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Representation of the project Weaponized Architecture in Area C. From far, the building looks like a fragile Bedouin encampment (Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence, Barcelona: DPR-Barcelona 2011)

In Weaponized Architecture, architect Léopold Lambert looks at how architecture is conceived or instrumentalized as a political weapon.

Lambert's study explores the power of architecture as a political weapon through history, from the wide 'boulevards' designed by Haussmann to allow for an easy movement of the artillery and cavalry in Paris to the mobile fences deployed by police forces during the G8 in Genoa to control mass demonstrations.

However, the core of his research looks into a very precise situation: the impact of the Isreali occupation on the Palestinian built environment, in particular in the West Bank where the movements of people and goods are strictly conditioned and governed by colonial apparatuses such as separation barriers, checkpoints that hinder Palestinian movements on their land, militarized destruction of Palestinian homes, Israeli civilian settlements within the West Bank, limits imposed on the natural extension of Palestinian villages, segregated transport infrastructures.

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Separation Border -on Palestinian Territory- and Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev in East Jerusalem. Photo by Léopold Lambert

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Example of an Israeli civil settlement in the West Bank. Rimmonim in the region of Ramallah on the road to Jericho. Photo by Léopold Lambert

In Léopold's own words:

In fact, the State of Israel masters the elaboration of territorial and architectural colonial apparatuses that act directly on Palestinian daily lives. In this regard, it is crucial to observe that 63% of the West Bank is under total control of the Israeli Defense Forces in regards to security, movement, planning and construction.

Lambert's project doesn't stop at the analysis of colonial architecture in Palestine. His study goes further by 'dramatizing' a Palestinian active resistance to the occupation.

The 'Architectural Disobedience' Lambert suggests takes the form of a covert Palestinian shelter which would serve both Palestinian farmers and the Bedouins population. The 'Qsar' would allow onsite agricultural production and function as a caravansary for the Bedouins and their flocks.

The Weaponized Architecture research will be published in the coming days by dpr-barcelona. I'll come back with a review of the book and an interview with Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes Nájera from dpr-barcelona as soon as the volume is out. In the meantime, i asked Léopold Lambert for an interview. And so did Ahmad Barclay who interviewed him as well. The themes and ideas their discussion touches upon in Arena of Speculation are fairly different from the ones i'm focusing on in this post so i'd recommend checking out both interviews.

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The daily rhythm of the Qasr is organized by the working activities of the two populations, farmers and shepherds. Both spaces, agricultural and pastoral are clearly determined but intricated into each other, thus maintaining a form of negotiation

Hi Léopold! It is difficult to remain indifferent and cold when reading the reality described in the first half of the book -in which you establish the power of architecture as a political weapon in Palestine. Do you think it is possible to write about the situation endured by Palestinians and remain neutral and impartial? 
I was interested in the way you describe the Western vision of the Palestinian situation because you've experienced it from a European as well as a US point of view. Whereas i've only observed it as a European living and working in Europe and i was under the impression that in Europe we are fairly more sympathetic (although irritatingly impotent) to the Palestinian cause. Reading the post you wrote after having seen a debate on French TV made me realize I might be very wrong in assuming this European 'solidarity'. What's your view on this? Are we so blind in Europe?

The first question about neutrality and impartiality reveals indeed the way people think in Europe. In the difference of American policies in this matter which clearly support Israel, Europe tries to be more neutral in their decisions. However, this neutrality is the real trap. Neutrality is what maintains the status quo since 1967 by considering that both nations, Israelis and Palestinians are equally belligerent and should become more reasonable. I don't think that a lot of people who went there with an open minded approach share this vision of things.

The facts are that, at the exception of considering that (Jewish) divine law is the prevailing form of territorial justice, there is an objective and daily transgression of the international law by the State of Israel. Whether you consider this region of the world as one country hosting both people, or if you consider that there should be two states for two different populations, the legal problem reaches the same conclusion. In the former case, we can evoke a civil situation comparable to the South African one during the Apartheid (1948-1994), and in the latter case, we can observe, with the presence of about 500 000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a violation of the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) which stipulates that the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

This illegality throws the bases of the indignation that indeed prevents and should prevent a lot of people to remain neutral. In order to enter in resistance to act against what appears as clearly antagonist to our personal -or collective- ethics, we have to "choose a side". It does not necessarily mean that people of this "side" need to agree on every topic that are involved here -and there are a lot- but that this group of people are in solidarity to resist against what their ethics interprets as oppressive.

