Between September 22nd and October 3rd, I traveled on the roads of four former Yugoslavian Republics (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Slovenia), as well as Hungary, in order to document the historical and current (geo)political relationship between architecture/urbanism and the bodies. The four main historical eras that were discussed in seven podcast conversations are roughly summarized here:
– The Second World War, during which Serbia and Slovenia were annexed or occupied by the Axis armies (Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria), while Croatia and Bosnia formed “the Independent State of Croatia,” often referred as a “Nazi puppet-state” that persecuted its Serbian minority. Serbian and Communist Partisans resistance led to the reformation of Yugoslavia in 1945.
– The Socialist Era, in particular the years during which Tito was President of Yugoslavia (1953-1980), a period of time that now corresponds for many as a nostalgic memory of prosperity and co-existence between the different ethnic groups of the region. My ignorance does not allow me to understand if it is a retrospective idealized memory — the generation born a few years after Tito’s death contribute to this narrative as well — or not.
– The 1990s wars, triggered by the political conflicts between the Serbian Nationalist government of Slobodan Milošević (1989-2000) and aspiring independentist republics (Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1992, Kosovo in 1999) counting a Serbian minority (except for Slovenia). The dreadful war in Bosnia, as well as the subsequent ambiguous partition of the country between the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska (where the ethnic cleansing of 1992-1995 against Bosniaks, i.e. Bosnian Muslims and, to a lesser degree, Bosnian Croats was crystallized by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreements) was the most discussed during these conversations.
– The current era and its materialization of various borders. Part of the former Yugoslavian territory (namely, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia), as well as Albania are exceptional in their geopolitical situation: they are “surrounded” by countries member of the European Union without being members themselves. In the current displacements of bodies from the Middle-East and Central Asia towards Europe, these Balkanic countries exercise the E.U.’s externalized politics of immigration, registering refugees and economic migrants, as well as detaining some of them in various facilities, as we previously discussed with Lucie Bacon in a conversation entitled “Collecting Migrant Experiences at the Walls of the European Union.” The recent temporary shut-down of the border between Serbia and Hungary, followed a few days later by a similar action on the border between Serbia and Croatia is particularly symptomatic of the strong contrast between the fluidity of the Shengen space’s internal borders and the fortified characteristics of its external ones.
Map below created by Léopold Lambert for The Funambulist (2015) / license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 / A similar map, more focused on the center of Jerusalem itself was published in The Funambulist Magazine‘s first issue to illustrate the article “Jerusalem: Dismantling Phantasmagorias, Constructing Imaginaries” by Nora Akawi.Read more
Map created for the purpose of this article (see the full version below) / Download it here in high resolution (10 MB) / (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)
Continuing the current series about Paris and its banlieues (suburbs), here is a new map illustrating why I call the Paris municipality (only a fifth of the total Parisian population), “Fortress Paris.” The “Boulevard Périphérique” that surrounds Paris is a 35-kilometer long highway that, to a few exceptions (mainly the two forests of Boulogne and Vincennes), mark the separation between the Paris municipality and suburban municipalities. Such a wide gap built in 1954 creates a “canyon” (see a past article about urban highways as canyons) that recalls its former function of fortifications. In fact, the same route was formerly used by fortified walls supposed to defend Paris against foreign armies. Built between 1841 and 1844, following a decision of the infamous Adolphe Thiers who will order the slaughter of the Paris Commune thirty years later (see the many past articles), the walls were finally destroyed after the First World War and the liminal land of Paris remained relatively empty until the 1950s.
The map presented below is, of course, only so much illustrative, insofar that it implies a pedestrian access to Paris, something that only a little amount of bodies experience on a daily basis, most people using the subway or regional train to access Fortress Paris (see past map). Nevertheless,this map aims at illustrating the unequal logic at work in the organization of urban space in Paris, as well as the imaginary it creates for the population discriminated by it. The three symbols showing the gates to access the city center on the map represent three different gate typologies that have a significantly different impact on the bodies crossing them. Rounds show a condition where the Périphérique is underground, thus allowing easy if not unconscious crossing. Squares are bridges that cross over the highway; they are almost always wide but don’t prevent the separative gap to be fully marked and the traffic noise reinforces the uncomfortable feeling of the crossing. Triangles, finally, imply a crossing under the Périphérique, which is by far the least inviting option: often dark, noisy and smelly, the border is materialized not only by a medieval interpretation of the gate, but also by an atmospheric condition calling for all senses to experience it as such. Bodies are not equal when it comes to the feeling of insecurity and it is easy to understand that some of them (women for instance, but not exclusively) only cross these gates reluctantly and with a feeling of strong anxiety.Read more
Map created for the purpose of this article (see the full version below) / Download it here in high resolution (8 MB) / (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)
This article and map are in the continuity of the five others made in the past year (cf. “The Banlieue Archipelago,” “Another Paris,” and “15-minute walk from a train station” maps) and, more generally, to the on-going series of articles about the Paris banlieues (suburbs).
