from excluding the public, Occupy accepted and reached out to many publics, from libertarians to union members, students to retirees, and lower to upper-middle class. The behaviours at Occupy sites varied greatly as well — from drumming to teaching to praying. As before, publics ate lunch there. Third, the squares that were to be immediately returned to the public were not fully open to anyone in the aftermath of the evictions. Zuccotti Park was cleared on the morning of November 15 with promises from Mayor Bloomberg that the park would re-open later in the day.

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the strict limits to this type of expression. When ideals ran up against annoyance, the latter usually won. The disjuncture between ideal rights and practiced rights puzzles, particularly because they are so esteemed, almost revered, in democracies. So too are the public spaces in which they most often occur, whether the agora of the Greeks, the forum of the Roman Republic, or the streets and squares of modern cities. In their ideal, these are places where all citizens can gather to discuss, debate and protest. But this ideal of the public space, much like the ideal of freedom of speech and assembly, is often compromised. To theorists such as Nancy Fraser and Iris Marion Young, this comes as no surprise. It is a by-product of striving for an unachievable social harmony, or assuming all social concerns can be decided by the public, together. But it is not just an impractical

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But the fences checking the entry of the protesters, and everyone else, did not come down until January of the next year. Frank Ogawa Plaza was cleared on the night of November 14, but it wasn’t until January 10 that the private security firm charged with protecting the damaged lawn finally left. During these periods, no publics freely used these spaces, regardless of ideology or behaviour. In retrospect it seems clear that civic leaders used the public as a straw man to close the camps, presumably to cover less palatable motivations for doing so. The occupations were an emphatic expression of speech and assembly — the best way to counter their democratic appeal was to argue that they actually limited the rights of others. But there is little reason to think that the public’s rights, and the places of their enactment, are better off as a result. Zuccotti Park and Frank Ogawa Plaza, along with the thousands of Occupy

pushed boundaries and raised questions about the purpose and limits of public space. Should occupation be considered a form of speech or assembly? If the government does not or cannot provide a solution to homelessness, can sleeping in public space be banned? Can active protest and passive recreation coexist? When does claiming a public space become exclusive use? Occupy’s goal was to debate these types of questions openly and horizontally, in a forum and space that all publics could theoretically access. Over time, though, the encampments became bigger issues than the reasons they began, and many publics began to lose patience with Occupy’s publics.

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Occupy Cal protesters re-establish their encampment on November 15, 2011

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sites throughout the world, have largely returned to their previous states. For better or worse, they are much less intensely used than in the fall of 2011 and no longer host the continued democratic debate, sometimes absurd and chaotic, sometimes meaningful and inspiring, that they did for two short months. This debate, in which many publics participated (and not always genially), may have embodied the highest and best use for those public spaces. They became, if but for one season, more than a place to eat lunch. None of this is to say that the encampments should have persisted. Some Occupy sites had legitimate health and safety concerns, with violence directed by or against residents. At others, tents covered almost every inch of common space, damaging vegetation for months. Constant policing taxed local governments, even if it often did more harm than good. However, the movement


On November 17 I walked down with a group of my classmates to Sproul Plaza. Several were carrying already-erected tents, intending to create a scene. By this date, most Occupy encampments had been evicted and the movement seemed to be losing steam. Adbusters suggested two days previously that Occupy Wall Street ‘declare victory’ and refocus its efforts. On the Berkeley campus, police had dismantled the few remaining tents the night before. There was still enough tension though that a camera crew and a few police officers milled around the plaza. As the students entered the space, chanting loudly, they let go of the tents and got the reaction they were hoping for.

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A tent and large banner float over Sproul Plaza, centre of Occupy Cal as well as the 1960s Free Speech Movement

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Fraser, Nancy. ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy’ Social Text no. 25/26 (1990): 56–80.

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Young, Iris Marion. “The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference.” Social Theory and Practice 12, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 1–26.

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The half-domes floated slowly upward, climbing until they reached the top of Sproul Hall. Lifted by hundreds of balloons, they sauntered slowly overhead, as a large banner unfurled between them read OUR SPACE. A local reporter quipped that it ‘flew in the face’ of the administration’s ban and represented a takeover of the plaza. Perhaps it was a bit pompous. For me, it was just one group, one public, staking their claim for many to follow. c


Saint George’s Dragon

in s tallatio n c o nve r s atio n pro c e s s as s e mblage ide o lo gy

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counter-publics | i n s ta n t i at i o n by a d r i a n b l ac k w e l l

Saint George’s Dragon is an unrealised installation for Guelph, a small city in southern Ontario. The project was developed over two and a half years from its initial commissioning by the Musagetes Foundation in the fall of 2010. The proposed work consists of three parts, a temporary plywood and steel sculpture to be located in St. George’s Square in downtown Guelph, a newsletter focused on the uses of public space in the region, and a series of conversations to be held in or on the structure, focusing on the questions raised in the newsletter.

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The project was designed to investigate the contradictory nature of capitalist public spaces through six paradoxes: affinity/disagreement representation/presentation people/things materiality/immateriality privacy/publicity city/urbanisation

The contemporary paradox of public space Over the last few years we have seen a resurgence of political demonstrations around the world that have re-animated the concept of public space. In each case, citizens gathered in squares and streets to protest today’s political economy of austerity and inequality. In the face of a pro-market neo-liberal ideology that privatises public assets and encloses common resources, it is no surprise that recent political resistance demands the right to occupy the city. Since the 1970s countries have reversed the redistributive agenda of Keynesian economics, in order to govern according to the rule of the market. Neo-liberalism has wrought a twoheaded assault on authentic public space: it has privatised and commodified it while at the same time implementing a regime of surveillance and control over it. These two forms of enclosure, one generated by the free market, the other by the state, function as complementary dimensions of society, opening new markets while policing consequent social instability and economic inequality. Although this duality of openness and violence is obviously contradictory, many people accept these public/private spaces as the unified horizon of our possibility. Real public space is constructed through active struggles that name and demonstrate the contradictions that structure it. By thinking of public space in terms of its essential polarities, it becomes a contested field, providing a conceptual and physical space for discussion and disagreement. Public space is constitutively paradoxical. Public space is nothing but the terrain of its ongoing negotiation.


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Guelph’s St George’s Square was established in 1827 to cement bonds between John Galt, the city’s founder and a primary land developer in Upper Canada, and the English Crown. Saint George was born in Cappadocia, in what is now Turkey. He was a Christian soldier in the Roman Army, later canonised for destroying images of Roman gods. During the Crusades Saint George was put to a new use, miraculously appearing to lead Christian soldiers against their Muslim rivals in the Holy Land. The story of the dragon emerges at this time, serving as an allegory of the threat to Christianity from outside.1 St George’s Square is loosely shaped like a St George Cross, cut diagonally by Wyndham Street in the north-south direction and by Quebec Street from east to west, producing four irregular quadrants. It is the heart of Guelph’s downtown, gathering people from all walks of life. In the summers its four corners are used for public events — concerts, dance performances and films. It is also a political space that has been the site of demonstrations in support of affordable housing and lower tuition, and by Occupy Guelph. The square, physically cut by streets and socially segmented, with each quadrant claimed by different publics, is a space that some citizens fear and bypass to avoid the people who assemble there or the police that patrol it. It is also symbolically framed by finance, with a national bank on each of its corners: a space where the lineaments of global capitalism meet small town Ontario in the form of security and surveillance, financial markets and the general precariousness of workers. The concentration and complexity of the square makes it an exemplary site to test a programme of public engagement.

Saint George is a symbol that at different times galvanised English and Christian publics; the dragon signified otherness — that which is not included within a given public. Saint George’s Dragon is a provocation that places an icon of alterity at Guelph’s geographic and ideological centre. Together St George and the dragon, exemplify the paradox of public space. Saint George’s Dragon is a wide spiralling wood walkway that ascends as a ramp from the Square to six feet above in one rotation, and then descends to the ground again over twelve rotations, forming a flattened hourglass, concave in its upper half and convex in its lower half. It functions as a gathering space — in the upper section it forms a space for conversation where attention is focused inward, in the lower section people look outward toward an existing stage and surrounding streets and shops. The space is paradoxical in its form, a single shape with two opposed points of view. Bruno Latour asserts that all things are assemblages, strange and monstrous hybrids of diverse elements. Not least among these monsters, society itself is made up of the most complex compositions of different people and groups.2 What this social monster needs is places that can assemble its various parts — people, their desires and their matters of concern. Saint George’s Dragon is designed to catch and assemble the heterogeneous elements of the city in its winding coils.

1 Jerry Broughton. ‘Saints Alive / The Iconography of St. George’ in Iconoclash, Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, editors. Karlsruhe: ZKM / Center for Art and Media and Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. p155-157

2 Bruno Latour. ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik’ in Making things public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, editors. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005. p38

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Saint George’s Dragon – Newsletter and Conversations Saint George’s Dragon is also planned as a publication focussing on the paradoxical nature of public space by examining a set of local controversies: a folded poster makes a pamphlet consisting of both text and images, one side features a controversial project, often an artist’s public work, while other side has two texts, each taking up a different side of the controversy. As a series, each issue builds on earlier issues, responding to the overall theme of spatial paradox, to the urban conditions in Guelph and also to earlier texts and the conversations they provoke. The third part of the programming of Saint George’s Dragon is the six conversations to be held on the sculpture, open to the everyone. They are participatory debates about the nature of Guelph’s common spaces structured around the following six paradoxes: 1 People assemble because they have something in common, but at the same time they do so because they disagree with others. Some recent political theories emphasise disagreement as the prerequisite of any political assembly, while others focus on the affinities that draw people together. If both of these claims are true, then public space must accommodate both consensus and dissent. As Guelph pursues redevelopment policies in the central city, its central square should be seen as both a space of agreement, and a space where conflicting visions of citizenship can appear.

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20 2 There is some confusion about whether ‘public space’ refers to spaces funded and built by an elected government, or to spaces appropriated by citizens, often to contest government policies. This paradox emerged with the rise of modern democracies. With the appearance of elected representatives, a gap opened between citizens’ demands and the motivations of government. Public space emerges in this context as a locus where people can present themselves to others without representation. 3 For Jürgen Habermas, the public sphere that emerged in the eighteenth century was a space that was both physical – in streets and social spaces, and virtual – in newspapers and journals.3 Today the Internet appears as an even less material medium. Recent political movements, such as Occupy Guelph, intervene in complex hybrids of immaterial and material public spaces.

4 A public is always a group of people, but public spaces include inanimate materials and countless other forms of life. Latour argues that the split between people and things is the foundational ruse of modernity and many of our most difficult problems can be traced back to it.4 Guelph has long been a centre for agricultural studies and is one of the country’s most important sites for experiments in sustainable farming, but the city is also a space of poverty, food scarcity and hunger. Food security in Wellington County brings together challenges of sustainability, involving nonhuman actors with the very human problem of affordability. 5 Political theorists Nancy Fraser and Michael Warner, argue that we should understand publics as multiple, as counterpublics, conversations within which smaller groups can build arguments, gestures and practices in opposition to a dominant culture.5 In Guelph, police infiltration of local anarchist groups has raised important questions about the ongoing importance of the privacy of these groups to the perpetuation of open public discourse. 6 Architectural historian Pier Vittorio Aureli claims that politics was born with the polis, the ancient Greek city-state; the roots of urbanisation lie in the voracious expansion of the Roman urbs and its base unit, the military camp.6 Today, instead of discrete polities with defined boundaries, we have a continuous and planetary process of urbanisation. The conversation between the polis and the urbs, the city and ex-urban sprawl, is relevant everywhere, Guelph included.

3 Jürgen Habermas. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, translated by Thomas Berger. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996. p27-42 4 Bruno Latour. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. p10-12 5 Nancy Fraser, ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy’ in Social Text No. 25/26, 1990. p56-80. Michael Warner. ‘Publics and Counterpublics’ in Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books, 2005. p65-124 6 Pier Vittorio Aureli. The Possibility of An Absolute Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011. p1-47.


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Together these six paradoxes sketch openings for public discourses and spaces. The ultimate failure of the material realisation of Saint George’s Dragon was a failure to instantiate these paradoxes in public space. It was the intention of the work to publically raise important urban problems, which some might prefer not to acknowledge. The project’s termination functions as an example of what Jacques Rancière would call the maintenance of a specific distribution of the sensible, the preservation of the status quo, which is business as usual for City building departments and business improvement organisations.7 Opening a paradox is the founding act of every real public space and this can only ever be accomplished through ongoing dialogue, debate and struggle. c

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7 Jacques Rancière. Disagreement, translated by Julie Rose. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2004. p1-42

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credits: Saint Georges Dragon, 2011-2013. Adrian Blackwell, assisted by Daniel Abad, Chris Wanless, Scott Ling, Emily Lin and Nicolas Roland. The project was commissioned by the Musagetes Foundation.


re adin g tr af fic ide as c ar s bo o ks

right: ‘On Reading in Public’ on Park(ing) Day - Portage Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba. September 20, 2013 facing page: left: Ted Landrum, WORDpark, a graphic poem right top: André Kertész, ‘Dog Walker and Book Vendors, Paris 1927’. ©Estate of André Kertész/ Higher Pictures middle: André Kertész, ‘Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, 1928’ ©Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

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bottom: André Kertész, ‘Paris, 1928’ ©Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures 1

reading in public | t r a f f i c i n i d e a s n ot c a r s by t e d l a n d ru m

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1 André Kertész, On Reading. New York: W W Norton, 2008 2 Marshall Berman. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. New York & London: Penguin, 1988. p169

The above snapshot poses a commonplace hypothesis, in situ and à la mode: vital cities have ever increasing kinds and rates of traffic pulsing through intertwining sites of resilience, heterogeneity and exchange. Sometimes we manage to go along with this Heraclitian traffic, finding ourselves cooperatively empowered (both individually and socially) by its ostensibly progressive yet inherently turbulent and ambiguous forces. Just as often, we must stand off at a distance, until, merging cautiously, we find our place amid the contending, creative rhythms of an ever-developing urban flux. If, eventually, one wakens to another city more ethically and culturally troubling than it is technically and aesthetically sophisticated, then some portion of us might (however gladly or gruffly) go against its homogenising thrust. Here, in Winnipeg, or rather this time, in September, it was not just the annual Park(ing) Day activity that held my attention along central Canada’s famous Portage Avenue, but also Marshall Berman’s passionately anti-urbicide and modernolatrybashing text All That is Solid Melts into Air, written between 1978 and 1982. His words remain relevant: The tragic irony of modernist urbanism is that its triumph has helped to destroy the very urban life it hoped to set free. 2

Meanwhile, buzzing past the telltale traffic cone, comes yet another #20 bus, barrelling unhindered through the gauntlet of well-intentioned Park(ing) Day pop-up stalls toward one of its most popular stops, Portage Place — the under-appreciated downtown shopping mall where more radical variations of the sort of counter-culture loitering I am indulging in, above, are forcibly prohibited. The graphic poem (opposite), WORDpark, was written in anticipation of two civic festivals overlapping by several busy days: the Winnipeg Design Festival – organisers of this year’s Park(ing) Day, and Thin Air – the Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival. Since Park(ing) Day happened to fall on the opening day of the literary festival, I decided to participate in both events, and to follow through with the WORDpark project intiatied by the poem. I did so by occupying several of the pop-up parkettes: as a curious interpreter of them, as someone who enjoys reading in public, as an amateur photographer aspiring to the example of Andrés Kertész, as a mild mannered agitator advocating for print culture over car culture, as a somewhat didactic but uninhibited person who happens to live in the neighbourhood by choice without a car, and, finally, simply as a member of the public trying to participate in the festival that every city has always aspired to be. c


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performance | public-address by steven chodoriwsky

au die n c e fo r mat c o mmu n ity pr ac tic e fe e dbac k

Notes on ‘Exhausted Figure’

I presented Exhausted Figure in the main auditorium space of Cornell University’s recently completed Milstein Hall, on the occasion of the launch of a new issue of the Cornell Journal of Architecture. The date was April 5, 2013. Over the course of the evening, students, professors and other members of the department’s communityat-large gave brief talks on the event’s theme, ‘Figures’, as it pertained to their own ideas, projects and interests. The event was administered within the well-known constraints of the pecha-kucha format, where presentations consist of twenty slides of twenty seconds duration each.

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This is a notoriously tricky genre, perhaps by design. A preselected sequence of displayed images is automatically timed, and the speaker strains to perform with grace and concision. All this on top of typically less-than-ideal spatio-temporal circumstances and inevitably speech spills from one image to the next, unbidden, or a dead patch of stalled silence hovers in front of an image once there is little left to say. I picture an ellipsis caught behind the presenter’s tongue like three little Beckettian sucking stones. Indeed, this potential for awkward misalignment and a-synchronicity is part of the fun of witnessing a talk like this pull itself together: it is semi-rapid-fire, limp-tightrope, a bit dirty and mercifully quick. Pecha-kucha is an onomatopoeic Japanese term for prattle, after all, so in this light, certainly there’s no expectation of a Gettysburg Address. Before me was another professor, venerable and wise, who from his first seconds at the microphone wanted nothing to do with it, thank you very much. When one image disappeared mid-sentence against his wishes — an Italian terrazzo tiled floor with an intricate geometric pattern — he tried

to stop everything, incredulously, asking into the darkness of the auditorium for the technicians to rewind the slide. The format was turning against him, twenty-second automated time-pictures were moving forward without him, a merciless clock. He humorously and exasperatedly attempted to fight free from its clutches. He had a real desire to show these wonderful images on his own time, as well as in their own timeless time. Of course, his performance was especially entertaining and the audience loved it.

communicated between the two, between presenter and presented, and what, if anything, is being shared?

I guess I had been giving a lot of thought to how to appropriate, but also remain faithful to, the constraints for my own talk. How could it relate to the theme, even if obliquely, even to a fault? What sort of figure could complement a pre-ordained structure, and what sort of economical relationship between sender and receiver could be forged?

Perhaps there’s a sort of value in taking an already complicated thing and making it more so. On top of the twenty-twenty structure — complex, fascinating and trivial as it is — I introduced a second, more prescriptive task, closing the thing further around itself, giving it an internal logic, but withholding most clues and cues.

In the foreword to a collection of his writings, John Cage explains his intention when giving lectures or producing texts: ‘to say what I had to say in a way that would exemplify it’. This is a process of in situ model-making: he makes an example out of what he has to say, he changes scale and material but strives for fidelity in the message through a new medium. Spectators are asked to come to dialogical terms with what is going on: the speech, the setting, the manoeuvre, the mechanics, the technique and the delivery are all present and carry with them unique types of relevant information. It is a deceptively simple claim that Cage makes. But it’s one that places equal responsibility on both speaker and listener not only to the content being exchanged, but the terms, conditions and motivations of its transaction. What is the experience

My turn to speak took place near the middle of a lengthy programme, after about ten had gone and ten more were to follow. A hand-drawn clock with twenty intervals began to count down on the screen behind me, I got up from my front row seat and, with the microphone in one hand and a timer in the other, turned around in one motion to face the audience.

