Weaponized Architecture: Towards a Revolutionary Practice and Non-Practice of the DisciplineLecture created for the Architectural Association’s lecture series “New Canonical Histories” curated by Manijeh Verghese. London on February 28, 2019.

Architecture is the discipline that organizes bodies in space. Through this definition, Léopold Lambert attempts to demonstrate that the built environment has a propensity to materialize the political programmes of the dominant order: as nothing easier than the extrusion of a line to enforce an arbitrary national border or apartheid wall. Inversely, it is much more difficult and requires much more effort to design insurrectional or resistive architectures that do not shy away from the part of violence they also embody.

Index ///

  • Introduction (brief overview of LL’s work and The Funambulist)
  • Chapter 1: “The Wall: Crystallizing Architecture’s Violence” (starts at 8:13)
  • Chapter 2: “The Corridor: Politics of Narrowness” (starts at 17:55)
  • Chapter 3: “The Key: Turning a Door into a Wall (and vice versa)” (starts at 24:00)
  • Manifesto: “Towards a Revolutionary Practice and Non-Practice of Architecture” (see below)
  • Questions from the audience (starts at 38:18)

Manifesto: “Towards a Revolutionary Practice and Non-Practice of Architecture” ///

Architecture practices and architects cited in the manifesto (many more could have been featured on it): Architects Designers Planners for Social Responsibility, Tings Chak, Lori Brown, Forensic Architecture/Forensic Oceanography, Olivia Ahn, Ahmad al Aqra, Michael Rakowitz, Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative, Aman Iwan, Recetas Urbanas, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Sahra Collective, Arakawa and Madeline Gins.

When they’ll come to us to design and optimize their prisons, or even lure us into thinking that we could somehow, make better conditions of life for those who have been forcefully surrounded by walls, we will actively non-practice architecture in telling them that we’ll only sleep when we will have abolished all prisons (cf. Architects Designers Planners for Social Responsibility).

When they’ll come to us, saying that we need to use our skills as architects to participate to transform the deadly colonial border industrial complex, to make it more humane, we will instead use our skills to make evident all the ways through which architecture constitutes one of the most effective weapons of this complex (cf. Tings Chak, Lori Brown, Forensic Architecture/Forensic Oceanography.

When they’ll come to us with manuals of how to unfold deadly police and military violence on the bodies explained through an architectural language, we will retaliate with the same language to describe to doulas how women who have been forcefully surrounded by walls can safely give birth in an environment of death (cf. Olivia Ahn).

When they’ll come to us with their grants, awards and cultural capital for fetishizing and depoliticizing the many proletarian self-built neighborhoods of the world, we will talk to them about the Algerian shantytowns of Paris during the Revolution, or the Palestinian refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza; show them how architecture can be a weapon against state violence as long as architects accept not to be a part of it (cf. Nanterre, Dheisheh, Ahmad al Aqra).

When they’ll come to us to be the name and the face of necolonial projects and other operations of dispossession, displacement, and destructions disguised behind words such as renovation, rehabilitation, or revitalization, we will tell them that we refuse to be a part of their schemes, that we boycott them (cf. Michael Rakowitz).

When they’ll come to us and explain that the predatory actions of the males of our offices are not as terrifying and traumatizing as they actually are, that these are individuals’ misbehaviors and not structures of power, or that we have simply invented the very existence of these actions, we will deafen them with the sound of our voices and topple their grand efigies to the ground (cf. Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative).

When they’ll come to us, telling us that the exploitative conditions of the workers in charge of building the grand dream we’ve been trained to imagine, are not our own responsibility, we will descend our ivory tower and humble ourselves, learning the crafts and efforts that such constructions necessitate (cf. Aman Iwan).

When they’ll come to us, telling us that everyone take their parts in developing the city, that “there is no alternative,” that neighborhoods are meant to see their residents change, that we are not responsible, we will call out their speculative racist and classist projects and turn the law against them to manifest the right to housing for all (cf. Recetas Urbanas).

When they’ll come to us, asking us to build in occupied territory and tell us that history books will only retain the quality of our designs not the violation of international legislation those constitute, we will instead build schools and cultural buildings in the camps of those who were made refugees for life by them (cf. Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency).

When they’ll come to us, telling us that the wall is an architecture of security, deployed against those we terrorize calling “terrorists,” we will reply that the wall is an architecture of apartheid and we will take our part of the imaginative efforts that envision a future where they no longer hold any dominant power (cf. Sahra Collective).

When they’ll come to us to design architectures for and by the white cis-male able bourgeois bodies of the world, we will instead conceive boundless worlds that refuse to presume what a body is and can do, we will talk to them about the joy of intensively living as a body, rather than being contained into one (cf. Arakawa & Madeline Gins). Like Aimé Césaire, we will stare at them and tell them “Blue-Eyed Architect, I defy you […] who crowned you? During what night did you exchange compass for dagger?” (And the Dogs Were Silent, 1958) and then, more calmly, we will read them Madeline Gins’ “All Men Are Sisters”:

“There simply could not have been a woman who would have said, ‘Left side’ ‘right side’ then stuck to it. For a woman, it is a question of at least seven sides, at least one for every hue. Such subtlety contributes to the subtle difference. One thing men haven’t realized is that unlike them (all men are mortal), women do not die —This makes all the difference — although some women, having been brow-beaten by sheer syllogistic brawn, have at times pretended.

Most women do not look like themselves; although many women do assume the form of ‘woman;’ some are men, others gas and electricity, and still others are indistinguishable. Often, being constructed of living material, women are a volatile force in society and as such dangerous […].” Madeline Gins, What the President Will Say and Do, New York: Station Hill, 1984.