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.
The recent manhunt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston was probably quite shocking to many non-Americans – and probably some Americans too -, for the anachronism it constituted. The latter was caused by the ability for a Police to empty an entire city and therefore implements a sort of state of emergency, as well as the “march of the heroes”, the multitude of police officers acclaimed by the crowd after they arrested their prey. There is a profound feudalism in such absoluteness and one has the right to wonder what motivates this disturbing joy.
Let us focus on the urban condition that contextualize this manhunt. I have been repeatedly writing in the past, each house through its impermeability due to the implementation of private property is susceptible to become a prison for the bodies living inside of it in the sudden legal implementation of a quarantine. For an important part of Boston, the quarantine was not implemented stricto sensu but it was highly recommend to each resident to stay inside and the context of fear created by the ubiquitous media made such a recommendation a quasi-order. In the areas of Boston where the police and army was actually deployed, the quarantine was very much effectuated as this article illustrates: Looking through the windows seems to have been prohibited and enforced through the threats of weapons.
While this event was unfolding I was thinking of the descriptions that Michel Foucault makes in his seminar Abnormal (Les Anormaux) at the College de France (1975) of a Medieval/Renaissance city when contaminated by the Plague. Foucault distinguishes two things historically: the negative reaction to cases of leprosy in the same city that consists in the effective exclusion of the sick bodies from it, to the point that they are declared socially dead; and the positive (in the sense that there is an inclusion) reaction to the Plague that provokes a state of emergency and the absolute reorganization of the city according to a quadrillage which has been not so well translated into partitioning. Quadrillage involves indeed a sort of physical or virtual partitioning of a space, but it also implies a detailed, systematic and extensive examination of this same space by a controlling entity. Such an action is thoroughly described by Foucault in his class of January 15th 1975 in this same seminar:
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.
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).
Earlier this week, a group of about 250 Palestinians gathered in East Jerusalem in the E1 Area where the Israeli government announced the construction of 3,000 new housing units after the recent UN vote granting Palestine a status of observer member at the General Assembly. This group of people established a small village made out of tents on what is being stated as Palestinian owned private land. The photograph above shows the tents being set-up with the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank in the background, Ma’ale Adummim (see previous article). Since then, the encampment got evicted by the Israeli army under the reason that it represented “a danger for the security of the area.”
You can read more about this story on +972 Magazine website but beyond this event, I would like to insist on the legal status tackled here. The opposition of the two settlements in one image allows us to question their relationship to the law. In both cases, there is a clear will to go against a legal system. As we know the Israeli settlements are in violation of the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (see previous article) and therefore constitute a disobedience to the International Law. The Palestinian tent village, on the other hand, affirms a disobedience to another law, the colonial one, which was designed in a clear spirit of domination from one people on another. Of course, international law is not to be unquestionned as it has been, as always, thought and implemented by “the winners of history”, in that case, the winning countries of the Second World War. However, it does not seem irrational to consider that a law established after the horror of the war and designed in the abstraction of future conflict needs to prevail over another one which was designed unilaterally by a state with a clear self-centered agenda. After all, the state of Israel itself was implemented around the same time than the Geneva Convention and its very existence should not be reconsidered in my opinion.
In both cases, the disobedience is territorial and architectural. In that matter, the very ‘language’ of architecture used here is far from innocent. The fragile, precarious and manually built tents are a response to the various fences, walls and watch towers of the Israeli settlements. Such a dichotomy indicates the asymmetric forces involved between a state organized militarized operations of claiming a land and an immanent encampment in which the determination is affirmed through the very presence of their bodies. As I have been writing earlier (in the context of the Occupy movement), we have only one body and it can be only in one place at a time; therefore, the place we choose to be cannot be innocent and this choice can be said to be political in its very essence.
Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint. Patent assigned to Scottsdale Inventions LLC (2012)
The following article is a good opportunity for me to open a new category in the blog’s archive, one that I voluntarily keep very focused to differentiate itself from broader one (like ‘weaponized architecture‘ for example). This new category is entitled ‘cruel design‘ and gathers only pieces of industrial design or architecture whose primarily function is to subjectivize one’s body to an absolute submission. This characteristic is thought in differentiation to the many examples I have been writing about, which applies their controlling power on the bodies in a more subtle and disguised yet operative way.
A new example of this will to subdue a body in an absolute embrace of the violence of design upon the bodies, is given to us through the filing of a patent of a new kind of handcuffs by its inventor company, Scottsdale Inventions LLC as the website Patent Bolt reports. Those handcuffs, called Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint for the patent filing, enforce the restraint by electroshock and/or drug injection:
Map of the Gaza Strip (Dec 2011) /// United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory
I think that many of us are infuriated in front of the unfolding new siege over Gaza by the Israeli army. As horrifying as those images of children and entire families being struck by the bombs sent by aircraft, battleships, drones or other remote controlled machine guns, it is extremely important to also insist on the daily oppression that the people of the Gaza strip have to face even when they are not being bombed. Since 2006 and the Israeli disengagement of its settlement within the strip, the situation is different from the one in the West Bank -which I have to say, I am more familiar with. When the West Bank has to suffer from multiple colonial apparatuses, Gaza functions pretty much as a gigantic prison from which, it is almost impossible to escape -even the Egyptian border remains close to most people. Most of the needs of its people (water, food, electricity, phone & internet networks etc.) is provided directly by Israel (for most of it, see the last map of this article) who has been, along the years, quite literally experimenting how little it could provide without provoking a severe humanitarian crisis in the eyes of the International Community. The access to the sea itself is heavily restricted – and enforced with real rockets – by the IDF to keep Gaza fishermen’s boats within a limit of three nautical miles. Needless to say, fishing cannot be a strong economy in this context.
The strip is thus a scale 1 experiment for the Israeli state to determine how to sustain the lives of 1.7 millions Palestinians – apparently more for its International reputation than for its philanthropic will as we can currently see – with the minimum of ressources. But, this very small piece of territory – and to some extents, this is also true in the West Bank – is also a terrain of experiments for military training and weapon technology. As some specialists have been detecting, some US military officials have been often spotted during IDF operations in a clear attempt to learn how to lead a siege in the Middle East. After the operation Lead Cast in Dec 2008-Jan 09 that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians of all ages, the Goldstone Report and various other testimonies have shown that white phosphorus bombs and flechette shells which are categorically banned by the International legislation. The various apparatuses of control around the Strip are also an opportunity for the Israeli army to implement new technology in matter of weapons like remote controlled machine gun stations t0 prevent the access of the ‘no-go zone’ (about 500 meters from the green line) and the ‘high risks zone (fron 500 to 1,500 meters from the green line):
The Center for Urban Pedagogy, aka CUP, is a non-profit organization that attempt to make the legislation visible in the clearest manner. The predicate of the law is that nobody shall ignores it, but in reality, little is done to veritably make the law known to all. The risk involved in a society that maintains actively or passively the ignorance of its law, is that a legal aristocracy develops itself. Knowing your rights allows a practice in the totality of their extents. It also participate to a thorough and voluntary defense in a potential bone of contention. The Center for Urban Pedagogy, through an articulated graphic design strategy, has produced various booklets and posters in this spirit. All of them can be bought, but also downloadable as PDF on their website. The Vendor Power, for example, informs New York street vendors of their rights and a useful behavior to follow in case of trouble with a zealous police officer. I Got Arrested is addressed to American kids who were arrested by the police (often for very minor offense) so that they could know their rights and apprehend the whole experience in a less traumatic way. Know Your Lines investigates the voting zones in the United States to develop an awareness of the various policies which modify the lines of those zones for electoral motivations. What is Affordable Housing? is a small book which establishes an inventory of government helped forms of housing in the United States, and in New York more specifically, as well as the criteria that are required to apply for such a housing. This document does not miss to notice that many of those programs have been lacking of public development and interest (especially Public Housing whose construction was stopped after the 1974 moratorium ordered by Richard Nixon). Many more of those manuals exist and can be found on the CUP’s website. A lot of other similar initiatives probably exist for other cities and other countries and can be considered as models for such a strategy of legal sensitization and empowerment.
