Territory: Spatial Reification of Power
The simple differentiation between “inside” and “outside” has politically configured the world as we see it today.
Increasingly, architectural thinking has addressed large-scale systems, such as those of cities, landscapes, regions, and even the world. With this increase in scale, the distinctions between architecture and geography get blurred and many aspects of those disciplines become interchangeable. However, although architecture claims agency in addressing geographical questions, there seems to be little understanding of one of the most fundamental aspects of large-scale spatial systems, the concept of “territory.”
To discuss “territory” is to move away from an apparent ordinary neutrality of the term to incorporate all the complexities inherent in the relation between place and power. What is usually taken for granted, imagined as natural, is in fact a highly articulated, historically defined social construct. Far from being an object, “territory” is a political technology (Elden, 2013), an apparatus of control we have gotten used to.
The course proposes that investigating the ways in which territory is produced, maintained and strategized, and generates conflicts, establishes divisions and build identities can lead to a more critical understanding of architecture’s role in society. Architecture, especially because it is always political – even in a rudimentary level it expresses ideological positions by limiting and separating one part from another – can be seen as a form of reproducing territorial logics into a smaller scale context. The overlap between architecture and “territory” are many, from concerns with the way the interplay of social and political forces gets spatialized, to more general issues such as struggles over land division, property rules, private vs. public realms, dominance vs. resistance, definition of borders, and the reification of power as space.
The course is designed to expand the student’s literacy in the concept of territory and its relation to the architecture realm. The course is structured as a seminar with a research component to be developed throughout the semester. Students will be asked to engage in a research project to explore territorial relations at a specific scale of their interest, e.g. a scale of a country, a neighborhood, a building, etc. Each project will investigate one specific case, either directly related to architecture or not, in which territorial logic is implemented. Drawing on the fact that the advent of “territory” was dependent on innovations on cartographic and mapping techniques, the research projects are expected to incorporate a strong graphical component to make these territorial logics visible.
Studio Smedt-Kozlowski Fall15
3rd-year Option Studio
Studio offered with Julien DeSmedt
Here, work sample by: Alice Kao, Blanca Abramek, Jessica Pace, Sam Ghantous and Maxwell Jorosz
In the discipline of Information Technology, “architecture” – the space inhabited by users – and “infrastructure” – the systems that enable use – are increasingly being thought of as a single idea. However, in the more tangibly and ideologically entrenched disciplines of architecture, urbanism, and civil engineering, “infrastructure” and “architecture” remain two separate concerns. Just as the information revolution that accompanied the development of the Internet has created new dispersed networks of exchange, collaboration, and efficiency, an emerging energy revolution calls for dispersed networks of self-sufficient energy collection networked together to maximize efficiency. This is one of the most compelling opportunities for addressing the environmental crisis, and re-conceptualizing architecture as infrastructure, to design buildings and cities as integrated systems for collecting and distributing energy.
Chicago finds itself in a strategic moment where three major initiatives that will shape the future of the city have just been launched.
Firstly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly announced that Chicago aspires to the greenest city in the world. In 2013 the City was nominated the “Earth Hour Climate Leader,” and started collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund to develop innovative technology and open data programs to engage its citizens on climate issues. With this year’s launch of the “2015 Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda,” which sets the key policies and goals for its sustainable development in the coming years, the City reinforces this position, building a solid and fertile ground to achieve its environmental goals.
Secondly, Chicago is the first American city to set up a metropolitan infrastructure bank, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The Trust is Chicago’s response to Washington’s bureaucracy, and intents to give the City autonomy and funds to pursue large-scale infrastructure undertakings by pairing investors with projects.
And finally, the City has recently released a five-year housing plan (2014-2018), Bouncing Back, which dedicates $1.3 billion investment to construct or preserve 41,000 affordable homes.
These measures will have a tremendous impact on the City and its environmental status. However, if not properly planned, all this effort can generate negative outcomes, and this unique opportunity to imagine a new future for the city will have been wasted. This will entirely depend on how development happens.
We will envision a series of projects for Chicago where architecture joins forces with its infrastructural needs to create urban hybrids.