The self-assigned task was simple enough: to produce a yawn every twenty seconds. If, on the condition the yawn did not come, the timer I held would tell me that twenty seconds had expired, and I would have to proceed to producing the next timed yawn. The microphone was nearby to record any vocalisations. Yawning several times in rapid succession is physically challenging. It stretches parts of the body above the waist that typically remain unstrained. Its component parts of inhalation and exhalation, if fully played out — jaw extends, diaphragm contracts, eardrum stretches, eyes close and tear up — take on average six seconds, which theoretically left me fourteen seconds to trigger the succeeding yawn. In the days leading up to the event, I had practiced this rather diligently, this yawning on command and at intervals, whether by stopwatch or by rough estimation. I am — and


continue to be — an expert. Indeed I am yawning as I write this down, and perhaps this has amicably led you to one, too, as you read. Rarely is something so easily communicable.

Scanning the near-capacity crowd of the auditorium, I began to look directly at individuals, speechless, singling out those I knew personally, with my mouth wide open and ‘signifying yawn’, hoping that a combination of my visual cues and their empathy would bring them to yawn, so they in turn could bring me to yawn.

Scientifically, I am told this process is called ‘positive feedback’. Architectural acts are in many ways inherently public presentations, but public presentations in their myriad forms can be comprised of speculative architectural acts. They are composed of found and built configurations with unique shapes and durations, and are rehearsals of spatial practice, ranging from the one-off to the quotidian. They bundle communities together, forming a temporary bond, and they literally play dialogues out. A seemingly incommunicative figure is no less an attempt at dialogue. With Exhausted Figure, speech and imagery yield to alternate forms of a real, mutual compulsion to communicate. The provisional silence also acted as an intermission, so perhaps someone took a brief nap. In the meantime, I received a variety of responses from audience members, which included: smiles, confused smiles, passive incredulity, stone-faced disinterest, open-faced inquisitiveness, and an eye-roll.

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In six minutes and forty seconds, I was able to muster two successful yawns. c

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So it came and it went. Far from any act of protest, here there was little provocation; rather, a gentle nudge that is soon forgotten. Such interventions are diversions at best (and by ‘at best’ I might also mean ‘in the best possible way’) as any delusion of its grandeur would send it hurtling off towards larger, more ravenous audiences and publics. Content at its scale, necessarily temporary, it harbours no such ambition.

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The piece is a one-liner. But three intervals and sixty seconds in, things were not going well. I stood there, mouth gaping wide, in heartfelt concentration, exerting something like physical strain (whether or not that was palpable to a spectator), but not a single yawn. I had overlooked a crucial detail: I had not practiced standing up. And I had not attempted yawning while nervous. I guess it is a difficult thing to rehearse. Attempts up to this point took place seated at a desk, with relaxed limbs, a brain at ease, in calm contemplation of sleep and with an audience consisting solely of myself. But in the presence of a crowd I was not tired in the least — there is nothing particularly tiresome about anxieties. This was no good. It was crucial, however, not to fake the yawns — this was not even an option, as this would have turned the whole exercise into melodrama. Out of necessity I tried to readjust. It became clear that I couldn’t do it on my own, nor should I have to. What, then becomes the spectator’s active role in such a dire situation? This is the thing. In this situation, the audience is comfortably seated in the dark, fortified by numbers, while the actor has a spotlight in his face, standing up. The audience is present and seated and relaxed, the actor standing and nervous, the audience is now nervous and also bored, exhausted perhaps, exasperated perhaps, and the actor cannot act. Who is even in the better position to act? Who leads whom? Perhaps when an actor or a spectator is performing truly well, there is a remote opportunity for an inversion of their supposedly preordained roles. Those who

believe they are observing are in fact acting, and those acting are the ones observing, waiting for the event to mercifully play itself out.


V i r g i ni a Fe r na nde z Ri nco n

GroundTower, in its form and materials, makes infrastructure visible and celebrates both its utilitarian role of providing basic services and its public role in the civic spaces it creates. It is designed to be recognised as a formal intervention within the barrios, to make legible barrios’ participation in the city.

groundtower critical infrastructure

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Nicolas leads me through the barrio. He was born here and he waves at everyone, stopping constantly to introduce me to them: the basketball player who tends an abasto, a hairdresser, the local musician – a timbal player, a nurse on her way to work. There are many others without any further description than their names and a friendly handshake cooled by the beer bottles in their hands. We walk the barrio Santa Cruz, one of nineteen barrios at the southwest end of Caracas. We go up steep stairs and down narrow alleys, above creeks and around garbage dumps, always avoiding one particular street, ‘Ahi esta la droga - that’s where the drug is’ Nicolas says. On my second visit and after some convincing, we walk there. ‘No tomes fotos aqui – don’t take pictures here’. Turning the corner a group of girls play, their pink t-shirts a blur as they run. A few metres away, two men on motorcycles are trading what is probably cocaine. They take a look at us, finish and leave — no pictures are taken and the girls never stop playing. It is a sunny Saturday morning, thirty degrees with a bright blue sky.

informal systems | c a r ac a s by virginia fernandez rincon

bar r io s po litic s ac tio n n e c e s s ity c o mmu n ity

Striving for subsistence, the growing population of Caracas has radically transformed the city in the course of the past fifty years. The accelerated growth from mass rural migrations left millions to find land, shelter and basic services themselves. The barrios, once thought to be a provisional solution to the housing shortage, are now home to more than half the population of the city. With five times the density of the formal city, barrios condense and multiply all the paradoxes inherent in the capital of a developing country. Overcrowded and invisible, alive and remote, violent and unregulated, these informal settlements, located on steep hills, unstable soil and flood plains, have limited or no access to electricity, water or sanitation, waste removal, transportation or emergency services. Until recently omitted from most census data and official maps, and without land titles or addresses, barrios are also legally excluded from the formal city.


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For Arendt, not all action is political. Action is only political when it originates in freedom. Politics—in its ideal form—exists in the relationships between people and is derived from plurality, not in the modern sense of representative democracy, but simply from individuals acting together. Plurality, for Arendt, is the ‘equality and distinction’ inherent in people, realised only in public. It is the necessary presence of others that makes politics, and action, essentially public. Shared, visible infrastructure can make action manifest, and consequently, political. Barrios often benefit from the infrastructure of the formal city but reject the official systems that govern it. Barrios’ economic, social and physical networks are never isolated from the predominant culture of the city, yet their placement outside all regulatory systems limits their complete integration with it. Beyond any bureaucratic mechanisms to regularise barrios, infrastructure can legitimise the informal through the provision of legal services. These services can challenge barrios’ precarious condition and their prevailing image as temporary settlements.

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According to Hannah Arendt, necessity is confined to the private realm, and therefore by definition it is foreign to action. But shared necessities generate action. Arendt’s definition of action is that of a generative force, distinct from labour and work, created directly between people without the mediation of objects. When considered within the context of the barrios, action creates the built environment by means of constant negotiation. Building in the barrio is done out of necessity, but the process is so essential that it cannot be framed inside the infertile nature of labour or the predictable consequences of work. In their shared search for land, shelter and services, people living in barrios have proven that necessity transcends social and political affiliations, and that strong community networks can form around shared needs. If rendered accessible and intimate, infrastructure can fulfil basic needs while cultivating the extraordinary power of action.

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action and politics – infrastructure and visibility

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action and necessity – infrastructure and proximity

Simultaneously a well and a dumpster, GroundTower combines water drawing and waste incineration in small nodes that spread throughout the barrio. At each GroundTower a path or stairway provides a gathering area. As a landmark, GroundTower gives a street an address. The foundation of each tower is an array of compaction piles that by adding material to loose and sedimentary soil stabilises larger areas around them. This intervention works not as a continuous infrastructure but through accumulation. Each tower can be adapted to fit a particular pathway or stair and because of its size and domestic nature, the intervention works as a framework that accepts changes in its use, size and form.


action and promises – infrastructure and citizenship For Arendt, action is also the experience of freedom. But freedom cannot be fully realised without the existence of promises. Reality reflects both the uncertainty that comes from the freedom of action and the potential certainty of promises. In the barrios, institutionally unregulated and constructed through improvisation, the built environment itself emerges out of the reification of promises. Promises originate from two facts: our own unreliability as free individuals and the impossibility to foretell the consequences of our actions in a community of equals. These promises can be of abstention or deed, but it is in this latter category where the potential for action truly resides. Barrios are built out of a

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GroundTower illustrates infrastructure’s ideal proximity to the everyday. Traditional infrastructural systems are either remote and therefore absent in the city (hydroelectric dams, reservoirs and landfills) or they exist as basic and single-purpose networks (roads, aqueducts networks and electric grids). Unlike these systems, GroundTower overtly places infrastructure within people’s daily life so it can be appropriated and tended by the community.

constant negotiation between individual desires and the promises that, as a community, its individuals have tacitly made to each other. As barrios operate outside any official rules or regulatory entities, promises become more poignant while at the same time more fragile — they are the unstable base upon which a barrio functions. Barrios redefine citizenship as a direct involvement in the production of the city. They have eroded citizenship’s exclusionary limits (traditionally attached to property) and have delineated a new definition based on their informal urban practices. These practices are mediated by the constant exchange of promises, though these are wilfully broken, easily forgotten, and wrongly replaced.


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Walking through the barrio I clearly see poverty, violence and exclusion, but talking to its people, I understand the extraordinary will, effort and hope that sustains these settlements. Infrastructure is able to build on these potentials to frame a civic space that is generated on the auspices of individual promises and the actions they engender. c

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Challenging infrastructure’s traditional role of purely utilitarian systems GroundTower combines infrastructure with civic space, giving promises a place for existence and exchange. This civic space sits between the accessibility of the public realm and the intimacy of the private, strengthening the active participation that generates action. An infrastructure that is accessible, visible and responsive can provide a space for the exchange of promises and the performance of action. In this space, it becomes possible to recognise the barrio and the city as a shared resource, fostering kinship and empowerment. Through action, public space can be transformed into civic space, and its users into citizens.


pa rt i c i pato ry d e s i g n | l ow - i n c o m e h o u s i n g by h e c to r a b a r c a

Revisiting PREVI

r i g ht s housi ng devel opment c ompet i t i o ns densi t y

Once upon a time we made plans – we drew elegant lines on paper and we built handsome balsa wood models – our own identity was clear and our tools for changing the world explicit and concrete.

— H P Oberlander on Habitat ‘76 The Hinge in a Decade for Change, 1986

housing as a basic right from Lima to Vancouver

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Three PREVI pilot projects were set up. PP1: new construction of low-cost experimental housing aimed to maximise the efficiency of resources and reduce hard costs by repetition over a larger scale. PP2: urban renewal and improvement of shanty towns and inner city slums. PP3: site and services for families of very low income with no ownership of land. A fourth project, PP4, was added for disaster emergency response after a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit in the north of Peru in October of 1970 destroying 1.5 million houses and killing 70,000 people.

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In 1976 Vancouver hosted one of the most not wellpondered world events: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, known as Habitat ’76, a milestone that reunited the most diverse housing and planning experts of a polarised world and unified them in one direction. Habitat ’76 recognised that is not development but underdevelopment and poverty that is the leading cause of environmental degradation. Government officials and NGOs – the participants of 132 countries, reached the conclusion in the final report, The Vancouver Declaration of Human Settlements, that housing, adequately serviced, is a basic human right and that governments must ensure its access. The recommendations were bold, enthusiastic and realistic. The demand for an authentic shift to housing as a human right was not an empty desire; a few months before, Portugal led Europe in the adoption of housing rights in its constitution and laws, followed by most of Western Europe (the exceptions were Ireland and Italy). In like manner, Latin American countries made an effort to legislate and enforce an adequate standard of living, among them Peru which in its 1979 constitution included the family’s right to a decent home and that the state was obliged to guarantee access to housing as a basic need. Those words reflected an almost forgotten, yet unique, housing program enacted in Lima a few years before. The Experimental Housing Project - PREVI its Spanish acronym – is still considered the last large-scale and comprehensive endeavour made by the combined Western world to develop a model for social housing in a developing society.

top: Book covers of the PREVI volumes published after the conclusion of the four PREVI-UN projects published by the Ministry of Defence, Lima 1977 [Previ: Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda – 27 volumenes, Ministerio de Vivienda, Lima, 1980]

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left: Current view of the Alameda Central, the pedestrian main street that articulates the Experimental Neighbourhood Unit, flanked by an unrecognizable Project I -5 by Toivo Korhonen (Finland) expanded and adjusted through the time with no professional guidance, as planned. M i ch el l e L l ona R


Lima is a centralised city where informal planning was overwhelming the formal city. In the 1950s, while other South American cities such as Caracas and Santiago were importing models of highrises and super-blocks as part of their low-income housing policies, Lima was providing ‘assisted shantytowns’. These allowed illegal occupation of and self-construction on public non-urbanised land designated for social interest by the Official Community Plan, as long as urban legislation was respected (street clearances, areas for services and urban facilities). Not without a violent beginning, this laissez-faire policy was accepted by users. The role of authorities was reduced to the mere supply of sites and services. At that time, also in Lima, John F C Turner, a British urbanist, was championing a participatory role for communities in building cities while criticising an unreliable state that limited access to housing by poor management of land, technology and money. Turner greatly influenced Habitat ’76. The Vancouver Declaration recognised spontaneous urban settlements, the use of indigenous planning methods and the involvement of citizens making creative use of their ‘ingenuity and skills’. It also acknowledged the role of an empowered population in shaping communities. Fernando Belaunde (1912–2002), an architect, urbanist, housing expert, professor and Peruvian household name, was president of Peru from 1963 to 1968. During his first mandate he began conversations with the United Nations on a new type of neighbourhood unit that would fit the needs of an uncontrollably growing city. PREVI was the response: simple, inexpensive and humane housing, based on the principles of rationalisation, standardisation, repetition, selfconstruction, mutation and evolution. In 1968 a collective of 13 international and 28 Peruvian architects were invited to compete in the creation of progressive housing prototypes for a new kind of community of 1500 units to be built 8 kilometres north of Lima. A low-rise / highdensity concept (200 to 300 persons per hectare) expanded the traditional concept of housing framed by the Official Development Plan, by offering a new strategy for the design of neighbourhoods at increased densities while addressing considerations on daylight, natural cross ventilation, sound mitigation, human scale and separation between vehicle and pedestrian circulation; aspects assumed as customary for today’s communities, but elusive for the urban poor.

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from the top: Project I-11: Aldo Van Eyck (Netherlands) Competition entry (a) Urban Master Plan proposal (b) Urban services location: Kindergarten, elementary and high school, recreation center with all-purpose room, library, medical clinic, and convenience stores. (c) Unit development: Floor plans, elevations, sections and isometric views of the Individual housing units and cluster group arrangements [Previ: Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda PP1 I-11 Volumen 19, Ministerio de Vivienda, Lima, 1980]

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M i c he l l e L l o na R .

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right: A Limenean worker taking a noon nap after a morning of hard work. PREVI proposed housing solutions for the most vulnerable part of society, offering worth and dignity of the individual, supporting freedom of choice.


PREVI is usually compared to Weissenhof Estates (1929) in Stuttgart, housing developed from a collaboration of Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Gropius, Sharoun and many other figures of the heroic years of the Modern Movement. For PREVI, professionals were selected based on talent and their experience in building communities rather than structures. Pushing geographic, economic and political barriers, they came from four continents, from the western and eastern blocks, from poor and rich nations. In PREVI everybody had in common their involvement in collectives with a commitment to anticipated change and the mobility of urban and architectural structures found with Metabolism (Japan), Team 10 (UK, Italy, France) and Structuralism (Netherlands). In 1969, six teams were chosen. A few months later, under

It is useless to consider the house except as a part of a community owing to the interaction of these on each other. — Team X, The Doorn Manifesto,1954

above: Project P-22 (Peru) Unicreto © On-site prefabrication system. The creation of spatial elements that simultaneously contain walls, roofs, and all their electrical and sanitary components has always been a difficult task in engineering and architecture; these systems usually require large infrastructures for manufacturing, transport and installation. The Unicreto system, patented by Carlos Aguirre Roca, with the collaboration of Manuel Llanos, presents a system easy to manufacture and assemble on site; it can be deployed anywhere in the country, requiring only a concrete pad to horizontally pour walls and roof elements. The self-supporting three-dimensional elements enable urban courtyard-type conformations that can not be achieved with other construction methods. Its particular assembly process requires collaborative communal work building up also stronger communities. Unicreto were also used for emergency response in Peruvian and Ecuadorian earthquake disaster zones. [Previ: Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda PP1 P-22 - Volumen 19, Ministerio de Vivienda, Lima, 1980] below: Project P-22 (Peru) Unicreto U frames manufactured and mounted on site, 1973, and finished house, 1976

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a new government, the jury recommended the teams be increased to 26. They were to build clusters of 20 houses each totalling 500 units in an Experimental Neighbourhood Unit planned by Peter Land, UN prime consultant and project leader. The original 1500 unit plan would be built in a later stage by selecting a few projects based on a strict evaluation. The modular dwellings were designed to a 100mm module, totalling 60-150m2 built areas on 80-120m2 lots, able to accommodate up to ten family members. A basic module open to anticipated horizontal or vertical growth satisfied the flexible behaviour of families by giving them technological solutions that would help them build the planned expansions by themselves. In 1971 when the de facto government assumed complete management of PREVI, enthusiasm began to fade. Lack of understanding, interest and the illogical allocation of resources delayed construction, completion and occupancy. When construction finished in 1977 the population with the capacity to finance their home (by allocating 20% of their family income at 6% annual rate) dropped from 25% in 1967 to 12%, as the country experienced one of its first major economic crises of the late-twentieth century.

left: Project I-9: José Luís Iñiguez de Onzoño & Antonio Vásquez de Castro (Spain) Group of houses with interior patios of 108 & 135 m2 allowing 22 plan variations. When the second floor is built, a room becomes a stairwell with a spiral stair. M a n u el L l a nos Jhon A rchi tect


Final costs of PREVI dwellings were just 5% below average house prices (from -20 to +10%: 5% in average): land was chosen purposely close to downtown, and completed urbanisation works that included public services (kindergarten, elementary school, commercial area), open spaces and urban furnishing, were pro-rated as part of the housing unit costs. Although in the next 1500 unit phase costs would be reduced, additional costs of experimental fabrication methods, development of new materials, training of non-skilled workers, the learning period for new construction processes, monitoring and evaluation were fully added to the final price tag. As Turner predicted, project officials redirected the original goals, shifting from an experimental project based on innovation to a more down-to-earth laboratory to test components for site and services development. In the final conclusion it was stated that delivering site and services would have extended the project’s scope; also that the rationalisation of conventional building systems with extensive employment of manpower was the best technological alternative — certainly more a political and populist statement than technological. After the initial basic modules were commissioned, PREVI was discontinued and the experience forgotten. The new home owners were left alone, voiceless, waiting in vain for the technical support to continue building their houses as only a few of the promised prefabricated elements had been produced. They continued by themselves when the government failed to provide the services they had committed to. The involvement of the home owners could have been vital, logging valuable data as the Experimental Neighbourhood Unit was consolidating. Today PREVI, which might be seen as an unfinished project, is, nonetheless, a dense, active community of outstanding qualities. It does not have the ideal image of the sequential and pristine masses we imagine on the cover of a magazine — in this calm chaos of experiences in self-help and self-management, life is celebrated in busy parks and piazzas. The urban arrangement deserves special notice, its interstitial open and closed spaces, pedestrianism and scale creates a special atmosphere of a truly concise townscape with its social fabric clearly connected to the city.

