Another Architecture

by Mitch McEwen

  • How to Read a Croissant / Unfolding Spatial Violence III of III

    Mitch McEwen
    May 24, '24 3:16 PM EST

    How to Read a Croissant / Unfolding Spatial Violence III of III

    In part I of this three part series  “How to Read a Croissant / unfolding spatial violence,” I related Enric Miralles’ architectural layout of a croissant to the legibility of genocide in the Israeli forces’ seemingly arbitrary blockade of croissants into Gaza.  Part II relates the croissant blockade to the denial of Palestinian humanity and locates the university as a place to disrupt this misrecognition of human kinship.

    In this third part I will continue to reference the croissant as a site of data models, reading models of data capture and prediction through the croissant. From the croissant-scale, I invite you to read multiple modes of data capture at work in the spatial matrix of the occupation-as-starvation and its material logics.  This spatial matrix includes house demolitions, zoning, crop destruction, the US Embassy, settler houses in Greater Jerusalem, and the limestone that constructs a continuity between them.   

    In February of this year, two months before the student encampments, I saw Shourideh Molavi present at the Center for Spatial Research’s workshop at Columbia University.  The two-day workshop focused on research methods at the intersection of humanities, data sciences, and technology.  Molavi presented a way of narrating and mapping the ecocide of Gaza’s orange groves through leaves and their exposure to airborne pesticides.  Her work with Forensic Architecture reveals, “Since 2014, Palestinian farmers along Gaza’s perimeter have seen their crops sprayed by airborne herbicides and regularly bulldozed, and have themselves faced sniper fire by the Israeli occupation forces.”  Combining satellite images with collaboration on the ground, Molavi’s research has tracked how the IDF’s ground invasion, financed by US military aid,  actively destroyed agricultural fields in Gaza. In addition, from October 2023 to March 2024, the bombardment and ground invasion destroyed almost one third of the greenhouses in Gaza.  

    Hunger has been not a side effect, but the goal and the method.  Hunger falls within a wide rubric of violence that Israel is inflicting on Palestinians.  Unlike air strikes, which require advanced weapons technology and flight-paths, hunger requires an extensive spatial matrix of occupation.  

    The attenuated violence of the occupation-as-starvation constructs itself upon specific but shifting performances of territory.  The capacity of Israeli authorities to sift through aid trucks entering one singular checkpoint requires a host of other military buffer zones, walls, and checkpoints, as well as nodes of settler enclaves and the infrastructure that connects them.  These specific performances of territory-as-violence constitute what anthropologist Jeff Halper calls the “Matrix of Control.”  Design and planning are deeply implicated in the matrix of control that extends across the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.  The matrix of control over Palestinian people– a matrix that extends to Palestinian agricultural fields, greenhouses, and bellies– requires architecture, masterplans, suburban enclaves, and local stone. 

    As Eyal Weizman writes in Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation (2017), part of the role of architecture in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is to blur the facts of occupation.  

    “Architecture– the organization, form and style by which these neighborhoods were built, the way they were mediated, communicated and understood – formed a visual language that was used to blur the facts of occupation and sustain territorial claims of expansion.”  (52) 

    Such blurring enables the occupation to be normalized and rendered as civic life, even as it entails apartheid, dispossession, and defiance of international law.  Part of the blurring occurs through material and spatial continuities that absorb illegal settlements into the matrix of control.  Within the spatial logic of post-1967 occupation, Jerusalem has played a multiscalar role in this blurring of facts.  An American observer can easily recognize the spatial form that coheres political annexation, the wall, illegal settlements and military outposts.  It is ex-urban sprawl.  As B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories recounts the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem: 

    "In June 1967, immediately upon occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel annexed some 70,000 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and applied Israeli law there, in breach of international law. The annexed territory greatly exceeded the size of Jerusalem under Jordanian rule (about 6,000 dunams), encompassing approximately 64,000 more dunams. The additional land belonged, in large part, to 28 Palestinian villages….Israel included some lands belonging to villages near Jerusalem within the city’s municipal jurisdiction, yet left the owners outside it."  

    In defiance of UN resolutions and often even in defiance of Israeli law, the suburban sprawl of Greater Jerusalem intensified in this century.  

    The new US embassy in Jerusalem – announced by President Trump but continued under President Biden – continues this blurring of facts.  It is now an outlier among international embassies, which remain mostly in Tel Aviv because Jerusalem’s status remains disputed under international law. The new US embassy enacts a highly charged blur– from its regulated limestone material to the contested land claims that it is sited upon to the geopolitical signals the new location sends.

