It has been a while now that I am accumulating articles that address the philosophical or/and political dimension of the human (and sometimes non-human) body. I decided therefore to add one “category” in the archives of The Funambulist. Following the philosophical scream of Michel Foucault “Mon Corps, Topie Impitoyable” (see past article), this category will use its original French version Topie Impitoyable as the English translation both lacks of the full meaning (My Body, Pitiless/Inexorable Place) and also because the particular sound of this phrase adds to its philosophical power. This section already counts 92 articles so it convenes to recurrent conceptual affirmations that this body (!) of texts develops:
- The body is a material assemblage surrounded by other material assemblages (cf Spinoza)
- The body keeps encountering the other bodies that surrounds it.
- From these encounters, it can result either a beneficial or detrimental affect for both bodies (what Spinoza calls joy and sadness)
- Because the body’s materiality is coherent, the body can only be at one place at a time but it always needs to be at one place.
- Because the body is material, only one body can be at a given place at a time
- From the propositions above, we can deduct that the location of the body is necessarily political
- From the fourth and last proposition, we can say that there is a necessary yet radical choice to be made at each instant about the location of the body.
- The body has no inside
- The body is not one, it is multiple (more on that in an article very soon)
- The body is continuously producing material assemblages
- Part of this production is a body’s desire (cf Deleuze & Guattari)
- A body’s desire can be captured. This is what we call capitalism
- A body itself can be captured. This is what we call totalitarianism
- A body can be not white, not male, not heterosexual, not healthy, not adult, not procreatory, not urban and still remains a body that can legitimately claim for equal legal rights.
- The last proposition is a good thing as no body is simultaneously truly white, male, heterosexual, healthy, adult, procreatory and urban.
- Despite the last proposition, most pieces of design are made for bodies that are truly white, male, heterosexual, healthy, adult, procreatory and urban.
- A piece of design can be specifically made to torture a body
- A piece of design that is not specifically made to torture a body can also violently hurt a body
- A piece of design can be made to trigger beneficial affects to a given (preferably universal body (hint: I am not talking about a comfortable coach; quite the opposite actually)
- A body by its very movement and behavior can profoundly subvert the material environment that was originally set-up to
- Ultimately we don’t really know what a body can do (cf Spinoza again)
Diagram by Christine Schläpfer
With this fortieth guest writer essay, written by my friend Andri Gerber, I am happy to start a second series of these invited texts. The first one was fantastic and will be published in a book sometimes this year — more on that in the near future. I am very enthusiastic about this second series as well as many people — including a lot of non-architects — already accepted to write for The Funambulist and I am trying to drive a certain editorial line that should be able to tie them all together.
Today, we therefore start with the essay Meta-History, or How to Teach History of Architecture in the Era of New Media by Andri Gerber who tells us, through an autobiographic mode, how diagrams can help us to develop a knowledge about knowledge itself. The methodology it implies is a sort of cartography (Andri talks about “spatialization”) of information in order to develop a discourse.
Meta-History, or How to Teach History of Architecture in the Era of New Media
by Andri Gerber
The second volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers past articles of the blog, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Deleuze.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 02: FOUCAULT on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: The Cartography of Power
01/ Foucault and Architecture: The Encounter that Never Was
02/ The Architectural Underestimation
03/ “Do not become Enamored with Power”
04/ “Mon Corps, Topie Impitoyable”
05/ The Cartography of Power
06/ The Political Technology of the Body
07/ Architecture and Discipline: The Hospital
08/ Questioning Heterotopology
09/ Foucault and the Society of Control
10/ Quadrillage: Urban Plague Quarantine & Retro-Medieval Boston
11/ The Inscription of Gender in Our Bodies: Norm Production in Foucault and Butler
12/ Modes of Subversion Against the Pharmacopornographic Society: Testo Junkie by Beatriz Preciado
13/ “My Desire is Someone Else’s Fiction”
14/ The Architectural Paradigm of the Society of Control: The Immanent Panopticon
15/ The Counter-Biopolitical Bioscleave Experiment: Bioscleave, Shaping our Biological Niches by Stanley Shostak
16/ Diagrams of Utopia by Anthony Vidler
17/ Quarantine and Remoteness: Paranoia and Mechanisms of Precautionary Incarceration
18/ Prison Information Group: Michel Foucault, Jean-Marie Domenach & Pierre Vidal-Naquet
Chronophotography of dancer Ami Shulman walking, (Montreal 2009) by Joseph Butch Rovan