With the premise to address large-scale urban issues with a pragmatic and environmental mind, we will develop research and projects that aim to combine infrastructural needs and architectural outcomes. We will study and design new ways to connect the tremendous efforts and expenses made in the infrastructural sector with the building sector in an attempt to redefine urban development. If infrastructure can literally set the foundation for architecture to occur, we will join the two efforts, and explore ways to densify the urban geography to reach higher levels of efficiency for society. By combining architecture and infrastructure we aim to speculate on new ways the City of Chicago can address its current and future environmental concerns.
Santiago de Compostela, 2020
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski, Roi Salgueiro, Luiz Gustavo Zincone
The Center for the Promotion of Agriculture, Forestry and Cattle in Sergude is an ambitious project that seeks being a model for emerging, sustainable models of agriculture and cattle in Galicia. With that goal, our proposal is structured in the following way.
One. Structuring the territorial scale. The first key measure consists in addressing the territorial and landscape dimension of the intervention. Before addressing the specific design of the architectural pieces, we focus on defining a masterplan that improves the image and use of the existing buildings. These are incorporated in a new complex that is legible at the territorial scale, and that creates new relations between buildings and landscape.
Two. Organizing the program in four areas allowing access to the landscape. We distribute the program in clear, autonomous areas that come together in the center of the existing buildings; which thus becomes a core space to access the different zones. In a new square in front of the historic Pazo (the traditional typology of Galician landlords), converge four different groups of buildings dedicated to Housing and Teaching, Research, Agricultural Promotion, and Cattle. Together, these buildings form a sort of Y aimed at interconnecting the different agroforestry sectors. Each of these groups presents a specific relation to landscape, either with the existing hills and mountains, either with existing or new watercourses and waterbodies.
Three. Facilitating a sustainable territorial metabolism through the building systems. We propose using similar construction systems throughout all the complex, while warranting the formal singularity of each of the pieces. We always use horizontal structures in wood, which give special importance to the formalization of the roofs. The vertical structures alternate wood columns with rammed earth walls. By using biomass, wood is also an energy source. In this way, the Center will become an example of the possible uses of the different types of wood produced in Galicia, and of the benefits of fostering processes of territorial metabolism that link in a sustainable ways the production and consumption of wood.
Four. Creating models of sustainable agroforestry linking production and landscape. Our project generates a landscape that interrelates teaching, research, production, and promotion of agricultural goods with the aesthetic and ecologic appreciation of the landscape. With that goal we propose a series of agroforestry systems, water courses, and pedestrian paths, which transform the existing monoculture areas. These agroforestry system will increase the ecological biodiversity of the area, both in flora and fauna. The result is the emergence of a mosaic of forest types, in line with Richard TT Forman’s models, that we interlink by extending the existing ecological corridors.
House in Indaiatuba
– under construction –
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski and Miguel Darcy
The initial parameter that guided the design of this residence was the condition of the plots’ subdivision wherein it is located. Although the condominium is still under development, the occupation pattern is clear. With houses placed side by side, the boundary walls—albeit never properly explored—play a critical role of spatial structuring. This project takes its perimeter walls as central design elements: three concrete walls define the articulation between structure, internal spaces and central garden.
Each of these walls takes on a specific function. On one side, the wall is treated as multifunctional surface that receives all the installations and furniture of the living room and garden; on the opposite side, it guides the main circulation axis of the house. At the back, the third wall is detached from the plot’s limit to conform a service area, en suite bathroom and closet, while negotiating the relationship between the house and the retaining wall of the neighboring lot.
A pair of beams, at times traditional, at times inverted, structure the spam that connects the two pavilions of the living room and bedrooms. The rooms are oriented transversally to the longitudinal pavilion, and masonry walls are position in-between them, in a single direction. Such orientation provides a clear structural logic for the support of the slab that houses the raised terrace, and simultaneously reinforces a connection between the internal spaces and the garden.
The facade panels are composed of a metallic frame and a translucent polycarbonate sheet, filled with gravel on both sides. The use of gravel, the same material used as thermal insulation on the terrace, filters light during the day and, conversely, allows the façade to be lit from the inside out at night.
