May 4, 2006
by Canadian Architect
The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), in collaboration with the Cities Programme of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), announces the winner of the second international competition for the James Stirling Memorial Lectures on the City. The jury was unanimous in its decision to name Israeli architect Eyal Weizman the 2006-2007 Stirling Lecturer for his proposal entitled “Destruction by Design: Military Strategy as Urban Planning.”
Eyal Weizman, who was appointed Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College (University of London) last year, was one of 37 applicants from 12 countries, ranging from senior scholars and practitioners to emerging voices. The bi-annual James Stirling Memorial Lectures on the City competition was launched in 2003 to inaugurate a unique forum for the advancement of new critical perspectives on the role of urban design and urban architecture in the development of cities worldwide. Weizman will present the Stirling Lecture in autumn 2006 at the CCA in Montreal, and at the London School of Economics in autumn 2007.
Weizman’s project builds upon an impressive body of research and practice, which initially focused on the relationship between the theory and practice of warfare in the cities and settlement camps of Palestine, where the Israeli military has retooled itself to deal with guerrilla combat in dense urban situations. Based on extensive interviews with military commanders and strategists, as well as soldiers, guerrilla fighters, and civilians on both sides of this protracted conflict, Weizman’s recent work analyzed the military’s use of critical theory as an analogue to its use (and misuse) in architecture and urbanism. His proposal looks at the way contemporary warfare increasingly plays itself out within real as well as imaginary urban settings, through the destruction, construction, reorganization, and subversion of space, to show that the urban environment is understood by military strategists today not simply as the backdrop for conflict, nor as its mere consequence, but as a dynamic field locked in a feedback-based relationship with the diverse forces operating within it. Driving Weizman’s research is a commitment to human rights in a world of ever more fortified and militarized cities.
The Stirling Lecture will focus on the way Israeli, American, and British militaries, as well as NATO forces, are currently conceptualizing and operating within the urban domain. As urban warfare has come to resemble urban planning, military training programs have instituted theoretical research centres to study the complexity of cities, allowing the battleground to be reshaped to meet strategic objectives. The ultimate aim of Weizman’s research is to deepen and extend our empirical knowledge of the theoretical framework contemporary militaries consider essential to the development of strategic policy and tactical operations, in order to sharpen potential critiques of these operations. An important component is Weizman’s exploration of the history of strategic urban warfare, since many of the tactics celebrated as radically “new” have in fact been part and parcel of military operations in cities throughout history.
The project delves into themes such as how the ever-expanding urban domain is effectively being redesigned as the field of military operations in response to the development of “lethal” weapons of destruction; how language employed by the military to describe the city to themselves and to the general public reveals an evolving relationship between organized violence and the production of space; how new military tactics irreparably disrupt traditional distinctions between public and private space and the vital flows of goods and services guaranteed by conventional urban infrastructure; the urban and symbolic consequences of removing bombing targets such as historical or religious monuments, the fabric of urban neighbourhoods, and essential infrastructure; and how the replacement of existing systems of circulation with new ones enables military access not only for the protection of the city’s inhabitants, but also for the purpose of controlling popular unrest.
The Stirling jury consists of Rahul Mehrotra (Principal, Rahul Mehrotra Associates, Mumbai, and Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor); Mary Ann Ray (Principal, Studio Works, Los Angeles, and faculty member at Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles); Edward Soja (Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Professor of Urban Planning, University of California at Los Angeles); Manuel de Sol-Morales (Architect and Urban Planner, Barcelona, Director of the Laboratory of Urbanism (LUB), Chair and Professor of Urbanism, School of Architecture of Barcelona, Polytechnic University of Catalonia); and Mirko Zardini (Architect, Urban Theorist, and Director of the CCA).
Speaking about the goal of the Stirling prize in the context of the CCA’s mission, Mirko Zardini stressed that “the CCA actively seeks opportunities to collaborate with academic institutions such as the London School of Economics which have demonstrated a commitment to raising the level of critical discourse research and writing that informs innovative and even radical tendencies in architecture and urbanism today. Beyond this, for the CCA, the theme of the city is central to our concerns, because as more and more of the earth submits to urbanization, we are confronted with a virtually inexhaustible source of new problems and potential investigations.”
On behalf of the Stirling jury, Edward Soja of the LSE commented that, again this year, the jury was significantly impressed by the quality and scope of the applications, which not only spanned the globe in their focus, but also ranged widely from historical to contemporary social and political perspectives on urban design, architecture, and planning. Having decided to concentrate its attention on proposals addressing contemporary urban challenges and aimed at advancing practical knowledge while also provoking critical and theoretical debate, the jury was unanimous in its decision to award the Stirling Lectures prize to Eyal Weizman. Among a number of highly commendable proposals received this year, the jury would like to recognize:
Adrian Blackwell, Department of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, for “Territorializing Flexible Landscapes of Production,” which compares post-Fordist industrial urbanism in declining Detroit with the booming industrial cities of the Pearl River Delta in China;
Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, of Urban Think Tank, Caracas, Venezuela, for “The Levels of Order? Building Bridges to the Informal City,” which builds creatively on their earlier work on informal globalization, exploring design responses to the challenges of sustainable development;
Anne-Marie Broudehoux, School of Design, University of Qubec, Montral, for “Inside the Urban Revolution: Rethinking the 21st-century Chinese metropolis,” a proposal to assess current approaches to image construction, city marketing, and culture-led urban regeneration as Beijing prepares for the 2008 Olympic Games;
Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, of Collective Research Initiatives Trust (CRIT) in Mumbai, for “Spaces of Entrepreneurship,” a proposal that studies the role of urban design as a means of stimulating active participation of workers and slum dwellers in the development of the megacity of Mumbai;
Dan Pitera, Executive Director, Detroit Collaborative Design Center, for “Mis-Directed Residue: Appropriation of alternative public space,” which re-evaluates the shrinking cities debate in light of design-led interventions in Detroit involving both architecture and activism;
Ines Weizman, School of Architecture & Interior Design, London Metropolitan University and Politics Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London, for “The Collapse of the Iron Curtain A point of departure for the urb
anism of the social city,” which critically examines the lost histories and urban cultures resulting from the rapid Westernization of formerly socialist cities of the reunified German Democratic Republic.
The James Stirling Memorial Lectures on the City were conceived in homage to architect James Stirling, who believed that urban design is integral to the practice of architecture and a vital topic for public debate. Niall Hobhouse, Governor of the LSE and Chair of its Advisory Board, reflected on the intent of the Stirling Lecture Prize and its potential impact on urban studies around the world: “The initiative to found the Stirling Lectures competition was based on a belief that at certain moments in history the most pertinent thinking about the social consequences of architecture and urbanism comes not from the centers of current debate, but rather from the periphery. The LSE Cities Programme and the CCA have a shared commitment not only to the development of mainstream theory and practice, but also to knowledge currently being produced at the margins, theoretically, culturally, and geographically, which holds promise for the responsible and sustainable development of the urban domain worldwide.”
For additional information, please visit www.cca.qc.ca/stirling or contact [email protected]