All the following illustrations have been created by the Center for Urban Pedagogy:
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.
For the last seven days, a group of twenty Eritrean refugees have been trapped between the two fences materializing the border between Egypt and Israel as they were trying to enter the latter. Today, the group was dismissed as a vast majority of them was expelled and three of them were brought to a detention center on the Israeli territory. This short post does not even want to spend too much time deploring the “normal xenophobia” that motivates European countries and Israel to let migrants dying at their frontiers – in that case, and from the article in the Guardian, one of the women of the group miscarried a child as no other humanitarian aid was brought to them other than a limited amount of water. This reality reached a long time ago the tragic stage where it has been accepted as a collateral effect of globalization and would requires a much longer article.
What I would like to stress on here is the geometrical paradox that makes a border acquiring a thickness. In reality, the line traced on a map is often materialized by a physical element and inevitably, this element has a given thickness. In that case, the materialization of the abstract border is achieved by a double fence, thus creating a space in between that seems ambiguous on the legal level. Technically this space is on the Israeli territory. Nevertheless, for seven full days, the state of Israel refused to grant access to its territory to those twenty migrants, implying that this space was not part of this same territory. Harriet Sherwood for the Guardian even precises:
An Israeli government spokesman said: “According to international practices and binding precedents, the fence is a de facto border, and therefore anyone who is beyond it is not located in Israeli territory and is therefore not eligible for automatic entry.”
Similarly to the Korean DMZ, or the Cypriot Buffer Zone, the space between the two lines of fences carries a legal status that is not the same than the ones on each of its sides. Whoever lives in this space can be said to be liberated from the law. However, such a liberation also implies the loss of a legal status for each individual which then becomes the target of one or both sides’ fire, or in that case, the dispossession of the right to be treated humanely both by Egypt and Israel. In his book, Homo Sacer, Giorgio Agamben invents the now well-known concept of bare life to characterizes the individuals subjected to the state of exception and who are now expelled completely from the political and legal process. We can probably attribute the border’s thickness as the space, par excellence that provides the conditions of existence of the bare life status.
It has been a very long time that I did not write about the movement Take Back the Land (see previous article) which allows to ask very interesting questions about civil disobedience and fundamental rights. This movement, often represented by Max Rameau, constitutes, to my knowledge, the most illustrative and efficient illegal practice of architecture. In fact, the movement reclaims city’s space that suffered from speculative operations (vacant parcels, foreclosed homes) in order to accommodate those who, precisely, were the human victims of these same operations. The resistive actions orchestrated by Take Back the Land, beyond the simple civil disobedience, are implemented within the broader framework of a dialogue with the local community (neighbors and other people helped by these actions). Such a dialogue, not only organizes a better control of a group of people on the space it lives in, but it also sustain the illegal operations in time as it creates processes of defensiveness within a whole neighborhood putting pressure on the municipal authorities and the police.
The movement’s objectives are interesting to look at as they introduces very clearly what those resistive operations are trying to achieve:
- Fundamentally transform land relationships;
- Elevate housing to the level of a human right;
- Community control over land and housing;
- Empower impacted communities, particularly low income communities of color.
It has been two months now that Julian Assange, founder of wikileaks, found refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in which he benefits of a diplomatic asylum, and that the British Police is besieging the building to arrest him as soon as he would go out. The legal implications of this situation are fascinating, and their playfulness would be amusing if what is a stake was not so important. Let us recall the context first: J.Assange is promised to be extradited to Sweden where he is accused of rape and sexual assault on two women (for more on that, watch the very good debate between two feminists on Democracy Now in December 2010). Once in Sweden, Assange would be likely to be then extradited to the United States in which he will be accused of spying activities through wikileaks.
