One goal of this blog is to demonstrate how political -and sometimes military- strategy are embodied in design that do not always explicit them. That is not necessarily to say that the whole built environment has been drawn and built by an evil transcendental power to oppress its subjects (although sometimes that is the case) but rather that design is always involved within broader political mechanisms that forces it to take position.
Take a highway for example. Nothing more usual for many of us. In an old article, I was already quoting thinkers (N.Chomsky & P.Galison) who were interpreting it respectively as an economical catalyst for the car industry and a territorial strategy to spread resources during the cold war. The photos and videos included in this article brings another aspect of highways’ weaponization. In march 1984, NATO organized an exercise in West Germany to plan for potential emergency operations in case of open conflict against the Soviet Union. Army aircrafts, including a transport C130 Hercules (see further below) and an A-10 Thunderbolt II jet (see above), landed and a piece of highway that had been designed specifically to fulfill this potential function. Of course, it would be inaccurate to attribute the function of highways exclusively to their potential weaponization, however, it would be just as much inaccurate to ignore the part of their design that has been voluntarily militarized.
Potentiality is a key word here. Those photographs constitute the actualization -one might say, the unfolding- of a potentiality contained within the design. In the same way that a house can become a prison when subjected to the quarantine or curfew law (see another old article), this highway has the potentiality of become an emergency airport in case of the destruction of the official airport. In this last case, the assumed military architecture (the air base) constitutes an obvious target for attackers, whereas the architecture that contains a militarized potentiality becomes a target only when this hidden potentiality actualizes itself. The phase of conception is therefore important as an important part of it consists in the consideration of scenarios that might never occur. This is precisely what is the function of the building code for example. A building might never experience a fire, it is however supposed to be ready to resist as much a as possible in this scenario. Similarly, more occult considerations -because secrecy is the key to their efficiency- can provide solutions to a potential militarization of architecture.
Once again, it does not mean that all architecture has been thought and designed through conscious and voluntary inclusion of such a potentiality. However, when confronted to wartime, one can observe how all domestic design is being reinterpreted to be part of a conflict that it cannot ignore. This impossibility for an architecture to refuse to act politically -the refusal of acting being an act in itself- is precisely what we need to acknowledge before designing a building, an object, a vehicle or an infrastructure, in order to transmit to it, as much as possible, a small track of political ethics -ethics being subjective to each individual or collective- to influence its inevitable weaponization.