On October 26, 2005, recently nominated Minister of Interior Affairs (i.e. chief of the police), Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be elected President two years later, was visiting the banlieue of Argenteuil when he addressed a person at her window: “You’re tired of this scum [racaille], aren’t you? Well, we’re going to get rid of it for you!” (see video). The next day, Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna, two teenagers from Clichy-sous-Bois, died of electrocution while they were trying to run away from the BAC (Brigade Anti-Criminalité, i.e. a particularly aggressive branch of the police in the banlieues), chasing them illegitimately (see past article). These two events sparked the important revolts of the banlieues that were only responded with a state of emergency and more police control. Although Sarkozy’s policies and speeches have been consistently relying on fundamentally racist and colonial principles — many of uf will remember the 2010 speech of Grenoble about immigration or the 2007 one in Dakar about “Africa, not having yet entered history” — we can give him the benefit of the doubt that his definition of scum (racaille) consists in people despising the law and arrogantly disobeying it, regardless of their race.
Let’s thus keep this definition in mind while introducing a piece of legislation that directly addresses the social (and by extension, racial) segregation that spatially organizes Paris and its banlieues: The SRU Law (Solidarity and Urban Renewal), voted in December 2000, obliges each municipality counting more than 3,500 inhabitants — other exemptions include the impossibility for a municipality to build more on its land — to comply with the ratio of 20% of its total housing to be social housing. The map presented below shows the quasi-totality of Paris’s urban area and its municipalities, including the 20 arrondissements that compose Paris proper. Municipalities showed in green are compliant with this legislation, and those in bright green even includes more than 25% of social housing — the 95 cités showed on the map in white are, of course, almost exclusively in these municipalities. On the contrary, the map shows no less than 149 municipalities that are not compliant with the law, including 60 that do not even reach a percentage of 10% (in red). For instance, Sarkozy’s city, Neuilly-sur-Seine — he was its mayor between 1983 and 2002 — counts less than 5% (1,435 out of 30,448) of social housing. Hence the question that gives its title to this article: “Who is the scum now?”Read more
nb. Although the term of banlieue can define all suburbs in France, I use this word here to specifically talk about the suburban neighborhoods inhabited by a population in economic precariousness and composed, for an important part, of French citizens of North and West African ancestry, as well as more recent immigrants. Although my thoughts are not fully in sync with the political party of the Indigènes de la République (The Republic’s Indigenous), I will also use this term to refer to this population for its useful provocative expression: by referring to colonialism, this phrase connects the current situation to national history since a great majority of the Indigenous’ families experienced French colonialism between the 19th and 20th centuries.
This article is a prelude to an article written by Hacène Belmessous in the second issue of The Funambulist Magazine dedicated to the politics of the suburbs, and entitled “French Banlieues: Neighborhoods in State of Exception.” I commissioned him to write this short essay after reading his book, Opération Banlieues (La Découverte, 2010) that examined, in the most intense years of the Sarkozy administration, the potential scenarios that would lead the French army to intervene within the banlieues of the country. Although the antagonism between the French government and the Indigenous has always been strong, the seven years of Sarkozy’s governance (two as Minister of Interior Affairs, and five as President) corresponds to the explicit climax of this antagonism. This is why, the first chapter of Belmessous’s book written in the form of a fiction, appear so credible: in a given part of the Paris banlieue, a few young individuals engage in live fire with the police, killing three officers of the infamous BAC (Brigade Anti-Criminalité), and thus triggering a carefully prepared political process of emergency leading to the deployment of the army in various neighborhoods of the country.Read more
Map created for the purpose of this article / Download it here in high resolution (4.5 MB)
(license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)
The map presented above was made in the continuity of the four previous ones that established an inventory of Paris Banlieues’ Cités (July 2014) and a cartographic alternative to our geographical imaginary of Paris (January 2015). This map consists in a simple graphic (and probably too approximate) exercise: tracing a rough 15-minute walking distance radius around each train station (Metro/RER/Regional train) of the “Greater Paris” — a notion only in formation at the administrative level. In such a centralized city, the connection to its center is fundamental in order to exercise a potential “right to the city.” As this map and the others show, the train lines are all oriented so to reach the center of Paris, which admittedly allows a more direct path to it; yet reinforces the pre-eminence of “fortified Paris” (see past article) to the detriment of banlieue-to-banlieue exchanges. A few tram lines allowing such displacements recently opened to support the bus system; yet, these vehicles are not comparable to the trains’ speed in any way.