Brazilian Pavilion Expo 2020
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski, Gringo Cardia, Bárbara Graeff, Tripper Arquitetura
Our pavilion is inspired by one of the greatest technological achievements of Brazil: the improvement of the Direct Planting System over straw. This agricultural technique protects the soil and maintains the ideal thermal conditions for cultivation. The pavilion conceptually mimics this scheme through its layered arrangement - soil, entanglement of protection, productivity - presenting itself as both a building and a symbolic image of one of our progresses.
Historically, the pavilion is mirrored in the rich Brazilian tradition at International Expos, subtly borrowing from the masterpieces of Paulo Mendes da Rocha at Osaka 1970 and from Sérgio Bernardes at Brussels 1958.
The pavilion’s design decisions were based on technological advances in sustainability, both of construction and of performance. The building explores the plastic potential of laminated timber as a structure - renewable material that sequesters carbon rather than releasing it - and of the rammed earth mixed with reinforced concrete - which lowers its energy of production and the absorption of heat. The pavilion produces its own energy, recycles its own water, and makes the use of air conditioning unnecessary by combining the constant flow of air through an open façade, with the humidity of running water and of the vegetation under shadow.
The ground floor is free and opens up under the protection of an inverted topography that floats above it. This continuous entrance pavement hosts the exhibition Together for Nature,which is organized around 6 walls, representing the 6 main Brazilian biomes. The walls are combined with the soils of each biome and surrounded by totems containing the seeds of their native species, narrating a tactile history of the foundations of our country through colors and textures.
The ascent to the upper exhibitions takes place under an oculus that connects the ground floor directly to the sky. Inside a tangle of tree branches, visitors find the Together for Peopleexhibit. Displayed on the inner facades, it showcases our ethnic diversity with the faces of our people and the sounds of our indigenous villages. The center of this space, in turn, houses the exhibition Together for Tomorrowthat embraces the great theme of Biotechnology from water-related advancements in the areas of Desalination, Aquaculture and Biofuel from algae.
After experiencing the textures of the seeds, the roughness of branches on the façade and the coldness of water, after diving into the sounds of our oldest villages, observing our faces, and learning about the future of how we relate to water, our visitors enjoy a viewing space and restaurant that crown the rooftop of the pavilion. Space of rest and conversation.
In this pavilion there is no distinction between outside and inside, between building and exhibition, between sustainability and technology, all together form a single sensory-cognitive experience that describes the richness and progress of our country.
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski, Gabriel Duarte, Miguel Darcy, Luisa Schettino
The project’s design decision was to dialogue with Brasilia, and try to extract an essence of what this city-giant means for our profession.
The peripheral occupation of the lot by a stepped volume, framed by two elevated blocks, creates a succession of intermediate environments – passages and transitions – that translate into form the current moment of consolidation experienced by the two Institutions it hosts, the Institute of Architects of Brazil and the Council for Architecture and Urbanism. This porous volume surrounds and gives access to different civic and meeting spaces from the cascading entrance square, through the large central courtyard, to the terraces of working spaces. Visually connected to each other, all these environments invite its users to participation and dialogue, values that underpin the role played by the institutions they represent.
The stepped volumes, where most of the service and working areas are concentrated, are structured by simple concrete supports and steel-deck slabs with conservative spans. Its rigidly controlled modulation avoids structural transition components, allowing all the building’s installations and vertical and horizontal access to be concentrated in four cores. Exceptions strategically and symbolically occur in the spaces designed for the for public and civic use programs. The auditorium and a plenary occupy large metal trusses, rising on sturdy and simple supports at both ends of the building, thus creating large porticoes that connect the interior spaces to the city and the landscape.
At the same time the project dialogues with the horizon line, it opens the center of the site to the amplitude of Brasilia’s plateau sky. It rises to impose itself, competing with the monumentality of the city, but becomes intimate in its central superblock. It defines a clear mark for the two poles of the territory through the articulation of the core program, underneath of which topographic manipulations structure the project, granting space for the unfolding of the landscaping in symbolic conversation with the Niemeyer buildings of the city. The materials are raw for quick construction but also because the building of nothing more needs.
Black and white and represented by a one-point perspective, the project quietly reveres the city where it is inserted, choosing to let its architectural qualities surface crude and slowly to the eyes of the observer.