    Eyal Weizman explains the significance of Greater Jeruselum to the dual normalization and intensification of the Zionist occupation of the West Bank–

    "An outer, second circle of settlement – termed by Israeli planners the ‘organic’ or ‘second wall’, composed of a string of dormitory suburbs – was established beyond the municipal boundaries, extending the city’s metropolitan reach even further… ‘Greater Jerusalem’ became thus a sprawling metropolis reaching the outskirts of Ramallah in the north, Bethlehem in the south, and Jericho in the east…” (Hollow Land, 50-51)

    The pattern of diffuse ex-urban and suburban sprawl has intensified in tandem with the matrix of control.  The sprawling metropolis forms an alibi for annexation of Palestinian territory, in defiance of UN resolutions.  

    Some of the most racially segregated large cities in the US exhibit a similar pattern.  I have written about the suburban control of water and sewage infrastructure in Detroit, a pattern I call watercraft, which also traces back to the mid 1960s. In Detroit the pattern of watercraft enabled the state of Michigan to declare emergency management over the majority Black city and force Detroit residents to pay 10 times higher water bills than suburbanites pay.  Detroiters– community organizers, artists, activists, and students– recognized the shared spatial logic of Emergency Management in Michigan and the blurred sprawling matrix of control in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  

    In 2014, when Rashida Tlaib was still a Michigan state legislator, Over 1,000 Detroiters demonstrated for Detroit human rights and Palestinian liberation near the Wayne State University campus.  

    This is the point when it starts to sound like I cannot possibly know enough to write about this.  Did I live in Detroit long enough to write properly of its infrastructures and activism?  How could I possibly compare Detroit and Jerusalem?  Am I talking about East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem, or when does that distinction matter?   It would take a careful historian to explain the dynamics or even capitalize the locations correctly, and I am not a historian.  I have never been to Israel or Palestine.  What makes any of this spatial analysis or reading legitimate?

    These questions– as specific as they are to Gaza or Jerusalem or Detroit– might also be asked of a croissant.  In 2020 computer scientists informed by Enric Miralles’ drawing and procedures returned to the croissant as a model.   They work from Enric Miralles’ “COMO ACOTAR UN CROISSANT / HOW TO LAY OUT A CROISSANT: El equilibrio horizontal / Horizontal equilibrium” as a representation of complex geometry.  Their published case study “A point-based redesign algorithm for designing geometrically complex surfaces. A case study: Miralles's croissant paradox” relinquishes Miralles’ ambition to layout the croissant as a floor plan.  Instead, their study repurposes Miralles' techniques toward a procedure to represent and design complex surfaces.    

    The computer scientists compare the results from modeling the croissant through NURBS and polygon meshes to modeling from a point cloud with a LiDAR scanner.  They include a 3rd option, which tweaks the LiDAR results through genetic algorithms.  The work seems to be bringing Miralles’ proposition up-to-date with contemporary technologies and computation methods.  Not only can the croissant be accurately modeled, but the geometry can be automatically generated in such a way that creates artificial variants.  

    "Fig. 14 Croissant originated from the genetic morphogenesis algorithm. Diversity was achieved, since each mutant surface is slightly different"

    This croissant case study in image processing has, unfortunately, completely excised the architectural work and significance from Miralles’ thought piece.  These croissants have no inside.  The croissant here is not cut in section or drawn in plan as something that we might imagine as occupiable or a form that might even be produced at a scale to be inhabited.  Miralles’ use of section and plan are simply deployed here as means to form the outside of an object and render it knowable at different levels of accuracy or differentiation.  In the case study, accuracy and differentiation slide into each other.  Are we impressed by the rows of croissants because they look like rows of actual croissants on a baking sheet, in a way that they wouldn’t if they were all exactly the same?  Here the data capture methods of LiDAR have been combined with the predictive methods of generative algorithms to render something plausible but opaque in its methods and intent.   

    One aspect of Miralles’ layout of the croissant that deserves further attention is that the drawing begins with a technology for electronic reproduction – the photocopier. When architects talk about the Miralles’ Croissant – and we do bring it up fairly often– we tend to skip over the photocopier.    The photocopier, an electronic photographic technology, initiates the first step in Miralles’ architecturally laying out the croissant.  The layout stages photography as an instrument of producing measurability, not rendering an image.  The photocopier pulls the croissant into a realm of fact by making a one-to-one image, whereby the croissant becomes an object.  The computer scientists have proposed using a LiDAR scanner instead of this photocopier.  But without a rubric such a floorplan, without a way of imagining into the croissant, they remain on its outside, vacillating between various modes of interpolating its surface.  

