Monday, September 22, 2008

Thesis statement ver.1

This thesis considers architecture as nothing different—part of the charged field of design that includes not only form-making, but also its relationships to technology, materials research, socio-cultural dynamics, geopolitical forces and economic drivers. My approach to the “discipline's” discourse will be to ignore it as much as possible.

1. Rem Koolhaas—Lagos
After “solving” the intellectual problem of architecture under the postmodern conditions of capitalism, Rem turns to the Pearl River Delta and Lagos in order to discover what comes next:
...the notion of the city has mutated into something that is no longer Western.
This work [Harvard Project on the City] is not inspired by the need to discover ever more exotic, violent, extreme urban thrills, but by the realization that the engrained vocabulary and values of architectural discourse are painfully inadequate to describe the current production of urban substance. They perpetuate an image of the city which is essentially Western, and subconsciously insist that all cities, wherever they are, be interpreted in that image; they systematically find wanting any urban form that does not conform...
...Some of the places that, at first sight, seemed to be tragic manifestations of degraded urban life were actually intensely emancipatory zones, where the recent arrivals from outside were “processed” as citizens of Lagos. {Koolhaas, “Fragments of a Lecture on Lagos” in Documenta 11 Platform 4, pp. 175-177.}

2. James Holston—Insurgent citizenship
A professor of “social cultural anthropology” at Berkeley, James Holston, argues that “insurgent citizenship” is the emergent space of re-imagining the modernist city and its organizational processes, and that this form of opposition implicates both architecture and planning together:
...this estrangement [“of the social in modern architecture and its related modes of planning generally”] is a consequence of a number of theoretical conditions that structure the current production of concepts in these fields about the urban landscape: (1) the rejection of the redemptive power of modernism deriving not only from the perceived failures of its utopian mode but also from the more general dissolution of the idea of the social itself in planning, architecture, government, and social science; (2) the inability of the professions of planning and architecture to move beyond that rejection to develop a new activist social
imagination; and (3) the preoccupation in postmodern theory with aesthetic formalism, technologies of communication, and concepts of virtual reality which tends to disembody the social and rematerialize it as commodity images. {Holston, “Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship” in Planning Theory 13, pp. 38}

3. David Grewal— Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization
Grewal, a Harvard PhD candidate in government, proposes the new logic for globalization: networks are the structures of possibility-expansion, whose production of diversity disturbs the nation-state and appears as economics; networks determine standards and—through the control of technology—all global information.

My immediate concern is how to conceive and deploy city in the case of Tema, Ghana—a planned modernist experiment in industrialization—in ways that challenge economic neocolonialism and the contemporary conditions of globalization, international aid and development policy.

At this stage, I think the hip lingo to use is the language of citizenship and network power. The historical context of Tema as a built instance of modernism sets the stage for the coupled postmodern/postcolonial conflict of the in/formal city: between formal (legal) planning and informal (illegal) strategies for occupation. This thesis seeks reconfiguration of the typical structure of architecture—i.e., an energy-intensive product rendered exclusive by high cost—with low-cost, low-energy green systems. However, the critical and defining agenda is to leverage through architecture tools for Tema's multiple citizenries to take advantage of the rest of the world...this is Tema 2.0: Information Factory.


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