Another of the more intriguing lectures delivered last Fall at Harvard's Graduate School of Design was by Eyal Weizman, a professor from Goldsmiths in London who spoke about what he calls “forensic architecture,” an emerging body of theory that utilizes architectural and spatial analysis to study politics and social relationships, especially human rights violations. Weizman’s work leverages the spatial analysis of landscapes, buildings and events to produce evidence, or what he calls “architectural testimony,” in the form of data-driven simulations, maps and videos. It is clear that his work has activated architectural tools in a public forum to study moments of change, and that it has had a direct impact on law. What is less clear is how forensic architecture differs from evidence-based analysis in archaeology, for example, where buildings, architectural ruins and landscape traces are interpreted (or cited as proof) in support of a revisionist history. As a counterpoint, one thinks of the work of Nadia Abu El Haj, especially her book Facts on Ground. In it, she discusses the role of archaeology in the production of national ideology and historical knowledge in Israel. She makes a persuasive case for how the study of buildings, landscapes and artifacts in Israel has helped to alter received history and shape political and social visions for the future of Israel and Palestine. Weizman positions his work in the service of a humanitarian and anti-colonial agenda. However, his methodologies, and his claiming of legal testimony, appear dangerously close to the dubious poetics of archaeological narrative in contested territories.
Lesson on the Palestinian Parliament Building
The studio-based curriculum at Harvard GSD runs in parallel to the school's evening lecture series. While material from the studio finds its way into the Q & A, the most thought provoking talks do not always have direct expression. I propose this blog as a forum to hone the casual post-lecture discussion in the trays into a record of the most exciting and ephemeral aspects of an architectural education. Follow @kongsgaarden. Views are my own.