This is the difference between justice and resistance. Justice has to tend indeed towards impartiality and neutrality. Resistance begins with the absence of justice and engages into the concerned antagonism as a pure necessity. In other words, resistance appears to the one who is caught in this process as the only thing to do in accordance to his (her) personal system of interpretation of the world.

The Jewish people, citizens of Israel know very well this process as they have been persecuted in the worst way the human kind has ever been. However, when they constituted a State and an army -let us not forget that the three years long military service is compulsory for every male and female citizen of Israel- they became the dominant body that pathologically abuse of its power over another. What Gilles Deleuze calls the becoming (devenir) revolutionary is therefore allowed to them only if they also enter in resistance against this dominant power along with the Palestinian people and the rest of us.

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Representation of the architectural project Weaponized Architecture in Area C near Salfit (West Bank). The building is composed of three architectural layers: An upper layer of tents camouflages the building and provides shade. A surface layer claims a piece of territory via a shotcrete uneven terrain which is used as a small agricultural platform. The last layer is subterranean; it can be used as a storage for agricultural goods as well as a shared shelter for the farmers and the Bedouins

The second part of the book describes a Disobedient work of architecture for two Palestinian populations. The proposal is extremely ingenious with its set of tents that camouflages the underneath dwellings and construction site. Could you describe it to us briefly?

I will begin by describing what this particular architecture is disobeying. The 1993 Oslo Accords signed secretly by the Palestine Liberation Organization -which was pretty much transformed into the current Palestinian Authority- with Israel, organized the West Bank in three areas. Area A -and Area B to some extents- that includes the biggest Palestinian cities -except Hebron- allows the Palestinian Authority a relative territorial autonomy while Area C, on the contrary is entirely under the Israeli Army control which does not allow any form of Palestinian construction. Area A and Area B constitute islands of territory on which the Palestinians have a relative autonomy. This territory is indeed made of islands as Area C occupies 63% of the West Bank and surrounds the two former areas, thus constituting what can be called metaphorically the Palestinian Archipelago.

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West Bank metaphorical map of the Palestinian Archipelago drawn by the author based on 2010 data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

The concrete consequences that result from this territorial repartition is that Palestinians of the West Bank cannot build and live on most of the territory that has been attributed to them by the 1949 Armistice Agreements. In addition of that, it is often difficult for them to circulate between those islands as their movement is filtered by various apparatuses of control that the Israeli State has been developing.

Those apparatuses are actually the most expressive examples of my thesis which claims that architecture is inherently political and can be either conceived or instrumentalized in order to be used as a political weapon. In the book, I establish an inventory of what I have been calling colonial apparatuses that Israel has been designing and using and still uses in order to control the Palestinian daily lives. This inventory is something that I present a little bit like a reportage but really, nobody describes them better than Eyal Weizman in his book Hollow Land.

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West Bank map of the Israeli Colonial Apparatuses drawn by the author based on 2010 data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

I am approaching little by little the project here, but I still need to precise who this architecture is involving. I distinguished indeed two parts of the Palestinian population that suffer particularly from the Israeli occupation and those apparatuses I just talked about. The first one is constituted by those who live thanks to agriculture and whose land has been mostly confiscated or who cannot access it; and the second one is the nomadic ethnicity of the Bedouins who are very limited in their movement.

The program of this disobedient architecture, built in the Area C near the Palestinian city of Salfit and the very large Israeli settlement of Ariel, is therefore a small agricultural platform associated with a caravansary for the Bedouins. The architecture of this building recounts its combinative strategy of camouflage and reclaim of the land. It is constituted by three layers that have different levels of fragility: a set of tents on the outside that give to the building an aspect of fragile Bedouin settlement, a concrete based agricultural platform on the land and finally an underground dwelling connected to Area A by a tunnel.

