UN Freeport Enclaves | Alephograph


Enclave 03, sketch. Fragment

“Under the auspice of generating a new interpretation of the United Nations as an institution, the Freeport became an architectural extrapolation of the position of the gifted murals and artworks hanging within the UN Building as a more naïve or truthful reflection of the United Nations dream.” These are the words used by Luke Pearson from Alephograph, to describe his project UN Freeport Enclaves.

With Kelly Easterling’s analysis of the United Nations Law of the Sea in mind, New York’s original detached enclave [Roosevelt Island] was reinterpreted as a Free Economic Zone to help America pay back its unpaid UN contributions, currently in excess of one billion dollars. The UNCLOS replaces the older and weaker ‘freedom of the seas‘ concept, dating from the 17th century: national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation’s coastlines, usually three nautical miles, according to the ‘cannon shot’ rule developed by the Dutch jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek. All waters beyond national boundaries were considered international waters — free to all nations, but belonging to none of them [the mare liberum principle promulgated by Grotius]. But currently only two countries still use the three-mile limit: Jordan and Palau, as read on the Table of Claims to Maritime Jurisdiction.

Alephograph presents here a series of exploratory and propositional drawings, where the language of the grid as capitalist tool meets the innocence and naivety of the mural-space, as a parallel to the system of reducing a country to statistical economic analysis meeting the different visual and cultural languages of 192 nations drawn together within the UN.


Enclave 01, sketch


Enclave 03, sketch. Fragment

Luke Pearson wrote about his project:

As part of a larger investigation into this propositional United Nations governed Freeport, the sketchbook drawings which make up the “Enclaves” serve as a central core to the discussion the project instigates between the act of the draughtsman and that of the delineator. How does one begin to attempt a rendering of the tensions between international politics, city planning, economic grading systems and the often wilful naivety in the family home of the world that is the UN Headquarters in New York.

These dimunitive sketches are used to examine and develop a conceptual framework for the production of larger, detailed drawings. Described as a process of thinking through drawing whereby the sketchbook becomes a palimpsest of prototypes and key moments for later resolution. The process of allowing the solvent based ink to bleed through the page and onto the next leaf starts to create new landscapes on which to anchor the next drawing. Patches of tone become part of a new drawing linked materially to that which came before it, allowing Alephograph’s architectural thinking to be serialised through the pages of the sketchbook.


Enclave 02, sketch

This narrative set through delineations become a process which appears equivocal to what we might loosely term “design through making” whereby the act of drawing becomes a method of thinking in itself. As read on the synthesis of Sheil’s book:

Most architects who build do not make buildings; they make information that makes buildings. Making buildings requires knowledge not only in the world of information exchange, but in the world of making things. Transforming an idea into built form is a delicate, skilled, and somewhat mysterious operation; it relies on a tacit expertise that is familiar with the tactile and the physical.

That’s why the UN Freeport Enclaves drawings initially deal with a mass of quasi-architectural ephemera which starts to become anchored to a masterplanning scheme set out through the economic grading systems the UN uses to compare nations.


Enclave 02, sketch. Fragment

Pearson has sent us a text on the project, where he describe the techniques used on his work that mixes architectural research with drawing and fabrication. He adds that a second series of drawings for the UN Freeport were produced through enlargements of the drawings made in sketchbooks. These are overlaid with polyester drafting film and rendered using colouring pencils along with white and black ink. The project doesn’t ends at this point, going further with textural investigations of these drawings, Pearson has included the use of Copic Wide markers on polyester film to develop a watercolour like surface effect that was then manipulated for some minutes before drying. Working onto these with lighter value markers allowed for different textural effects, as we can see here:


Sketchbook 01. Fragment


Sketchbook 01. Fragment

We think that this is a remarkable way to analyze a difficult issue as the United Nations Law of the Sea. Different new narratives are emerging and in between the abundant digital tools, is really impressive to stop for a while and return to this kind of drawings. Going back to Sheil‘s thesis:

Today, both visual literacy and the means of making architectural information are developing at such an explosive rate that our visual appetite for elusive and seductive form appears insatiable. Strangely enough, at this point where the visual [implied] could not appear more distant in outlook from the actual [artefact], it is largely through the implications of advanced drawing techniques that the issue of how things are made has once more become fundamental to design practice.


Enclave 02, sketch. Fragment

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Alephograph is the work of Luke Caspar Pearson, encompassing art and architectural research into drawing and fabrication. Luke currently teaches Unit 4 of the Bartlett Architecture course at University College London, where students explore the brief of Character Building – pursuing the delineation of an architectural character informed by modes of representation. For more info, visit Alephograph.

For more info about The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, you can go here.


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