Walls of Air: Venice Biennale 2018
- Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition -
Curators: Gabriel Kozlowski, Laura Gonzaléz Fierro, Marcelo Maia Rosa, Sol Camacho
Walls of Air explores the ways in which to read, challenge and transgress the material and immaterial boundaries of Brazil and its architecture.
As it investigates the different types of walls that have constructed the country, it reflects on the borders of architecture itself in relation to other disciplines.
The first room presents 17 architectural and urban projects selected from a public open call. Chosen for articulating ingenious solutions to transform their environment into one that is more fluid, connected and inclusive, the projects reveal architecture’s ability to break down walls and build a more generous and collective public sphere.
The second room houses 10 large cartographic drawings. Specifically crafted for this event, the maps intend to make visible the forms of spatial and social separations that have resulted from Brazil’s urbanization processes. In hope to shed light on issues often overlooked due to their nature or scale, these cartographies redraw the Brazilian map in unfamiliar ways to reveal the alternative facets of the country.
This research involved more than 200 collaborators – from the most diverse disciplines such as geography, medicine, anthropology, social sciences, arts, law and politics – and culminated in a book to expand the conversation beyond the limits of this singular exhibition moment, thus building a broader dialogue over Brazil’s Freespace.
Photo Credits: ImagenSubliminal 2-7, 10-16, 19; Ricardo Tosetto 17-18; Miguel Darcy 8-9.
Walls of Air (Projects) - Rome / Beirut
- Brazilian Embassy in Roma -
- Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Center -
Rome and Beirut, 2019
Curators: Gabriel Kozlowski, Sol Camacho, Laura González Fierro, and Marcelo Maia Rosa
This exhibition approaches the theme Walls of Air from the scale of the architectural and urban interventions. It attempts to measure the ability of Brazil’s recent architectural production in mediating conflicting relationships between public and private domains.
As opposed to the cartographic approach, which maps the multiple types of barriers that build the Brazilian territory, this section presents architectural objects that encourage the transposition of walls present in our cities. The selected proposals share the drive to investigate new ways of dealing with the limits, divisions and ruptures within urban fabrics. At the same time, they raise to surface the pressing need to use design as a way to transform conditions of exclusion into possibilities of bringing people together.
The projects were selected through an open public call—an unprecedented initiative for a Brazilian pavilion in the Venice Biennale—with the clear goal of widening and democratizing the dialogue about contemporary Brazilian architecture. Widely publicized throughout Brazil, the call invited architects to submit projects through the website www.murosdear.org.br, which hosted a series of sections for public participation in the Walls of Air research.
The open call considered any project within the Brazilian territory eligible for submission, regardless of the nationality of the architect. Either built or unbuilt, projects were accepted for selection as long as they were grounded in reality, meaning it had to have a real client or be part of a competition—academic projects or ideas proposals were not accepted. The submission period opened on December 19th, 2017, and closed on January 19th, 2018, with 289 proposals received from more than 60 cities in the country.
The submitted projects confirmed the high concentration of architectural firms in the southeast region of the country, the rare presence of foreign firms building in Brazil (especially if compared to regions like North America, Asia or Europe) and, lastly, the hardship of turning proposals into real buildings, demonstrated by the high number of unbuilt projects. Nevertheless, they also represent the high quality of the contemporary architectural scene in this country.
Seventeen projects were chosen for their inspiring and tangible ideas, sharing the clear desire to transform their environment into one that is more fluid and inclusive. These projects, displayed in the first room of the Brazilian Pavilion at the Giardini in Venice, aims to show a plurality of solutions that engage—through different lenses—with the concept of Walls of Air.
The projects address issues such as: how to bring people together to fight for a common cause against forces of pure financial land speculation; how to rethink our technological limitations; how a community can learn by building collectively; how to merge industrialized construction processes with vernacular techniques; how to disrupt legal frameworks through the proposition of innovative architectural and urban forms; how to make use of punctual strategies to generate a network for fostering urban renewal; how to use the void as a way to stitch two sides of an informal community; how to bridge large infrastructure corridors; how to densify uses as a means of bringing a community together; and how to rethink preserved areas as carefully calibrated public spaces, among other strategies.