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In a potential scenario in which the building is discovered by the Israeli army and partially destroyed. It thus becomes a ruin still victoriously claiming a piece of territory. Children of Salfit find in it, an unexpected ideal playground, both frightening and attractive

Your scenario also involves the discovery of the Qasr by the Israeli Defense Force. Why is it important to build the Qasr if it's likely to be left in ruins eventually?

This part of the scenario is useful for me to state that this building was not designed as a solution to the conflict. I don't believe that architecture can be considered in any way as a vector of resolution. Only the application of the law can veritably brings something that can be called a solution to the conflict. Architecture can be used to resist but cannot really solve problems in depth. That is what I mean by stating that architecture is systematically a weapon.

Let's go back to the project's scenario though. The first layer of tents would indeed be very easily destroyed by the Israeli army in case of invasion. The two others layers, however, are spatially and materially built in such a way that it would actually require a very substantial amount of energy for the I.D.F. to veritably demolish them completely. The building would therefore remain in the state of a ruin, slowly invaded by the rocks, dust and plants of the land and the children of Salfit would probably find in it a stimulating playground. In 1949, after the Nakba, the very new state of Israel destroyed systematically and absolutely all the former Arab villages on its territory in a symptomatic form of erasing the Palestinian mark on the land. Having this building remaining as a ruin is therefore a resistance to this architectural eradication and constitutes in itself a certain victory by reclaiming a piece of land.

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The subterranean dwelling/storage/caravansery is the space that farmers and shepherds have to share together in a continuous negotiation of cohabitation

Have you identified other existing strategies of Palestinian disobedience related to architecture and urban planning?

In terms of disobedience relative to a practice of space, the first example that comes to my mind is the Sarhats (walks) regularly accomplished by Raja Shehadeh in Ramallah's hills within Area C. Raja is a lawyer who works particularly within the Israeli legal system to resist against the expropriations of the Palestinian land. I interviewed him for the book about this matter. He is also an author and wrote a book entitled Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape that recounts how he practices his freedom of movement by walking in those hills. This approach is very interesting as it is de facto non-violent yet resolutely transgressive as it escapes from most apparatuses of control.

Two other examples I can think of, which are not disobedient as such but register more in the domain of architectural resistance, both in their own way. The first one is well known to any architect who got interested in this conflict in the last decade: Decolonizing Architecture initiated and operated by architects Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal and Eyal Weizman have been conducted several projects and exhibition that question the role architecture can have to participate to the creation of a Palestinian state in the hypothesis of its emergence. Among other projects, they developed strategies of re-occupation of the Israeli settlements that would have been emptied by either a justice decision or the potential (unlikely) result of negotiations.

The second example in that matter is brought by the association Riwaq that started in 1994 to elaborate a National Register of Historic Buildings. This inventory, although it may look that is focused on the past, really organizes a present resistance to the Israeli effort to destroy Palestinian buildings but also constitutes a common heritage to the Palestinian people, and therefore something to unite about.

Do you see your book as a kind of 'weapon' as well?

Yes, definitely. Although it might then be not more powerful as the small hand catapults that consisted most of the weapons the Palestinians were ever able to use against the Israeli Defense Force's tanks and bulldozers, it still constitutes a form of resistance in itself, a refusal to submission, and therefore a contribution to the construction of a collective identity.

Thanks Léopold!

Related entries: Book review: Atlas of the Conflict. Israel-Palestine, Open City: Designing Coexistence - Part 2, Refuge, Decolonizing Architecture - Scenarios for the transformation of Israeli settlements and Welcome to Hebron.

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If ice skating's not your thing, check out Somerset House's ongoing exhibition about London's Forgotten Spaces and the way to reclaim them. The projects can be found in some of Somerset House's own forgotten spaces: damp lightwells, coalholes as well as hidden passages known as the Deadhouse. The whole itinerary is so labyrinthic and dusky, it sometimes feels like a treasure hunt.