I have not mentioned the work of Henri Bergson very often in the past. I actually can remember of having used his work only once through Deleuze’s seminar about cinema when I was attempting to explain the essence of Spinoza’s work about the body. In this article, I therefore want to interpret Bergson directly through his writings and, more particularly, by studying the fourth chapter of Matter and Memory (1896) that is entitled “The Delimiting and Fixing of Images. Perception and Matter. Soul and Body.” In this chapter, Bergson pedagogically works in steps to dissolve the illusion we have when considering any movement. For him, such an illusion is explicited by what is known as the paradox of Zeno of Elea, which considers the movement as infinitely divisible into moments of immobility, just like a mathematician would describe a line as an infinite array of points. Bergson does not discuss the nature of the paradox, but rather its premisses: the error is to divide movement:
Prosthetic Aesthetics by Lawrence Lek (2012)
Today I want to talk (once again) about the body and its relationship to design by presenting five young (four of them are less than 30 years old) designers (two French, one German, one Korean and one American) who each in their own way challenge the body through their design and vice versa. In order to do so, I will introduce them successively from the design at the closest of the body to the one at the furthest. We might call the first one fashion, the last one architecture and the ones in between industrial design or art, but really that does not matter at all and attributing these designs to a specific discipline would be missing their common point: their investigation on the body. It is true that the scale of clothing (or prosthetic), because of its privileged relationship to the individual who wears it, might present a more direct political dimension as it introduces an immediate performativity of the same individual within the public realms. What we wear is necessary a form of political expression of our desires, our gender, our social class, our ethnicity, or rather the desire, the (non)gender, the social class, the ethnicity and the relationship to society and to the norm that we choose to express. I would like to claim nevertheless that the same is true for the localization and behavior or our body, and that also involves our relationship to the designed and built environment that surrounds it. Most of us do not design our own clothes, our own furniture, our own buildings. What the body make of them is obviously conditioned by the design, but it can also consist in the subversion of these conditions, or at least in the sum of behaviors that go beyond the original spectrum of behaviors imagined by the designer and other decisive actors of a design.
The first volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers past articles of the blog, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published next week will be dedicated to Foucault.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 01: SPINOZA on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: Spinoza’s Gay Science
01/ Marxian Reading of Capitalism through a Spinozist Conceptology
02/ Spinozist Determinism or How Caesar Could Not Have Not Crossed the Rubicon
03/ Power (Potentia) vs. Power (Potestas): The Story of a Joyful Typhoon
04/ The World of Affects or Why Adam Got Poisoned by the Apple
05/ The Spinozist “Scream”: What Can a Body Do?
06/ Applied Spinozism: The Body in Kurosawa’s Cinema
07/ Applied Spinozism: Architectures of the Sky vs. Architectures of the Earth
08/ Architectures of Joy: A Spinozist Reading of Parent+Virilio & Arakawa+Gins’ Architecture
09/ Architecture of the Conatus: “Tentative Constructing Towards a Holding in Place”
10/ The Body as a Material Assemblage in Japanese Martial Arts & Dance as Seen by Basile Doganis
11/ Deleuze’s Wave: About Spinoza
12/ “A Sunflower Seed Lost in a Wall is Capable of Shattering that Wall”
13/ Descartes vs. Spinoza: A Personal Reading of TARP Not Nature
14/ The Weight of the Body Falling
15/ Spinozist Collision
16/ The Weight of the Body Dancing
17/ Spinozist Gravity: The Real Difference between the Old and New Star Wars
18/ Spike Lee’s Dolly Shot: The Innexorability of Immanence
The space beyond the walls: Defensive “a-legal” sanctuaries
(originally written for the Wheelwright Prize – failed)
Considered purely in the abstract, the law appears to be a tool which makes strict categorizations of human actions and behaviors as either legal or illegal, just or unjust. Concomitantly, the abstraction of the law corresponds with a similar spatial abstraction in which territories are defined diagrammatically. This is true as far as the sovereignty of states is concerned but also for all architectural plans; they diagrammatically organize space into distinct territories of jurisdiction. In each case, law and diagram are reduced to their abstract lines. Once manifested as physical architecture, however, such strict delineation becomes far more ambiguous. Which law is applied in the space of a wall, the space of a border or the space of a contested zone? These spaces are legal anomalies and may be understood as the architectural manifestation of what Legal Philosophy Professor Hans Lindahl calls a-legality. Such in-between spaces seem at once to underwrite the law as well as to contradict it. In this research project, I propose to investigate specific cases in which the architecture of such “a-legal zones” is strategically used as a space of sanctuary from coercive forces. My argument insists that an “a-legal architecture” is specifically a defensive one as it gives itself the means to preserve such a status.
