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Between Structure and Anarchy
Can architecture be an apparatus  for emancipation? I don’t simply mean a style or a symbol of liberty, but truly an apparatus, in the sense of a scenic or strategic arrangement similar to certain artistic or military installations that influence our individual or collective actions. If I ask myself this, it is because architectural and urban planning projects are increasingly rarely able to escape the demagoguery of consultation processes and the tyranny of public opinion.
Sealand platform. © Kim Gilmour
we aren’t only the products of our environment or of where we live, we also transform the climate we depend on
They trace borders and dividing lines, which have the double effect of separating and sharing. These are then architectures that divide, not to rule, but to create moments of pure politics, by differentiating the insiders and the outsiders, those in favor and those against, creating, at the same time, temporary coalitions and contrary or convergent opinions.
A third commonality that I perceive between these architectures is that they are places of secession. They set apart, segment, divide, and segregate. They do the precise opposite of what we’re expecting from architecture nowadays. But, on the other hand, at the very moment they are occupied, these architectures create otherness, distance, and difference. Looking closely, they both are a part of a network. The roundabouts are a part of a road network, Sealand’s platform is one of a network of marine forts, and even the barricades often form part of a network of other barricades. All these networks set boundaries. They trace borders and dividing lines, which have the double effect of separating and sharing. These are then architectures that divide, not to rule, but to create moments of pure politics, by differentiating the insiders and the outsiders, those in favor and those against, resulting in temporary coalitions and contrary or convergent opinions.
Gilles Delalex (1972) is a French architect. He studied architecture in Grenoble and Montreal, and holds a Master’s in urban planning and a Doctorate of Arts from Alvar Aalto University, Helsinki. He co-founded the architectural firm Mutuo in Paris with Yves Moreau in 2003. After teaching at the École des Ponts et Chaussées engineering school from 2004 to 2008, he is currently a professor at ENSA Paris-Malaquais School of Architecture. Since 1998, he is also a research fellow at the LIAT Lab, where he coordinates an area of research on the image of great modern infrastructure. His research focuses on esthetics and the imaginaries of hypermodernity.
1. The Foucauldian apparatus (dispositif).
2. Schwarte Ludger, Philosophie de l'architecture, trans. Grégoire Chamayou (Paris: Éditions de la Découverte, 2019), Label Zones.
3. Ibid. p. 438
4. Ibid. p. 436
5. Ibid. p. 459