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Photo Yin&Yang

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Photo Yin&Yang

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Photo Yin&Yang

Forgotten Spaces shows 28 projects shortlisted for a competition launched in Spring by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA.) The call invited architects, engineers, students and designers to submit proposals that reclaim overlooked spaces across Greater London. Inspired by success stories such as New York's High Line or Rotterdam's De Hofbogen, the competition aims to demonstrate how alternative way of thinking about urban space can inject new life and energy into some of London's most neglected corners.

The selected entries range from underground climbing tunnels to Atlantic salmons in the Thames, firepits in Crystal Palace, bee keeping, rooftops of tower blocks turned into social hubs and artist studios nested inside church spires.

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Wayward Plants, Urban Physic Garden

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Wayward Plants, Urban Physic Garden

Urban Physic Garden by Wayward Plants transforms a forgotten yard on the King's College and Guy's Hospital Campus into public garden where medicinal plants and healing herbs are grown for the public.

During the Summer, Wayward Plants put the Urban Physic Garden into practice, transforming a derelict site on Union Street SE1.

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The Union Street Urban Orchard, Photo credit: Mike Massaro

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Denizen Works, City Bee-House

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Denizen Works, City Bee-House

Half way between street art intervention and community service, Denizen Works's proposal would give members of the public a set of simple instructions that they could follow to install accommodation for the declining bee population. The little bee houses would nest in unused gaps of land between buildings and boundary walls in central London.

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Studio Dare, Bee Project

Studiodare's Bee Project is more ambitious. The architects propose to combine urban park, 'agroforest' and bee-keeping aviary to highlight our dependency on bees and the delicate nature of our ecosystem.

Bee Project can be enjoyed as a park for recreational purposes, an educational facility for school children and the unemployed, an activity for pensioners or a business for community organisations. Furthermore, the project offers the potential to create an economic market for the exchange of fruits, jams or honey on a 'farmers' market.

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Alex Scott-Whitby (Studio AR), (IN)SPires

The winning entry, (IN)SPires by Alex Scott-Whitby from Studio AR, proposes to strike a deal with the Diocese of London to turn 38 of the 51 of the disused belfry's of the City of London's church spires into low-cost studios for creative people. The architect is apparently already residing at the top of the Church of St Mary Woolnoth above Bank station.

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Steve McCoy, The Urban Climbing Wall

Second Prize went to Steve McCoy's Urban Climbing Wall that would turn the tunnels and vertical shafts of a disused air raid shelter situated under Clapham High Street into climbing, abseiling and potholing centre for children and thrill seekers.

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Area Landscape Architects, The Wandle Leap

Area Landscape Architects's proposal suggests to reintroduce the Atlantic Salmon in the Wandle. At the mouth of this river sits a largely unknown wasteland. A sweeping fish ladder spanning the mouth of the Wandle will provide the Salmon access from the Thames to the breeding grounds in the upper reaches. A salmon hatchery will be set in a mosaic of riparian habitats, including marsh and wet woodland - a parkland reclaimed from adjacent post-industrial wasteground.

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Aurelie Pot, Brunel's Café

Aurelie Pot had a simple and charming idea: hosting a Brunel's Café on the platforms underneath the South pillar of the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges.

More images from the exhibition:

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Forgotten Spaces is open until January, 29, 2012 at Somerset House. Free Admission.
Image on the homepage: The Firepits, Crystal Palace.

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Richard Pare, Shábolovka's radio tower, 1988


Havsko Shabolovski residential block and the radio tower Shabolovka, Moscow, c. © 1935 Department photo, State Museum of Architecture Schúsev, Moscow

Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 presents archive images, abstract paintings, drawings, collages, small videos, texts describing the buildings, etc. All of them are eclipsed by Richard Pare's photographs. I toured the exhibition twice (it's not very big) and my eyes kept falling on his photos to the detriment of the rest other exhibits.

Pare spent 14 years looking for the most striking examples of constructivist architecture in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan for his book Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922-1932.

