The Politics of Mapping
You’re being tracked. And your clicks are, right now, building a datascape, a new city. Everytime you move, through a choreography of security cameras, scanners or tracking devices, swipe your credit card, snap a pic with your cell phone, or connect to location based dating applications, you construct yet another city, another you.
Activity trackers record your favourite routes together with the amount of calories burned. By pedaling your city’s bike sharing system, your age, gender and itineraries build databases, beautiful infographics, and compelling visualizations of yourself that you probably won’t ever see. Likes and movements are stored in the cloud, where you share them with friends, algorithms, family and, incidentally, with intelligence agencies and personalized marketing.*
If, as Anthony Vidler put it, “Walter Benjamin extolled the art of slow walking as the instrument of modern urban mapping.” What, we might ask, are the politics and instruments of contemporary urban mapping? What is the relevance of architectural mapping when even vagabondage is mediated by “derive applications” that get you lost in the city? We explore these questions through the development of the Echoing Borders Initiative.
The Studio-X Initiative Echoing Borders attempts to re-draw territories of in/security and control based on experience and subjective narratives. In a way, it aims at challenging the official representations of territories and identities by introducing elements of time and movement from a subjective perspective (in this case, that of the refugee). The hope is for new imaginaries or critical readings of the territories in question to emerge. Due to the sensitive nature of information related to clandestine or irregular migration, the maps students worked on were developed to both explore the revelatory and subversive possibilities of the map, while maintaining the required levels of opacity. What we would like to explore is the agency of the architect in developing visual representations on the spatial manifestations of migration, borders, and citizenship.
Echoing Borders Initiative
Report by Nina Kolowratnik, Nora Akawi, and Merve Bedir, October 2014
For the first time since WWII, the number of refugees in the world surpasses 50 million. With the intensifying density and rate of forced migration in the Middle East, borders are multiplying and dissolving, shifting and transforming, challenging static forms of representation of boundaries and of mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion. Addressing issues of mobility, fluidity, and transformation in contemporary politics, especially in relation to the place of the refugee in migration politics in the Middle East, requires the rethinking of spatial visualization tools: moving beyond the static representation and understanding of borders, territories and topographies of legal and control mechanisms, into depicting their mobile and fluctuating reality.
In particular, the figure of the refugee calls forth a discussion on mobility, temporariness, and access in contrast to the static character of the sovereign state and its borders, and to the geopolitical limits of citizenship and human rights. While other academic endeavors attend to the urgent need for improved planning methodologies and design approaches of temporary settlements in response to war and conflict, Echoing Borders focuses on re-reading and re-presenting the landscapes of control, risk and suspension affecting the trajectories of forced migration. Using architectural tools of representation, the Echoing Borders summer workshop, held in Amman and Istanbul from August 7th to 27th 2014, looked at the intricacies of refugee status and migration policy in Jordan and Turkey, the trajectory of refugees from the border to the camp or to the city, and conditions of waiting and suspension.
Students experimented with mappings that were based on big data of migration and related regulations and policies in Jordan and Turkey on the one hand, and subjective narratives and experience on the other hand. Once the supposedly opposed scales of static factual data and of narrative experience of time and movement are juxtaposed, new readings of territories emerge.
With participants from Amman, Cairo, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Milan, New York, and Sharjah, the workshop was structured around theoretical readings (on human rights, spatial politics, and Jordanian and Turkish migration policies), field visits to refugee camps and other formal and informal temporary settlements, and public seminars and lectures delivered by academic researchers and humanitarian workers, which culminated into a series of conceptual spatial mappings and visualization exercises. The workshop was launched with a presentation and GIS workshop with Madeeha Merchant (Research Associate, Spatial Information Design Lab, Columbia University GSAPP) suggesting concepts and methodologies of mapping conflict.