The immanent domain (see third letter) – Dharavi in Mumbai / Photograph by Léopold Lambert (2009)
FIRST LETTER (New York on July 12th 2012) ///
I read your essay Archiving Burroughs: Interzone, Law, Self-Medication with attention and appreciated, as usual, the way you manage to link narrative, law and space all together. I do think however that we should keep this text for a little bit later in our conversation as its specificity might make us miss the bases of the discussion that we would like to have about law and architecture. In this regard, I would like to ingenuously start by stating some obvious facts which are always good to remember for such a discussion.
Law, understood as a human artifact, constitutes an ensemble of regulations which have been explicitly stated in order to categorize behaviors in two categories: legal and illegal. In order to do so, it expects from every individual subjected to its application a full knowledge of its content in order to moralize and held accountable attitudes that are either respectful or transgressive towards it.
Law is undeniably related to space as it requires a given territory with precise borders to be able to implement itself. Nothing easier to understand this fact than to observe in which space one is allowed to smoke and in which one is not. It also includes within this territory smaller zones of exclusion, from the corner of the class room to the penitentiary, in which another form of the law -supposedly a more restrictive one- is applied for individuals who, through an active refusal of specific parts of it, are to be separated from the rest of society. Those individuals, when captured by law enforcer instances, are brought within those zones of exclusion and are being held in them for a given period of time provisioned by law itself.
Destruction of the Glencairn Tower in Motherwell (near Glasgow) / Photograph by Sam Hardie
Explosions are so ubiquitous in Hollywood Cinema, and the emotion is so intense when one torn-down reality that we do not quite seem to realize what they really are. In 2007, Mike Davis was trying to historicize the car bomb and its urban consequences in his book Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso, 2007) but his analysis was legitimately anthropocentric, which I want to avoid in this specific article. “Leaving the human” can sometimes be risky as it potentially leads to the depoliticization of things – depolitics being a form of politics too and a rather totalitarian one – but it also allows to think of a better understanding of the material world in which we live, and from which we exist as a body.
What is an explosion at the pure physics level? A bomb is an apparatus that contains folded within itself the potential liberation of an important volume of energy in the form of an exothermic reaction. Such a volume of energy and the speed with which it gets released provoke a sudden disaggregation of the material bodies (animate or inanimate) that surrounds its center. Insisting on the suddenness or the violence of the explosion would be another anthropocentric way to consider it as it would necessarily associate the scale of time in which it occurs to the scale of time of human perception. In other words, the Big Bang could be considered as a sudden explosion at a certain scale of time even though, 14 billions years later, the universe is still affected by its original release of energy. In a materialist interpretation, the speed to which an explosion is effectuated is therefore irrelevant and such an “event” can be compared to any other modification of matter like erosion or entropy. If we define destruction by the operation in which physical bodies are being “broken down” into smaller material assemblages, we can however define an explosion as a destructive transformation of matter without being anthropocentric.
Original Scheme of Fleur Agema’s Prison project as she imagined it in 1999
Few days ago, Daniel Fernandez Pascual posted a very interesting project on his fantastic Deconcrete. Entittled Closed Architecture, this book created by Jonas Staal is exploring in a very interesting way the architecture thesis project of a woman called Fleur Agema, who since became a member of the Dutch Parliament on the list of a party that is unfortunately illustrative of what the right wing looks like in Europe currently (neo-liberal economic policies, conservative immigration and mores policies). J. Staal simply studied F. Agema’s thesis text and project and re-interpreted them visually according to what such a project would actually looks like if implemented by governmental policies. The images below are part of a much larger book that Jonas Staal proposes to download on his website.
Before analyzing what that might tell us about practicing architecture, I would like to introduce briefly the project (I highly recommend to read the whole book). As an architecture student, Fleur Agema imagines a prison whose prisoner population is spread into four different buildings corresponding each with a phase of incarceration. Quoting J. Staal’s book directly here:
The model that Agema has developed focuses on the reconditioning of prisoners by means of four phases. In the first version they are called, “The Bunker – The Habituation – The Wait – The Light” (see p. 33), and in the final version, “The Fort – The Encampment – The Artillery Installation – The Neighborhood” (see p. 99). “The Fort” is modeled after the ancient design of the dungeon, and is meant to break the prisoner’s resistance; “The Encampment” is a camp with vegetable gardens to stimulate independence; “The Artillery Installation” is a type of commune in which the prisoners have to learn to operate collectively; and “The Neighborhood” is essentially a reconstruction of a residential neighborhood filled with hidden cameras, where the prisoners live a simulated life in order to verify whether they are yet fully capable of functioning within society.