The photo that opens Building the Revolution shows the Shabolovka Radio Tower. Completed in 1922, it was the first major structure erected after the revolution. From then on until the mid-1930s, social ideals, art and architecture in Soviet Russia will converge and give rise to a radically new architectural language.

The Soviet State that emerged from the 1917 Russian Revolution needed new types of buildings: workers' clubs, schools, communal housing, sports facilities for the proletariat, factories and power stations to turn into reality the new socialist dreams of industrialisation, living quarters and offices for the new administration, bus shelters, working space for the secret police, organs of propaganda, etc.

Examples below:

Red Banner Textile Factory designed by Erich Mendelsohn and later partly redesigned by S. O. Ovsyannikov, E. A. Tretyakov, and Hyppolit Pretreaus. Built in Saint Petersburg in 1926-1937.

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Richard Pare, Red Banner Textile Factory, 1999

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Richard Pare, Red Banner Textile Factory, 1999

Gosplan Garage, Moscow, 1999, Built 1934-36. Architect: Konstantin Melnikov with Nikolai Kurochkin:

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Richard Pare, Gosplan Garage, Moscow, 1999

The DneproGES dam and power station, built in Zaporozhe, Ukraine, from 1927 to 1932. It was designed by Aleksandr Vesnin, Nikolai Kolli, Georgy Orlov, and Sergei Andrievski.

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Richard Pare, DneproGES: turbine room, 1999

Engineering based on the principles of catenary arcs, the Dinamo Sports Club diving board, in Kiev, was designed by Vasili Osmak in 1935.

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Richard Pare, Dinamo Sports Club diving board

Narkomfin Communal House in Moscow, built 1928-19320. Architects: Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis. A fine example of Constructivist architecture and avant-garde interior planning, it is now almost empty and falling apart. Proposed reconstruction, in the best case, will retain only exterior walls.

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Richard Pare, Narkomfin Communal House, Moscow, C. 1995

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Narkomfin Communal House, Moscow, Moisei Ginzburg, Ignati Milinis, 1930 © M. A. Iline, 1931, Department of Photography, State Museum of Architecture Schúsev, Moscow

The Chekist Communal House, designed by Aleksandr Typikov in Nikzhni Novgorod (1929-32) for the notoriously ruthless Cheka, the secret police that will become the KGB:

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Richard Pare, Chekist Communal House, 2002 (2009)

Vladimir Tatlin made plans for the Tower or The Monument to the Third International that would rival the Eiffel Tower. It was planned to be erected in St. Petersburg after the Bolshevik Revolution, as the headquarters and monument of the Comintern (the third international). Each floor would revolve separately at different speed. It was never built but the Royal Academy has erected a red model of it in their forecourt.

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Tatlin, Maquette for The Monument to the Third International, 1919

Moisei Reisher's Water Tower for the Socialist City of Uralmash in Ekaterinburg, Russia (1929):

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Designed by Sergei Serafimov, Mark Felger, and Samuil Kravets, the Gosprom Building, in Kharkov, Ukraine, was built in 1929 to house the Soviet government's administrative offices

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Richard Pare, Gosprom Building

Konstantin Melnikov's house in Moscow (1927-31)

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Richard Pare, Konstantin Melnikov's house

Pare explains in an interview with Metropolismag the reason why his book stops in the mid 1930s: Stalin hands down his fiat in 1932 and dissolves all the clubs and organizations and brings them all together under the single organization of the House of Architects, which was to enforce the use of the heavy handed Stalinist classicism as the state sanctioned style.

Nowadays, most of these magnificent buildings are left to decay. Even more worryingly, many occupy valuable plots in Moscow and other cities and it is feared that they will eventually be demolished and replaced by tall, very high-density constructions.

The show closes rather gloomily with one of the few buildings that remains in pristine condition: Lenin's mausoleum in Red Square by Alexei Shchusev.

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Richard Pare, Lenin Mausoleum, the burial chamber, 1998

Related entry: Soviet Photomontages 1917-1953.

