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w.w.w@r
How come nowadays architectural thinking is determined by geopolitics?



In 1989 with the Berlin Wall fall followed, two years later, with the end of Soviet Union, the world has entered a new era. Michael Hardt and Toni Negri on their essay "Empire" define it as the change of paradigm which lead us in to the beginning of Post-Modern geopolitics .
In the past, with so called "Cold War", the two parts were quite clear and defined. We leaved for almost fifty years in a world of regional conflicts (as Iran/Iraq war or Pakistan/India), national disputes (Angola, Mozambique, Guatemala, Algeria and so forth) where most of the times either East or West Block were supporting but not official engaged with it. Every now and then there was some particular moments of worldwide tension which were solved by political agreements - we have, for example, the Cuban Missile Crises.
Star Wars or Nuclear War were always a menace but never occurred.
The Nuclear threat had always been the most powerful weapon for constructing peaceful solutions until the end of Soviet Union. Europe and United States were always participating in conflicts but none of it was inside their borders.
Meanwhile with the end of bipolar world the nineties were constructed thru the idea we were living in a small world and with the means and technological development we could be everywhere in a few moments time. This idea was reinforced by the growing importance of geopolitics with emerging new countries, Internet's eruption, mass emigration movements and world wide mass trading. International economics organization as IMF, WTO, World Bank or G-7 than G-8 became more and more important spreading a liberalized economic system with a structure of values that will rule until our days. Globalisation gain a new breath as a system made of economic and technological networks able to environs all the world.
As a consequence of this, a new conscience also emerge. People that think a problem in one region could be seen as an Humanity problem gathered around Porto Alegre's Social Forums with the common slogan "another world is possible".
It's the age of Globalisation and Geopolitics.

Architectural contemporary theory had also followed this new age.
Architects started to put a key role on the matters of Territoriality producing architectural theoretical work about it - which since the sixties was seen as the expression of old utopians views. In this situation we find quite relevant the work produced on this area by Rem Koolhaas.
Original published in 1995, "S, M, L, XL" is probably the book that lead the way. Rem Koolhaas (with Bruce Mau's Design) launches a view of OMA architectural work, with some texts already regarding other scale issues as: "Singapore - Portrait of a Potemkin Metropolis", "Globalisation" or "Field Trip" (an essay about the Berlin Wall). This book relevance is tremendous, not only defining an aesthetics that will be globally spread, but also, for re-lounging the questions of territoriality and geopolitics in architectural debate.
Following his work as a professor of architecture and urban design at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Rem Koolhaas, started to develop a series of research material (Project on the City) repositioning architecture in world's key-debates. First we have "Mutations" an exhibition in Bordeaux Architectural Centre (Arc en Rêve Centre D' Architecture - 2000) followed by a "catalogue" where it was collected a series of essays produced by emerging thinkers as Stefano Boeri, Sanford Kwinter or Daniela Fabricius.
Also with the students of Harvard Design School, and developing "Project on the City" concept, in 2001 Rem Koolhaas publishes two new collection of essays; one about the Pearl River Delta called "Great Leap Forward" followed by the "Guide to Shopping" .
Recognizing Koolhaas work, on 2003 the world famous magazine "Wired" invited him to be the publisher director of its June number. It's an edition about space and new technological issues. "Ad Space", "Blog Space", "Protest Space", "Dump Space" or "Waning Space" (this last two written by Koolhaas) are examples of articles that launch a quick view about some particular aspect of this new world. And now (2004) we have the new "Contents" - already out of order.

However geopolitics and the defeat of one part in the Cold War didn't produce a more safe and peaceful world. Year after year people started to feel more unsafe.
On one hand it starts to erupt world wide networks of organized crime as the Russian mafias, illegal emigration networks and emerging Islamic fundamentalisms, that were able to act in several countries, and on the other hand (justified as a response to that), state politics started to implement national security measures most of the times harming peoples rights.
About this matter, it's quite interesting to read Ignacio Ramonet's article "Total Surveillance" published in "Le Monde Diplomatique - Portuguese Version" on August 2003 where he describes three security measures implemented by the United States Government in the last couple of years.
Just after September 11th we had Patriot Act Law to better control people that leave in the country, then for controlling the "foreign threat" we have the CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening) manage by a private corporate agency - ChoicePoint from Atlanta, (also none by its filial Database Technologies hired to reorganise electoral lists in Florida for last U.S. elections), and then the world wide database called TIA (Total Information Awareness now renamed as Terrorist Information Awareness) a program that will try to collect 40 pages of information from each person on Earth.