Finally, the presentation of the 17 projects was developed in a collaboration between the curatorial team with each architecture firm. The choice of a graphic representation with few but impactful line drawings, each specifically crafted to establish a dialogue with all other projects, aims at highlighting not only the nuances of design with its variations in scale, but also to focus on the actions that connect them with the broader exhibition theme. The actions of fostering, seeding, revealing, interpreting, stitching, repurposing, framing, interconnecting, articulating, comprehending, bridging, densifying, converting, and learning, ultimately reveal each projects’ ability to break down walls and build a more generous and collectively Freespace.
- 3rd Biennial Exhibit of the MIT Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism -
Exhibition + Conference: Adèle Naudé Santos
Exhibition Curator: Gabriel Kozlowski
Conference Curator: Laura Wainer
Art Director: Paul Montie
Graphic Design: Siena Scarff Design
Map Production: Waishan Qiu
Model Fabrication: Joey Jacobson
The provision of affordable housing is a challenge with an urgent need for new solutions. Attempts at comprehensive, affordable housing solutions have been ongoing by governments, private enterprises, and non-governmental organizations alike. Even though there are examples of progress made in the fields of social science, policy, and humanities, it continues to remain a challenge. Design is typically not an approach that comes to mind when one refers to housing affordability, whether at the scale of the house, neighborhood, or city. There is a dearth of affordable housing design that is inspiring, sustainable, inclusive, or substantial enough to satisfy the full spectrum of human rights and aspirations at a meaningful scale.
In its third biennial theme, "Housing+", the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism explores this global phenomenon through the lens of multi-scalar design. The “+” acts as a harbinger of innovative responses to the challenge of affordable housing design that confront conventional associations and commentaries.
The Housing+ exhibition is the culmination of two years of design and research inquiry involving faculty, students, and practitioners from around the globe. It includes nine new architecture and urban design models from faculty-led workshops, in Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, India, Peru, and Rwanda. Each workshop collaborated with real communities and organizations to test multi-scalar solutions and prototypical models tackling issues of affordable housing. Interviews establish the challenges faced by each team in their local contexts and are complemented with aerial footage and maps showing the global condition of affordable housing settlements.
Photos: Justin Knight
- Selected for the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Catalyst Program -
- Finalist for the Roddenberry Fellowship -
W-all is a unit in which all the mechanical-ecological functions of a house are concentrated.
W-all was conceived as a response to the current pace and scale of world urbanization in respect to its environmental impact. At the same time the building sector was recognized as the major source of climate change, with elevated energy consumption and co2 emissions levels, the largest share of construction continues to be driven by economic purposes only, without proper or any commitment to design standards and sustainable ways of living. Architects, romantically regretting their exclusion from this setting, have mostly avoided diving into this continuum of inglorious, market-oriented architecture. As Rem Koolhaas once put, it’s time to swim into the sea that has swept our sand castles away.
To disrupt the business-as-usual of the construction sector, we realized that instead of producing whole buildings, we can strip architecture of all its parts to focus on one single component. If we control one little piece, this can be the lever to change the whole system. One piece that is treated as a product for environmental integration. A product that any house can acquire and any new development can incorporate without having to change all the parameters they already work with.
Last century, Buckminster Fuller took the challenge to re-conceptualize the roof in the context of the post-war restructuring. At the current moment, we intend to re-conceptualize the wall for a path towards a post-carbon society.
W-all is like a motherboard, the operations hub for the sustainable management of a house’s resources. It is a hardware for which any product developer can build a software. W-all concentrates all the mechanical equipment necessary for the normal functioning of a house but also all the new sustainable add-ons necessary to drop the building operations’ environmental impact to close to zero. This include energy usage, water consumption, co2 emissions and waste generation. Furthermore, the unit not only performs from inside out – integrating the house with the environment – but also from outside in – bringing health and social improvements for the inhabitants’ lives, such as pure drinkable water, elevated air quality through the exchange of the interior’s stale air for the exterior’s fresh air, humidity control, environment and safety sensors, products and food production.
W-all helps building a path towards a circular economy, and possibly an off-the-grid living, in which every citizen can play a role in it starting from their own household. It addresses both the existing built world and the future one to come.
– US$ 30,000 raised + 148 reflections gathered –
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski, Luisa Schettino, Monica Vieira Eisenberg, Refik Anadol, Ness Magazine
For complete team list check website
What will be different tomorrow?
