mardi 31 août 2010

# Pratt first year student's work by Roberto Godinez

Let's start this new Academic Year with a refreshing first year's student work. Roberto Godinez was in Enrique Limon's studio at Pratt Institute last semester and following the rule of the assignment (aggregation of a standard element composing a landscape, then appropriation of this landscape by a wooden architecture), he created this beautiful space of meditation under the rocks (or concrete blocks) he first set.

lundi 30 août 2010

# PALESTINIAN CHRONICLES /// The Palestinian Archipelago

What I call Palestinian Archipelago is the group of "islands" within the West Bank in which since the Oslo Accords (1993) Palestinian have security and civil control (Zone A) and security control joint with the Israelis (Zone B). The rest of the area in the West Bank (Zone C) is completely under Israeli control and composes the "Mare Magnum" all around those islands. I thus worked on a map that would expresses this maritime vision of Palestine.
Feel free to click on it, the resolution is pretty high.

PS: Thanks to a reader's comment, I now know that somebody (Julien Bousac) already got this ready and made a clearer map out of it.

samedi 28 août 2010

# Magic Highway by Walt Disney 1958

Here is a little video created by the Walt Disney studios in 1958 which illustrates the high craze for cars and highways in the mid-XXth century and the optimist vision of a technological future.

jeudi 26 août 2010

# Urbicide

picture: Gaza after the 2008 Israeli Siege. Getty Images

Here is a small text I recently wrote about the notion of urbicide. It includes a digest of Eyal Weizman's lecture about Forrensic Architecture I had the chance to attend both in New York and in Bethlehem.

Despite of the fact that this strategy has been always occurring in history, the notion of urbicide has been invented by the former Mayor of Belgrade, Bogdan Bogdanovic after the wars of Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1996. One could define it as the act of destroying buildings and cities that do not constitute any military targets. Urbicide is rather an act that is supposed to affect the very life of the population in such a way that war cannot be ignored by anybody.

This technique is being used in symmetrical wars like the Second World War and the Blitz in England on the one hand and the systematic bombing of German cities by the allies on the other hand. However, urbicide is also fully present in asymmetrical wars with the case of guerilla AND governmental terrorism. The most famous example in the Western World is of course the terrorist attacks against New York’s World Trade Center in 2001 for its sudden and unexpected violence that was both perceived literally and symbolically; however, governmental armies also use this strategy to actively oppress a given population. That was thus the case of the Serbian army over the Bosnian population during the same wars evoked above, and that also constitutes the daily life of the Palestinian population who has to suffer from the Israel Defense Forces’ domination.
One should not forget that buildings and cities are the most tangible element of a civilization since even the written heritage that composes a nation’s archive necessities an architectural container. It thus happened that a civilization fully disappeared from History after having suffered from a combined genocide and urbicide.

In fact, urbicide has been pretty much developed as long as war exists. However, one can probably affirm that its surgical application and its insertion within a global warfare strategy of a highly sophisticated army are merely recent. Its implementation by the Israeli Defense Forces, for example, is very illustrative. We already saw in the last chapter how the Israeli soldiers were sometimes destroying Palestinian homes in order to re-compose the battle field, but there are plenty of other applications of urbicide in this context. The way Arab’s villages in Israel have been fully destroyed after 1949 is highly symptomatic of this refusal from the Israeli authorities to deny the Palestinian existence in the past, in the present and of course in the future. Nevertheless, this last example remains absolutely legal from Israel who is free to develop its own land as it wishes. On the contrary, the systematic destruction of civilian Palestinian buildings and homes in the Gaza strip can be absolutely considered as a war crime according to the International Law of conflicts.
In that matter, Eyal Weizman observes the birth of a new legal discipline which places buildings as the main object of the judicial investigation. Weizman is then interested in the notion of “forensic architecture” that see war and building experts intervening in order to attempt to determine the technical means of destruction of architecture by external agents. In this regard, he focuses his study on the person of Marc Garlasco.
Garlasco was one of the Pentagon experts in “attacks design” and during the beginning of the second Gulf War in 2003, he was named “Chief of High Value Targeting”. His task consisted in the organization –Weizman uses the word ‘design’ in order to accentuate the architectural aspect of the job- of various attacks of buildings in order to assassinate several members of the Hussein administration or family. The fact that Garlasco was allowed to include the death of up to twenty nine civilians in each attacks is illustrative of the way Western armies are dealing with both military pragmatism and political communication. Just as much as there are processes and software of positive design of architecture, it also exists some for the accomplishment of a negative architecture; an architecture that has been transformed by the mean of destruction. The study of this transformation is far more objective than the chaotic aspect of such an architecture could let suppose. That is how, from his job in the Pentagon, Garlasco ended up working for the organization Human Rights Watch as an expert of what Weizman now calls forensic architecture. Before being fired by this same organization for the collection he owned of military Nazi objects, Garlasco studied the evidences of the 2008 Gaza siege. His conclusions proving that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by the Israeli Army during this operation, were then confirmed by the United Nations’ representative, Richard Goldstone in his report.