Zataari Camp, Jordan
Jordan has the highest ratio of refugees to indigenous population of any country in the world.** In Amman, participants formed four research groups, each focusing on one refugee community in Jordan: Palestinian, Iraqi, Somali and Sudanese, and Syrian. Having suffered two major waves of displacement into Jordan, Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 played an important role in the shaping of Amman, in the country’s economy, and the formation of its identity. Jordan is an UNRWA registered Palestinian refuge and their descendants comprise up to 2 million of Jordan’s total population of 6.5 million. In order to develop new critical readings of the landscapes of Palestinian displacement in Jordan, the group working on Palestinian migration into Jordan began with a seminar session with Nasser Abourahmeh (PhD candidate at the Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies department at Columbia University) on the Palestinian refugee camp, its temporality and materiality. Saba Innab (architect, artist, and Studio-X Amman Research Fellow) shared her long term exploration on the notions of temporality and dwelling (through writing, painting, and installation) which emerged from her work as a planner participating in UNRWA’s reconstruction of Nahr El Bared project in Lebanon. In addition, she shared her research on the evolution of Amman, the role which Palestinian camps played in the process, and her mapping methodologies developed for a critical reading of the city. In his lecture Lucas Oesch (Post-Doctorate fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation and Associate Researcher at the French Institute for the Near East - IFPO, Amman), discussed his doctoral research on the tensions between informal Palestinian settlements and formal urban improvement projects in Amman, while Samar Maqusi (Architect at the UNWRA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department and PhD candidate at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL London) discussed her current research on violence, humanitarianism, social behavior, and spatial segregation in Palestinian camps in Jordan. After visiting Wehdat and Baqa’a camps, participants developed a visual excavation, or archaeological scan, of Palestinian displacement on the backdrop of the historical shifts of borders and territories in Palestine, and of the regulations and policies affecting Palestinians’ movement and other rights.
(Xiaoxi Chen, Deema Abu-Dalo, Shireen Khamees, Asil Zureigat)
Today, up to around 1 million Iraqis reside in Jordan, most of whom fled to find refuge during the Gulf war in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kate Washington (Technical Advisor, at CARE Jordan Refugee Program) shared her insight on Iraqi refugee settlement and housing conditions in Jordan. Also, students worked with Vanessa Iaria (Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the CBRL British Institute in Amman and Assistant Professor at the School of International Studies, University of Jordan) about the transnational livelihood patterns of Iraqis migrating between Iraq and Jordan on a weekly basis. After visits to Jabal al Hussein and other neighborhoods in the city hosting Iraqi refugees, students developed a storytelling/mapping tool visualizing the territories of conflict and threat faced by Iraqi refugees, and decision trees highlighting the incessant necessity to move in the constant quest for security.
(Yolla Ali, Cecil Barnes, Rasha al Sharqawi)
The comparative approach adopted at the Echoing Borders workshop required looking at migration policies and regulations in Jordan and Turkey and how they vary not only in time according to political events and agendas, but also according to the places of origins of refugees and asylum seekers. The infographic below represents the variation of waiting time for different refugee groups following major events of war or conflict in the region. Due to the funding structure of international humanitarian aid organizations, the waiting time for asylum seekers currently seeking refuge in Jordan to schedule an interview for status determination can vary from 1 day to up to 3 or more years, according to the refugee’s country of origin.
(Ayla Akkad, Albert Franco, Ruby Muhandes, Rama Refaie, Rebecca Riss)
For refugees from Sudan and Somalia (usually coupled in existing research and media coverage due to the similarities of the challenges faced by both groups), the waiting times are exceptionally long. In order to overcome the challenges caused by insufficient humanitarian support during this state of suspension, Sudanese and Somali refugees in Jordan develop autonomous support networks for providing food and shelter for asylum seekers in Jordan aiming for resettlement in the United States of Europe. Usually located in the heart of East Amman, common shelter emerges in the left-over spaces of the city. Through conversations with Alice Su (Journalist focused on refugee survival in Jordan and Lebanon, supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting) on “Forgotten Migration: The Impact of Media Focus on Refugee Status,” and Garrett Rubin, Ismail Haroun, and Jared Kohler on the housing conditions of Sudanese and Somali refugees in Amman, students focused on the questions of accessibility (to the city, to rights, to resources and support) and the complexity of status determination processes and resettlement procedures.