The battle between organized crime's networks (able to produce world wide acts of terror with low technology and high consequences), with the most developed security defence strategies and high-technological armies are producing a globalise feeling of war - world wide war.
We cannot identify a turning point or a special figure for w.w.war beginning, but we can identify a succession of events world wide - 1st Gulf War, NATO Balkan Intervention, Chechnya State of Terror, New York September 11th and Madrid March 11th terrorist's attacks, Bali Bombs, Palestine Situation and further more. However, probably more significant to study this new situation, is the new concepts globally spread by Geopolitics.

The generator idea is JUST WAR (bellum juste).
Generally this concept was associated to the ancient empires and we can find its complex genealogy in the traditional Biblical interpretations . Meanwhile this view has reappeared in the first Gulf War, than Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. Just War is funded by the idea that when one state is threat by one aggression capable of harming its integrity or territory, it can use the jus ad bellum, the right to declare war as a retort to the aggressions. The concept devaluate war making it became an ethical tool to achieve perpetual peace. This tool is justified by its goal. The necessity of security legitimates all the investment in protection - either for attacking possible enemies or to control the society we live in. The key statement to avoid a threat of any kind is act before it occurs .
If any Juridical System could be seen in a certain way, as the method a determine structure of values is crystallized and Ethics as material part of each Juridical fundament, this age is illustrated by an extreme coincidence of the Juridical with the Ethical element.
"Humanitarian War", "War against Terror" or "Security Reasons" are just a part of the Just War's rhetoric, sometimes corrupted by uncomfortable statements as Italian President Silvio Berlusconi's about "the superiority of occidental civilizations" and U.S. President G.W. Bush Jr. "crusade against evil" .
One of Just War's characteristics is also its clearness in defining opponent fields. Good and Bad, God and Evil, Empire and Resistance (George Lucas' "Star War" version), Peace and Terror (not War). This arguments are used by both parts, refining it sometime with a more religious "accent".

Just War generates w.w.war.

But Just War is not easy either to declare nor to maintain.
All conflicts, crises and oppositions are engaged to justify Just War. They are all part of the system since they manage to reinforce central authority. That's why new order, legitimate by prevention or surveillance, assists to the escalation of acts of terror and new conflicts, with a total distant view and rhetoric.
The system is emerging as a center which supports globalisation and all its networks of production and corporate economics, constructing a large grid which orders all the significant power relationships. At the same time, it displays an enormous military scenario for all the "barbarians" that menace its order. "Barbarians" could be either Islamic Fundamentalist Groups or Anti-War movements, because they both could be used to justify the state of exception for administrative procedures.
The invariable red alert, we are leaving in, produces a general feeling of unsafetyness, that can totally change architectural practice.
Cities started to be the privileged stages for the main battles, loosing then, its fundamental logic of a place for protection. According to Swanford Kwinter and Daniela Fabricius on their article about American City , Atlanta (Florida) spends 70% of its budget on guards and gates.
At the same time it emerges a new aesthetics of defense. It's not only weapons and army situation that are performed as toys for kids. Now the aesthetics is more accepted and diffused:

"In the 90's, the American car industry was marked by a radical transformation: SUV's began to dominate car sales until they represented over 60% of passenger car industry profits. The modern SUV is hardly more than a 'repurposed' World War II infantry and assault vehicle adapted for urban professionals to extend the garrison-style security of their suburban homes to the new concept of a roaming enclave. Urban dwellers now roam in America and Japanese versions of the original British Rover (engine of the British colonial adventure in Africa), like tourists patrolling their own cities made wild and menacing now their own deliberate neglect.
SUV culture expresses at the same time an ambiguous contempt and hostility for metropolitan existence as well as a longing for redemption of the urban soul through equipment…
As an extension of the post-war station wagon - the first car directly marketed for women (now experienced in operating machinery from their role in wartime munitions factories - nearly 60% of SUV's in the city today are driven by women."