Manuel Llanos and Elsa Mazzarri – Project P-22 Peruvian architects did not get the same coverage as their international pairs; nonetheless, among them there are three winners of the top prize of the Peruvian Architecture Biennial. The project of Llanos–Mazarri is the most celebrated among the local entries. A prefabricated C-shape spatial module of 1.5 x 2.45 x 4m that joins and interlocks creating rooms in an L-shaped enclosed module that when put together forms the housing unit. Subsequently, the units are paired in groups where the private courtyards can be accumulated to a shared and larger one. These pairs are arranged a around a semi-private piazza forming an urban cluster that repeats as a constant from the top: Project P-22 (Peru). Main floor plan, hand drafted by Manuel Llanos Schematic construction phasing, initial and final housing unit.

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Man u e l Llan o s J h o n Ar c h it e c t

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right: Inner patio, part of the communication and contact network. The landscaping was designed especially for an arid climate and the street furniture was scaled and configured, for adults and children, in individual and group activities.


For Peru, the transfer of technology was one of PREVI’s success stories, from building systems to specific products that are still in use. By incorporating productivity indicators in the construction sector, PREVI proved that skill sets of foreign origin can be adapted to local reality. Productivity was reviewed following International Labour Organisation standards which were difficult initially to grasp by the construction professionals not familiar with industrial systematisation. Idle time, imputable absences, sloth, carelessness, accidents and management failure to plan, direct, coordinate and inspect efficiently were all flagged, assigning to them a cost that was later transferred to the final user. Most PREVI solutions are still relevant with rich potential for current housing policy makers and low-cost housing developers in third world cities. Some architectural types have aged more than others; some will always posses the innovative flair that make them fit with new needs. Housing is not a right anymore in Peru as this was deleted in the new constitution of 1993. UN Habitat recommended its reincorporation to make it legally binding to liberalise and give the private sector an active role in proposing low-cost housing models for, if not encouraged by the market, the government or the civil society, developers will not create nor offer a neighbourhood experience but a succession of over-simplified architectural solutions. The premise that a neighbourhood is an accumulation of houses is an accepted mistake excused by the limited expenditure capacity and the natural sociability of Latin American and Mediterranean societies. As time goes by, as the voices fade, the oral accounts from participants and early PREVI dwellers will disappear with the important information on how to build a community, because we already know how to build a house. c

PREVI has put on the map some of the key and relevant contemporary priorities for design, planning and building technology for a sustainable residential built environment. - Peter Land, Experimental by Nature. Digital Architectural Papers, ETH Zurich, 2012

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from the top: Project I-2: Knud Svenssons (Denmark). Recognisable Danish units of 60mm-thick indented concrete walls panels cast in-situ using a custom fiberglass formwork meant to be retained as community property. Project I-2: Knud Svenssons (Denmark). Laneway pedestrian street that preserves the small scale of the Andalusian backstreets of Arabic origin, always related to the Latin American cities. Project P-22Â (Peru) Cluster main floor as per competition entry (see previous and facing pages). In its finished stage it had ten rooms for sleeping with shelter for 16 people.


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Clusters shown at different stages of completion.

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Project P-22Â (Peru). Competition-entry model of the Courtyard cluster of 28 housing units. The central access courtyard is modeled after the traditional courtyard houses, a popular Limenean housing type imported by the early Spanish settlers with roots that can be traced back to Sumerian times. The P-22 offered inter-unit privacy, inspiring coexistence and a sense of solidarity in each cluster


housing | a da p ta b i l i t y by c a ro l i n e h ow e s

re h abilitatio n apar tme n ts dive r s ity th re s h o ld f le x ibility

Urban Resilience Maynard Lake

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All buildings hold the potential for adaptation. Additions and renovations are particularly common in residential architecture. The three-storey brick walk-up apartment is a prevalent residential type across Canada, and many of these buildings are in need of rehabilitation, having been built in the mid-twentieth century. The Lakefront Apartments were built for the Canadian Forces in the 1950s: brick, double-loaded corridor apartment blocks. They occupy almost half the shore of Maynard Lake in Darthmouth, across the harbour from Halifax. The buildings are in need of repair both in their physical performance and in their spatial configurations. The original military families have been replaced by civilians living very different lives. The repetitive, monotonous quality of space in and around the apartments arises from a stark opposition of solid and void. There is an abrupt threshold from interior to exterior; interior spaces are strictly delineated, while the wide-open exterior spaces are blank and undefined. Thresholds become the focal points for the design process because they are the points where different publics meet. My working method is based on the idea of different systems operating at different scales. I studied the site at four scales: individual rental unit, apartment building, group of buildings, and the whole site.  After studying the demographics of the existing tenants and the local amenities, I chose four main tenant types as my clients. Through strategic additions and subtractions, the apartments were adapted to create a gradient of spaces: from private to communal to public. I re-imagined the site as an urban threshold to the lake, organised around new communal amenity spaces for the inhabitants and new diverse mixed-use spaces for the public.  At the heart of the project lay the design strategy of effecting big change in the quality of existing space through small interventions.  

C ar ol i ne H owe s

Traditionally, capitalism has viewed development as a progressive path — an idea that is crumbling as we realise that our resources are finite and rapidly diminishing. Post-development theory provides an alternative to the linear idea of development. In this paradigm, change is cyclical and regenerative, not singular and abrupt. There is no tabula rasa. ‘Ethical’ design, gaining momentum, encompasses ideas of re-use and adaptability, diversity and resilience.


1 the unit existing, retained existing, demolished

Rooms: - private rooms - common rooms - exterior space

new

private communal public

opposite page: ambiguous space behind the apartment blocks. The same brick block is repeated across the site. below: while the apartments are spacious, narrow rooms and high window sills compress the living spaces.

2 the courtyard

Thresholds: - terrace and balcony - entrance - windows

Rooms: - terraces private communal public Thresholds: - circulation street pedestrian bicycle - topography - rainwater swale - vegetation

3 the group Rooms: - side yards - lake edge - back lane

Thresholds: - circulation street back lane - rainwater swales - topography - vegetation - views

chart, right: this is how the potential thresholds are identified. They form a fabric that links otherwise isolated units, from the scale of an individual unit, to the overall site itself.

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Scale is an organising idea that defines user publics and clarifies their relationship to the site. At the smallest scale, the inhabitants of a single unit form a public. At the median scales, the public subdivides demographically into children, single parents, married parents, married couples, single adults and single seniors — 770 people all with different needs and desires. At the largest scale, the site, all people in the single family houses in the area, Dartmouth visitors to Maynard Lake, as well as all the people in the apartments, form a public. The thresholds between each scale of the site are the moments where different publics interact. Resilient spaces have thresholds that can mediate between public and private territories, depending on the changing needs of the inhabitants. Public and private spaces are held in an ever-shifting balance — not a static state, but rather a state of constant adjustment. Shifting thresholds afford leeway for immediate small-scale change, and long term future change, such as new ideas for zoning and public access. Flexible thresholds allow for a mindset different from that created by individual property rights and a strict delineation between neighbours. Thresholds hold many stories.

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C ar ol i ne H owe s

Rooms: - entrances to the site - lake edge alcoves


Scale 1: the Unit

C a ro l i ne H owe s

The design process begins at the scale of the unit with the daily stories of the tenants. Their stories identify the most important moments of change, and lead to the re-design of particular thresholds to suit their needs. These designs become a set of guidelines for the re-design of all the units, a framework within which each unit can be adapted individually. The stories of the inhabitants are read on the faรงade of the building.

right: the threshold between the kitchen and the living space is open, yet clearly defines the space. The entrance into the unit from the exterior contains a place to sit and view the lake.

Scale 2: the Courtyard

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Each courtyard on the site has a different design in order to accommodate a variety of new programs, from after-school groups, concerts and block parties to summer camps. Units at grade facing the street can be reprogrammed as commercial spaces. These businesses would be small enough to be supported by the neighbourhood and to introduce new uses to the courtyard. The courtyard is a direct link between the apartment buildings and the lake. As the terraces step down to the lake, they move from private to communal to public, linking into the city-wide recreational path network.

above left: the adapted faรงades are inhabitable, blurring the harsh line between inside and out. Roof decks, balconies and courtyards become the outside overlapping rooms that are then threaded into the greater site. below: the courtyard extends down to the lake, with an after-school pavilion and dock.


Scale 3: the Group of Buildings The spaces between the buildings are linear parks that link the city to the lake. Behind the apartment buildings, the addition of parking garages sunk into the hillside liberates the site from the dominance of the parking lot and creates a useable rear lane. The garages can serve as workshop space for the tenants or for small businesses. The mechanical rooms have been sunk into the ground and link the buildings across the site, allowing for future district energy systems. Park space between buildings, a diverse streetscape and back lanes with garages and gardens

Scale 4: the Site

above: the diversity of the lake edge and the system of public access across the site

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1 Hester, Randolph. Design for Ecological Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010

pu bl ic s

Although the resilient city trends toward relative stability, its form is not static. Fluctuations ... as in natural ones, are to be expected, cannot be entirely controlled, and, in many instances, are positive. 1

an d

Diversity and complexity have been recognised as positive characteristics of resilient, healthy cities. These characteristics accrue over time rather than through large-scale demolition and reconstruction. As explored in the Lakefront Apartments, a series of small, cumulative design moves can generate an overall framework that will adapt to the needs of changing populations for a healthy, liveable neighbourhood. c

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Ca r o li n e H owe s

The design of the entire site is a culmination of small moves within an overall framework consisting of systems that run across the site and thresholds that link the site to the neighbourhood and the lake. Parks at the perimeter of the site invite the public in and can be used by outside community groups. This flexibility in use and shifting appropriation holds the seeds for resilience at a neighbourhood scale.


housing | w i n d ow s by d u n c a n pat t e r s o n

thr eshold s things m ed iator s actor s p r esentation

on windows liminal panes 1 In John Hejduk’s strange and compelling Vladivostok, he recasts the typical buildings of a European city as characters engaged in a play. I like to think of the mundane stage set of the domestic interior in the same way. It has the same sort of archetypal characters that occur in theatre, except that rather than villains and heroes, fools and placaters, it has doors and kitchen sinks, chairs and beds. Think of the window and the hearth. The hearth, the staid private ballast, holds the centre while the window pulls towards the fleeting world outside. Between them the room stretches. The chair doesn’t know which way to turn, but the ottoman and the kitchen sink have clearly chosen sides. The mirror tries vainly to ignore them both and stare straight ahead at the painting on the opposite wall, but, being a mirror, it can’t stop stealing sideways glances. And all this before we even bring the live actors on stage. The story deepens considerably when people enter — looking out of windows, cloaking their windows, using them as display cabinets, as stages. The window comes by its meaning in many ways.

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D unc an Pat te r s o n

2 People do not exist but they exist amongst things. This is a truth that Actor Network Theory has been trying to re-introduce into the practice of sociology since phenomenology. Actor Network Theory wants sociology to abandon disembodied notions of the social and to instead focus on the nitty-gritty of how the social is made. Architects should be paying attention to this. Fundamental to the approach of Actor Network Theory is the sense that things such as windows are implicit in the emergence of the social. The social is not a complete entity, like a ball of wax, but a series of connections. And windows, with their sills, heads and jambs, their sashes, panes and mullions, are part of our social reality. They are conduits through which we perceive and communicate, and they can even be made to speak for us. In Actor Network Theory, windows are interesting in how they relate us to others, and because we use them to make statements. But, to be of interest to Actor Network Theory, as Bruno Latour writes in Reassembling The Social, things ‘have to be actors and not simply the hapless bearers of symbolic projection’.


3 Whatever. We can still be interested in symbols. What Actor Network Theory would like to impress upon us though, is that we cannot assume their meaning to be stable. There is always a symbolic dimension to how we interact with things, and windows are no exception. They are important domestic thresholds, and because of this are frequently used in art to indicate relationships between the individual and other domains. In Caspar David Friedrich’s Woman at the Window, the window represents an alternative possibility, something distant but somehow not that far away; a transgressable threshold, but a threshold the rupture of which would be of great consequence. In Seamus Heaney’s Digging, the window is used as the untransgressable barrier between the present and the past: we can look and we can ponder, but we cannot alter the events on the other side of the pane. On the other hand, in M E Csamer’s memorable This Motherless Child, the window represents the thin boundary between life and the beyond. The poet sits by the window, which turns from blue to gold while her mother quietly passes from her. Because windows are so familiar to all of us, they are handy symbols. Because they are such handy symbols their meanings are multiple and unpredictable.

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Again, we should be paying attention to this stuff. Our windows are actors in a silent play, and they are part of the stage set against which we live our lives. As part of the set, they influence us and we interact with them, both performatively and symbolically. When we make windows we are creating significant social mediators and we are leaving a trace of a particular idea about society. There are different implications to a wide window, a tall window, a slot window or a clerestory. Some windows these days come with built-in blinds; some have large, unimpeded panes of glass, others are subdivided by mullions and grilles. Some windows have deep sills, others don’t. While both meaning and use are unpredictable, we can’t conclude that to be deliberate is pointless and thus allow economics and fashion be our sole guides. People may veil their window with fabric, and peer through the slats of the blinds or a hole in the curtain. They may leave the window naked, baring their life to others. Some may use their window to communicate things, to declare affiliations and affinities; some place artefacts in their window for others to see, others may use their open window as a backdrop to their private world, a variegated, changing wallpaper. Windows will be modified and they will have myriad interpretations. Despite this, the shape of a window remains a positing of a particular inhabitant and a particular public. Designers must be clear what these positions are as they set the scene and action starts.


lime ge o lo gy r u in s in du s tr y aban do n me n t

resources | remnants by michael leeb

City

near Hillcrest Mines, Alberta

tower draw kilns with semi-circular arches and slight entablatures for structural support at the tower’s base resemble the towers of cathedral architecture romanesque or crusader fortifications watchtowers of smoothed, thick walled, cyclopean stonework now the abandoned battlements of economic progress

lime from limestone placed in wooden barrels made on-site for an emergent economy the westward expansion of a new Dominion of railways, coke ovens, and kilns

watchtowers of a former era the incipient development of industrial monoliths

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the lithic ruins of siege engines once called: progress now, a modern aesthetic the perception of beauty found

in

ruination

Lime City was a community in the Crowsnest Pass. It grew up around three lime kilns built to use the thousands of tons of lime that had landed on the town of Frank in a massive landslide in 1911. With the end of a construction boom associated with the western Canadian Wheat Boom that had crashed just before WWI, the production of lime at this site stopped and Lime City fell into ruins. The development of infrastructure and economic progress is often detrimental to the environment, something that remains relevlant to our contemporary economy and the environment as a public space.


J e s s ic a C rai g

tre s pas s atte n tio n r avin e s c o n tro l au to n o my

Positive tension

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Terrain vague is Ignasi de Solà -Morales’ term for abandoned spaces within a city that exist outside the common social realm and are often perceived as empty.

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terrain vague as public space

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landsc ape | o f f t h e pat h by jessica craig

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While the concept of terrain vague has become widespread, its presence continues to spark debate. Isolated and forgotten, the sites attract urban explorers, photographers, naturalists and cyclists seeking the exhilaration of venturing off the structured path. For the same reasons terrain vague has a reputation for danger and degradation. Terrain vague is the unadorned alternative to the public square, though often an equal part of city identity. A public square generates visible, collective movements while upholding the touristic self-identity of the city. Harbouring the discards of a productive society, terrain vague is what the city expels in order to exist. Unkempt and disregarded, these sites are exempt from typical expectations of the public square; therein lies their value. Though increasingly recognised as a defining and celebrated part of the identity of Toronto, the Don Valley ravine is terrain vague in transition. Long protected from intervention by floodwaters and topography, the ravine defies construction and therefore profit: it is a fracture in an otherwise unified urban fabric. The Don River valley was influential in the shaping of Toronto, but after generations of industrial development it has deteriorated to a repository for the exiles and excrement of the city, channelling sewage, highway infrastructure and institutes for the unwanted with jails and hospitals.1 This accumulated abuse of the land resulted in its neglect by the public majority, leaving its unprogrammed parts to social cast-offs, individuals without an economic stake in the city and who are often overlooked as valid constituents of the general public.

Environmental projects often adopt the cheerful and ambitious rhetoric of well-meaning environmentalism. However, they could learn from the introverted tendencies of the ravine, allowing change to occur incrementally through conflict and negotiation. Interventions within the valley should be approached lightly, sensitive to its complexity and sympathetic to its flaws. Taking advantage of the space beneath and around the infrastructure of raised highways, disconnected sewers and railways thickens surfaces and open possibilities for use. As an example, the raised railbed of the abandoned CPR tracks in the lower Donlands creates a threshold between a homeless camp and the recreational path. Only a few metres apart, the break in sightline integrates two groups, in the same area, by creating separation without rigid exclusion. The increasing number of people drawn to the valley should be able to experience it without being sheltered from its reality. Terrain vague allows individuals to be conscientious public participants in unregulated environments. Visitors in search of escape instead encounter, and become accountable to, the consequences of environmental and social actions. Similar to the Task Force to Bring Back the Don disbanded by Mayor Ford in 2011, this terrain vague could be strengthened with vested government support as long as it included social as well as environmental goals for ravine management. Opening a dialogue on the appropriate care of the city’s terrain vague returns a political, rather than economic, emphasis to public space. Whether terrain vague is seen as a vacant lot awaiting development, or as a romanticised opportunity for freedom, both are projections of an ideal; interest lies in the tension between these polarities, evidence of diverse city demographics. Although terrain vague cannot be protected without losing some of this tension, we can appreciate and learn from it when we encounter its spaces. c

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Today, parts of the Don Valley are being developed: the Evergreen Brick Works, a former industrial site now a farmer’s market and community environmental centre, River City’s five condomium towers, Athlete’s Village for the 2015 Pan-Am Games and the new 125hectare Lower Don Lands, a revitalised industrial area of park, activities and housing at the mouth of the Don River. While these projects have successfully raised awareness of the beauty of the ravine, to presume that change promises improvement disregards the existing richness and fragility of these landscapes. The benefits of these development projects are largely directed towards a public concerned with sustainability and safety. The value of the stillunaffected land – and the relief it offers to a highly developed city – is difficult to quantify. Attempting to preserve terrain vague, or even drawing attention to it, can result in its collapse: for example, the success of the High Line in New York, such a unique public park, eclipsed the initial appeal of its original loose, unprogrammed space, and Lower Don Lands has generated an array of themed development which prohibits any potentially raucous or uncontrolled activity, including climbing, large gatherings and loud sounds.

The Don Valley is currently zoned as Open Space, a category further subdivided into Natural, Recreation, Golf Course and Cemetery, each supporting highly controlled environments, whether through monitored native species or manicured recreational lawns. Nothing in the Open Space category describes the hybrid territory of terrain vague. At present, the ravine bylaws are, rightfully, structured from an environmental perspective to support necessary remediation. While it may be possible to imagine adding the category Unconstrained Natural Space where land must be left undeveloped and uses are limited to temporary structures and events, by definition terrain vague is lawless, the inadvertent remains of urban development, contradicting any attempt to write such spaces into zoning bylaws.

1 For more information, see the extensive historical research of Jennifer Bonnell (various publications). Don Valley Historical Mapping Project. http:// maps.library.utoronto.ca/dvhmp.