Since March 2011, an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes taking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria itself, leaving more than 40% of the Syrian population uprooted. So far, over 600,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, around 20% of them living in camps. In a public seminar with Alice Massari (Head of Mission, Un Ponte Per…), students investigated the complex procedures of registration, “encampment” policies, and the intricate systems of permits and “bail” dictating the Syrian refugees’ movements into and within Jordan. In a field visit to Zaatari camp, where around 80,000 Syrians currently live, Kilian Kleinschmidt (UNHCR Senior Field Coordinator - who prefers the title “Mayor of Zaatari”) discussed the informal spatial reorganization, and growth of income-generating economies, within the camp. Students focused on representing the multiple forms (physical or legal) and scales of borders faced by Syrian refugees, both between states, or between the camp and the city, and the trajectories taken to cross them.
Sammy Goldenberg joined the workshop from the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD-Legal Aid) to provide an overview of the legal framework of refugee migration policies in Jordan. Similarly, upon the group’s arrival in Istanbul, Bertan Tokuzlu (Assistant Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Law School) led a seminar on the challenges and prospects of Turkish migration law. The follow up lecture on Iraqi refugees in Istanbul by Didem Danış (Galatasaray University, Department of Sociology) portrayed the ambiguous legal, social and economical context refugees find themselves within Turkey. The emphasis of Emel Kurma and Ayşe Çavdar’s (Helsinki Citizens Assembly) lecture was on approaching refugees as ‘cityzens’ of Istanbul in addition to a debate on citizenship.
Questions on identity and belonging dominated the conversation once again in Turkey, in particular while attempting to analyze and visualize Turkish-Bulgarian cultural fabrics; communities oscillating and navigating between two nation states, also in relation to the inclusion of Bulgaria in the European Union. Working closely with [insert name and title], the mappings focused on developing a timeline of belonging (based on migration policies, housing conditions, inclusion or exclusion from citizenship) in an attempt to visually communicate the hybrid character and the transnational patterns of identity.
(Ayla Akkad, Cecil Barnes, Ceyda Pektas, Asil Zureigat)
Participants also studied the changing relationships between Turkey and African countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Somalia and Sudan, by mapping political events, humanitarian actions, diplomatic meetings and economic trade between these countries from 1991 until present day. The resulting map shows that Turkey has increased its financial, social, cultural and educational investments in these four African countries over the last 25 years and particularly after 2002. Turkey’s export sales to these same countries have exponentially increased during this time. The mappings aimed to contrast these trends with the relationship between the African refugee living in Istanbul and Turkish urban society, and the connections with or access to the city. The group focused on mapping the daily activities and revealing the networks of engagement but also the more dominating systems of exclusion and segregation.
(Ibrahim Ibrahim, Ilgaz Kayaalp, Anna Oursler, Rama Rifaie, Burak Sancakdar)
Through conversations and fields visits the students mapped the topographical landscape of (both legal and physical) visibility and risk of Afghani migrants’ trajectory through Turkey into Europe. Participants developed mappings of multiple risk landscapes that Afghan migrants must navigate through on their journeys from Afghanistan to Turkey and Greece. Afghan migrants must weigh different types of risks and consider their physical and legal visibility within different landscapes and borders to determine the most appropriate route of travel. The varying physical terrain and differing legal policies between Afghanistan and Greece alters the perception of the borders between these two countries and reinterprets the notion of the border itself. The maps defined by risks rather than borders begin to blur the traditional lines of division; when different degrees of risk and visibility are considered in tandem, the region between Afghanistan and Greece becomes one continuous landscape that dismisses defined borders but instead suggests a new type of border defined by gradients of physical and legal risk and physical and legal visibility.