About this aesthetics of war it's also interesting to read Times Online's article published two years after September 11th (on September 6th) on its Travel section, entitled "Why we're drawn to the roots of terror". This article shows the way ground zero became a spectacle of destruction and noticing that nowadays it is more visited then it was the Twin Towers. "James Bone explains how sites of tragedy become places of pilgrimage" - they announce.

All of this gave substance to Paul Virilio' s thesis about Pure War, already developed since the 80's, seeing the system as a continuous preparation for one war that will happen:
"Deterrence is the development of an arms capacity that assures total peace. The fact of having increasingly sophisticated weaponry deters the enemy more and more, at that point, war is no longer in its execution, but in its preparation. The perpetuation of war is what I call Pure War, war which isn't acted out in repetition but in infinite preparation. Only this infinite preparation, the advent of logistics, also entails the non-development of society in the sense of civilian consumption."
"(…) Pure war contributes to the inversion of all terms of power, as it leads each antagonist to the immediate reversibility of the conditions of the possibility of confrontation"
Paul Virilio is a thinker which had been always connected with warfare. Born in 1932, he assisted at the destruction of Nantes in 1942, some years after Virilio was drafted into the French army to fight in Algerian War and since the 60's he had started to publish a series of essays about urbanity, war, speed and technology.
"His Geopolitics" is a continuous succession of events, an incredible landscape of technology and machinery lead by an imperial strategy of power projection. In his apotheotical view, he sees the urbanist as a person who designs and prepares the city in order to defend it.
Paul Virilio's work has to be read carefully but with an autonomous spirit (to not be engage by the total scenario's he creates).

For architects and urbanists, as a pretend to argue, there is a brand new age to work with.
A world with less physical frontiers in between states, but where the social borders are much more defined. A city where walls are built to reinforce or determine differences - the walls G8's governments built in Genova (July 2001) are part of the same wall that is being built in Palestine (2004). People wanting to construct houses as a place for being safe, although with a common feeling that total security and liberty are different ways of the same road. A world where spatiality overheads mapping .
What I pretend to argue is that architecture and urbanism play a key role in the configuration of this new age either to reshape cities or to construct new geopolitics solutions.

Tiago Mota Saraiva
(April 17th of 2004)









w.w.w@r - BIBLIOGRAPHY

Agnew, J. (1998)."Geopolitics: Revisioning World Politics". Routledge, London.

Augé, Marc (2003)."Diário de Guerra".Translated by M. S. Pereira, Colecção Entre Vistas. Fim de Século, Lisboa. Original Published Éditions Galilée, Paris 2002.

Benjamin, Walter (1992)."Sobre Arte, Técnica, Linguagem e Política".Translated by M. L. Moita, M. A. Cruz and M. Alberto. 1ª Edição ed, Antropos. Relógio d'Água, Lisboa. Original Published Suhrkamp Verlag, 1980.

Clastres, Pierre (1994)."Archeology of Violence".Translated by J. herman. Semiotexte, New York. Original Published Éditions du Seuil, Paris 1980.

Colomina, Beatriz (2000)."Privacy and Publicity - Modern Architecture as Mass Media". 5th Edition ed. MIT Press, Massachusetts. Original Published Massachusetts 1996.

Castells, M. (1996)."The Rise of Network Society". Blackwell, Oxford.

Crang, Mike and Thrift, N. J. (2000)."Thinking Space (Critical Geographies)". 1ª Edição ed. Routledge, London.

Debord, Guy (1992)."La Société du Spectacle". 3ª Edição ed, Collection Folio. Éditions Gallimard, Paris. Original Published Éditions Buchet-Chastel, 1967.

Gresh, Alain, Vidal, Dominique, Achcar, Gilbert, Radvanyi, Jean and Rekacewicz, Philippe (2003)."Atlas da Globalização Le Monde diplomatique".Translated by E. Neves and J. Henriques. 1ª Edição ed. Campo da Comunicação, Lisboa. Original Published Le Monde diplomatique SA, 2003.

Harvey, David (1989)."The Condition of Postmodernity". Blachwell, Oxford.

Harvey, David (2001)."Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography". Routledge, Edimburgh.