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Urgency

and the aesthetics of sustainability

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s mall ac ts c ar in g bio -re gio n s s u r vival f re e do ms

a no ny mo us

ac t i v i s m | anonymity by william kingfisher

A young man pastes posters on bulletin boards in downtown Peterborough. In black ink on white paper are the roughly stencilled words PLANT THIS POSTER.  Wildflower seeds are attached.   Using wheat paste, he runs the paste down the middle of the back of the poster, allowing the sides of the poster to flap in the wind, and allowing time for someone to take the poster. If no one does, then the wind or the rain will carry it into the landscape. He says this is a chance for others to make something beautiful that will feed the birds, insects and butterflies. There is a range of ideas here. With a handmade silkscreen print of black words on white standard paper with a handful of wildflower seeds (all native species collected from this area) pasted to a

noticeboard that advertises local entertainment events, he brings together care for the land, an attempt to influence people into making small changes, a connection between art and sustainability, and his own anonymity. The artist was clear that his personal identity is unimportant; his focus is on what the project is trying to do. This particular poster is rough, done very quickly with a deliberate sense of urgency — no time to make it pretty – it has to be done now, no time to waste. The message needs to be clear and the flatness and the black and white point to this strategy. Colour would be a distraction and slow down the process.


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Caring for the world, even in the smallest, wildflower-scaled way, is an attempt to move toward an ethics less focussed on technology to one that is more balanced and thoughtful. Putting local native seeds in the public domain honours the specific regional environment of the Peterborough area by saying ‘I am here, I live on this land, I care for this land’. It is also about taking responsibility and, most importantly, creating an opening for discussion about the world’s big problems, such as how to sustain an environment that ensures our human survival. c

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The printing of posters and their placement in the urban environment belongs to an aesthetics of sustainability. Rather than trying to completely re-make the world, this project participates in a small act of beautification, a space is created for a discussion of the environmental issues that the world now must confront. In our contemporary life of continued destruction of — and disregard for — the natural world, coupled with a government that dismisses what scientists say on the state of the environment, it is important is that we find ways to proceed. The earth can exist without us, so our focus has to be about sustaining our continued presence on the earth.


s o c i a l s pac e | discourse by j u l i a n j a s o n h a l a dy n

tr an s po r tatio n tr ave l agr ic u ltu re f ar min g n e two r ks

ethics and politics Ron Benner’s Transend: Meeting Room

Throughout his practice, London Ontario-based artist Ron Benner consistently engages with the social as both a space and a discourse on the everyday. Rather than a series of objects or images, his projects are performative events whose audiences are invited to participate in various ways – from relaxing in a garden to eating corn to browsing through cultural and political material. These relational activities represent a continued dialogue that Benner stages with his environment. His work often poses key questions about our understanding of the ethics and politics of our everyday experiences.

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One of the most powerful aspects of Benner’s artwork is its overt politicality. Yet, the obvious political content often covers the more subtle ethical challenges posed by his practice. Behind his foodbased installations looms the question, what do we know about the food we eat? This is a far-reaching and complex realm of inquiry that we as a society often try our best to avoid, a form of cultural repression that agriculture or agribusiness is more than happy to oblige. Part of the problem is the general lack of distinction between agriculture and farming, particularly in terms of their material and ideological differences. As Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin state in The Dialectical Biologist: The basic problem in analysing capitalist developments in agriculture is the confusion between farming and agriculture. Farming is the process of turning seed, fertilizer, pesticides, and water into cattle, potatoes, corn, and cotton by using land and machinery, and human labor on the farm. Agriculture includes farming, but it also includes all those processes that go into making, transporting, and selling the seed, machinery, and chemicals used by the farmer and all of the transportation, food processing, and selling that go on from the moment a potato leaves the farm until the moment it enters the consumer’s mouth as a potato chip. Farming is growing peanuts; agriculture is turning petroleum into peanut butter.1

1 Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin. The Dialectical Biologist. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985. p210

When approaching Benner’s work, especially his choice of texts and images related to food, this distinction must be kept in mind. Who are the people that pick the cacao beans used to make the chocolate we eat? In Grandmother Smith and Cacao, Ghana, W. Africa (2001) Benner presents us with an answer to this question: a black and white photograph of a woman standing among cacao trees (theobroma cacao), mounted on a black board with the work’s title written in silver ink under the image, presented in a deep wooden frame the bottom of which is covered with a layer of cocoa-powder – which moves, even sticking slightly to the glass, when the work is handled. Seeing the image of Grandmother Smith and Cacao, Ghana, W. Africa with the physical cacao piled underneath, gathered through the processes she engages in, reminds us that there is a human element involved in producing our food. Grandmother Smith and Cacao, Ghana, W. Africa is one of the many images contained within Benner’s Transend: Meeting Room (2012), a project in which the artist turned an existing meeting room at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto into an interactive cultural space. Benner’s installation was up from September 2012 to August 2013 as part of the exhibition Bread and Butter, curated by Sandy Saad in collaboration with Barbara Fischer, during which time people were able to use it – conducting meetings or holding university classes. However, unlike typical meeting rooms that function as neutral backgrounds for discussion, Transend: Meeting Room was filled with a library of visual stimuli, making it not just a place for dialogue but also a space that actively participated in processes of dialogue that took place within its walls. Filling the room with objects that directly or indirectly deal with food including dried corn, fruit, flowers, photographs, books, cardboard boxes, Benner critiques the very idea of a purely intellectual space by drawing attention to the networks of food that exist in and around our everyday lives.


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M i r i am J o r d a n

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Every surface, every element of the room is treated this way. On the walls are framed photographs with living material piled underneath; on the floor in the corner of the room is a stack of produce boxes; on the black shelving unit that almost takes up a complete wall there are books and various objects all dealing with food from different perspectives – pieces of plant-based material including leaves, dried flowers, seed pods and chocolate, and at the back of each square unit, a photograph. In Transend: Meeting Room every surface is a point of juxtaposition between image and living product, the room itself becoming a container inside of which the smaller connections are made part of a larger relational framework.

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2 Ron Benner, in conversation with Julian Haladyn, London, Ontario, June 4 2013 3 Barbara Fischer. ‘An Interview with Ron Benner’, in Ron Benner: Gardens of a Colonial Present. London: Museum London, 2008. p113

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With Transend: Meeting Room Benner presents an architectonics of agriculture that questions the structural relation between a product, its mode of production and its consumption. The broader gesture is an invitation to question the politics and ethics of our very own being in the world. c

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Benner’s use of the word ‘transend’ instead of ‘transcend’ speaks to a vital need to address a form of cultural and subjective exchange that no longer is tied to Enlightenment notions of cultural superiority or advancement. Learning in Transend: Meeting Room is not a matter of rising above, but rather of becoming connected, a lateral movement of knowledge that is non-hierarchical. As Benner tells the story, he and Jamelie Hassan were driving down the 401 when they passed a truck with the word ‘transend’ on its side; they looked at each other and smiled.2 To tran-send is to approach the world dialogically, creating a personal ethics located in relationships, both present and absent, that define the place where one lives. Discussing the way he brings together politics and food, Benner tells curator Barbara Fischer: It is an attempt at letting the objects speak, or letting the information speak for itself, and by putting it altogether to create a dialogue that can happen between, let’s say an object and another object, or an object and a written text, so that, hopefully, as a viewer you also become part of the dialogue. 3

M i r i a m J o r da n

Benner challenges the existing academic structure of the meeting room by having people engage with the practical qualities of the room rather than treating it simply as a neutral space of theory. In the middle of this room is a large elliptical plastic tabletopcontainer through which one can see a complex layering of various foods and seeds, arranged in radiating rows centring on an historical map of the Americas, from which all of the food presented originates. Sitting at this table it is virtually impossible to overlook these uneven columns of farmed foods found just below the surface – a telling visual metaphor – which conceptually insinuate themselves into discussions and activities that take place within this environment.


h i s to ry | film by s a r a h wa l s h

ut o pi a hist o r i og r a phy ha unt i ng c i t i es fa i l ure

Urban Hagiography

Saints of the Old City and the aftermath of utopia

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Saints of the Old City, a ten-year project by Boston-based filmmaker Greg Mahoney, is an experimental film about utopia and its failure. Set in Brockton, a southeastern Massachusetts city and former international capital of shoe manufacture, the film deals with the life of a boom town after its bust, and is deeply engaged with the city’s real history as an intentional metropolis. Saints was filmed in the actual abandoned spaces of Brockton – factories and streets that once constituted the urban interventions of a bombastic, nineteenth-century idealism – and grapples with the question of how to tell, revise, or erase the uses and the stories of these relics. Brockton’s early development, following its incorporation in 1881, was remarkable for its leaders’ pursuit of progressive milestones and the promotion of civic pride. To support its industrial population, Brockton had the first three-wire underground electrical system, was the first city to abolish grade crossings on its railways, and had both Frederick Law Olmsted consulting on a park design above ground and one of the earliest and most comprehensive public sewerage systems in the area below.2 If one is to judge from the historical documents Mahoney uses in the film, the city was built by leaders of government and industry half-deranged with the idea of ‘Progress’. In retrospect, these documents, as well as the world Mahoney creates from them, cast a cold light on the naïveté of this positivist modernism. Brockton’s industrial base entered a slow decline in the 1920s, and the depression of 1929 only quickened an economic collapse from which the city still has not recovered. Saints, however, is not a fictionalised parable of flawed, old ideals, nor of cities and their tendency to rise and fall. The skeleton of Mahoney’s film contains a critique of both interpretation and intent: how we conceive of urban

The Life of a Saint is a composition of places… The organisation of the space through which the saint passes folds and unfolds in order to display a truth which is a place 1 spaces as we strive to build them, and how we understand them when their time is past.

a founding place become liturgical site3 Saints opens with a flood of historical images and manufactured iconography, in some part drawn from the existing city’s archives, but combined with hallucinatory animation and an eerie soundtrack. From the beginning, the film crisscrosses rather than replicates the ‘real’ Brockton’s spaces and stories, here through the inclusion of documentary footage of the city’s former industrial buildings being demolished in the present day. The audience is drawn along with The Green Figure, a nearly anonymous transient who serves as the main narrative vehicle as he makes his way through the city. Intertitles display the crossed-out lyrics of a civic hymn drawn from a play performed at Brockton’s centennial celebration: Sing the City’s glory! Unity her shield. Visions of our fathers, in her power revealed. This song is our first clue to deciphering Saints’ stance on the writing on urban histories: it was written in 1931, well after the killing blow to Brockton’s industry. In other words, this hyperbolic textual monument to Brockton’s greatness was commissioned and staged by the city’s leaders ‘when it became clear that they had failed’.4 In Saints’ opening moments, it represents the first of many subsequent, backward-looking attempts to resurrect the city’s glory days. Within the Brockton of the film, a group of ragtag archaeologists whom The Green Figure encounters as he walks sing an alternate, post-ruin version of this Song of the City: Sing the City’s glory! And we’ll fortify her shield; against the Wrecker’s mortal aim, our fathers failed to wield. This is the first of a constellation of revisionist,


st ills f r o m t h e f ilm , c o py r igh t G r eg Maho ne y, us e d wi th p e r mi s s i o n

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Saints’ saints grapple individually with a failed history that has produced no clear victor to write it. Each one attempts to demystify the city, to make its buildings and spaces, as well as the ideas they were meant to embody, into objects of knowledge, something to fit into a coherent narrative. Like the Christian saints in Michel de Certeau’s reading of hagiography as a form of history writing though, their works do not produce modern, liberal stories,

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but rather individually orthodox versions of the city’s origins as a practice of rallying and reassurance in the face of the fragile present.5 Their self-appointed work is to understand the city from outside the planning process: once, they were its intended citizens, but in the aftermath they are left with only a fragmentary knowledge of what the city was supposed to be and do. The Architect maps the streets while delivering indecipherable history lectures. Headquartered in a burnt-out factory, he develops a scorched-earth scheme to return the urban landscape to the moment when, according to his careful research, utopia went off the rails. His drive to destroy and thereby resurrect the city is characterised by a fierce, protective love of this treasure marred by others’ neglect of it. The Digger sings as she dredges the earth for the city’s missing pieces: ‘for in this earth we may reveal the key to History’s Arc’. She displays a millenarian’s enduring faith that there is meaning in all that happens and all that will; her effort to understand the past, once and for all, constitutes a preparation for the coming storm. At the Hall of Records, a city bureaucrat in secret collusion with The Architect participates in dark rituals of creation with his peers: half séance and half birthing, they are building an artificial body. Where the earlier populace had failed to be properly moulded by the reforms of the original utopia, these aspiring leaders of the city’s resurrection will produce their own, pre-colonised citizenry. The Climber positions himself as an omniscient narrator of past and present: watching from above, he is convinced that he understands what has truly happened and tries to win others to his truth, to little avail. The Street Scholar reads from scripture and recognises its message

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nostalgic histories pursued by the film’s various characters. These characters constitute a post-public, builders and citizens of the short-lived utopia who struggle to rescue the city from its debased present. They also strive for self-definition through their individual readings of history, each one with an idiosyncratic interpretation, and corresponding practices of research, documentation, and archiving. The film’s narrative is linear, yet each of these ‘saints’ traverses its time-space in ways that gesture to circularity, repetition and haunting return. Failed by progress, they live in a twilight shot through with contemporaneous pasts. Meanwhile the city, too late for living, is a double-ghost: the manufactured body of unmoored utopian ideals, now also alienated from even the context and intellectual consciousness that engendered it. Still, it does not exactly decay like other dead things — into ashes, or into a historical footnote. Rather, the Brockton of the film piles itself up into an illegible aggregate mass, an intractable site of mystification where compasses run awry and the cracks of the pavement dance in inscrutable patterns. At the same time, the force with which the characters weave their mazes of interpretation riddle the junk heap with holes, denying it even the stability of accretion.


of inescapable fallenness. Carrying her work with her, she rejects the city’s present materiality, seeking only the narrative she constructs from her own exhaustive research: what the city meant when it was built and when it fell, and what it can mean when the rubble is finally cleared and only the ideal is left.

public miracles Finally, the most martyred of all these saints, The Green Figure, has no methodology of his own but is borne along through the city’s spaces and buildings under the hallucinatory force of the mass of meanings that have accumulated there. Seemingly longing for self-realisation, the restless city nearly devours him during a series of animated visions. The Green Figure absorbs the whole of time and collective memory as successive blows to his body, yet his one effort to exert his will over the mass of metonymic clutter that overwhelms him becomes just one more failure, one more closed door of possibility.

In the film’s final moments, the city implodes under the weight of its own history, but also under the weight of interpretation forced upon that history by the characters. The climax of the film, both a disastrous culmination and a restarting of the knotted, cyclical narrative, represents a critical failure of any one character or faction to impose narrative on the mass of evidence left in the city’s collapsing shell. ‘The foundations have become unstable’, warned The Digger in the beginning of the film, and it is precisely the saints’ fixation on foundations, on the lost moment of original intent, that leaves them with neither legacy nor an enduring institution. The failure of utopia, of planning in the interest of an imagined future citizenry, has left them bereft. More than that, their bootless attempts to resurrect what never lived – not the way it was meant to – cancels the city’s ability to resurrect itself, not as something new, but simply as functional space. The truth of the place, then, is that there is none. The will of the characters to arrange the city’s original aspirations, brief glory, st ills f r o m t h e f ilm , c o py r igh t G r eg Mah o n e y, u sed wi th p e r mi s s i o n

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st ills f r o m t h e f ilm , c o py r igh t G r eg Maho ne y, us e d wi th p e r mi s s i o n

and subsequent collapse into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole, is shown here for what it is: an act of violence. Saints’ Brockton cannot be reduced to one image or one narrative through the usual vehicles of expression; it is dynamically, vulnerably complex. Its existence indeed requires an interpretive device or lens, but not one that claims absolute truth. Where the saints fail, however, the film itself offers an alternative way of knowing and showing the city, both the Brockton inside the film and the historical city on which it is based. The depth of Saints’ engagement with its setting, and its material exploration of Brockton’s buildings and relics amount to an embodied, tactile and active encounter with the city, as well as with the economic, social and intellectual forces that have shaped its continuing metamorphosis. In the dense narrative and visual style of the film we see narrative and non-narrative, interpretation and documentation, meaning and unmeaning freely intermingle. Extant and now-vanished spaces, materials and sounds overflow one another, revealing a complexity

that cannot be contained by a single, unitary narrative. Despite the efforts of its citizens, Saints’ Brockton lives in the fullness of its history, not under the weight of it. c 1 Michel de Certeau. The writing of history. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. p 281 2 Walter F. Carroll. ‘Grade crossing and electric’ in Brockton: from rural parish to urban center: an illustrated history. Northridge, California: Windsor Publications, 1989. p 53-54; S.W. Nixon, et al. ‘Sewers: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Inputs to Narragansett Bay: Past, Present and Future’ Alan Desbonnet and Barry A Costa-Pierce. Science of ecosystem-based management: Narragansett Bay in the 21st century. New York: Springer, 2008. p116 3 These section headings are from de Certeau on hagiography, p269-283 4 Greg Mahoney, filmmaker interview, 24 July 2013 5 ‘…the Life of a Saint connects two apparently contrary movements. It assures a distance with respect to origins (a long-established community is distinguished from its past through the deviation that the very representation of this past constitutes). But furthermore, its return to origins allows unity to be established at a time when the group, through its development, runs the risk of being dispersed.’ de Certeau, p272

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I In the spring of 1960, Mossad was in Buenos Aires planning the abduction of Adolf Eichmann, when it heard that Josef Mengele was in town. The agents running the operation didn’t want to jeopardise it by taking on another target: Eichmann was captured and Mengele slipped away; his remains were exhumed in 1985, following the discovery of his grave in Brazil. In Mengele’s Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics, Eyal Weizman and Thomas Keenan claim that Eichmann’s capture and subsequent trial inaugurates the ‘era of the witness’, in which giving testimony against the excesses of state power becomes a central feature of political life. In contrast, the analysis of Mengele’s skull, carried out in the 1980s, heralds the rise of a political emphasis on material objects and their forensic analysis. As the figure of the witness loses authority in the twenty-first century, it is forensics — in architecture as much as in archaeology — that will increasingly take centre stage, legally and politically. It is not man that will testify, but his ruins.

n ot e b o o k | e x p e rt s a n d w i t n e s s e s by j o s h ua c r a z e

fo re n s ic s c r ime tr ac e s s u r ve illan c e an aly s is

Is a building a witness?

II At Eichmann’s trial, the testimony of survivors was valourised not just as evidence, but for its own sake. In the aftermath of a Nazi regime that didn’t just attempt to destroy the Jewish people, but also to destroy any evidence of the destruction, the very existence of survivors’ testimonies was itself politically important. Over the second half of the twentieth century, witnessing became one of the central modes of ethical life. Organisations such as Helsinki Watch — now more recognisable as Human Rights Watch — saw it as their moral duty to denounce the excesses of state power by invoking human dignity. Initially, the reports published by these organisations were designed to accuse and shame, creating public anger and mobilising political actors from outside the traditional spheres of institutional politics. With the beginning of the 1990s, however, human rights organisations began gaining visibility, as ‘the international community’ — that motley crew — began to search for new justifications in which to house post cold war foreign policy. Witnesses began to testify at ad hoc international tribunals — for former Yugoslavia from 1993, for Rwanda from 1994 — and their testimonies were recruited as justifications for military and humanitarian interventions. Witnessing was no longer an ethical end, but increasingly the prelude to political action.

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Mengele’s body is exhumed from a cemetery just outside Sao Paulo. The still is from television footage shown in Mengele’s Skull, a film directed by Kerstin Schroedinger, and authored by Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman.