Check it out here
"Trapped inside our homes, each day is another of the same, where individual lives in isolation long for a public one. We recurrently re-live the today with a mix of uneasiness, nostalgia and hope. Tomorrow Anew is a collective cry for tomorrow to come again. However, we do not ask for tomorrow to come as our normal yesterday, mimicking our old habits, our same ways of neglecting people, of doing business, or of disregarding the environment. Tomorrow must come anew, refreshed to inaugurate a new era. And for that we need to both think and act."
Tomorrow Anew is a platform to collect thoughts about our future and channel donations to those who need help to survive the pandemic.Through collaborations with different NGOs, the initiative redirects donations to the indigenous peoples of the Xingu and to families living in precarious conditions in slums of São Paulo (in partnership with Instituto Bei); to quilombola and riverside communities in the Amazon (in partnership with BrazilFoundation and Conservation International - Brazil); and to families hit hard by the pandemic and the unleashed economic crisis in the US and in Kenya (in partnership with GiveDirectly).
Tomorrow Anew’s ambition goes beyond its disaster relief efforts. On the website TomorrowAnew.org, individuals from around the globe are invited to answer a simple yet universal question: What will be different tomorrow?
The intention is to speculate on our common future post-Covid-19, collecting as many answers as possible to achieve a critical body of intellectual thought. The answers will become a book jn 2021, through a partnership with NESS Magazine.
Notable intellectuals from different disciplines have already answered, such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Caroline A. Jones, Rosiska Darcy de Oliveira, Pinar Yoldas, Bruno Carvalho, Carlos Saldanha, Zuenir Ventura, Anna Maria Moog Rodrigues, Isaac Karabtchevsky, and 130 others.
From the architecture realm, the initiative counts with reflections from Pedro Gadanho, Malkit Soshan, Mae-ling Lokko, Jane Hall, Guilherme Wisnik, Parsons & Charlesworth, Iker Gil, Marko Brajovic, Peju Alatise, and many more.
You can also join the discussion by answering the question "What will be different tomorrow?" at TomorrowAnew.org.
- 3 Books Published -
- Displayed at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale -
- Displayed at the X São Paulo Architecture Biennale -
- Awarded in the Program of Cultural Sponsorship from Council of Architecture and Urbanism of Rio de Janeiro -
- Successfull crowdfunding campaing -
Rio de Janeiro, 2009 - present
Leadership: Gabriel Kozlowski, Ana Altberg and Mariana Meneguetti
For complete team list check website
ENTRE is a collective that investigates architecture, urban transformations and their side effects through interviews.
– Extended description in English soon –
O ENTRE é um grupo independente de pesquisa em arquitetura, baseado no Rio de Janeiro, que investiga as transformações urbanas e seus efeitos colaterais por meio de relatos verbais. Atualmente o grupo é coordenado por Ana Altberg, Gabriel Kozlowski e Mariana Meneguetti, e seu acervo de entrevistas está disponível no site www.entre-entre.com.
O ENTRE foi estabelecido em 2009 com o intuito de construir uma ponte entre a academia e a prática profissional da arquitetura. Essa primeira etapa do grupo culminou com a publicação, "Entre: Entrevistas com Arquitetos" (Ed. Viana & Mosley, Rio de Janeiro 2012). Desde então o grupo assumiu diferentes formatos, contou com mais de 20 colaboradores e entrevistou mais de 40 pensadores
Em 2013, o ENTRE contribuiu para a X Bienal de Arquitetura de São Paulo com uma série de entrevistas abertas ao público que expandiram o objeto de pesquisa do grupo, tornando-o cada vez mais multidisciplinar pela percepção de que a prática da arquitetura está condicionada a uma série de regras e protocolos externos aos seus domínios disciplinares. Em 2018, o ENTRE participou da exposição "Muros de Ar," no pavilhão brasileiro na 16a Bienal de Arquitetura de Veneza, onde desenvolveu 12 entrevistas com líderes indígenas, biólogos, juízes, economistas, pichadores, entre outros, a fim de entender processos complexos de urbanização em escala territorial. Essa pesquisa contribuiu para a publicação “Muros de Ar – Pavilhão do Brasil 2018 (Ed. Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo 2018).