Klein, Naomi (2001)."No Logo - Economia Globale e Nuova Contestazione". Translated by E. Trading and S. Borgo. 4th Edition ed. Baldini&Castoldi S.p.A., Milano. Original Published 2000.

Klein, Naomi (2002)."Fences and Windows - Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate". Flamingo, London.

Koolhaas, Rem (1994)."Delirious New York - A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan". 010 Publishers, Rotterdam. Original Published New York 1978.

Koolhaas, Rem (1997)."S, M, L, XL". Taschen, Koln, Germany. Original Published New York 1995.

Koolhaas, Rem (2001)."Great Leap Forward". Vol. I, Project on the City. Taschen, Koln.

Koolhaas, Rem (2001)."Guide to Shopping". Vol. II, Project on the City. Taschen, Koln.
Koolhaas, Rem and School, Harvard Design (2000)."Mutations". Actar, Barcelona/Bordeaux.

Landa, Manuel De (2003)."War in the Age of Intelligent Machines". Edited by S. Editions. 5th Edition ed. Zone Books, New York. Original Published New York 1991.

Negri, Antonio and Hardt, Michael (2001)."Impero - Il nuovo ordine della globalizzazione". Translated by A. Pandolfi. 1ª Edição ed. Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, Milan. Original Published 2000.

Portas, Nuno, Domingues, Álvaro and Cabral, João (2003)."Políticas Urbanas - Tendências, estratégias e oportunidades". Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa.

Ramonet, Ignacio (2003)."Guerras do Século XXI".Translated by J. Martins. 2ª Edição ed, Campo da Actualidade. Campo das Letras, Porto. Original Published Éditions Galilée, Paris (2002).

Tzu, Sun (1971)."The Art of War". Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Virilio, Paul (1984)."L' Horizon Négatif - Essai de Dromoscopie", Débats. Éditions Galilée, Paris.

Virilio, Paul (1991)."L'Écran du Désert - Chroniques des Guerres", L' Espace Critique. Éditions Galilée, Paris.

Virilio, Paul (1991)."The Aesthetics of Disappearance". Semiotexte, New York. Original Published Éditions Balland 1980.

Virilio, Paul (1993)."L' Insécurité du Territoire". 2ªEdição ed, L' Espace Critique. Éditions Galilée, Paris. Original Published Éditions Stock, 1976.

Virilio, Paul (1996)."Architecture Principe - 1966 et 1996". Les Éditions de L'Imprimeur, Besançon. Original Published (?), 1966.

Virilio, Paul (2000)."A Velocidade de Libertação". Translated by E. Cordeiro, Mediações - Comunicação e Cultura. Relógio d'Água, Lisboa. Original Published Éditions Galilée, Paris (1995).

Virilio, Paul (2002)."Ground Zero". Translated by C. Turner. Verso, New York. Original Published Éditions Galilée, 2002.

Virilio, Paul (2003)."Unknown Quantity". Translated by C. Turner and J.-X. Too. Thames & Hudson, Paris.

Virilio, Paul and Lotringer, S. (1983)."Pure War". Semiotexte, New York.

Walzer, Michael (1992)."Just and Unjust Wars". 2nd Edition ed. Basic Books, New York.


ARTICLES in newspapers, magazines and books

Koolhaas, Rem. "Dump Space - Wasteland." Wired, June 2003, pp. 137.

Kwinter, Sanford and Fabricius, Daniela. "The American City." In Mutations, edited by R. Koolhaas, pp. 484-629. Barcelona/Bordeaux: Actar, 2000.

Luke, Tim and Tuathail, Gearóid Ó. "Thinking Geopolitical Space - The spatiality of war, speed and vision in the work of Paul Virilio." In Thinking Space (Critical Geographies), edited by M. Crang and N. J. Thrift, pp. 360 - 379. London: Routledge, 2000. Original Published presented at the annual meeting of the association of American Geographers, Fort Worth - Texas 1997.

Ramonet, Ignacio. "Vigilância Total." Le Monde Diplomatique - versão portuguesa, August 2003 2003, 32.

Whiting, Sarah. "Protest Space - Quiet Riot." Wired, June 2003, pp. 145.
 
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