The access to the train system is thus crucial to the banlieues inhabitants (80% of metropolitan Paris) in their daily experience of the city — at least for the 5 million of them that do not own a car. In this regard, the 800,000 people who live in the cités that I mapped (in red on this specific map) occupy a particularly precarious situation where they either have to stay where they live — 24% of them are unemployed — or spend several hours a day in public transportation. As the map above show, about half of the cités are situated outside these 15-minute walk radiuses and therefore have to use a bus or a tram in order to reach the train network. Rather than describing at length theoretical daily lives experience, I would like to propose three examples of contrasts between the daily trip that someone needs to accomplish to go to work when living in one of the circles and one that does not.Read more
In 1966, Michelangelo Antonioni released his first English-language film, Blow Up, in which he introduces a photographer played by David Hemmings, who realizes in his dark room that he may have captured the evidence of a crime on one of his photographs. Intrigued by a detail in the background of the picture he took, he undertakes to ‘blow up’ this detail (something proper to film photography) to a point where he is able to confirm his suspicion. Similarly, a few days ago, I realized that the most updated Google Earth data for Gaza consisted in photographs taken on July 29, 2014, the day when the Israeli army bombed the single power plant of the Strip (see this July 2014 map to understand the electric power supply in Gaza). The photographs show a large cloud of smoke spread over the land of Gaza as an evidence of the dreadful action of the Israeli army against the 1.8 millions inhabitants of the Strip, since those of them who were not directly suffering from the destruction of their homes had nonetheless to face shortage of electricity, clean water and sewage because of the power plant bombing (see past article). Google uses a mix of satellite and aircraft photography in order to compose their representation of the Earth and, just like in Antonioni’s movie, we could think of a coincidence for the satellite to be present a few moments after the bombing, and it has been suggested to me that Google deliberately kept this imagery as a form of geopolitical positioning. However, the last murderous siege on Gaza (July-August 2014) cannot be compared with the crime depicted in Blow Up: there is no coincidence or, rather, the coincidence is continuous.Read more
“The Political” Interview for C-O-L-O-N (Columbia University GSAPP) Volume III alongside Bernard Tschumi, Peggy Deamer & Paul Segal, Eyal Weizman, Ai Weiwei, Mary Mc Leod & Rheinhold Martin, and Cristina Goberna. See website for the other conversations.
C-O-L-O-N: I’d like to talk to your emphasis on the word “corporeal” in your upcoming book Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street. In that book you describe the human body firstly as a material assemblage. Why do you see the need to emphasize this materiality?
Léopold Lambert: I always find it useful to go back to the most elementary way of looking at architecture and our bodies. In the case of bodies and architecture as material assemblages, it is necessary that they are situated somewhere, occupying a space. A wall may occupy a space for 300 years while my body might occupy the space on this chair for maybe one hour. The essential difference we make out of it comes from an anthropocentric way of looking at things and, similarly, we may not look at the space the wall occupies and the space my body occupies as similar. But if I stand up from my chair and try to occupy the space of the wall in front of me, there is going to be a fight between the material assemblage of my body and the wall. I am going to have to use force, but the wall will withstand my body. There is a violence in this encounter; in other words, both material assemblages are affected by it, although not equally. Violence always varies in degrees, never in essence. The violence I just mentioned is pre-political. Not chronologically, of course, but methodologically, we can see that there is a violence inherent to architecture, which is then necessarily instrumentalized politically: the way we normally build walls is to resist the energy of the body. We then invented devices like doors—a regulator of the wall porosity—and keys, which allows us to establish who can get past architecture’s violence and who cannot. Now, who gets access to the instrument that can transform a regular house into a prison cell is political, but it is not architecturalper se to say who gets the key.Read more
Place de l’Etoile Rouge in Cotonou (Benin)
After spatial thinkers like Keller Easterling, Beatriz Colomina or Chantal Mouffe, the Critical Spatial Practice series edited by Nikolaus Hirsch and Markus Miessen now publishes a short book by Eyal Weizman, entitled The Roundabout Revolutions (Sternberg Press, 2015). In it, Weizman briefly introduces the research work (with Blake Fisher and Samaneh Moafi) that preceded the design of a folly for Gwangju (South Korea) Biennale. This architectural intervention mostly materializes by circular marks on the asphalt floor corresponding to the circumferences of seven roundabouts of the world that hosted large insurrectionist movements in the recent years (to the exception of one): from the smallest to the largest, Ramallah’s al-Manara square (2011), Gwangju’s Provincial Hall roundabout (1980), Damascus’s al-Sabaa Bahrat Square (2011), Tunis’s Place du 7 Novembre 1987 (renamed after the revolution to Place du 14 Janvier 2011), Cairo’s Tahrir Square (2011), and Tehran’s Azadi Square (2009). More squares would need to be added to this list (Manama’s Pearl roundabout, Kiev’s Maidan Square, Istanbul’s Taksim Square, etc.) and some of them are indeed described in Weizman’s book, which undertakes to introduce the genesis of this particular urban typology.Read more
This discussion with Momoyo Homma about the work of artists/poets/philosophers/architects Arakawa (1936-2010) and Madeline Gins (1941-2014) took place in the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka where the Tokyo part of the Arakawa/Gins office is situated. We begin by introducing their work through a biographic approach, then through our interpretations of the manifesto “We Have Decided Not to Die,” which fuels the creative process of the five architectural projects built in Japan and in the United States, as well as the multitude of non-built ones. We conclude the conversation by describing the space around us, one of the Reversible Destiny Lofts: its bumpy floor, its sphere room, its colors, and all the others architectural apparatuses that challenges and strengthen any body whether young or old. This conversation comes as a useful complement to the many contributions made by and for The Funambulist about Arakawa and Gins’s workRead more