Building the Revolution. Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935, runs until 22 January 2012 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

I got back yesterday from another edition of the Gamerz festival in Aix-en-Provence. I don't think there's a festival anywhere in the world i visit with more enthusiasm. First of all, it takes place in Aix-en-Provence which is always a bonus. But more importantly, the festival has a strong, unique personality. Gamerz, the organizers would tell you, is only a pretext to invite artists, designers, researchers whose work they admire. And they even have to do game art. The opening performance, for example, wasn't the compulsory electronic music performance, it was an astonishing concert given by Choeur Itineris, professional choir singers interpreting a repertoire of mobile phone ringtones. The rest of the festival programme involves robots, dipterous experiences, video art, food artists, a 'half ship, half woman' DJ and other surprising works. And game art too.

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Parc des Princes stadium, Paris (detail)

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Parc des Princes stadium, Paris (detail)

What makes the festival worth the trip for me is that Gamerz always manages to scout young, talented artists i had never heard about. Before i get back to you with a proper report, here's a brief entry about Geraud Soulhiol's extraordinary drawings. His Arena series portrays existing football stadium that are not only decaying and crumbling but have also been colonized by more traditional icons of architectures such as cathedrals, local monuments, skyscrapers designed by starchitects, fortresses, factories, etc. The feeling of desolation is increased by the fact that the hybrid structures are presented in the middle of an empty white page, like carcasses abandoned in the desert.

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Stamford Bridge stadium, London

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Stamford Bridge stadium, London (detail)

The images on this blog post are quite miserable but the large scale ones are spectacular and it takes a few minutes to uncover all the details.

What brings us back to the world of game art is that Geraud Soulhiol was inspired by the spirit and aesthetics of strategy video games, in particular the isometric perspective many of them adopt.

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Craven Cottage, London (detail)

This one is for Zoe:

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Emirates stadium, London (detail)

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Emirates stadium, London (detail)

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Camp Nou, Barcelona (detail)

Video interview of the artist (in french.)

Gamerz festival is free and is open throughout the city of Aix-en-Provence until Sunday, November 27 2011.

Utopia Forever - Visions of Architecture and Urbanism. An inspirational exploration of utopias and radical approaches to city planning. Edited by Robert Klanten and Lukas Feireiss (available on amazon USAand UK.)

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Publisher Gestalten writes: Whether created by established architects and artists or new talents, the examples in Utopia Forever are important catalysts for fundamental change and are radically shaping our notions of life in the future. The current projects and concepts from architecture, city planning, urbanism, and art collected here point beyond the restrictions of the factual to unleash the potential of creative visions. This inspiring work explores how current challenges for architecture, mobility, and energy as well as the logistics of food consumption and waste removal can be met. Text features by both architects and theorists give added insight.

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Amid (cero9) + Colectivo Cuartoymitad's proposal The Big Mech Co

Everything in this book is orderly and rational. Clean and clear design. Project neatly presented: title, name of the architects, envisioned location and envisioned completion date. Followed by a brief summary of the context for the project and a few paragraphs that describe its principles and the way it works.

Five themes govern the selection of projects. Great Scapes examines proposals of living in inhospitable spaces: deserts, caves, online, up in the sky, etc. As its name suggests the chapter Rising Tides is all about projects that responds to rising sea levels. Ecotopia Emerging presents projects that have distinctly (and at times, extreme) eco-conscious ideals. Technology Matters highlights the impact of innovation on the way architects envision utopia. The last section, Sky's the Limit engages with vertical architecture.

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Studio Lindfors, Aqualta

The dozens of projects presented in the volume are accompanied by six essays that vary from the pragmatic to the humorous: Dan Wood and Amale Andraos walk us briskly through architectural utopia of the 1960s and 70s while Geoff Manaugh offers a tongue-in-cheek but also remarkably spot-on game that would help you build every possible scenario of utopian architecture.

Everything in this book is orderly and rational. Everything but the subject of the monograph of course. But no matter how 'conceptual' and outlandish the works presented in the book might appear, they come with irony, lucidity and a desire to focus on society/the planet's most pressing needs and as such, they provide valuable food for thought.

Some are mere exercises in speculations while others almost have their feet on the ground. Some are strangely seducing, others will give you nightmares.