Ecuador President Rafael Correa granted the right to Assange to stay inside the London Embassy as long as he would like to. The speech that the latter did last week at the balcony of the Embassy, surrounded by policemen, is illustrative of the intrinsic absurdity of law, and simultaneously of its greatness. Law can arguably be considered as the most artificial invention that was ever made. On his little balcony, J.Assange is safe from any police intervention. Should he have leaned over a bit too much and fell two meters below, a horde of policemen would have surely arrested him. Architecture has, of course, its full role to play here, as it materializes the limits of territory between a legal system and another. The balcony and its guardrail here are the paradigm of such material border.
Excerpt from MAP 002 QUARANTINE by David Garcia Studio
This second issue is three years old and David Garcia Studio already published the fifth opus of their MAPs, but I figured that it could be a useful element for the blog’s archives. This historical map of epidemics and the quarantine devices that were born from them is part of the publication MAP 002 QUARANTINE that D.Garcia created in parallel of Nicola Twiley and Geoff Manaugh’s exhibition at the New York Storefront for Arts and Architecture: Landscapes of Quarantine (see the previous article around this topic).
Quarantine is a simple mathematical calculation that creates the precautionary incarceration of a certain amount of people for the sake of a larger number of others. Its architectural implication is the intrinsic potential of each building to become instantly an incarcerating space. Although some spaces of quarantine have been specifically designed to host such a function (in hospitals or harbors for example), the speed of a given epidemics can be so fast that any space can potentially be transformed into a quarantine territory. Albert Camus’ Plague is a good example of such a potentiality as it depicts the entire city of Oran (Algeria) imprisoned from the rest of the world when an epidemics of plague occurs.
Quarantine is the quintessence of the territorialization of the law. It applies itself on anybody present on a given territory, whether this body is de facto contaminated or not, without distinction of social status or any other discriminating characteristics. In that case, the law unfolds the incarcerating power of architecture. The latter (whether we talk of a single building or of a city), without changing anything to its physical characteristics, enforces containment on its users/subjects who soon experience its uncompromising power through its physical elements (walls, floors, ceilings etc. ). Under the regime of quarantine, architecture, which was materially enforcing the law of property by preventing other bodies from coming-in, now prevents the bodies already inside (the grantees of property) to come-out.
The temporary status of such a law -quarantine comes from its original length of containment, i.e. 40 days- justifies its extreme characteristics. As we know, however, temporary often tends towards durability and the state of exception does not requires much to become the rule.
First of all, I would like to apologize for spending so much time without writing but I am currently traveling and it has not be easy to find the time for it.