III These days I spend hours going through the material coming out of Syria. Competing claims and endless YouTube videos. Everyone is a (potential) witness, even if what is witnessed is unclear. The witness of the second half of the twentieth century was marked by a distance: someone survived, and brought back testimony. This distance is gone; the witness doesn’t live to tell the tale—he tweets it immediately. The figure of the witness is now pluralised and immediate, and its sanctity eroded. An era in which the witness was valourised as a subject (for taking the risk; for surviving) has turned into an age in which the witness is nothing more that his subject position. The line between propaganda and witnessing is today incredibly hard to draw.

IV From December 2008 to January 2009, Operation Cast Lead destroyed around 15,000 buildings in Gaza, and killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians. The UN report on the Israeli

Before the Court: Adolf Eichmann hears the charges against him. The image is from Eyal Sivan’s fascinating film, The Specialist - Portrait of a Modern Criminal.


assault, known as the Goldstone Report, is indicative of the decline of the witness. While the UN team carried out 188 interviews, much of the report is spent analysing the material traces of the war: the answer to the question of whether Israel’s attacks were proportional was sought in white phosphorous patches left on skin, and in the rubble of ruined buildings. The speech of both Palestinians and Israelis was assumed — in the media if not in the report — to be biased and unreliable. Geospatial images of destroyed homes replaced Palestinian voices. It’s not that people have somehow got less trustworthy over the last two decades; it is the political fora that have changed. In American politics, just as in polarised discussions over the occupied territories, speech is assumed to be a question of opinion and personal interest, and its reception is to be determined not by its content, but simply by where you stand when you speak: not so much the personal is political, as the reduction of politics to the personal. We each produce our own truth, and rest adrift in our weary solipsism.

V The traces left by disaster: A wall in Pilica, near Srebrenica. Ballistics and building reports will form a major part of the trials at the ICTY. Courtesy of the ICTY.

As the figure of the witness loses its power, new ways of capturing the earth become possible. Satellite images and computer models are called to the stand. In the border areas of Sudan where I work, George Clooney’s satellites keep dubious watch, witnessing from afar. The images will be sent back to forensic analysts in America, who will spend their nights searching for the tell-tale shape of a tank, or a group of tents that they will conclude is probably a military encampment. In early 2013, I was in Washington DC, speaking at the State Department about the situation on the border. During a break, standing around clustered suits pumped with the latest developments from Mali, I spoke to a weapons expert, his PowerPoint slides crammed with photographs of small arms. He could read a bullet like a hieroglyph: the year it was made, the country of origin; then he would offer his interpretation — he told the history of the Sudanese border conflict as a history of guns and shrapnel, the details lodged in the surface of the earth. Why, I asked him, is there such an interest in material history at the moment? They love this stuff, he told me, his arm encompassing the canteen of the State Department. It’s objective. What someone says. Ok. People say all sorts of things. You can’t argue with a bullet.

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Clooney’s Eyes: The Satellite Sentinel Project keeping distant watch on military build-up around Megeinis, Sudan

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Linguistically, Weizman tells us, forensics derives from a technique of Roman rhetoric. The form consists in using objects to make an argument before a forum: prosopopoeia. Quintilian, in his Institutes of Oratory, clearly has high hopes, claiming that the form could ‘bring down the gods from heaven, evoke the dead, and give rise to cities and states’. Who speaks for the gods today? If the Chinese bullets presented to the state department are signs, they index an arcane world inaccessible to all but a select few. All too often, the expert interpreting the object replaces an audience’s understanding of it. The rise in forensics seems part of Weber’s sad modern world, full of specialists and knowledge we can’t grasp, and willing to entrust questions of political and moral judgement to the happy hands of waiting technocrats, who will make neutral decisions based on the available evidence.

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VII Figure 1 is a diagram of witnessing. The success of the witness is contingent upon his speech establishing a link between his presence and the event in question, to be evaluated by a forum (a courtroom, the fourth estate), in the face of an interrogation. Forensics, Figure 2, works differently. The object of forensics doesn’t exist outside of a particular forum: dust is just dust until it is evidence of the blast pattern of an Israeli missile. The interpreter’s aim is to establish a link between the object and the event, and deliver a compelling interpretation, again to be evaluated by a forum, in the face of an interrogation. One can, in this diagram, either conclude that the object is fake, or the interpretation erroneous. Unlike the witness taking the stand, the object’s significance is already largely determined: the object-interpreter couplet can speak within a framework, but cannot challenge the very framework that creates the existence of the object.

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figure 2

VIII Forensics comes to prominence in international law and politics during investigations of the Argentinian dictatorship in the 1980s. Clyde Snow, who trained many of the people involved in these investigations, became a celebrity, identifying remains from Josef Mengele to Tutankhamen. He said: ‘bones make good witnesses…they never lie and they never forget’. We could also say: they don’t tell the truth either. Bones don’t say anything, and forensics deals in probabilities, not in truth claims. Experts might make truth claims about probabilities, but these are very different to the words of a witness.

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The rise of forensics is not limited to bone science. Forensic architecture, as Eyal Weizman defines it, ‘refers to the presentation of spatial analysis within contemporary legal and political forums’. Its capacity, as he sees it, is not to fetishise the object, but to demystify it. Any building, Weizman says in an interview, ‘is an archive of power relations. In a sense the path of the [Israeli] wall is like a film strip exposed to politics…its message is its path, its materiality’. One of the stories he tells in his most recent book, The Least of All Possible Evils, is of the pyramids in Gaza. No, not those left by the ancient Egyptians, but those created through the encounter of a three-storey residential building and a D9 armoured bulldozer which cannot reach the central pillars of the buildings, creating ruins that resemble pyramids. Weizman tracks, through the shapes made by the wreckage, the particular types of military decisions that leave such forms in the landscape. Forensic architecture, for Weizman, is a critical practice that exposes the constellation of politics forces that construct (and destruct) the landscape.

X Weizman writes that much of the Goldstone Report was indebted to precise forensic work done by a Human Rights Watch analyst, Marc Garlasco. In one Human Rights Watch report, Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli DroneLaunched Missiles, the language is militaristic: ‘The dronelaunched missiles detonate above the ground, which creates a narrow, relatively shallow crater from missile parts not involved in fragmentation hitting the ground’. This technical analysis is accompanied by an assessment of whether — given

Witnessing takes the stand: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is in session. Courtesy of the ICTY.


Flying into proportionality: American, British, and Australian aircraft fly over an undisclosed desert in the Iraqi war theatre.

the precision of the Israeli weapons systems — a forensic architectural analysis of the ruins of Gaza is commensurate with a proportional use of force by the Israeli armed forces. While Garlasco was eventually forced to resign from Human Rights Watch following a furore over his collections of Nazi memorabilia, another aspect of Garlasco’s history drew less controversy. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch he worked for the Defence Intelligence Agency in the Pentagon, and was in charge of High-Value targeting during the second Iraq war. The American military wanted to ensure that its airstrikes would be judged proportional. Because proportionality in international law is contextual, there is no absolute number of civilian deaths that is considered excessive. One chooses a magic number. The Pentagon’s was 30. If it were probable that more than 29 civilians would be killed by an airstrike, the final decision over the attack would have to be made by Rumsfeld or Bush. Little comfort for the civilians. Garlasco’s job was to ensure that the strikes killed less than that. Using software similar to that used by architects, he analysed the probable effects of bombs on concrete and steel, and estimated population densities in the areas about to be struck. By altering the angle a bomb would hit a building, the time of day the strike occurred, and hundreds of other variables, he attempted to ensure that the strikes were ‘proportional’. Bombing becomes, in Weizman’s words, ‘the design of ruins’. Increasingly unhappy with the way the war was being run, and facing controversy after a strike intended for ‘Chemical Ali’ – Saddam Hussein’s cousin – didn’t hit its target and left 17 people dead, Garlasco resigned, and soon after joined Human Rights Watch. His first assignment? An analysis of the conduct of the Iraq war. The report that came out was generally critical of the American campaign, though it did note that attempts to reduce civilian casualties in air strikes had generally been successful.

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Garlasco’s story indicates some of the limits of forensics— architectural and otherwise. He employed the same forensic methods to assess American proportionality at the Pentagon (before the strikes) and with Human Rights Watch (after the strikes), and could see his mission equally fulfilled: both organisations wanted to ensure that American military strikes killed no more than 29 people. In an interview with Weizman, Garlasco says: ‘I can no longer say if this destruction was wrong or right. I can only say whether it was legal or illegal’. A question for the expert. The legal and the technical supplant the ethical and the political. The risk for a critical forensic architecture is that just as the forensic analysis of Human Rights Watch is the post-facto double of the Pentagon’s analysis (checking results, improving design), so Weizman’s analysis of forensics threatens to enshrine the importance of the technocrats, even as it unveils the power structures sedimented in buildings. A building is not a witness. A building allows for an analysis within a framework. The freedom of the witness is not just to call into question the very framework in which he speaks, but to speak of two things little mentioned in contemporary forensics. He can speak of truth, and he can speak of justice. c


monuments | media by n ov k a c o s ov i c

wa r func t i o n sc reen memor y det a i l s si t es

the museum how trauma reaches us

My father once told me that after the civil war, a big cloud dropped over the land. He had grown up in Yugoslavia; there had never been such dense fog. Although I had never been to Sarajevo, I watched and listened to the war through technology – television, live radio and telephone. I do not consider myself a war-child; perhaps a Baudrillardchild, because photographic images, telephone calls and live news broadcasts were my only source of ‘truth’ during the civil war. Yet, I realised at a very young age, television made false representations that confused the ratio between the original and its imitation. Information that I gathered through my mother’s anxious, loud conversations in longdistance phone calls, did not quite correlate with the information I gathered from CNN. In August of 2011, I went to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, and while there visited several World War II monuments that Josip Tito had placed across the Yugoslavian landscape to pinpoint a specific event or to commemorate a unique battle – one battalion versus another, fighting and shedding blood with the landscape as the absolute backdrop, the stage to all atrocity. Cultural groups who have suffered from war and violence tend to do this – they commission a ‘we will never forget’ or ‘we are an anomaly’ monument.

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N ovka Co sovic

A few days later, a friend and I went for an evening walk around the city of Pale. He stopped and pointed at a hotel: ‘There’s a pool in that hotel that use to store dead bodies of soldiers and victims during the 90s war. People still use it as a pool today’. I’d already swum in that pool, and then I found out that the tiles and sealant had not been replaced since the war. Understandably, civilians had to use that pool to store dead bodies; they did not know where else to put them, so they put the dead bodies in that empty pool. There were no hospitals or morgues in that rural area, so they had to pervert the space. And not only did they pervert the space, but after the war, they also tried to bring back that space to its original state – as a swimming pool.

The Museum A video of this project tours through multiple 1:50 scale architecture models of various tunnels. It was made using an iPhone attached to a toy car. A mirror was placed on top of the iPhone, angled at 45 degrees to the camera, making it possible to record a direct view of the tunnels. Sound effects come from various news broadcasts. For example, when entering the Pool Tunnel (page 62), one can hear a foreign language and splashing water, taken from a CNN documentary on the Syrian Civil War. View this video on our website: www.onsitereview.ca/30

far left: Tito-era monuments at ˇ marking Podgaric´ and Tjentiste World War Two monumental battles. below: Novka Cosovic, The Museum. The Hospital: During the civil war in Sarajevo, ˇ a mortar shell hit the Kosevo Hospital. Some patients were killed either by the explosion or gun-point execution. Today, it is used as a hospital, again. Time has changed, but most of the finishes, particularly the strip of tanned yellow paint and floor tiles are still there. Nowadays when watching the news based on Syria or Lebanon or Iraq, one cannot help but notice the backgrounds in hospitals, because they look familiar. It is that same strip of tanned yellow (or green) ˇ paint, found in the Kosevo Hospital.


Soon, stories slowly started to surface: an uncle: ‘Oh yes, your mother’s grandfather was killed, right over there, beside the sofa.’ An aunt: ‘You know, this church was used as a hospital during the war.’ A friend: ‘This jam was made in the same factory that was used as a rape camp.’ When people were telling me these stories, I had flashbacks to the footage on television. One in particular: it was pitch black and a wick was lit. A female nurse stood with a candle. Then I saw patients in beds and cots. It looked like the setting was in a hospital during a blackout. Then I saw icons of Saints and the interiors – they were in a church.

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above: Novka Cosovic, Modified Architectural Graphic Standards, Ecclesiastic Churches. left: June 14, 1993 Nova Bila, Bosnia and Herzegovina Patients wounded in the Yugoslavian Civil War recover in a makeshift hospital set in a converted church in the Croatian enclave of Nova Bila in central Bosnia. Conflict among the Croats, Serbs, and Muslims in Bosnia began when Bosnia declared independence in early 1992, several months after other regions of Yugoslavia entered into war.

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© Pa ul R o b e r t/ S y g ma /C o r b i s . U se d wi t h p e r mi s si o n

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Live coverage of violence — screenshots of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Israel, Syria, Serbia and Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chechenya, Gaza, Afghanistan still under siege — are mediated through television and photographs for our detached gaze. This is how trauma reaches us today.

© R o n H av iv / VI I / Co r bis . u se d w it h p e r mi s s i o n

© Pa u Ri g o l . us e d wi th p e r mi s s i o n

When watching the news clips, we see hospitals overloaded with wounded victims, prisoners of war locked up in school bathrooms, or a soldier shooting a gun from a bedroom window. The news clips mediatise trauma as we view the broadcasts from a safe distance, from our own living rooms. But if you look closer, all of the clips have a common denominator: the backgrounds. They consist of tiles, wallpaper, gymnasiums, bedrooms, hospitals. They are domesticated-institutional-communal spaces that are perverted by war and violence. These are benign spaces that we also use in our everyday lives. This is not an anomaly; images of the civil war in Yugoslavia are saturated with images of all civil wars. You can no longer tell which war is which.

from the top: May 11, 1993 Mostar, Bosnia A Croatian soldier fires his weapon out the bedroom window at Bosnian forces. Bosnian and Croatian forces fought a war for one year for control of central and western Bosnia. Nov 29, 2012 Aleppo, Syria A Free Syrian Army fighter in Al Amryia neighbourhood in Aleppo, watching from a bedroom window. During the civil war in Yugoslavia, we watched reporters interviewing widowers or childless mothers in their own living rooms, having to explain how they lost their husbands and sons and daughters.Viewers would see a staircase or pattered wallpaper in the background.

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Today when watching the news, we can see snipers shooting from bedroom windows, with floral wallpaper or damaged walls in the backgrounds. These symbols and manifestations of domesticity make you read both the inappropriateness of the action and its tragedy: the violation of domestic space or spaces that the community would be expected to occupy; not men with guns. left: The Museum. Bedroom Tunnel

N ov k a C os ov i c


How do we commemorate wars that have been televised? This is an architectural question: How do you represent mediatised trauma through architecture? The idea for this project, The Museum, is to ride the rail of the uncanny; an experience that ‘leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny). For my thesis I designed several hauntingly beautiful corridors for the pedestrian tunnels in Union Station as domestic spaces that have formed the backdrop to war, including a bathroom, a living room and a swimming pool. Why remember the blowing curtains in someone’s bedroom or the green tiles in a pool or the mustard yellow walls in a hospital? It is because you cannot absorb the rest of the image; it is because those backgrounds remind you of your everyday environments. Schools: During the Civil War in Yugoslavia, we saw infamous images of prisoners of war held captive in elementary schools, mainly in children’s washrooms. The white subway tiles were particular in the photographs. Today, most of these schools are still used today. Time has changed, but the washroom tiles are still intact. above: Novka Cosovic, Modified Architectural Graphic Standard, Basketball Court below: The Museum. Washroom Tunnel

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The Museum describes these conditions of warfare in communal backgrounds by using transitional spaces and television screens in Union Station’s pedestrian pathways, representing those same background details to the point where these fragments begin to prick our memories of news clips and memories of our daily settings. At first, in this subtle museum, people would unknowingly pass through the pedestrian tunnels, unlikely to make a connection between the images and patterns that line the floors and walls and the acts of violence they are associated with. Over time, however, the installations begin to connect to the many news clips, photos and video loops of war on television screens in the tunnels.

left: Novka Cosovic, Modified Architectural Graphic Standards, Swimming and Diving Pools. below:The Museum, The pool: There is a hotel in Pale, Republika Srpska. During the civil war, the hotel’s pool was used to store dead bodies of civilians and soldiers. The bodies kept piling up; there was no hospital on site. So they brought the lifeless bodies into the empty pool. Today, it is used as a pool, again. Time and people has changed, but the tiles are still there. Twenty years later, CNN made a documentary on the continuing Syrian Civil War. There was a particular scene: the rebels were swimming in a pool, enjoying the splashes. The pool is located in an abandoned residential home.

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Unlike a traditional museum and a monument where you are confronted with trauma of an event, this is an experience which one realises the trauma over time after passing through the pathways over and over again. Once the association is made, one’s experience of walking through these underground tunnels would be forever changed. This is not about commemorating victims of war; this is about bringing to mind the mediatisation of trauma in our current society, and how trauma has become a background subject in our daily lives. c

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memorials | counter-monument by d i c k av e r n s

wor l d tr ade c e n tre pu blic ar t in s tallatio n arc h ite c to n ic s mu s e u m

9/11 Architectural Artefacts questioning the ethics of nomenclature

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above, and opposite: World Trade Centre Artefact J0006 (detail), The Military Museums, Calgary

Where are they now? What became of those contorted 9/11 artefacts from the collapsed World Trade Centre in New York City? You may know that Hangar 17 at John F Kennedy International Airport became a central depository housing a range of materials including crushed vehicles and a large cache of architectural steel remnants; but once authorities deemed them as surplus, could one acquire such architectural residue? Ethical considerations for this steel are many, and in the public interest: might the artefacts be evidence in potential litigation? Do any retain traces of human remains?

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And when considering that 9/11 precipitated concomitant conflicts such as the so-called Global War on Terror, are these World Trade Centre artefacts symbolic of only the collapse of the twin towers? Or, should they be evaluated within a broader context? In September 2009 The New York Times published an article profiling the de-accessioning of World Trade Centre architectural artefacts, and would you believe it, hundreds of relics – steel columns, crosssections and beams, many twisted and deformed – would be made available through national and international application?


Disbursed ostensibly for public memorials, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in collaboration with the September 11th Families’ Association processed hundreds of applications from non-profit organisations, prompting two questions: now that we know the process of distribution, what public forms have been created with these loaded objects, and what ethical issues of nomenclature have arisen? More specifically and as a corollary to assessing one-time architectural supports variously as remnants, residue, relics and artefacts, when it comes to public memorials, what challenges arise from the attribution and negotiation of value assigned by particular nomenclature? For instance, what are the boundaries or obligations in creating such a memorial? Is it a monument and does the site become one of commemoration, and if so for what and whom? Is there room for a counter-monument? Is it possible to not just reflect on memory and the fixity of bygones, but respond proactively to related events and create the possibility for a different future? Can one even foster more active public participation in the act of contemplation perhaps by situating an artefact within a dynamic architectonic structure that enables dare I say it, a more authentic, physically engaging, tactile, experience? Acquisition guidelines indicated that ‘the steel must be used in a memorial open to the general public such as in parks, training grounds for uniformed personnel or places of public assembly’ while also ‘educating future generations about the events of September 11, 2001’, but are these only deeds of trust and how widely have they been interpreted? In the instance of the Saratoga Springs sculpture Tempered by Memory (2011, John Van Alstine and Noah Savett), this assemblage of twisted steel some 20+ feet high precipitated an imbroglio regarding aesthetic appropriateness for its site: so do we now have a controversy because it’s an artwork?