Of course you will find in this book what any respectable book about utopian architecture should offer: pods of all sorts, vertical farms a gogo, mobile living spaces, cities built in the air, on the water, in the water and of course flooded cities. But there were also a few scenarios i had never heard about:

David A. Garcia has a couple of exciting projects in the book. My favourite is the Quarantined Library located on a cargo ship. Its mission is to collect infected and radioactive books, a robotic arms that engraves secrets on wooden panels infected by termites, and historically censored books. I couldn't find illustrations online but i did find some for the South Pole living station for 100 visitors with minimum environmental impact. The space would be holed out in a super large iceberg which would eventually melt in 7 to 10 years time.

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David A.Garcia, Sustainable Iceberg Living Station

Mila Studio proposes to build a 1,000m tall faux mountain at the site of the masterpieces that is the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin instead of hotels and sky-high offices. The Berg would be the world's largest man-made mountain, covered with snow from September to March and would serve as a tourist attraction for skiers in the otherwise slope-less city.

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Mila Studio, The Berg

London-based NaJa and deOstos office develops speculative, alternative urban concepts. One of the most attention-grabbing is the Hanging Cemetery of Baghdad which explore a possible response to extreme cultural and political challenges such as the crisis in the Middle East. Initiated in 2004, the project envisions "a gigantic presence of a hanging funereal structure [that] extends over the volatile city of Baghdad."

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NaJa and deOstos, Hanging Cemetery of Baghdad

Nicolas Mouret's Phyte is a 380m high tower that would move in natural flow and offer a stark contrast to the city's static skyline. The mechanical energy of the rocking tower would generate enough electricity to supply the building's lighting.

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Nicolas Mouret, PHYTE

Stéphane Malka's Self Defense hijacks The Grande Arche De La Défense in Paris and turn it into the 'Great arch of fraternity' at the service of the forsaken, the marginalized, refugees, demonstrators, dissenters, hippies, utopians, and the stateless of all kinds.

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Stéphane Malka, Auto-Défense

Where the Grass is Greener by Tomorrow's Thoughts Today envisions a group of Londoners who have chosen to segregate themselves from the rest of society, and has taken up the mantle of sustainability in an extraordinary way. Driven by a set of ethics that places them in sometimes radical opposition to the rest of London, they have adopted a lifestyle that effectively makes them a carbon sink for the remainder of the city.

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Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, Where the Grass is Greener (Hallucinogenic garden)

Saturation City explores the future of Australian urban space in 40 years time. The proposal manufactured a crisis - a rise in sea level of 20m, tested around Melbourne and Port Philip Bay - that would require dramatic urban upheaval. The park/garden, the business district, the suburb and the coastline, are subjected to dramatic densifications in response to the 'flood'.

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Bild, Dyskors, MGS and Material Thinking, Saturation City

Views inside the book:

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Image on the homepage: NL Architects, Cruise City, City Cruise, 2003.

For the first time in my life, i'm happy with Iberia services. They cancelled my flight from Gijón to Madrid and i was informed at the last minute that i was booked on a plane that departed before dawn. The new schedule meant that i'd have to wait 8 hours for my connecting flight in Barajas airport (stunning architecture, crap-est over-priced food in the entire universe.) I decided i would take the opportunity generously bestowed upon me by the dreadful airline and do something more interesting than spend hours in duty free shops. I left Barajas, took the metro to the center of Madrid, got a decent meal and visited an exhibition.

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Daniele Pario Perra, Economic Borders, Sicily, 2005

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Daniele Pario Perra, Economic Borders, Sicily, 2005

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Veronika Zapletalová, Chartarství (Summerhouses), 2005

The lunch wasn't memorable but the show was a joy. Post-it City. Occasional urbanities - Ciudades ocasionales at Centro Centro looks into temporary occupations of public space that appear on the fringe of urban-planning. Neither authorities nor architects have planned these informal uses of space. Whether they emerge for commercial, recreational, sexual or survival reasons, post-it practices answer needs that the city isn't able to answer adequately.