The images that follow this article are the visualizations that J. Staal did to illustrate F. Agema’s ideas, I chose to include each times three perspectives (outside/inside/room) to make the comparison easier to observe.
Reversible Destiny (Mitaka) Lofts – In Memory of Helen Keller /// Photograph by Shingo Tsuji (2013)
When I visited the Reversible Destiny Foundation‘s Mitaka Lofts (see previous article) in Tokyo last year, I encountered one of its resident, Shingo Tsuji, who is an also an architect (Chiasma Factory) and was kind enough to make me visit his apartment. Since then, we became friends, and I recently “curated” him a small reportage about the details of his life in this particular dwelling. I asked him to take some pictures of his apartment and point out a few significant details that are characteristic to his “reversible destiny” way of life. I feel very lucky as he not only did it with talent but also introduced those fragments of life within the context of Arakawa and Madeline Gins’ lifetime work as well as the various prejudices that often judge it. As you will see, the Reversible Destiny life is not as different as one might think it is from a more “traditional” way of life; nevertheless, the actual difference is crucial and definitely influence both the body and its behavior (mood, inspiration, aura etc.) as you will read along Shingo’s lines.
I take advantage of this post to add that the guest writers essays series will resume in a very near future and that Shingo will be part of the writers that we will be very lucky to be able to read.
We see them so many times every day that we barely pay attention to them anymore. However, those little symbols of gender differentiation constitute the operative symbol of a society that was built upon the strict separation of the male and female genders. Of course, we could start by the obvious, observing that the typical and ubiquitous bathrooms’ doors symbols shows, for the sake of immediate understanding, a woman wearing a dress and a man wearing pants. The very fact that anybody is able to understand the universality of this symbol is symptomatic of the problem here. But let us go further; the observation that women can wear pants and men dresses could be said to be the degree zero of the awareness of a gender issue. This degree zero is what lead us to fight for the equality of gender and the basic recognition of several sexualities, none of which should be stigmatized. The next degree of awareness of the problem is that the very fact of posing the latter with the terms of women and men as I just did contributes to its perpetuation. In other words, we should not content ourselves with a sort of elementary feminism and elementary counter-homophobia, even if those are still actively needed. The hideous manifestations of homophobia from the Christian right wing in France (who precisely use stereotypical symbols of a classic heterosexual family) against gay marriage and adoption prove it. The contentment of these struggles would contributes to a form of equality, that is true; however, this equality would be between the same two genders, or between four categorical genders (men, women, gay men, gay women). This would simply make the norm evolves and through it, reproduce phenomena of power from the normative bodies to the “pathological” bodies (I am currently re-reading Canguilhem’s Normal and Pathological, hence this terminology). In order not to fall in this “trap”, reading and re-reading Judith Butler‘s work is fundamental as her cautiousness for internal problems in the struggle seems to always equal her participation to the struggle for equality itself as I have been pointing out in a previous article about the processes of normalization.
Ubiquitous Site – Nagi Ryoanji by Arakawa + Gins (1994)
“If persons are sited, why do philosophers inquiring into what constitutes a person, or, for that matter, into the nature of mind, rarely, if ever, factor this in?”
“Philosophers considering persons as sites would be obliged to develop a person architectonics. They would, I am afraid, have to turn themselves into architects of sorts.” Page 5
Some of my readers are maybe surprised to see the editorial line of the blog shrinking day by day to something more and more (too?) precise. The reason for it is partially temporary as part of a strategy towards the completion of a project that I will be happy to unveil in the coming weeks. Until then, I would like to present one more article about the work of the Reversible Destiny Foundation (Arakawa + Madeline Gins) for a more acute understanding of their theoretical and design work (which are not really discernible one from another).
The title Architecture of the Conatus I chose in reference to their book Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002) is a direct reference to Spinozist philosophy (once again!) and can therefore be put in dialogue with the recent series of article dedicated to the latter. For Spinoza, each assemblage of substance i.e. body, “as far as it lies in itself, strives to persevere in its being” (Ethics, part 3, prop. 6). In other words, each thing will be continuously involved in a process of effort to keep the integrity of the material assemblage that constitutes it. Any animal (humans included), for example, will keep its body together as long as the latter is involved within the vital process. When this animal dies, however, its body will decompose and its matter will be reassembled in other bodies (soil etc.). Arakawa and Madeline Gins present a similar concept in their book, but before coming to that, I should probably introduce the latter.