Personally, because I’m the artist working on a long-term public installation incorporating this World Trade Centre artefact (the current set-up is a temporary mounting) I must ask: how important is it to know the original configuration? More pertinently, how relevant is architectural origin and historical context in the design for public placement of World Trade Centre artefacts? Many of the existing memorials feature bronze, or cast plaques, leading one to wonder if they are an ethical imperative or, instead, a trope? Other familiar adjuncts comprise sculptures or reliefs of the Twin Towers, along with bronze firefighters or figures: but again, are these classical reincarnations, or simply common denominators the likes of which it would be ethically problematic to debate? For artefact J0006 at The Military Museums, the object incurs additional consideration regarding how to incorporate the role of a museum and its art gallery? And as a tri-service venue (Army, Navy, Air Force) with a large education program, how is the history of conflict interwoven? For instance, why does the interpretive panel for J0006 demur from referencing the War on Terror, instead invoking the historically revisionary nomenclature, Overseas Contingency Operations? Will the final public installation enable a revision to the revisionary? Conclusions from exercises such as this might seem hard to fathom, but the handling of a 16 foot long, 2800 pound architectural column with World Trade Centre provenance has many ethical considerations; how to ensure it is about more than broadcasting hulks of rusting metal? In posing as many questions as possible (adopting the style of Padgett Powell’s book The Interrogative Mood) here’s a penultimate thought: is there a sense that there is a rather generic nature to the many completed artefactual memorials? And if so, might the role of the counter-monument, while maintaining respect, recalibrate the status quo? c

In a similar vein, a review of many of the artefacts (you can visit websites such as waymarking.com — 9/11 Memorial Sites) repeatedly indicates steel mounted on plinths and pedestals: so are these now altarpieces?

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Waymarking.com also features a display at The Military Museums in Calgary, describing the artefact as a steel beam when in fact it is an exterior wall column, yet is this really critical? Or is it just a problem for architectural purists?

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The firefighter’s 9-11 memorial in Hummels Wharf, Pennsylvania, features World Trade Centre steel encased in glass: it also contains Flight 93 memorial soil and Pentagon limestone, but does the vitrine form constitute a shrine?

Or is it just the sort of web slippage we have to expect?


p ro p o s a l | p ro g r a m m e + a r c h i t e c t u r e by jeffrey olinger aia

s c af fo ld s tr u c tu re e f fe c ts s e c u r ity age n c y

interstitial the international criminal court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) as a twenty-first century institution reflects the world at the onset of this new century, but it is rooted in the development of the previous century’s struggle to pacify a restive world. The universalism embedded in the ICC’s mission has been a global aspiration since the end of World War I, but the political cohesion needed to establish the court remains elusive.      

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It wasn’t until after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and conflicts erupted in the Balkans and central Africa in the 1990s that the UN began in earnest to establish a permanent tribunal for war crimes. Each of these conflicts were granted its own independent UN tribunal, which served as the basis for establishing the Rome Statute (ratified in 2002), the primary political agreement behind the ICC. The ICC is by its very nature both a highly charged and politically tenuous institution. Its mission is to adjudicate tribunals that hold individuals accountable for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially when justice for the victims of such crimes cannot or will not be achieved by the domestic nation state. It tries crimes universally condemned by all nations, religions and cultures, and seeks to assign responsibility to the individuals that perpetrated the crimes, not the entire country or culture in which they were committed. This is a lofty and admirable goal, but the ICC is not without its critics. Its legal authority is based in the concept of international law, which only exists insofar as individual nations agree to recognise it; neither the United States, China, Russia nor India

ratified the Rome Statute, all stating concerns over national sovereignty. Moreover, the very idea of a unified global community speaking in one voice through a legal body can quickly become dystopic — instead of a collection of disparate voices coming together in moral agreement, it can be seen as an act of hegemony that erases the diversity of speech, of culture and of nations. Such concerns are amplified by the ICC’s current physical presence (or lack thereof ) in a repurposed office tower in the Hague. The ICC has investigated eight ‘situations’, each one a scene of genocide where gross ethical and moral misconduct has occurred. Each case nudges the ICC closer to the centre of the global political arena, with warrants by the Court holding weight in the community of nations. Meanwhile, the ICC continues to work towards establishing itself as a permanent international judicial body. Like many other nascent political bodies, especially those without a clear geographic point of reference, the ICC confronts issues of permanence, identity and authority. These are the three conditions of its architectural presence. It is within this context that the ICC held an international design competition in the spring of 2008 for its permanent premises. The short list for the competition included David Chipperfield, Francisco Mangado, OMA/Search, Ingenhoven, Wiel Arets and Kengo Kuma & Associates. This heavy-hitting field produced a winning scheme by the Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, who have provided six neatly detailed modernist abstract cubic forms that recede into the landscape, stylistically and ideologically continuous with the


The new facilities for the ICC will be in The Hague, on the grounds of a decommissioned military barracks abutting massive North Sea sand dunes. The ICC’s parcel is approximately two-fifths of the total military installation’s size, the remainder of which will be transformed into a mixed-use residential development.  The ICC will also become the anchor tenant of sorts for the revitalised Alexanderkazerne, a garden district near the northern edge of The Hague. The mission of the ICC is to serve a global public. This public arrives in many forms — physically as participants in the tribunals, virtually through the global media, and symbolically through the very existence of the ICC itself. Those active in the ICC’s permanent facilities represent the entire range of participants in its legal process.  For some, the ICC will simply be an office adjacent to an event space, for others the court will serve as an icon of human rights, and for a few, the ICC will be a place of judgment, where the ethical principles of the world will come to bear upon them. This mix of publics initiates a series of architectural considerations that govern the relationships of spaces within the ICC, creating moments of intensity and overlap that ultimately define the architectural experience.

The following project is response to the ICC’s 2008 Permanent Premises Competition brief and tests the relationship between architecture and the processes that take place within it. My response to the ICC program outlines a spatial polemic where concerns over institutional identity, user experience and security intersect in an architecture that both accommodates and is ‘otherworldly’. The ICC wants a presence that is inclusive and authoritative, and which uses architecture to underline its legal legitimacy; the physical permanence of the new courthouse will counteract political tenuousness and the ICC will further establish itself as a permanent international judicial body. This marks an institutional metamorphosis of the ICC from a loose confederation of 122 likeminded countries, to a singular bureaucratic entity located in the Netherlands.

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In terms of spatial allocation, the ICC’s office requirements are vast and complex, which influences the potential massing of the building through sheer volume of space. The ground plane of the ICC is the principal point of access for the general public, and will need to negotiate a myriad of security and privacy concerns.  The ICC is also a functioning high security prison, where the accused party will be processed and transported to a holding facility near the courtroom until the time of the trial, where all three of these publics will confront each other in a public hearing.

modern movement that produced the UN and earlier, the League of Nations. While the new design of the ICC’s permanent premises lies squarely within the tradition of International Modernism, the international competition format maximises the media exposure of the project, and increases the likelihood of an engaged public discourse, a sounding board for the architectural challenge at hand.

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At the site’s perimeter, bollards prevent unauthorised vehicles from driving onto the site and establish a formal language in which the ground is ‘marked’ by a field of totems. The totem becomes a repetitive element throughout the project, extending the court’s ‘structure’ into the landscape. The first true physical barriers are encountered 30 metres outside the structural perimeter of the building at the drop-off points for the victims of the atrocities and other public participants of the court.  It is at this moment that the architecture must accommodate not only a surge of visitors, but also separate those parties into flows of access zones.  The ICC estimates that roughly 15,000 people will move through the building on a given day, the vast majority of whom will have special access privileges to areas of the building that are inaccessible from the public ground plane.

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One could argue that the ICC’s shift to centralisation and its adoption of an architectural style that many consider to be hegemonic in its unrelenting service to both public and private global institutions, speaks to a cosmopolitanism that reduces the architecture to a single ideological position. It accepts that glass equals transparency, a free plan equals liberty, massive featureless boxes equal neutral abstraction, and that these associations will be legible by every culture that encounters it. I would say that architecture has moved past these conventions. Architecture has within its contemporary tool box a myriad of spatial devices that enable designers to push architectural form into new experiential and metaphoric relationships with its public, spaces that transcend the modernist forms of the past to become a mediator of human experience rather than an exhibition of ideological principles. The ICC’s new facility will be built on the periphery of the city, and once completed will form an architectural bridge between the urban environment and the landscape that exists beyond it. The tension between the urban and the pastoral is but one of several architectural tensions that develop within the project. Security and openness, sombreness and relief, institutional identity and the experience of the individual — each of these tensions is brought into architectural focus here as they attempt to resolve the ICC’s institutional concerns over permanence, identity and authority. In this counter-proposal, the courthouse of the ICC is set back from the Alexanderkazerne to make a generous landscaped forecourt, wherein the first visible sign of the Court’s architecture are apparent. The forecourt of deploys both a visible and invisible network of security devices, resulting in moments of technological intensity that dot the landscape and become conceptual point loads of institutional identity. This security landscape is the new reality of the twenty-first century, the realisation of a virtual network where the density of its physical nodes increases as it approaches the court, culminating in x-ray machines and metal detectors that directly interact with the public. There is a mechanical harshness to this approach, one that must be balanced (if not overcome) by an accompanying sensorial experience that ameliorates the impact of the landscape’s security features on the Court’s visitors. What is a climactic moment in the security progression, is made episodic by the architecture that breaks down the single-mindedness of the security landscape.


The courthouse emerges from this landscape as an architectural inversion of its outside network. Whereas the virtual network of the ICC’s security features exist as a constellation of architectural moments against a vast and open natural field, the courthouse creates its own architectural limit in the form of its exterior structural scaffold. From this superstructure a field of steel hangers support the layers of administrative functions housed within the building, creating a multi-story interstitial space between the public ground plane and the superstructure of the court’s roof. By suspending the bulk of the institutional program above the ground level, the architecture experienced by the public is able to float above the visitors, unencumbered by structure. A newly expressive architectural plane defies gravity by twisting into a series of elliptical tori that bring daylight deep into the building’s interior.

The sub-frame of the courtroom’s panelled surface is hung from the superstructure of the courthouse which is generated by an intersecting lattice of elliptical frames that create a suspended rigid body. A filigree of wood panels fastened to the surface are allowed to flex and distort out of plane, creating moments of screened opacity that wrap the courtroom. The poché of the resultant figure becomes a key infrastructural link for the courtroom, providing space for communicating stairs down to the level of the courtroom for the staff of the ICC.

The surface topography of the ceiling becomes the key topological transformation within the building, rising five stories inside the courtroom to its full acrobatic potential. The courtroom itself carves a conic void in the dense mat of administrative spaces suspended above. This light-filled void allows the daylight inside the courtroom to shift over the course of the day, an effect made much more present as the surfaces change in their curvature, distorting the regular matrix of the space-frame, to make shadows that map the day as the proceedings progress. It is a space enlivened by natural variation and visual diversity, the opposite of the static corporate spaces that the ICC currently inhabits.

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As the courtroom opens skyward it provides a light well for the upper levels of the building, maximising spatial efficiencies, whilst interweaving the functions of the court with the courtroom space itself. By nesting the courtroom into the building in such a fundamental way, the architecture seeks to create a spatial and programmatic interdependency, where the space of the courtroom is made possible by the void carved from the administrative spaces above, while the administrative spaces are made habitable through the spatial relief provided by the volume of the courtroom void.             The remainder of the administrative spaces march up the periphery of the building in successive rings of departmental program.              The stacks of upper level spaces are pinned by four principal circulation towers that function as the internal support for the roof and are concealed in the poché of the court room walls, becoming the infrastructural link between the erudite world of the ICC’s administrative spaces and the hard confines of the high security program housed underneath the public ground plan.

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By deploying these geometries the architecture makes an iconic space, unique and naturalistic, that owes more to the figures of sandstone cliffs than it does to the industrialised world around it. The architecture draws upon a broader natural environment for its authority, unlike a hygienic modernism that quickly becomes dystopic once it combines with the modern security landscape. Here, the architecture exists as a softened edge, despite the harshness of the world that surrounds it. c


housing | density by m a rt i n a b b ot t

wate r gre e d re s o u rc e f u ln e s s as pir atio n u rban is atio n

The Architecture of Poverty environmental pressures on New Delhi

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1 Depending where you look, New Delhi is home to either 16 million or some 23 million residents and counting. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. World Urbanization Prospects, The 2011 Revision. New York: United Nations, 2012. p 7 2 I was told this during a conversation with a photographer following my ‘build’ team around, comparing it to other areas of Delhi and elsewhere in India. 3 Unknown. ‘Beautiful Delhi and the ugly story of Bawana’ in Civil Society, April 11, 2010 4 Eshaan Puri and Tripti Bhatia. ‘Commonwealth Games 2010: Displacement of Persons’, Working Paper: No 213. Summer Research Internship, Centre for Civil Society, India, 2009. p 18

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New Delhi: mega city capital of India, an urban agglomeration where the number of inhabitants already exceeds the entire population of Australia and is growing at a rate close to 700,00 people a year.1 From the outside it may appear chaotic and on the verge of unravelling, which it is for many, however it continues to stumble forward, at times infuriatingly oblivious to its own predicament. This is a city of haves and have-nots, where socio-cultural dynamics as much as any political or economic decisions continue to burden the lives of all Delhiites. It is a city in flux, at the centre of India’s urban transformation, explored here through a comparison of the architectural vernacular of Bawana and the soaring housing towers of Gurgaon: the underside of urbanisation in Delhi. The Bawana JJ Colony, situated a lethargic 25km from the city centre on the north-west edge of Delhi, is home to a growing community of more than 12,000 residents on less than one square kilometre of land. It’s a ramshackle sort of place where goats and chickens roam narrow lanes pressed between two-story red brick houses. There are few toilets, a water supply that flows approximately an hour each day and no organised waste management services, let alone a sewer system. In comparison to other similar colonies in Delhi, this one would earn six points out of ten — on a scale where ten might just be deemed acceptable.2 Ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Bawana was identified by the Delhi Development Authority as a ‘model’ resettlement colony, a focal point of the city’s then urban beautification plans and resettlement program.3 This program gave families (who could prove settlement in Delhi before 31st January 1990) an 18 square metre plot of land in a resettlement colony. Those who arrived after January 1990 but before December 1998, received a 12.5 square metre plot. 4 The JJ Colony became the controversial destination for many people evicted from Delhi’s slums and illegal settlements, a disturbing urban narrative all too familiar across the nation.

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above: a roadside chai stand, the nomadic urban condition against the backdrop of new aspirational middle class housing towers. Which is the most sustainable venture?

Sustainable development, as defined in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

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The first half of 2013 I spent working in New Delhi with Habitat for Humanity India on a range of projects related to housing, advocacy and sanitation in both urban and rural contexts, in partnership with international organisations such as the United Nations and World Vision.


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Dulari and Deep Narayan have lived in the JJ Colony since 2006. Originally, 20 years ago when they were 15 and 20 respectively, they moved to Delhi from Chapra in the state of Bihar hoping to earn a living and forge a better life for themselves in the city. They lived in central Delhi for14 years until forcibly evicted from the Naraina industrial area and sent to the JJ Colony in Bawana. Since then they have watched the district grow and shuffle forward. The Narayans have 4 children between 7 and 19; a family of 6, living in a single story 12 square metre house is standard for many in the district. Still, larger families in the colony live in similar sized homes with as many as eleven children. Deep Narayan works as labourer in a local factory, industry that provides steady employment and a wage. Dulari explains, ‘my family wakes at 5am and my husband goes to work in the Bawana industrial area located nearby. He works in a factory making handbags from 9am - 9pm, 12 hours a day and earns 9,000 rupees a month.’ Managing the affairs of the household, Dulari works from home and belongs to Chetanalaya, a local woman’s selfhelp group working in the Bawana JJ Colony, gives participants new practical skills and builds community trust. Deciding they wanted a larger house with a toilet, a luxury many don’t enjoy here, Dulari and Deep Narayan worked hard to put aside a little money to afford a loan with the financial support of local NGOs.

In JJ Colony, a typical house occupies a tiny plot of land, approximately three by four metres. A basic two-storey brick house, sometimes with a toilet, constitutes a vernacular architecture dominated largely by stairs to the first floor and a roof top terrace. Inside are just two rooms, an enormous improvement on the bleak plastic and bamboo shelters that usually occupy these lots, and more secure in legal terms than the illegal settlements and slums that continue to expand in cities all over India. As recently as 2004, the site of the JJ colony had much the same outward appearance as any other locale on the outskirts of Delhi, defined more by large open spaces that separated the houses than the sea of red brick visible today. In 2004, the area even retained some of its agricultural character; the urban landscape we see today in Bawana is devoid of public open space and the built environment overwhelmingly dominates, the product of less than ten years of rapid development. There are many growing families in the JJ Colony; living in a single story 12 square metre house is standard for many in the district. Some of the lanes in JJ Colony have been concreted and have improved the quality of life immeasurably. Others are still dirt and they fester, a cocktail of muddy grey water and rubbish that residents must navigate to reach their houses. These lanes in particular struggle to accommodate daily activity as families spill out of their tiny houses in the morning, and where the daily routine sees mothers on porches, preparing food and washing clothes, keeping an eye on their children as they play.

The drainage system here is inadequate, clogged, with no effective system exists to collect domestic grey water. A user-pay municipal toilet is so revolting that local residents are unable to use it. Instead, children defecate openly in public, while others head to the open fields surrounding the settlement. Large expanses of stagnant water are present, not from heavy rainfall, but broken water pipes. Unsurprisingly sanitation issues are rife. Makeshift shelters on non-existent plots between the road and footpath at the periphery of the colony are cobbled together from bamboo, black plastic and other found materials. Bawana lacks the urban infrastructure, related to issues of sanitation and water, that many other residential areas of Delhi already take for granted. There are many improvements the community might organise and implement on their own, from unclogging drains to cleaning up much of the accumulated rubbish, to taking charge of the municipal toilets. However, there is an empowering contribution at the scale of infrastructure to be made by the local government, a vote of confidence in a struggling community. The high incidence of sickness and disease in the community could be swiftly improved by addressing many of the obvious sanitation issues present.


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5 Samantha De Bendern “Faulty Towers.” Motherland, no.9 (May 2013): 20 6 Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Report of the Technical Group on Urban Housing Shortage. New Delhi, India: Government of India, 2012. p 4

above, from left to right: an array of building conditions showing unfinished work, stagnant water problems, dangerous conditions, relentless development.