I already mentioned twice the release of LOG 25 Reclaim Resi[lience]stance edited by Cynthia Davidson and curated by François Roche. Through twenty one texts, this issue weaves a thread from the computational vanguard (Roland Snooks, Alisa Andrasek, Ezio Blasetti, Supermanoeuvre) to a politico-legal interpretation of the new mutations of a technological capitalism (Antonio Negri, Slavoj Žižek, Beatriz Preciado, Patricia Williams etc.). These two dimensions of architecture that one would be legitimate to dissoaite are however smoothly linked together by the editors as well as by François Roche’s introduction to the issue. The back of the issue is also useful to that matter as it lists the names of the authors and summarizes their discourse in one sentence, thus composing an inventory of resistives operations from the point of view of a team in which each has a precise function to construct a strange resistive cadavre exquis:
Alisa Andrasek weaves a resilient fabric
Ezio Blasetti parses the language of code
Sébastien Bourbonnais examines technical ensembles
Pia Ednie-Brown revitalizes architecture
Shabnam Hosseini & Hamish Rhodes write a script
François Jouve retraces unusual shapes
Lydia Kallipoliti mines curious lumps
Matthias Kohler speculates on aerial architecture
Sanford Kwinter queries crowdsourcing
Camille Lacadée hankers for Bangkok
Léopold Lambert digs into abject matter
Sylvia Lavin resuscitates death
Iain Maxwell & Dave Pigram consider digital craft
Fabrice Melquiot & Stéphanie Lavaux plot space
Antonio Negri talks with Francois Roche
Can Onaner analyzes the masochistic architect
Philippe Parreno resurrects Marilyn Monroe
Beatriz Preciado introduces the pharmacopornographic
François Roche resists…
Roland Snooks destabilize computational design
Patricia J. Williams assesses the ownership of bodies
Slavoj Žižek addresses Occupy Wall Street
The Palestinian Archipelago: Island of Al Walajah surrounded by reefs /// Metaphorical map by the author
To mark the unfortunate anniversary of the Separation Barrier whose construction has been started ten years ago by the Israeli government, the online magazine +972 published a dossier about various aspects of the Palestinian life as changed by the wall. Let’s remind everybody that the wall is not following the 1949 armistice Green Line which separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, but rather attempts to push its line as far as possible within the West Bank in order to bring as many settlements as possible on the same side than the Israeli territory.
One of this +972 dossier’s chapter is dedicated to the case of the village of Al Walajah near Bethlehem. This village is situated very close from the Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo and is thus planned to be surrounded by the wall as a form of inclusive exclusion (read the previous article about the book with the same name). The village is already almost enclosed by the wall and only one last part remains to be built. According to Israeli journalist Haggai Matar who wrote the article, “The High Court at first stopped construction of the wall, but in 2011 allowed the state to proceed with construction even though a final ruling on the route has not been given.” Israel promised to build a tunnel for the village to be able to reach Bethlehem, but farmers won’t get an access to their land and the village in general will be surrounded by a wall and thus deprived from its direct environment.
It is important to observe that Al Waljah is also separated from Bethlehem by the well-known viaduct of Gilo (see maps and photo below). Most illustrative example of the Israeli colonial infrastructure, it carries a highway for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers and army. Walls, Settlements, and colonial roads constitute the reefs that transformed the “continental” land of Al Walajah into an isolated island of the Palestinian Archipelago. In this regard, this village’s situation is very similar to another one which has been already enclosed by the wall, Bir Nabala, not far from Ramallah that I evoked in a past article about the Israeli West Bank Highway, the route 443.
Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone (East London) (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Yesterday, Judge Haddon-Cave of the Hight Court of England decided in favor of the British Minister of Defense that the installation of surface-to-air missiles on the roof of a 17 floor building in East London during the Olympics of this year. Residents of the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone (see map below) had indeed challenged this decision in justice. Those missiles are being set-up in prevention of potential terrorist attacks against London during the Olympics. This decision marks a new step in the establishment of national states of emergency since the 2001 terrorists attacks against the United States. For the last decade, western countries declared themselves at war against terrorism and had implemented a certain amount of measures which grandly restraint freedom and privacy in favor of a claimed security. The so called “war against terrorism” is indeed convenient for governments to acquire more power over their citizens as terror precisely consists in the generalization of a feeling of fear among a population when the latter is confronted to a durable state of urgency. In other words, what maintains terror is not so much the original event of the attack -if I can allow myself to call this event “original” when in reality it is based on a long history- but rather the durable ideological “state of exception” that follows it.
As said yesterday by David Enright, one of the lawyer of the residents, “the Ministry of Defense now has the power to militarize the private homes of any person in Britain as long as they can demonstrate that there is, in their view, a matter of national security in play. They do not need to ask you, they do not need to consult you, but can take over your home, put a missile on your roof, a tank on your loan, or soldiers in your living room.” In my last article, I was evoking how domestic design could potentially unfold its weaponized characteristics, this new case provides us with one more example of such a process. It also demonstrates, if needed, that the weaponization of architecture is usually triggered by a legal framework which finds its embodiment in the physicality of architecture. For example, in the case of a legal apparatus like curfew or quarantine, an “innocent” home (but we know that there is no such a thing) can be transformed into a prison through its impermeable walls, floors and roof. In that London case, architecture is used for its height and the flatness of its roof (both advocated by the modern movement) in order to be transformed into a militarized machine.
