Weaponized Architecture | Léopold Lambert

Weaponized Architecture is Léopold Lambert‘s post-professional thesis at Pratt Institute [New York]. This research and project are aimed to investigate the inherent characteristic of architecture to be conceived or/and instrumentalized as a political weapon.

“En una línea el mundo se une
Con una línea el mundo se divide
Dibujar es hermoso y tremendo”

-Eduardo Chillida

The Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida expresses through this short poem the tremendous power of drawing and its materialization that we can call architecture. As Lambert explains, one line has indeed the capacity of splitting a milieu into two environments impermeable one for another as the obvious geopolitical examples of border walls around the world remind us. Palestinian architect Nurhan Abujidi recently wrote, “the State of Occupation and Siege is experienced by Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza within ‘lines’ configured following the 1967 ['Six Day'] War and the 2002 Israeli reoccupation of the Palestinian Territories.” This is a close example about the transcendental gesture that can also find its space with the line; within its antinomic thickness created by the dark matter of the pencil. This “line” is the start point of Lambert‘s research to develop the idea that architecture can be specifically filtered by its political implications.

The Western vision of the Palestinian situation analyzed at Weaponized Architecture has drived Léopold to think on the symptomatic of the absolute refusal of the World to see what is the real situation in Palestine. Talking about peace implies that there is a war going on which is not the case by any mean. He adds: “I affirm it; there is no war in Palestine.”

The research includes some interviews, one with Brian Finoki during February 2010, in which he pointed:

I am very curious about the notion of the subversive architect, one that uses architectural design and innovation to game the system, to get around certain political constraints, or to help recalibrate the urban environment in some way that currently operates at a level of injustice, or illogic. I don’t think architecture is so intertwined with power that it cannot be trusted on any level and therefore cannot exist. But, I am interested in how architects can perhaps use their skills and knowledge and the value of architecture as a political art, as a space of urban negotiation with institutional power [emphasis ours], to in effect bring changes about spatially on their own, to force new balances of power, to in effect establish dialogs with power through the medium of design that can challenge the institution in some way.

Finoki clearly describe a situation that is more and more present in conflict cities. The notion of Urbicide as “violence against the city” has been studied by Léopold Lambert to develop his proposal for Palestina.

Reading Nurhan Abujidi‘s The Palestinian States of Exception and Agamben, we found that following the 1948 War, Palestine was dislocated and reproduced in new places outside Palestine. And she adds, “Since then, it has been a space undergoing continual transformation as its dimensions expand and contract drastically and change. This condition of change constantly creates new realities and relations that neither fit simple categories nor conform to previously encountered forms.”

As a response to that situation, this project is focused on the Israeli colonization of the West Bank. In a situation like this, the term urbicide is increasingly being used to help describe and understand the contemporary and historic wars where cities can no longer be considered safe havens from war, but rather are part of the battle field. We can add that the evolution of that term is now “weaponized architecture”.

With several interesting references, as the subterranean or exhumed architectures or some abandonned structures near Ramallah, the project reminds us the work of Lebbeus Woods on his book War and Architecture, where he pointed: “Architecture must learn to transform the violence, even as violence knows how to transform architecture.” Also the texts of Bogdan Bogdanović can be related with the project developed by Lambert; especially when Bogdanović describes the 20th century with these words:

It is difficult to come up with a single formula to describe the Europe of the 20th century – except that it was a monstrous century. The 20th century was a sad, dangerous century [...] All that I can say is this: I saw it, I lived it, and I didn’t understand it.

Bogdanović was talking about Europe, but unfortunately we can also describe as monstrous the history of the Palestinian territories. The result of this inputs is a project that intends to elaborate a strategy of construction of a building which is both built and used by the two populations which suffers from the Israeli occupation: Farmers and Bedouins.

Léopold Lambert said about his project:

In fact, this project proposes a negotiation between those two very different peoples who share only their daily suffering caused by the Israeli colonization. While this building can be used by Palestinians as an agricultural platform and temporary dwelling (a Qasr), Bedouins can appropriate it as a caravansary for their animals and themselves as an episode of their continuous movement between the islands of the Palestinian Archipelago [area A where Palestinians own a relative autonomy is in fact fragmented in a multitude of little “islands” of territory].

From Weaponized Architecture Mid-Term Presentation

“The architectural vocabulary of this building recounts this negotiation and associates the Bedouins’ textile language with the solid and thick aspects of Palestinian architecture. The tents are the first elements set on site in order to camouflage the excavation of the earth for the dwelling to exist. Meanwhile an undercover trench is also dig in order to link the illegal -illegal here is used in the transcendental definition of the power embodied by the Israeli army- construction site with a decoy one situated two hundred meters away in the area A. The excavation done, a slow construction made out of concrete, dirt and stones is accomplished every night to eventually achieve an “indestructible” architecture that fulfill the intentions expressed above.”

“The building can only be revealed by the improbable withdrawing of the Israeli army from the West Bank or a more likely attack and evacuation of the IDF on this building. In this second scenario, an attempted destruction of it is effectuated, symptomatic of a more or less conscious will from the Israeli State to absolutely make disappear any Palestinian impact on the land as we observed with the total annihilation of the Arab villages on the Israeli territory after the Naqba in 1948. To exist becomes therefore to resist, and the impossibility of a total destruction of this architecture is, despite its evacuation, represents an expressive resistance to the Israeli colonization. With time, the building becomes more and more an integral part of the land, dust, stones and vegetations thus appropriating the former structure that became a manifesto of existence.”

We want to end with a poem written by Lebbeus Woods that [in our opinion] materializes in words the research and project designed by Léopold Lambert:

Architecture and war are not incompatible.
Architecture is war. War is architecture.
I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority
that resides in fixed and frightened forms.
I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family,
no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end,
no “sacred and primordial site.”
I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories
that would chain me with with my own falseness, my own pitful fears.
I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments,
and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.”
I am an architect, a constructor of worlds,
a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody,
a silhouette against the darkening sky.
I cannot know your name. Nor can you know mine.
Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.

Related readings:
Weaponized Architecture by Léopold Lambert
– Léopold Lambert is editor at the blog Boiteaoutils
Secret Tunneling | Underground Leisure and Smuggle for Survival
Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani

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