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Gurgaon, an environment that seems to have been founded to encourage excess consumption, requires untold quantities of water and electricity to sustain it. When the electricity fails, as it does regularly in summer, the generators begin. And to compensate for a lack of water, many have dug private wells that only exacerbate a crisis with the potential to ruin this ‘mini-Singapore’. Any improved urban amenity these individual complexes offer to residents extends only as far as the compound walls. Beyond lie the dusty plains and construction sites that stretch to the horizon. * According to the Government of India, there is an increasing shortage of urban housing in the order of 19 million units.6 As a largely rural population continues its flight to the city in search of work and access to government services, it is forcing unprecedented urbanisation. Bawana, defined by inadequate planning, is slowly suffocating its inhabitants; unsustainable Gurgaon is an environmental disaster brought on by greed. Neither of these two models will do. Ethically, government agencies as well as private companies should be made to adhere to more stringent regulations. Outcomes cannot be based only on economic arguments but must include sustainable development in the true sense of the term; otherwise, the rapid urbanisation that India is experiencing, and will continue to experience in the coming decades, will only exacerbate social and environmental unsustainability. c

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In stark contrast to Bawana and the JJ Colony, the private sector rules supreme in Gurgaon, an upperclass refuge a world away on the southern edge of Delhi in the neighbouring state of Haryana. Built by private developers for prominent multinational tenants, the area is defined by soaring towers and enormous malls. Despite its upmarket intentions, Gurgaon suffers from many of the same urban dilemmas facing Bawana. Although the paved roads are wide, foresight and planning are in short supply – water and sanitation issues are emerging as major problems as the population grows. The Central Ground Water Board of the Union Ministry of Water Resources reckons Gurgaon will have depleted its water resources by 2017.5 Yet inside these residential compounds, the grass is green and swimming pools are kept full using rapidly diminishing ground water resources. For the moment, Gurgaon is ploughing ahead with development and construction sites dot the cityscape, including additions to the Metro, a lifeline that connects the district to the rest of the city. Wandering around in this part of town is nigh impossible; distance is exaggerated by the lack of any amenties. It is dry and desolate beyond the high security walls that seal off the compounds, footpaths stop and start and cars rule. It is the luxurious scale of the new apartments with multiple bathrooms, bedrooms and living spaces that is altogether different to other parts of Delhi. Enormous air-conditioned strip malls line the streets and attract an aspirational clientele only too willing to shop. It is this construction sector, consuming rapidly declining water resources, that should spark fear.


landsc ape | r e c l a m at i o n by d u s t i n va l e n

was te plan n in g u rban par ks mo de r n ity 9/11

fresh perspectives on foul a brief history of fresh kills landfill

The mountain was here, unconcealed, but no one saw it or thought about it, no one knew it existed except the engineers and teamsters and local residents, a unique cultural deposit, fifty million tons by the time they top it off, carved and modelled, and no one talked about it but the men and women who tried to manage it... they would build hanging gardens here, make a park one day out of every kind of used and lost and eroded object of desire

- Don DeLillo, Underworld

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Imagine 150 million tons of waste piled into four epic mounds. In the late 1980s an army of 680 workers ploughed the trash at Fresh Kills Landfill, burying upwards of 29,000 tons each day. Unbeknownst to nearby residents, and as a result of non-existent environmental regulations at the time of the landfill’s creation, an estimated four million litres of toxic leachate flowed each day from beneath the rising mounds into the adjacent harbour. On hot summer days, sanitation trucks patrolled nearby neighbourhoods emitting a fine mist of pine scent to mask the smell of decaying waste. Garbage-fed raccoons, residents claimed, were as big as dogs. Despite the prominence of Fresh Kills in recent media and design debate (this journal included1), and the universally lauded plans to transform an iconic landfill into a commensurately iconic urban park, there has been remarkably little interest in the turbulent history of this place and its role in shaping modern sensibilities. In their introductory essay to the exhibition Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture (Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2011), Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini note how ‘...in a society like ours, so thoroughly enchanted by the myth of ‘nature,’ it is not surprising to discover the wide-ranging dissemination of green. ...Polluted areas and landfills [are] the object of treatments aimed at purifying land, water and air,[so that, today] green is thought of as a diffuse and continuous salve-like surface application, a new skin of vegetation that replaces or envelops (man-made) surfaces.’ Fresh Kills Park is a fairly recent example of the close relationship between landscape and cities that has evolved since the late nineteenth century. From Garden Cities and their refrain of hygiene and moral rectitude to an Olmstedian remedy for social unrest, reformers have continually championed the reinstatement of nature in cities to improve health and mend social disparities. By claiming the latter as its audience, the effect of these developments has been to enshrine landscape in the rhetoric of publics and make green the predominant colour of public space in cities today – investing in one thin layer a zeal for healthy living, social equity

and the mythical prowess of nature to alleviate all our urban ills. Add to this the emergence of landscape as an instrument for the reclamation of worn-out industrial infrastructure and Fresh Kills Park becomes an exemplary case study. By claiming to restore the publicness of ruined sites, contemporary landscape practices occlude the very public circumstances that have coloured the social and political history of these locations. If public space has been coloured green by modern town planners, what risk does re-purposing our built heritage as park space pose to other, historical publics? In light of a centurylong struggle to develop the modern city and its institutions, our transformative faith in landscape needs to be reassessed against the role that public participation has played in shaping these contested sites. One of the world’s largest repositories of discarded cultural artefacts and at the crux of social and political debate, Fresh Kills is a part of our public record, coloured brown, grey and black and that runs deep beneath an ostentatiously thin layer of vegetation. * New York’s waste history is both fascinating and raunchy.2 Hometo-bone boiling industries, slaughterhouses, innumerable livestock and horses (a system of transport that produced some two thousand carcasses each year), nineteenth century New York was about as malodorous and unsightly as one could possibly imagine. With widespread outbreaks of cholera and other plagues pretty much the norm, in the 1850s a ban was placed on bone-boiling inside city limits and a dump site for the city’s animal refuse was established on South Brother Island in the East River. When South Brother Island’s affluent Manhattan neighbours produced an injunction that prevented dumping on the East River islands, waste disposal shifted to Jamaica Bay on Brooklyn’s south shore where Barren Island’s white sand beaches and cedars were exchanged for an acrid industrial landscape of animal refuse and corpses.3 For decades, New York’s harbour and its islands continued to serve as a convenient outlet for the city’s expansive waste


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View of Fresh Kills Park from Richmond Avenue Bridge, 2012

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production. As late as 1886, the City dumped almost three quarters of the 1.3 million cartloads of refuse collected that year into the Atlantic Ocean with the effect that ships were often unable to reach the city’s port because of floating debris. That same year, the reduction method was developed in Buffalo as a means to recover grease and other valuable by-products from garbage by cooking it and squeezing out its valuable liquid contents. The resulting stench is not difficult to imagine, nor are the ‘dark coloured liquids’ that ran off into nearby streams and rivers. The inauguration of the reduction method would soon mark the beginning of Staten Island’s own garbage woes when, in 1916, debate erupted over a proposal to build a new reduction plant on what was then just a hinterland of New York proper. Despite the staggering 1,700 pages of testimony produced by residents at the hearing and the State Commissioner of Health’s misgivings, plans went ahead and a reduction plant was built on the island’s western shore near the salty mouth of the Fresh Kills river. For a period spanning two world wars, Staten Island remained a preferred, albeit diminutive, dumping ground for New York’s more populous boroughs. Then, in the short wake of an incipient postwar urbanism and at the hands of the powerful New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, Staten Island’s waste history took an abrupt turn for the worse. Along with incised highways, the destruction of inner city slums and other ruthless modernisms, Fresh Kills Landfill was created by Moses in 1948. Sited in a salt marsh on Staten Island’s western shore, waste from the temporary landfill was meant to provide low-cost fill for the inclined approach to a bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn. ‘Not merely a means of disposing of the city’s refuse in an efficient, sanitary and unobjectionable manner pending the building of incinerators’, Moses claimed, Fresh Kills was ‘the greatest single opportunity for community planning in this City.’ Moses was wrong. By 1955 the community on Staten Island had the world’s largest sanitary landfill, a title it would preserve until its

Mounds of soil destined to form future park space at Fresh Kills, 2012

closure almost fifty years later. Emblazoned on t-shirts and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, Fresh Kills became an iconic pile of waste spread out over 2,200 acres and reaching heights of 225 feet. Moses’ legacy could be seen from space. By 1991, Fresh Kills was the only landfill still operating inside New York’s city limits. The majority of New York City’s waste was exported to incineration facilities in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Furious at decision-makers who singled Staten Island out to bear the burden of New York City’s waste, in 1993 Staten Island residents voted 81% in favour of seceding from the city. The secession movement was de-fused by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, elected on the same ballot, who promised Staten Island residents a free ferry service and an end to the notorious landfill. On the 1996 agreement brokered by Giuliani to end tipping at the landfill, the New York Times later reported how ‘the landfill that had helped create Staten Island’s held-apart status, and thus became part of the mechanism through which that perceived inferiority was finally shattered.’ In June 1996 a decree came into effect preventing the disposal of waste inside New York’s city limits after 2001. With the last barge of municipal solid waste set to arrive ceremoniously at Fresh Kills on March 22, 2001, the City formed a committee to organise an international design competition for the master planning of the soon-to-be-closed landfill site. Announced on September 5 as Fresh Kills: Landfill to Landscape, it would transform this contoversial site into an important asset for Staten Island, the city and the region. Six days after the design competition was announced, the World Trade Centre collapsed. The landfill was re-opened and over a ten month period 1.2 million tons of material from the World Trade Center site was sorted and buried in the West Mound at Fresh Kills. Screened and sifted for remains and effects after the FBI, NYPD and the Office of Emergency Management decided that all recovery efforts had been exhausted, the debris was buried over an area of 48 acres.


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However, as recently as 2007, families of 9/11 victims were filing papers to unearth the debris on Staten Island that they believed contained human remains. In 2003, New York City’s medical examiner had said that while ‘many ... remains [were] cremated by the initial conflagration and the subterranean fires that burned for months’, it was ‘virtually certain that at least some human tissue is mixed with the dirt at the Staten Island landfill’. In June 2003, landscape architects James Corner and Stan Allen of Field Operations were selected to develop a master plan for the park project. Called, seemingly without irony, Lifescape, a new parkland for New York City, their master plan proposed to weave together on the site public programming with habitat restoration and a host of cultural, athletic and educational activities while honouring the events of September 11th ‘in a dignified and unique way’. With an array of highly engineered systems for the management of its buried and decaying waste, the transformation of Fresh Kills Park will entail the installation of a continuous impermeable cap over each mound to stop rainwater from reaching the buried waste, and a landfill gas recovery plant will transform methane gas captured in a network of buried pipes into fuel for domestic use.

At once ‘curing’ the site of its pollutants, the new vegetative skin at Fresh Kills reorients its programme from stink, controversy and tragedy to one of amenable pleasure. But the public gain, in this case, would also seem to be its great loss. A truly public place is one where different publics and their histories can still be felt. Given the vogue for describing reclaimed sites as palimpsests of human activity, it is lamentable that this metaphor is often limited to the infrastructures and ecologies that result from human activity with little or no regard for the profound impact that conflict and irresolution can have on the perception of a place. Failing to engage history and temporality as diminsions of the public in the design of public parks, a layer of green serves to repudiate a tremendously important part of our heritage and its latent influence. Without history as a backdrop against which to evaluate the success (or irony) of ongoing developments at Fresh Kills Park, its transformation is at once a monumental achievement and a monumental loss — 150 million tons of social detritus eliminated for a second time from the collective imagination of its makers. c

1 see ‘The Sisyphus Project’ by Clinton Langevin, Amy Norris and Chester Rennie in On Site 29; Karianne Halse’s ‘Landscape Processes’ in On Site 29; Maya Przybylski’s ‘Land Reservations: landfill as connector’ in On Site 26. 2 For an excellent account of New York City’s waste history see Benjamin Miller’s Fat of the Land: Garbage of New York – The Last Two Hundred Years (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000); …the rotting carcases of horses and cattle were simply tossed into rivers surrounding the city, where they remained for weeks, stinking and bloated, floating in and out with the tides.” 3 Called Floyd Benett Field today, and no longer an island, Dead Horse Bay off the southern shore of the former Barren Island is haunting testament to the area’s gruesome past.

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a rt i n p u b l i c | pa rt i c i pat i o n by michael dirisio

Mary Tremonte Reconstructing the commons

Against both state control and increasingly corporate private ownership, ‘the commons’ is a space for access and inclusion. It represents that which is not owned but made available for use by all, or at the least for use by those who have had a hand in its production and maintenance.

po s te r s pr in ts re pre s e n tatio n re c lamatio n par tic ipatio n

cour te sy Mar y Tre mo n te

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Historically the commons has been considered in terms of space. It now addresses both material and immaterial dimensions, with the discussion ranging from common water, land and air, to the virtual commons of the internet. 1 The recent work of Toronto-based artist Mary Tremonte, who is a member of the politically-active printmaking collective Justseeds, calls for a reconstruction of the commons. Her participatory printmaking attempts to reclaim the public space that she so often works within. For a consideration of this work we must ask how we define a public and how this definition effects our conception of public space. Tremonte, informed by the writing of feminist activist and writer Silvia Federici, asks that we consider more deeply the significance of the feminist perspective on collective work. In doing so we expand our definition of the public while developing a more nuanced view of public space, one that might account for a more varied and diverse public. Any reconstruction of the commons must account for this diversity and be developed in relation to it. This is demonstrated in a recent print (above) of Tremonte’s that was exhibited at Civic Space for Windsor’s 2013 MayWorks Festival. For a Feminist Reconstruction of the Commons depicts a quilt with the text of the title sewn into it. Hands are shown reaching in from the edge of the paper, continuing their work on the quilt. For this work Tremonte was inspired by quilting bees, where groups assemble to collaboratively stitch a quilt, emblematic of ‘a space where women come together and work collectively, and where they build community through that collective work’.1

Collective work, especially that which values the often overlooked domestic or reproductive labour that a quilting bee represents, can contribute to this reconstruction of the commons by creating a shared space to meet the needs of everyday life. Though the location of this space may vary, what is important is that the work is done communally. The significance of the everyday should not be overlooked. Federici, whose writing Tremonte refers to as inspiration for this print, argues that in our current discussion of the commons we often under-value the importance of the reproduction of everyday life. This includes domestic work, from cooking and cleaning to mending and home maintenance. Federici states that this work must be recomposed collectively, with tasks being shared, spaces opened and possessions circulated.2 Although a community centre or housing cooperative is not in itself a commons, it certainly moves us in the right direction, and is one way that the feminist perspective can contribute to a reconstruction of the commons. Another contribution, Federici argues, is a greater focus on the collectivity necessary for any commons to exist. The many hands working on the quilt embody this collective work. In depicting hands alone Tremonte shows not only the collective, but also an inclusive pluralism, beyond a closed representation of a single individual where gender and race are often clearly demarcated. By using only hands, which historically represent action and work, she leaves the figures open, while still depicting the collective nature of this work. Calling for a feminist reconstruction of the commons overtly in the text of the work, she simultaneously demonstrates other, central issues in the realisation of the commons.


How do we move from representing the struggle to being present within it?

c o u r t e sy Ma r y Tr e mo nte

achieve this reclamation on its own, but it remains part of a larger project that seeks to break down barriers and actively engage others. Tremonte demystifies processes of art production — silkscreen printing allows those without skills in drawing or painting to produce complex works of art with fairly accessible materials. Printing in public space allows other publics to engage with the process and, at times, even disrupt the lines between artist and viewer, performer and audience. Printing has the potential to empower a public, further activating the spaces they occupy through the many forms of expression and communication that art can take. Under-represented groups can become visible and reclaim public spaces that may have once been alien to them. While this work must exist alongside other struggles and anti-privatisation campaigns for any true reconstruction of the commons to occur, it does serve to complement and contribute to a broader movement. The road to a true commons is long and rocky, but it certainly can begin with the kind of inclusive, collective effort shown here. c

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1 See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Commonwealth. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2011 for a significant discussion of this increased attention to the immaterial commons (or common, as they put it). 2 Interview with Mary Tremonte, 2 August 2013 3 Silvia Federici. Revolution at Point Zero: housework, reproduction and femininst struggle. Oakland: PM Press, 2012

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Tremonte’s interest in collective action extends beyond representation, as she values most those instances that combine exhibited print work with a place for participatory printing. While participating in the MayWorks Festival exhibition at the Civic Space, she ran a small mobile printing station in conjunction with the May Day parade, where individuals could silkscreen banners and posters alongside Tremonte. The silkscreens included slogans, developed in dialogue with Windsorites, such as Solidarity Forever and Windsor is On Strike. Participatory printing enacts what her own prints address, and moves beyond representation toward a more direct presentation of these themes. Collective action and common efforts are no longer addressed on a rhetorical level, but become enacted through the participation of the public. This public was constituted and influenced by the related event, in this case May Day, and opening a print station in a public space certainly moves far beyond what is possible for many spaceconstrained print studios – another public. Tremonte is developing a ‘commoning’ process with the potential to make an otherwise esoteric activity accessible and inclusive. Inclusion is central to a reconstruction of the commons, and must consider the different groups and communities that constitute a public. Tremonte gives visibility to groups that are often under-represented; the LGBTQ community, for instance, is addressed through her Queer Scout Badges and Queering the Lodge prints. When she prints Solidarity is Forever at a MayWorks Festival, she is employing not an empty catch phrase but a call for respect, inclusion and empowerment. Tremonte is not only working within public space, but continually reclaiming the space for an expanded public, with no one left behind. Participatory printing might not


d e b at e | infill housing by reza aliabadi

n e igh bo u rh o o ds c o n te x t c o n tr as t houses de bate

an architecture of turbulence Speed-dating: your allowance is 60 seconds to grab someone’s attention. To deserve a second chance, what would your effective, but ethical, move be?

problem We are drowning in an obsession with imagery and veneer which interprets our needs in a most fleeting way. With the schedule our economy has forced us into, we do not have time to give the deep meaning of design and architecture a chance. We haven’t time to focus, to explore or to delve too deeply, programmed as we are to accept the veneer, the façade and the thin exterior of almost every phenomenon. People want instant consumption rather than patiently waiting for a spark of chemistry. In the design world the façade is the ultimate representation of everything.

discussion

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In housing, the repetition of an economic formula has become normal for many reasons, the greatest of which is that the public is rarely given an opportunity to explore, to experience or to be adventurous enough to try new things and to take risks. Architecturally Toronto as a multicultural city is not as diverse as it deserves to be and its residential areas are characterised by a homogenous flatness. As a result, more pressure is put on a designer if they choose to step outside convention, one of the reasons why we perceive residential urban fabrics as ordinary and overly-uniform. There is a certain negligence towards ingenuity in design. The general public is not accountable for this, it is also architects who comply with this monotony. We bear responsibility for not only design but also for an awareness of other ways in which to design houses. There is an ethical responsibility here; if architects believe deeply that design belongs to everyone, then their duty will naturally invite participation from the general public. However, many architects have become service providers rather than contributors to a public discourse. Market-oriented developers who make decisions for financial gain have put architects in an invidious position — when it comes to single-family houses, their contributions are almost invisible. Rarely do houses contribute much to the urban fabric, nor do they raise much curiosity in their viewers’ minds about the state of housing, urbanism, accommodation or culture. Regardless of personal taste, every project should be capable of pulling a trigger in the mind that deserves a response.

suggestion We feel accountable for such things and believe that while ‘ordinary’ is just a word — living it is a catastrophe. The most promising and ethical act would be to favour both the designer and the general public, since architecture is a social art form and anything social is in need of public interaction and requires participation. Usually there is minimal interaction in this matter, at least in the context of Toronto; obtaining audience interest is the first step. Creating a mise-en-scene for interaction needs an instigator to open the discussion which will surely expose many issues around the way that housing and houses are designed, occupied and evaluated. For us, this is a deliberative process. We introduce four steps: 1 Produce an unfamiliar building that will deliver a shock to a numb viewer. Similar to a cardiogram, turbulence is a must for an architect to move a viewer out of their comfort zone. 2 Make people to open their eyes and really notice it. 3 Raise questions and arguments that lead to discussions with the public. 4 Make difference visible, flatness and convention will disappear and all that is experienced is originality. Along these lines, if a building is made invisible through its predictability, the public will not be moved to interact or communicate. If they can’t communicate, they are absent, and if they are absent they will not be able to discuss anything, including architecture, cities or ethics.