Agora, o grupo lança a publicação "8 Reações para o Depois" (Ed. Rio Books, Rio de Janeiro 2019), composta por 8 entrevistas, 8 estudos de casos e 8 reações que investigam os impactos das recentes transformações urbanas ocorridas em função dos mega eventos esportivos sediados no Rio de Janeiro na última década.
POLES is a studio for Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Boston, US.
The name is an acronym for Political Ecology of Space.
Our work’s foundations lie in the intersection between politics, ecology and space, as a way to problematize the shifting notions of “nature,” “urbanization” and “the environment” in relation to the socio-economic processes that structure them.
The word POLES, simultaneously, refers to opposite points on a surface, or of an argument, which allows us to see Architecture as a practice to tension or bridge disparate forces or opposing conditions. Less intentionally perhaps, POLES are also structural elements, bringing back the other more conceptual meaning to our disciplinary home.
In Brazilian Portuguese, or more precisely in Rio de Janeiro, where we come from, the word POLES is naturally pronounced as POLIS, the birthplace of the city and democracy: a subtle connection and homage that we feel fortunate to have embedded in our name.
POLES’s interest does not lie solely in cities, or metropolises, or the countryside. In fact, we align our practice with views that understand the limitations of such concepts when discussing our current living conditions. We prefer to address urbanization in its broader sense.
Urbanization is not only measured by the development and growth of cities, but also by the dissemination of urbanization values to society. It is understood as a spatially-continuous process of the subordination of the agrarian to the urban, or, better yet, the natural to the urban. The term stands for the spatial imprints of society in any environment. It not only refers to the physical built form, but also concerns the different ways in which modernization processes are reflected onto space, including the territorializing forces that reconfigure locations from afar; the commodification of land and its natural resources; and the networks of communication and the transient patterns of occupation that cross these locations.
Within the framework of urbanization, our studio sets itself to articulate a more precise understanding around the notion of urbanization of nature. This implies a break with the distinctions between the inside and the outside of the urban towards a more interconnected relation between the socio-spatial processes of transforming environments for the use of humans, regardless if they take place in cities, in the hinterlands, or elsewhere. It aligns with ideas that, under capitalism, nature is reframed as an economic asset and transformed, simplified and put to work for social and cultural purposes in order to sustain urbanization. The urbanization of nature, as a concept, can be further explored as a form of metabolism whereby politico-economic projects become inseparable from the material constituencies of the built environment they are prone to modify. This way, it is increasingly hard to maintain the binary urban–natural, as the two are no longer distinct entities but complementary instances within a broader socio-spatial reproduction process. As David Harvey had already suggested:
“[A]ll ecological projects (and arguments) are simultaneously political-economic projects (and arguments) and vice versa. Ecological arguments are never socially neutral any more than socio-political arguments are ecologically neutral. Looking more closely at the way ecology and politics interrelate, then becomes imperative if we are to get a better handle on how to approach environmental / ecological questions.” (David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, 1996)
The question is then, on the one hand, to understand how nature is socially mobilized, commodified and forced into a process of transformation with the purpose to structure and enable urbanization. And on the other, how urbanization in itself creates specific modes of ingraining socio-economic orders (capitalism, for example) in time and space that modifies the material conditions of nature. These two sides of the relation between urbanization and ecology become for us ways to inquire into our current modes of inhabiting space, as well as to articulate where these practices are taking us.
The relations just described lead us to Political Ecology as an arena of practice. Political Ecology can be seen as a way to re-center the political question within the environmental and spatial discourses. Thus, the political within political ecology orients actions, environmental or otherwise, toward a program of social justice and emancipation where nature and culture are considered the two sides of the same coin, rather than detached entities in a hierarchical relation. It is the means through which to recognize the conflicting nature of socio-political positions vis-à-vis ecology and the ways we occupy space.
In this sense, the political is a positioning that allows one to place social, environmental and spatial struggles pertaining to specific locations critically within the broader umbrella of global systems, such as the evolution of global political economy and geopolitical disputes over natural resources and flows of people and capital. Above all, it allows one to engage with the multi-scalar processes of urbanization, both locally and globally, in their dialogue with nature.