In an old article about the notion of urbicide, I was introducing some ideas developed by Eyal Weizman in one of his lectures entitled Forensic Architecture. In the latter, he was calling for an approach of the international law based on architectural evidences. This approach corresponds to a current integration of building science in the practice of war, and therefore proposes its counter-weight in the frame of trials examining war crimes and other violations of the international legislation. Our era brings a very important amount of data that can serve the reconstitution of conflictual situations if they are interpreted by experts (in that case, engineers, architects etc.). Wars do not happen anymore in (battle)fields, but within cities and, most of the time, in the frame of asymmetric conflicts. It is logical that the same actors who builds the city are also the ones who can understand -if they decide that they want to understand- the use of the city made by the belligerents.
It turns out that Forensic Architecture is now a group of research hosted by the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University (London). It involves many actors who work on different cases requiring their expertise. While some questions the current legislation about white phosphorus munitions, others reconstitute the ballistic of a tear gas grenade that tragically killed a Palestinian activist; some others are interested in the American drone attacks in Pakistan and the tragic regular shipwrecks between Libya and Europe.
This research council is extremely important when one is eager to consider it outside of the Academia in which it is hosted. It allows a whole new sort of forensic experts in a complex context for which traditional fields of expertise are not enough to solve crimes that are perpetuated in a very skilled knowledge of the international law’s weakness. Let’s not forget that in the current (civil or international) wars, the direct weapons that kill the most important amount of people are precisely the buildings themselves. One might say that buildings don’t get destroyed by themselves; however, the fact that ultimately it is the building that brings its inhabitants to die when it collapses is sufficiently appalling for architects to look very closely at this aspect of their field of knowledge.