(Yolla Ali, Deema Abu-Dalo, Sune Fredskild, and Rebecca Riss)
Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Turkey are named ‘guests’ by the Turkish government. However, the hospitality declared in legal procedures does not necessarily translate to an ease of migration. Syrian refugees must navigate a complex journey also defined by landscapes of risk and security, policies, financial means, and social links and networks in Turkey. Through field visits and discussions, the border regions between Turkey and Syria were visualized through 3 different journeys to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, to cities near the border, or to Istanbul (of different individuals or families) represented both geographically and through time (of transit or of waiting), in relation to factors of risk, financial means, and social or institutional/legal support networks.
(Xiaoxi Chen, Albert Franco, Ruby Muhandes)
Nora Akawi (Columbia University GSAPP | Studio X Amman)
Merve Bedir (Delft University of Technology)
George Katodrytis (American University of Sharjah)
Nina Kolowratnik (Columbia University GSAPP)
Emre Alturk (Istanbul Bilgi University)
Ahmad Barclay (Visualizing Impact)
Ayse Cavdar (Independent Journalist)
Jawad Dukhgan (Studio X Amman)
Saba Innab (Independent Artist / Architect)
Madeeha Merchant (Columbia University GSAPP | Spatial Information Design Lab)
NEW YORK (GSAPP): Cecil Barnes, Xiaoxi Chen, Albert Franco, Anna Oursler, Rebecca Riss
SHARJAH (AUS): Deema Abu-Dalo, Alya Akkad, Yolla Ali, Ibrahim Ibrahim, Ruby Muhandes, Asil Zureigat
AMMAN/CAIRO: Rama Al Rifaie, Shireen Khamees, Hadeel Khawaja, Manar Moursi, Rasha Al-Sharqawi
ISTANBUL (BILGI): Gupse Korkmaz, Ceyda Pektas, Burak Sancakdar
MILAN (POLITECNICO): Ilgaz Kayaalp
COPENHAGEN (ROSKILDE): Sune Fredskild
Guest Speakers, Collaborators, and Critics:
Nasser Abourahme, Luigi Achilli, Yaşar Adanalı, Rana Beiruti, Lilet Breddels, Güler Canbulat, Didem Danış, Sammy Goldenberg, Selva Gürdoğan, Vanessa Iaria, Ismail Haroun, Jared Kohler, Emel Kurma, Marina Otero Verzier, Samar Maqusi, Alice Massari, Philipp Misselwitz, Samar Muhareb, Lucas Oesch, Ceren Ozturk, Johannes Pointl, Garrett Rubin, Ege Sevinçli, Alice Su, Bertan Tokuzlu, Kate Washington
Archis (NL), Bilgi University (Istanbul, Turkey), American University of Sharjah (Sharjah, UAE), Visualizing Impact (Beirut / Amman)
*Marina Otero, “Nueva York Geolocalizado,” guía de El Viajero, El Pais, 2014.
**Geraldine Chatelard, “Jordan: A Refugee Haven,” Migration Policy Institute, August, 2010
The long term initiative “Echoing Borders: The Shelter, The Camp, The City, and The State. The Spatialization of Forced Migration in Jordan and Turkey,” developed by Nora Akawi and Nina Kolowratnik through the Studio-X Global Network, investigates the shifting notions of borders and citizenship and the spatial manifestations of migration and mobility within contemporary politics in the Middle East.
This September, following the Echoing Borders workshop and as part of the Open Memory project, Studio-X presents a global film screening on the question of refuge and refugees. The films will be shown on the same days in Amman at the Columbia Global Center, Istanbul at Studio-X Istanbul, Mumbai at Studio-X Mumbai, and New York City in Avery Hall at Columbia University GSAPP.
The outcomes of the Echoing Borders Summer Workshop ’14, which was organized in collaboration with Studio X Amman and Studio X Istanbul, will be presented as an intro to each film screening at Columbia University GSAPP New York.