examples Every project should be obliged to verify its contribution to design rather than to solely provide service. Design belongs to everyone. Every commissioned project needs to be cost effective and affordable, and it must respect the client’s program in a manner that satisfies not only their personal needs but the surroundings of the house as well. Most importantly, the design of the project must raise design awareness. Our examples, Shaft House, Whale House and Totem House are a representation of a single pixel from our whole project to bring design and architectural recognition to the public domain. Investing time, money, energy, labour and resources on a project must have an extraordinary and atypical outcome. Just as the excitement of a roller coaster is meaningless without its rises and falls; the same goes for our cities; the same goes for Toronto. c


TOTEM HOUSE Architect: Reza Aliabadi [rzlbd] Project Team: Lailee Soleimani Structure: Ali Saeed Construction: Ali Malekzadeh Building Type: Single family house Location: Toronto Basics: Two-storey wood structure Lot: 25’ x 100’ Living Area: 1600 ft2 Design: 2011 Completion: Fall 2012

bo r X u D e sign © at e lie r r zlbd

SHAFT HOUSE Architect: Reza Aliabadi [rzlbd] Project Team: Ali Malekzadeh Construction: Ali Malekzadeh Building Type: Single family house Location: Toronto Basics: Three-storey wood structure Lot: 20’ x 100’ Living Area: 1400 ft2 Design: 2009-2010 Completion: Summer 2010

bo r X u D e sign © at e lie r r zlbd

WHALE HOUSE

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Architect: Reza Aliabadi [rzlbd] Project Team: Ladan Niknam, Lailee Soleimani Structure: Ali Saeed Project Manager: Amin Sheivari Construction: Maxamin Corp Building Type: Single family house Location: Toronto Basics: Two & half-storey wood structure Lot: 25’ x 100’ Living Area: 1800 ft2 Design: 2010 Completion: Spring 2012


ac c e s s | rights by ro n w i c k m a n

path s s ign s a cc o mmo datio n s u s tain ability c are

signs that things are not right:

WHO I DESIGN FOR

As my father was in a wheelchair, growing up I often experienced the built environment in an uncommon way, often relying on signs to find our way and hopefully shorten our journey. A blue sign with a wheelchair symbol and the words Please Contact Host for Accessibility was the type of sign that had the most significance for us. When I was young, I would often have to go find the ‘host’ to help my father get into a restaurant or some other public space. I found this very intimidating.

public: my public, my audience, my client base is in the world of disability: wheelchairs, crutches, prostheses, guide dogs, hearing aids and cochlear implants, neurological challenges and muscular disease.

mandate: improved accessibility for this public through architecture, reports, research, way-finding, graphics, accessibility audits, legal reports, cost profiles, consultant to other architecture firms, speaking engagements, guidebooks, critique and analysis.

ethics: human rights, equality of access, dignity, affordability, independence. Travelling a lot, I observe and document accessibility features and signage that have been added to buildings that were not originally designed to be accessible. This dark brown wood sign complete with a bright white wheelchair symbol and Press Button for Assistance also provides the phrase in Braille. I would like to see the day when signs like this are not required.

practice: over 300 building projects since 1995, from bathroom modifications to an $8m housing project for the homeless. Size of project is never an issue.

critique of much architecture: complex special strategies where stairs are taken as normal. ‘Handicapped Access’ added-on, often at the back. Segregation of the able-bodied from the disablebodied. Barrier-free design considered as a technical issue tacked on at the end of the design process.

Often signs that confuse me. This brass sign with a black wheelchair symbol with a slash through it is embedded in a paved walking surface. However, I do not know what this ground sign says.

goal: complete accessibility for all, to all buildings, to all open spaces such as parks and plazas and to public transit.

demographic future: we are all aging, but we are living longer. We have amongst us people injured by birth, by war, by disease, by sport and by traffic. They are us. This brick-coloured paver with a cream coloured wheelchair symbol was embedded in a brick walking surface in a European city I recently visited — another confusing ground sign.

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A directional sign can point the way to a ramp when the ramp might be difficult to locate. However, I have never understood the logic of a sign on a ramp. Here, the wheelchair symbol and the words Accessible Ramp is mounted on a guardrail at the top of the ramp. Is this necessary? and would a sign ever say Inaccessible Ramp?


one project: Let us take Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in California, with its wondrous outdoor plaza accessed by three steps. Someone in a wheelchair can get to the plaza level but must follow a less appealing path. If I show an image to architecture students where I have replaced the steps with a sloping pathway and ask them if the design has been negatively affected by the removal of the steps, surprising to me, the answer is often yes. This is the influence of ancient Greek and Roman architecture where steps were used to create spatial separation to great effect — but do we want that kind of separation in public spaces today?

Kathleen, her son Daniel, and their house, 2001, Edmonton. Daniel’s legs and arms had been amputated when he was six. After this tragic event, Kathleen decided to design and build a house to give her son the same choices for independent movement as anyone else. She was also looking to a future when she might not be able to carry him up the stairs and when Daniel might want more privacy. Building a singlelevel bungalow wasn’t possible on Kathleen’s lot because Edmonton bylaws restrict the percentage of the lot area that the house can cover. Daniel would have difficulty operating a residential elevator. Thus, we decided on a four-level split with interior ramps between levels. Ramps need more space than stairs which adds cost, but for Daniel to access all parts of the house from his power wheelchair is priceless. Each day for Daniel and Kathleen is a little harder than for the average family, but they strive to live their lives to the fullest and have always appeared very happy. Daniel is now nineteen years old; the best aspect of his house is that it accommodates his friends, who visit him; he cannot visit his friends’ houses as it is too hard to carry both him and his power wheelchair up stairs. This is exactly the way I grew up, with my father’s friends visiting him instead of the other way around.

Because my upbringing with a father in a wheelchair was unique, I was raised accessing buildings in ways different from the average user; we would often enter a restaurant, recreation facility, or hotel through a back door or side entrance. Even as a child, I knew there was something terribly wrong with this. Today, I design my projects to accommodate as many people as possible in the best way possible, offering the same choices for movement for everyone. My projects exceed the minimum requirements of the barrier-free design guide in the building code. Accessibility features are generally invisible. Accessibility is part of design methodology right from the beginning. And, like any architect, I work towards solutions that are economical and beautiful.

I think of how my father and I had to strategically plan each and every new journey which involved several phone calls to see if a restaurant, or a bowling alley, or a hotel could accommodate a wheelchair, and then ending up following someone through winding hallways, through kitchen and dishwashing areas, out the back door and through the garbage area: this was the accessible path into the building? And then once inside the unit, we would often have to remove the bathroom door to allow my father access to the tub and toilet. We used the freight elevator instead of the public elevator; and I pulled my father up more stairs and curbs than I would like to count. This is what we want to avoid.

rules of thumb: They are simple. Think no steps and an accessible bathroom. Other accessibility features will follow. Think of accessibility as a form of sustainability. Accessible features do not require future retrofit work which will use energy, create waste and be expensive. Think good economics and beautiful spaces, safe and easy living. Not too much to ask for, is it. c A 30-foot long ramp leads up to the second storey space that houses two bedrooms and a wheelchairaccessible bathroom. Most people think that ramps rather than stairs would be expensive, impractical and a waste of space; in fact ramps afford all residents complete independence. Dwellings with interior ramps rather than stairs may not be that unusual in the next 10 to15 years as the demographic postwar baby boom ages in place.

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This is a brief excerpt from a forthcoming book: Ron Wickman, Accessible Architecture — Beyond the Ramp.

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above: ground floor plan showing the two ramps right: the finished ramp far right: Daniel and the framing for the ramp

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calls for articles: On Site review 31 on the transmission of information through image rather than text 1 On Site review we have always had a phobia about architectural photography – those wide-angle shots that make buildings look impossibly dynamic, all thrust and soar, so we ask our contributors to take their own photos of whatever they are talking about, presenting the world as they find it as designers. Canadian Architect covers from the 1960s were all drawn and the inside pages were mostly drawings and diagrams. Now, in architectural magazines, you mostly see photographs; drawing is a CAD file and the hand is absent. When architects publish their pencil and watercolour travel sketches, there is the sense that photography is not as trusted as the drawing, yet there have never been more photographic images in circulation. Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, everything is potentially a photo-documentary. With issues about representation, about authenticity, about instrumentality, are photographers gatekeepers, interpreters or simply recording instruments? Is there such a thing as raw data; should there be such a thing? 2 Maps have always been particularly coded descriptions of the world: who owns it, who claims it, who names it, what is important to know about it. Peter Jackson’s Maps of Meaning, published in 1989, was a revelation: one cannot trust that maps have anything to do with ‘truth’ but instead are drawings of world views. Since then, the term ‘mapping’ has come to describe almost any kind of information array. Because architects and urbanists have long used drawings as the texts of their trade, we would like to look at maps in a very wide sense: we can read a plan and section as we read a map: a diagram of a set of relationships, sometimes structural, sometimes geographic, sometimes social. And city plans, although they bear a resemblance to maps, are often merely diagrams of intention, loosely laid onto a topography. Should we give up the term drawing and replace it with mapping? Are they the same?

On Site review 32 Weak form: form without clear links to meaning, appropriate to the times – the late 20th century when Eisenmann wrote about this – whereby buildings can be thought of as media carrying lots of messages and meaning to lots of diverse constituencies. Any meaning that accrues to form is both relative and ambiguous. Weak form is purposely zelig-like: it can be many things to many people. It can also be as nothing-like as media itself, physical form irrelevant, a strange reality found in the processes of consumption rather than in the bricks and mortar of traditional strong-form architecture. This curiously autonomous architecture is threaded into a web of all architecture, part of an array of things that act together to produce ever-mutable meaning. Weak systems: this is a term that could cover most construction: thin components, weak and insignificant in themselves, threaded into a system that makes them opaque and enveloping. This ranges from tensegrity systems to thin skins. The assemblage of component parts make a whole quite different from any one part; again, an array of things act together to produce an infinite variety of form. Weak urbanism: informal housing and settlement. The rules are arcane, intimate and tribal, rather than legal, bureaucratic or democratic. Using weak materials, built without code, limited by money or lack of it, nonetheless informal settlements are resilient, adaptable, motile, opportunistic. There is much to be learned from their very provisionality.

In this Fall 2014 issue of On Site review, we would like to look at fragile, weak, unfinished, mutable, hopeful against-allodds architecture, urbanism, landscapes, infrastructure and construction.

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86 Send your proposal (brief outline, some idea about possible illustrations, estimated length) to us by 15 December 2013 Finished pieces are due 1 February 2014 Send everything through the website: www.onsitereview.ca/contact-onsite The call for articles is also repeated at: www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles with futher links to specifications, editing policies, contributor contracts.

Proposals due 15 June 2014 Finished articles 1 August 2014 All inquires: www.onsitereview.ca/contact-onsite


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ON SITE r e v i e w

fall 2013

ethics and publics

On Site review is published twice annually (Spring and Fall) by the Association for non-profit architectural fieldwork [alberta] which promotes field work in matters architectural, cultural and spatial.

guest editor thomas-bernard kenniff is currently an invited professor at the École d’architecture de l’Université Laval, Québec City. His work focuses on the relationship between design, public space and dialogue.

contributors hector abarca, a licenced architect in Peru, has worked and studied in Spain, Poland, Italy and Sweden in diagnosis and rehabilitation of buildings, urban revitalisation, cultural development and management of heritage sites. martin abbott MArch (Sydney) is a graduate student at Sciences Po in Paris, part of the Urban Governance and Public Policy program ‘Governing the Large Metropolis’. His interest is the contemporary city and the political, social and economic formations which define its existence. reza aliabadi [M.Arch 1999, M.Phil.Arch 2006] ICEO, MRAIC, OAA is the founder of atelier rzlbd in Toronto. He splits his time between his architectural practice, rzlbd POST, and atelier rzlbd. www.rzlbd.com dick averns’ art and writing explore the commodification of space. In 2009 he was deployed to the Middle East with the Canadian Forces Artists Program. He teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design. adrian blackwell is an artist, architectural designer, and urban theorist. He is an editor of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture / Landscape / Political Economy and an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo. novka cosovic, an Intern Architect, works at re:Plan in Toronto. Her design research exists at the intersection of architecture, writing, and history. novkacosovic@gmail.com steven chodoriwsky, originally from Northeastern Ontario, taught recently at Cornell University, and is currently working on living in Los Angeles. jessica craig works at Plant Architect, Toronto. joshua craze spends a lot of his working life looking at photographs of bullets and bomb debris. In his spare time, he likes to eat ortolan and oysters. He is opposed to psychoanalysis. www.joshuacraze.com michael dirisio is currently completing an MFA at the University of Windsor, where his art and research focuses on political and social activism. He co-founded with Teresa Carlesimo urbanfieldworkers.org – an art collective. julian jason haladyn is a Postdoctoral Fellow and instructor at the University of Toronto. His writings on art and visual theory have been published extensively. cynthia hammond is Chair of the Department of Art History at Concordia University and associate professor of architectural history. Her work focuses on women’s role in the creation of the built environment and the design of landscapes. caroline howes is an intern architect working in Toronto. She completed a BAS at the University of Waterloo, and an MArch at Dalhousie University. She is interested in adaptable architecture. cjehowes@gmail.com shauna janssen is completing a PhD at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture at Concordia University, Montréal. Her research focuses on the politics and reuse of post-industrial sites and landscapes for cultural purposes. william kingfisher, artist, curator and member of mno miijim arts collective in Peterborough, Ontario, does art that combines the spaces of contemporary life and traditional knowledge to reconnect us to land, language, water, plants and food. ted landrum has practised and taught architecture in the United States and Canada. He is currently building a collection of archi-poems called Midway Radicals.  See Quality Out of Control (Routledge) and umanitoba.ca/schools/art/ted_landrum_o1

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michael j leeb is a visual artist (University of Lethbridge, Fine Arts) and recently the writer-in-residence at Gushul Writer’s Cottage in Blairmore, Alberta. jleeb@telusplanet.net

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jeffrey olinger, a practicing architect at William Rawn Associates in Boston Massachusetts, is the co-founder of New World Design llc. a strategic design consultancy at the intersection of architecture and global affairs. www.nwd-office.com duncan patterson is a design associate at M J | architecture.  He has also taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, and is a director of the Al Purdy A-Frame Association.  dprpatterson.com virginia fernandez rincon interweaves media, praxes and continents to bridge disparities between and within societies, especially informal settlements in North and South America with issues of identity, culture and selfdetermination. She currently lives in Cambridge Ontario. corey schnobrich is an architect with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in San Francisco. He graduated in 2012  from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Masters of Science of Architecture. thomas strickland received his PhD in architectural history from McGill University in 2012. Prior to his graduate studies he worked as an architect and curator, and is now working on spatial justice for LGBTQ refugees.

On Site invites theme-based submissions — reviews, commentary, photo-documentation, project descriptions, critical essays. www.onsitereview.ca/callforarticles For any and all inquiries, please contact: editor@onsitereview.ca Canada Post agreement 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 copyright: On Site review and ANPAF[A] All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of Copyright Law Chapter C-30, RSC1988. cover price $16 subscriptions — per year/two issues: $24 two years/four issues: $38 three years/six issues: $50 in Canada: shipping and handling included. for USA: add $12/year for International: add $24/year back issues: $7.50 Libraries: order through SWETS, Harrasowitz or EBSCO subscription forms: www.onsitereview.ca/subscribe PayPal or cheque to On Site 1326 11 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0Z5 editor: Stephanie White design: Black Dog Running printer: Emerson Clarke Printing, Calgary, Alberta distribution: Magazines Canada 1+416 504 0274 Ubiquity Distributors USA 1+718 875 5491 On Site gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our contributors, our volunteers, our subscribers and the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through their Publishing Grants to Arts and Literary Magazines.

dustin valen is a first year PhD student at McGill’s School of Architecture in Montréal where he is conducting research into early modern and twentieth century landscape practices. dustin.valen@gmail.com sarah walsh is a UCLA doctoral student specialising in the history of modern Japan. She is a native of Brockton, Massachusetts and a collaborator in the making of Saints of the Old City. ron wickman is a leading advocate for barrier free design in buildings and landscapes.  His commitment to accessible housing and his award-winning practical and functional designs has earned him national recognition. He lives in Edmonton. stephanie white is the editor of On Site review. www.onsitereview.ca Any typos are her fault.

On Site also acknowledges the kind support of Calgary Arts Development, City of Calgary.


Chandigarh Casablanca 26 November 2013 to 6 April 2014 exhibition Tom Avermaete and Maristella Casciato curate an exhibition that suggests a new historiography of modern urbanism based on two major urban experiments in the Global South. Chandigarh was planned by a team consisting of Le Corbusier, Jeanneret, Frey, Drew and local architects and planners whilst Casablanca was conceived by Michel Ecochard and a team of young French and Moroccan architects. The exhibition fosters fresh discussions on the engagement of local particularity with the universal in the framework of the growing economic and political cooperation promoted by the United Nations and other global organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. Partly based on the Pierre Jeanneret archive recently donated to the CCA, the exhibition and accompanying publication will include new photographic commissions by Yto Barrada and Takashi Homma offering a contemporary reading of these two cities.

Pierre Jeanneret, architect and photographer. Assembly Building, Chandigarh. c. 1960-1964. Gelatin silver print. 16.8 x 16.6 cm. Fonds Pierre Jeanneret, CCA Collection. ARCH258392

http://www.cca.qc.ca

The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design Lois Weinthal and Graeme Brooker, editors ďżź The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design offers a compelling collection of original essays that seek to examine the shifting role of interior architecture and interior design, and their importance and meaning within the contemporary world.

Interior architecture and interior design are disciplines that span a complexity of ideas, ranging from human behaviour and anthropology to history and the technology of the future. Approaches to designing the interior are in a constant state of flux, reflecting and adapting to the changing systems of history, culture and politics. It is this process that allows interior design to be used as evidence for identifying patterns of consumption, gender, identity and social issues. ISBN: 9781847887450 Bloomsbury Academic 244 x 169 mm www.bloomsbury.com


ON SITE review

30 spring 2013

ETHICS AND PUBLICS

30 September 2009: a ceremony held at Barking Town Square, London, to mark the opening of phase II of the town’s new public space. The event gathered design professionals, council employees and politicians, yet local residents, those with the most interest in the long term success of the project, had not officially been invited. They were passing by anyway as speeches were delivered from the square’s new raised platform. As the local Member of Parliament lifted a veil off a celebratory plaque for 2008 Best Public Urban Space in Europe, a man came up to me and asked who she was. I answered, he shrugged his shoulders, smirked and walked on.

www.onsit e r e vi e w. ca for subscription information calls for articles essay of the week archives links to contributors how to contact us for letters, comments, submissions: www.onsitereview.ca/contact-us

on site 30 : ethics and publics  

The single most important question you can ask a design student is ‘why?’ and then ask it again, and again. It is with this in mind that th...

on site 30 : ethics and publics  

The single most important question you can ask a design student is ‘why?’ and then ask it again, and again. It is with this in mind that th...