“Architecture as Intangible Infrastructure” Symposium

“Architecture as Intangible Infrastructure” Symposium

In June 2015, eight-year-old Adou Ouattara from Ivory Coast was discovered by border control X-ray as he was being smuggled into Spain from Morocco in a suitcase.
“Architecture as Intangible Infrastructure” Symposium
September 20, 2015

More than ever, architects today are increasingly called upon to build gestural landmarks and grandiose signature buildings. But architecture was never only about building. It is also about the flows of people, information, and resources that shape space. Today, the practice of architecture often confronts situations where these flows cannot be reduced to modernist managerial approaches to systematizing, structuring, and mastering the potentials of space.

In a two-part “Architecture as Intangible Infrastructure” issue of e-flux journal in April and September 2015, edited together with Nikolaus Hirsch, the intangible and immaterial flows that today appear to exceed the language of building proper are shown by a number of architects to profoundly advance how the discourse of architecture must currently negotiate the terms by which space becomes an information system.

Intangible and immaterial flows of information now absorb and move around existing built space with indifference. Flows of refugees are fed into housing markets faster than provisional shelters can be built (Andrew Herscher). Grandiose signature buildings function less as monumental building projects than as signposts for concentrations of heritage, capital, or tourism. The negative spaces created by war become primary actors in narrating the destruction of buildings and societies (Eyal Weizman). Preservation design creates entirely new theaters of staged memory (Jorge Otero-Pailos). Smart homes promise to convert domestic space into information systems (Justin McGuirk). The universal transcendentalism of technology promises to cybernetically overcome the limitations of built space by making architecture dance to immaterial instructions (Keller Easterling). Technological advances often transform the function and perception of space much in the way that the heretical transparency of X-ray technology created the prospect of a world of pure visibility—through walls, people, and materials—but always through the screen of the X-ray (Beatriz Colomina).


Beatriz Colomina is an architecture historian, theorist, and curator. She is the founding director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University, the Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture, and Director of Graduate studies in the School of Architecture.

Andrew Herscher endeavors to bring the study of architecture and cities to bear on struggles for rights, democracy, and justice across a range of global sites. He teaches at the University of Michigan and has co-founded a series of militant research collaboratives including the We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective, Decolonizing Pedagogies Workshop, and the Settler Colonial City Project.

Eyal Weizman is Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures and founding director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2010 he founded the research agency Forensic Architecture and directs it ever since.

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