Post-it City phenomena emphasise the reality of the urban territory as the place where distinctive uses and situations legitimately overlap, in opposition to the growing pressures to homogenise public space. In contrast to the ideals of the city as a place of consensus and consumption, temporary occupations of space reaffirm use value, reveal different needs and lacks that affect given collectives, and even promote creativity and the subjective imagination.

From another standpoint, the temporary activities that contaminate public space with numerous para-architectural artefacts enable reflection on urban experience to redirect its attention towards the minuscule, thus correcting the arrogance of traditional architecture.

The exhibition has been touring for a few years and i even got my hands on the catalogue a while ago. I can't seem to be able to locate it right now but it's available on Amazon USA and UK. The show is packed with fantastic information, photographs and stories. I wish i could talk about every single one of them but that won't be necessary as all the projects have been listed on the Post-it City website. Here's a small selection:

Every Autumn, the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, New York, are sprinkled with temporary outdoor structures called sukkah. People live there for 7 days as a way to remember the fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

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Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo

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Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo

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Francisca Benitez, Prótesis del Nuevo Exodo


Francisca Benitez, Sukkah, 2001

Another of Francisca Benítez's photo series is part of Post-It City. The images show bundles nesting in Parisian trees. They are the personal belongings of Afghani immigrants. In July 2005, two months before the Paris riots, Benítez recorded every tree next to the Gare de l'Est. (Illegal) immigrants stack there their possessions while waiting for another odd job, for continuing their journey.

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Francisca Benítez, Gare de l'Est, 2005

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Francisca Benítez, Gare de l'Est, 2005

The photo documentation that most shocked me is Old Wreck City. Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano investigated what they call 'the city of abandoned cars' in Milan. Abandoned and stolen cars become a refuge where homeless Italians or foreigners sleep, eat, drink and take shelter from the rain and people's gazes. The images are accompanied by the story of some of the people who sleep in cars. Some of them have slept there for years, continuously or between jobs, some are couple waiting to be allocated social housing.

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Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano, Old wreck city

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Federica Verona and Cecilia Pirovano, Old wreck city


OLD WRECK CITY 09, the city of abandoned cars

Unlike European cemeteries, Cairo's historic cemeteries are not walled, they open onto the city, even merging with it. Driven by the difficulty of finding a home in the overcrowded city, some people have established their living space inside Cairo's cemeteries. Authorities do not officially recognise these informal settlements even though they supply them with water and light.

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Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005

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Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005

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Charlie Koolhaas, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, City of the Dead, 2005

The Cora Garrido Boxe Centre in São Paulo is a social institution as well as a gymnasium established below the motorway. The non-profit and free center seeks to attract marginalised people - the homeless, former addicts and prisoners, children and teenagers at risk - and to promote actions to bring about social reintegration through sport.

The gymnasium uses makeshift equipment. Lorry tyres are transformed into sand bags, lorry axles become barbells and shock absorbers converted into strength-training equipment.

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Cora Garrido, Gymnasium below the motorway, São Paulo

Each year, the "Day of the Dead" and "All Saints" see thousands of people visit their forefathers in the cemeteries of La Paz and El Alto. The commemorative event is also a festive ritual in which music is played and people are invited to take fruit, bread, drinks or coca that have been laid out to receive the souls of the departed. Informal markets are set up between graves and children's games appear where prayers are swapped for food and drink.

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Roberto Bogani and Sergio Forste, Convite de almas

Bas Princen's photos are always worth mentioning. The exhibition is showing a few photos from Utopian Debris, a photo series that attempts to illustrate the future of urbanism and landscape.

The first photograph below shows the section of a construction site which is excavating the ground under an existing village, and the second one, the sand-storage area for the construction of the Olympic Park in Beijing. Both demonstrate how the artificial nature of places is temporarily disguising itself as the natural.

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Bas Princen, Section II, 2007

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Bas Princen, Future Olympic Park, 2007

Post-it City. Occasional urbanities - Ciudades ocasionales remains open at Centro Centro in Madrid through 19 February 2012. Entrance is free.
Image on the homepage: Roulotte magazine, Special issue on Post-it City.

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