We continue today to explore the “cruel designs” that collects each piece of architecture or objects that have been specifically designed to assess a hurtful power upon the body.
Many people know the main characteristics of the Mayan Pyramids as the steepness of their steps. Such a steepness is proper to religious architecture in the symbolical effortful approach to transcendence. However, it also had very “down to earth” killing function in times of peace and war. The sacrificial pyramids’ steps were used as a mean to “finish off” the sacrificed bodies by throwing them from the top of the stair to the bottom of the pyramid. The steepness in that case insured that the body would indeed roll all the way down. In times of war, the stairs could become a veritable defensive apparatus. The Mayans would take refuge on the top of the pyramids and have soldiers, attached to the top by ropes around their bodies, fighting on the stairs pushing the assailants down the steps who were likely to be severely wounded if not killed by the fall.
What I find fascinating in these stories (which would probably deserve to be more detailed by a legitimate expert of the Mayan civilization), is the fact that the killing apparatus invented by the Mayans is nothing else than the stair that we have in almost every building built by humans. The steepness here is merely a way to sharpen the weapon like one sharpen a knife. What does that mean for architecture that an “innocent” stair can become such a violent device? Was the stair even innocent in the first place? Considered abstractly this quasi-inevitable element of the architectural tool set is rather strange. After all, it is nothing else than a series of small pieces of floor that are assembled in such a way that it successively reach a certain height. Many elderlies and disabled persons are very aware of this essential reading of the stairs; they know that it requires a certain degree of energy and fitness to bring a body to go from one of those pieces of floor to another. The stair, in its essence, has already a clear impact on the body.
Architecture of the Sky (Milan Trade Fair Building by Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas) versus Architecture of the Earth (Japanese playground photographed by Munemi Natsu)
This article will be somehow similar to the text Architectures of Joy I wrote in 2010 and to which I often referred this week; however, this time, I would like to oppose a Spinozist architecture to its antagonist. It is important to observe that attributing the status of ‘Spinozist’ to an architecture is a relatively artificial and subjective assignment as all architectures are, to some extents, celebrating the composition of material assemblages that will interact with the bodies they host. Nevertheless, just like I did for the cinema of Kurosawa yesterday, we can distinguish some architectures that express the essence of Spinoza’s philosophy with more intensity (another Spinozist term) than others. Moreover, some others seem to express an essence that can be interpreted as an opposition to such a philosophy. This antagonism is here gathered under the title Architecture of the Sky vs. Architecture of the Earth as a form of simplification of what opposes them. One could argue that the sky is fully part of Spinoza’s philosophy, at the same level than the ground itself; however, the sky has to be understood through two attributes here: a symbolic one that understands the sky in a theological way, and a “practical” one in the sense that what is called “architectures of the sky” here, would not challenge the body in a direct physical manner. We could therefore used two other antagonist notions to define this conflict: the transcendental. versus the immanent.
Mas Context just released the new episode of their series In Context, that asks one of their reader (myself in that case) to pick five articles of the previous issues and join them in a short editorial work focused on a question about architecture. Thank you to Iker Gil for inviting me to this series.
Architecture and the Law
The relationship between architecture and the law is a similar one than the egg and the chicken: it would be difficult and probably useless to determine which one created the other. What is interesting to question however, is whether one can exists without the other. The law requires architecture to crystalize the territory on which it applies on (the example of private property is the most obvious one), and architecture, in its inherent power to control the bodies, cannot help but to create new laws for each diagrammatic line it materializes into walls.
The interior domestic terrain of the Bioscleave House by Arakawa + Gins
As I recently started a whole section of the blog’s archives dedicated to the work of Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, I will be regularly writing new articles for it in order to present their radical architectural work in articulation with their lifework of poetical philosophy (or their philosophical poetry). A whole issue of the Canada based journal iNFLeXions (including a playful and beautiful digital interface) was recently dedicated to their work, thus giving access to about thirty texts written by various intellectual figures interested in the production of the Reversible Destiny Foundation. Among them, there is Stanley Shostak who is a professor in the Department of Biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of two books about death and immortality at the biological level (Becoming Immortal, 2002 & The Evolution of Death, 2006). In his text, Bioscleave: Shaping our Biological Niches, he examines Arakawa and Gins’ manifesto ‘We Have Decided Not To Die” and one of its architectural embodiment, the Bioscleave House (see my own pictures of the house here and here) as a form of resistance against biopolitics (such a topic makes it compatible with Russel Hughes’s guest writer essay for The Funambulist).