09/16 Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars by Zach Niles, Banker White, 2005
09/17 Nuclear Nation by Atsushi Funahashi, 2012
09/18 Which Way Home by Rebecca Cammisa, 2009
09/23 Al Intithar by Mario Rizzi, 2013
09/24 The Invasion of Lampedusa by Olly Lambert, 2011
09/25 X-Mission by Ursula Biemann, 2008
09/25 Sinirdakiler/Two at the Border by Felicitas Sonvilla, Tuna Kaptan, 2013
Read more about the Open Memory Initiative here
Camps, prisons and compounds; airports and embassies; faraday shields, drone geographies or domestic retreats. What is architecture’s role in the construction of contemporary security apparatus?
The Studio-X Global series Security Regimes seeks to understand the ways in which architecture participates in what Giorgio Agamben has called, in his book State of Exception, the “unprecedented generalization of the paradigm of security as the normal technique of government.” By examining global spaces of exception, from detention camps to the particular spatial and geopolitical order constructed by mass surveillance and drone strikes, this research aims to understand and represent the relationship between architecture and security, and their articulation at the intersection of legal and physical environments.
As part of this long term initiative, we are currently working on UNMANNED, a publication series co-edited by Malkit Shoshan (FAST) Ethel Baraona (dpr-barcelona) and the Marina Otero (Director, Global Network Programming,Studio-X), which addresses the possibilities and impact of the security structures and technologies on the built environment. What are the spatial and ethical implications of warfare technology? How can emerging technologies be leveraged to offer alternatives to the spatial assemblage of contemporary power? Can or should architects go beyond the visualization and exposure of the militarization of public space? We seek to unpack these questions through five main topics: Drones; Adhocracy; Retreat; Compounds; and Missions.
These five themes are explored through a series of public events, conversations and collaborations with architects, artists and designers, policy makers, military officials, lawyers, diplomats, aid workers, hackers, novelists, human rights experts, academics and researchers, which have already been initiated at Het Nieuwe Instituut (Rotterdam) in The Drone Salon, and at Studio-X.
Confirmed contributors: Arthur Holland Mitchell (Co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone); Belkis Willie (Researcher Human Rights Watch, Yemen); Bradley Samuels (SITU Research); Catherine Harwood (Leiden University, expert in International Law); Dan Gettinger (Co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone); Dirk Deichmann (Multidisciplinary process research, Post-Doc, Erasmus University); Erwin Marx (Engineer, Ministry of Defense); Eyal Weizman (Forensic Architecture); Josh Begley (Data artist); Kees Matthijssen (The Dutch head of the mission in Afghanistan, Military - Advisor Department of Foreign Affairs); Liam Young (architect, futurist, critic and curator); Marcel Rot (Engineer, Ministry of Defense); Martine van der Does (Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Matthew Stadler (writer); Naureen Shah (Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union); Lt.Col Pieter Mink (senior advisor Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Royal Netherlands Army Command); Quirine Eijkman (Representative of Amnesty International and expert in International Law); Ruben Pater (designer); Simon van Melick (NGO representative, Spark); Rein Dekkers (Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Robert Kluijver (Private consultant, culture and civic society); Yael Messer (art curator).
The Studio-X Global series Security Regimes was launched last Spring at Studio-X Istanbul with the exhibition ‘Compressed: Guantánamos,’ an initiative of Columbia Global Centers | Turkey and Studio-X, with the contribution of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, Truth Justice Memory Center and the Civil Society in the Penal System Association. The exhibition was presented along with conversations and a publication documenting Turkey’s prisons titled ‘Hidden Histories of Cities.’
These events had been followed by “Landscapes of Secrecy: Data and Reporting in the Drone Debate,” a panel discussion at Studio-X NYC in collaboration with Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone, and by the workshop Echoing Borders: The Spatialization of Forced Migration in Jordan & Turkey co-organized by Studio-X Istanbul and Studio-X Amman, which tracks the transforming typologies of temporary settlements in the camp and the city. The Security Regimes series aims for an understanding of architecture in the expanded context of spatial politics.