Visualizing Palestine is an open collective which attempts to demonstrate graphically the injustice to which the Palestinians are subjected to in the current apartheid -or colonization depending on whether you consider the territory Palestine/Israel as one sovereignty or two. After an historical document on the hunger strike to support Khader Adnan who was doing one to protest against his detention in an Israeli prison without having been charged with anything, they just released a map of Israel/Palestine (see above) illustrating the segregative characteristics of the road system on this territory. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are indeed full of highways that are forbidden to Palestinian cars as they link the Israeli territory to the numerous illegal civil settlements in the occupied territories (see my previous article about the Route 443). In addition to that, the map shows how the totality of roads accessible to Palestinians to link their main cities together are highly restricted as they are punctuated regularly by more or less heavy duty checkpoints which can ultimately cut any form of physical communication between the various towns of the West Bank.
Map extracted from the document about the Link by Aix Group (2010)
In 2010 the French NGO Aix Group released a 60 page document which introduces the challenges and propositions that could be made for the construction of a road link between Gaza and the West Bank. This hypothesis is of course based on the credible scenario of what is now called ‘the two states solution’ which would geographically separates the two territories under Palestinian sovereignty, Gaza on one side, the West Bank and East Jerusalem on the other side. In this scenario, this link would indeed be an extremely crucial element for the future of the Palestinian unity since the exercise of a unique sovereignty over two territories always constitute a very delicate practice. At a different scale the 24 year long example of Pakistan (1947-1971) separated between Western and Eastern territories – the latter became Bangladesh in 1971- illustrate such difficulties.
The studies attempts to propose an exhaustive list of options for the link’s materialization (road, train, monorail, surface, tunnel, bridge…see below) as well as a variety of its potential routes (five of them including three studied more specifically…see below as well). In order to function, the link would be under Palestinian authority surrounded by the Israeli territory (as defined by the UN based on the 1967 borders), thus constituting a peculiar geo-political precedent: a sovereignty applied to a line on the map. However, what is proper to a line or rather, a corridor, is the maximization of its surface in contact with the exterior. In this historical conflictual context and if considering the options given by this NGO, the potentialities for Israel to control or block the link – for whichever reason invoked – are plethora and this interesting legal case deserve probably a deeper level of imagination and ‘cleverness’ to actually make it effective and trustworthy for the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Archipelago: Salfit (drawn by the author)
I recently had the chance to write a short article for the Mexican magazine Arquine which was dedicating its last dossier to the topic of displacements. I therefore wrote a text about the metaphorical archipelago created by the fragmentation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a multitude of islands which makes the Palestinian sovereignty applicable on only a small part of its territory. Some of the funambulist’s readers might find it redundant of what I have been writing in the past, in which case, I would recommend the only reading of the two last paragraphs that brings something slightly more new in my discourse. This new part includes the consideration for internal social issues encountered by the Palestinian people who sees within itself the formation of a new bourgeoisie which ratifies, through its way of life, the occupier’s language.
Here is the list of texts in Arquine 59‘s dossier (both in English and Spanish in the printed version):
· La hospitalidad comienza en casa (Deborah Gans)
- El archipiélago palestino: una cartografía metafórica de los territorios ocupados (Léopold Lambert)
- El recuerdo es una construcción que se desplaza (Ana Valdés y Alicia Migdal)
- Albergue para migrantes: un espacio humanitario de (Thomas Weiss)
THE PALESTINIAN ARCHIPELAGO: A Metaphorical Cartography of the Occupied Territories.
By Léopold Lambert