Stanley Shostak, who is decided to consider Arakawa and Gins’ thesis with the scientific rigor that his background implies, starts his text with the process that the Bioscleave House should follow if it had to be recognized by the medical industry and its institutions (EMEA for Europe, FDA for the United States) as an operative drug to extend life expectancy. His narrative therefore involves various steps of experiments on bodies that would be subjected to a daily life in the house. The precise care put by Arakawa and Gins in the resolution of every architectural details as serving their manifesto (not only the terrain itself but also all the other creatures procedures involved, color, furnitures etc.), could then serve its purpose and be experimented as actually operative or not.
This article is not a sequel as such of the previous one, but rather starts where the last post ended. I was evoking the possibility for the corpse of Remus to have been buried in the thickness of the line traced by his twin brother Romulus to found his city. This narrative reminds me of another that I published almost two years ago: the sad sadian tale that Eduardo McIntosh created to tell us how far can architecture be an accomplice in the realization of the worst crimes. In that case, Afghans masons were forced by the Talibans to build an architecture with the dead bodies of the Northern Alliance (commanded back then by Massoud) used as human bricks. The imagery created by Eduardo helped any viewer to fathom the horror introduced by the narrative.
Some other stories are ever worse however. Back when I presented Eduardo’s narrative, I evoked another article written few days earlier about the book Camouflage written by Neil Leach, in which he tells the Central European tale of Mason Manole who had to immure his own wife to grant success to the Monastery he promised he will build (see the full story in the same article). As he had the opportunity to point out, N. Leach’s interest in this story is focused on the notion of sacrifice, the price to pay to give a soul to a building; what I am more interested (for the moment) to examine is the role of architecture in this particular form of murder. Just like a gun or any similar weapon, architecture in its inherent violence is able to kill a body subjugated by its power. In this regard, the cries of the wife in the tale of mason Manole are particularly expressive in their characterization of the absolute violence on the body it develops:
Manole, Manole, Master Manole! The wall presses me too hard and breaks my little body! [...] Manole, Manole, Master Manole, the wall presses me too hard and crushes my breasts and breaks my child.
One of the most famous fratricide of the world mythology is the one of Romulus and Remus. Similarly to Cain killing his brother Abel in the Bible/Quran or Seth killing his brother Osiris in the Egyptian mythology, it is written that Antic Rome was founded on a murder between brothers, specifically twins in that case. Romulus and Remus were abandoned by their mothers, fed by a female wolf and raised by a couple of shepherds. They both wanted to found a new city on one of the hills that are now famous as characteristics of Rome. After both interpreted the auguries in their own favor, Romulus starts digging a trench around what will be the new city. Remus, in protest, jump over the trench and get killed by his brother. The new city named after Romulus was born.
This story, many of us know it, but it is interesting to re-read it through the filter of architecture and the law. When Romulus digs a trench around the future city, he circumscribe and appropriate a territory, in other words he proclaims his property. Such thing would not be possible without a modification of the physical environment, that is why he is digging a trench, but he could have just as well build a fence or a wall. Architecture, understood as the voluntary act on the material context – in this regard, a wall or a trench are both as much architecture – is used to implement the law. We can also observe that what we call the law can be unilaterally declared and subjugate each body present on the territory on which the law apply. It is therefore important that architecture delimits the territory as one of the axiom of the law is that anybody who is subject to respect it is supposed to know about it. Just like when Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, when Remus jumps the trench, he is full aware of his trespassing, he is so much aware of it that he is accomplishing his act only to disobey the law as a form of protest against it (which is the only reason one is legitimate to disobey the law).
I apologize to those of my readers who would reasonably see this article as a form of self-promotion, this will be the first and only post about this book. Following the research I undertook in 2010 and the architectural project that emerged from it in 2011, My good friends Ethel and Cesar from DPR-Barcelona and I have worked together to come out with a book, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence that would be available for all. This is now the case and you can find the book on any national franchise of amazon and (preferably!) in some bookstores in various countries. For a presentation of this work, you can see the small lecture I was lucky to be able to do at the school of architecture of Lund (Sweden) in September 2012. One particularity of the book that is also worth noting, was developed by dpr-barcelona is the introduction of a dose of augmented reality through smart phones and tablets that allow a second layer of multimedia information for each chapter.
More information after the break.