The Fall 2014 GSAPP Core Lecture Series presents Dispatch from Studio-X, a series of conversations organized by GSAPP Faculty members in collaboration with Studio-X Directors:
Friday, October 10, 12pm, Ware Lounge
Dispatch from Studio-X Johannesburg
Radical Imaginaries in an Afro-Future City
Paul Goodwin, Chelsea College of Art, and Kellie Jones, Columbia Art History and Archaeology, in conversation with Mabel Wilson and Mpho Matsipa, GSAPP
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Dispatch from Studio-X Istanbul
Azra Akšamija, David Gissen, Alex Lehnerer, and Tayfun Serttaş
Organized by Jorge Otero-Pailos and Selva Gürdoğan, GSAPP, with responses by Thordis Arrhenius and Erik Langdalen, Oslo School of Architecture and Design.
This event is organized within the framework of the The Fitch Colloquium: Transformative: Seven Ideas for a New Preservation, and is part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Program.
Friday, November 21, 9am
Dispatch from Studio-X Amman
Architecture and Representation: The Arab City
Ashraf Abdallah, Senan Abdelqader, Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Suad Amiry, George Arbid, Mohamed Elshahed, Yasser Elsheshtawy, Rania Ghosn, Saba Innab, Ziad Jamaleddine, Ahmed Kanna, Bernard Khoury, Laura Kurgan, Adrian Lahoud, Ali Mangera, Reinhold Martin, Magda Mostafa, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Nasser Rabbat, Hashim Sarkis, Felicity Scott, Hala Warde, Mark Wasiuta, and Gwendolyn Wright. Keynote by Timothy Mitchell.
Organized by Dean Amale Andraos and Nora Akawi, GSAPP, in partnership with Columbia Global Centers | Middle East
Co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute and Qatar Foundation
Free and open to the public. Events take place in Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, unless otherwise noted.
by GSAPP, Studio-X Mumbai and NMIMS
‘Our environment today is increasingly influenced by nonmaterial conditions, from which we interpret material equivalences. From the stock market to urban regulations law, the tension between the virtual and the physical is increasingly richer and complex. Most of the time, the rules defining architecture are based on the physical condition of gravity and the economical condition of construction cost. But other forces are shaping our society, from social to informational. are there other forces to be expressed in architecture than responding to gravity?’ These are the thoughts posed by GSAPP Professors Frederic Levrat and Phillip Anzalone. With these questions in mind, a group of six students from (GSAPP) and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), and with the collaboration of Studio-X Mumbai and his Director Rajeev Thakker, developed ‘Space + Image Pavilion’, a small structure which explores the relation between the virtual, the visual, and the physical.
FACULTY: Jeffrey Johnson, China Megacities Lab
DATES: Aug. 4 - Aug. 24, 2014
LOCATION: Studio-X Beijing
PARTNER INSTITUTION: Studio-X Beijing
Concurrent with China’s rapid urbanization is a museum building boom which is producing an average of approximately 100 new museums a year across the country, with even greater numbers most recently. These often iconic structures act as landmarks for newly planned government and civic centers, CBD’s, cultural districts, and even in some cases, residential and commercial developments, symbolizing the value of culture in the identity of a new China. With this proliferation of new museums, are there trends that can be identified that might mark a paradigm shift in how the museum project is defined? Are there new roles – socially, culturally, politically-that the museum is playing? And what new architectural forms and spatial organizations are being invented to accommodate these new ambitions?
Columbia University – New York
Tonji University – Shanghai
Milan Politecnic - Milan
Monday July 28
2:00 PM Flavio Canonica - New ways of banking in urban spaces
Tuesday July 29
2:00 PM Virgilio Fidanza – Visual Archeology
Wednesday July 30
2:00 PM Branimir Brkljac- House of Ideas – an Architectural think tank
9:00 PM Frederic Levrat – Virtual/Visual/Physical Environment
Thursday July 31
9:00 PM Oliviero Godi – The reproduction of black squids in North Sea
Saturday August 02
2:00 PM Final Presentation – Student’s projects
The Workshop and the lectures will be presented at the Franklin University Campus, in Lugano
Via Ponte Tresa 29, Sorengo, Switzerland