Urbicide had thus become a scientific surgical military operation on architecture that allow to either simply kills a civilian population by the mean of architecture, or practically and symbolically destroys the organizational and cultural aspects of the city in a biopolitical attack on a population.

# Architecture of Aggression by Keith Mallory and Arvid Ottar

Architecture of Aggression: Military architecture of two world wars is a very interesting book written by Keith Mallory and Arvid Ottar in 1973 which proposes an inventory of military architecture during WWI and WWII according to their typology and location.
The two example I chose here are camouflaged bunkers in the United Kingdom and a mobile sea fort also in the UK (the Maunsell Towers are obviously in this book as well --> see former article).

lundi 23 août 2010

# Netropolis by Michael Najjar

Michael Najjar's hybrid photographs compose phantom cities by superimposition of their own components. The abundance of buildings triggers both a visual suffocation and a fascination for the poetry of their hybridization.
Netropolis is composed by twelve photographs of this kind based on Dubai, Hong Kong, New York, Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Tokyo, London and Beijing.

dimanche 22 août 2010

# When the stones go wild with la Fontana di Trevi

After Barcelona, here I am, one day in Roma which apparently has some new surprises every time I visit it. La Fontana di Trevi by Nicola Salvi, despite a noisy popularity for the tourists, presents very interesting baroque details that directly talk to architecture. The fountain is made to appear as a building -since it is its basis- back to the natural state. The stone used for the building transforms itself in a performative way into the original rock it was (romantically) extracted from. The craft of this transformation is very well made and the transition between one another is thus extremely fluid.
One can use this beautiful example in order to illustrate narration in architecture...

jeudi 19 août 2010

# Amazing Sagrada Familia !

Last Tuesday, I re-visited Barcelone's Sagrada Familia. The six years since my first visit there made me forget how absolutely amazing this building is from the inside. Each pillar is a magnificient tree supporting vortex brick and concrete ceilings.
The chuch is of course still in construction and still will be for quite a while but I came to think that those high cranes in the sky could now be considered just as much as part of the building as the rest of Antoni Gaudi's architectonic inventions. Since the beggining of its construction the Sagrada Familia have seen two languages dialoging one with another: the incredible Gaudian architectural vocabulary and the technical support (scaffoldings, cranes, workers etc.) that is necessitated in order to build the former.

mardi 17 août 2010

# POW 08 CONOPS [Concept(s) of Operations] by Bernard Khoury

POW 08 is a surprising device designed by Bernard Khoury for "the use of returning Prisoners of War to enemy lines". Inspired of furtive aircraft of the US Army, undetectable by the radars, this device allows a virtual invisibility on a war field. Despite the fact that B.Khoury describes his design as an apparatus for the prisoners of war, one can very simply elaborate a broader symbolic use for the ensemble of civilians who have to live with war on a daily basis...

Merci Martial

dimanche 15 août 2010

# Dense Rhythm by Zifan Liu & Shengping Lin

Zifan Liu recently sent me the project he just designed with Shengping Lin for Marcelo Spina's Sci Arc studio. The tower they designed for Tokyo is mostly characterized by a beautiful structural facade that is composed by a jungle more or less dense of branches. Their density is directly related to the needs in structure and in transparency of the building.
Here is their text linked to the project:

This design is an research and study of having a project of lines instead of a project of surfaces. The super dense refers to the city context, the contrast between the building and the surrounding, the program and the challenge of how to create a space built by lines. Beyond the boundary of the structure, membranes or envelopes, this design merges them together while providing an efficient space in the dense of tokyo. The thickens of the strings wall create an buffer space from the outside, it also support itself as well as the lateral force of the building and provide a column-free space for the museum. its not a surface, but it create a strong felling of surface by having a super dense pattern and hierarchies.

The strings system describes how the pattern transfer from the facade into the building and depart the space. Also it shows a serial of variations in terms of scripting to generate different patterns. We used different methods to control it ranges from density, orientation, thickness or color. We could control the density or the thickness in order to create a pattern of more or less transparency or even a solid facade to response the environmental interaction. We designed the way that the strings were generated and build the bounding box as a volume to contain the strings. The unpredictability of the scripting create variations of density in certain area and some part of it just fade out and become the access between different spaces. More particular for this project, it is more important to research how to apply the technique scripting-wield onto the integrated building rather than explore how the strings could operate architecturally.

mercredi 11 août 2010

# Yang Yongliang's work

I very recently Yang Yongliang's wonderful work inspired by Chinese traditional painting that he studied for ten years. His dream like cloud/mountains cities place contemporaneous Chinese urbanity in a traditional mean of representation that translate very well the frenzy of China's current economical boom.

mardi 10 août 2010

# PALESTINIAN CHRONICLES /// Focus on one settlement: Ma'ale Adummim

Ma'ale Adummim is an illegal Israeli settlement near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis (in the East Jerusalem's region). It is one of the largest settlement of the West Bank and hosts around 34000 settlers. The settlement like a lot of others is situated on the top of a hill in order to gain geographical and topographical advantages against the Palestinians.