    The matrix of control evidenced in the Occupation of Palestinian Territories does not become less verifiable because it resonates with aspects of Emergency Management in Detroit.  That resonance might be witnessed from a distance, even if the violence does not touch our own bodies.  Even as we read these resonances, we can develop protocols that undo parts of the matrix of control– such as the move for universities to divest from companies profiting from genocide in Gaza.  These protocols may be limited and finite and involve some shortcuts.  If they are useful protocols they will expose the violence unfurling at the same time that they recalibrate and disentangle our complicity with that violence.  No one needs a perfectly accurate image of this cruelty, especially not from the outside.  The will toward the accurate accounting of the violence– exactly how hungry is starving, exactly how much control is apartheid, how much death is genocide, the endless strike videos– often cannot be disassociated from what seem to be the aesthetic and supremacist pleasures of ethnic cleansing.   


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  • How to Read a Croissant / Unfolding Spatial Violence II

    Mitch McEwen
    May 8, '24 4:40 PM EST

    A croissant, in some instances, becomes a logistical issue–  even one of global import.   Part II of III In Gaza right now, humanitarian aid and calibrated mass starvation are not competing agendas, but one coordinated matrix of genocide.  In the first part of this writing I read the... View full entry

  • How to Read a Croissant / Unfolding Spatial Violence

    Mitch McEwen
    May 2, '24 1:51 PM EST

    A croissant, in some instances, becomes a logistical issue–  even one of global import.   Part I of III On April 8th, less than a week after Israeli airstrikes assassinated 7 World Central Kitchen aid workers, the Israeli authority that manages the border between Egypt and Gaza inspected and... View full entry

  • Are you from West Virginia?

    Mitch McEwen
    Oct 16, '21 4:04 PM EST

    My grandmother was born in West Virginia.  She died last year (not of covid?) almost 100 years old, after many decades of retirement life in Columbus Georgia, a place for comfortable military widows, which she was, in her way.  She retired from being a Washingtonian. Becoming a Washingtonian... View full entry

  • Transitions of Power

    Mitch McEwen
    Sep 23, '20 11:04 PM EST

    This is not an architectural thought, particularly.  I am writing in regards to the question of democracy and the peaceful transition of power, what it means to have that threatened as it is tonight.   In the mid-1990s I accidentally worked at a right-wing... View full entry

  • On the White House Rose Garden “Renovation”

    Mitch McEwen
    Aug 27, '20 8:16 PM EST

    (Photo from July 26th New York Times)The project is presented as a “renovation.”  It is presented not in terms of a project brief, a program, or any goals related to a national agenda.  (The last garden change tied explicitly to a national agenda, of course, being Michelle Obama’s... View full entry

  • Stay Black and Die: A Possible Ethos for Architecture

    Mitch McEwen
    Jul 25, '20 10:08 PM EST

    [This post consists of long excerpts from a text that got published by Infinite Mile in Detroit a few months before the 2016 election, a text which was quickly forgotten by the few people who read it, including myself.]    "Years before I had understood that all I had to do, really had to do... View full entry

  • Stop Wasting Our Time

    Mitch McEwen
    Jun 24, '20 9:22 PM EST

    This post is in some ways inspired by the bold move that artist Shantell Martin made a few weeks ago to expose the crass ways that marketing entities sought to turn Blackness into a quick response, a cheap way to be 'relevant.'    There are not many of us Black folks in architecture, landscape... View full entry

  • Thoughts on Juneteenth: The Paradox of Pausing

    Mitch McEwen
    Jun 19, '20 4:52 PM EST

    Like many others, within a few groups of Black architects and urban designers, I have been processing this moment and what it might demand from the fields of architecture and urbanism.  A paradox is becoming evident.  In this rapidly changing reality, there are many pressures for speed. We have... View full entry

  • Interracial Dancing and Use-Based Zoning

    Mitch McEwen
    Oct 29, '19 8:20 PM EST

    Note: This is an excerpt from a 2015 article that I am updating to reflect that the cabaret law was finally over-turned in New York City in November 2017.  I am posting it after presenting an 8 minute talk related to this subject for the Urban Design Forum.  In the summer of 2001 I visited New... View full entry

  • Abolish ICE

    Mitch McEwen
    Jun 25, '19 12:10 AM EST

    The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General has found "dangerous overcrowding" and unsanitary conditions at an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility following an unannounced inspection, according to a new report.Watchdog finds detainees 'standing on toilets' for breathing... View full entry

  • What we allow ourselves to know

    Mitch McEwen
    Dec 27, '17 2:34 PM EST

    This is more of a musing that a full post. I've been thinking more aggressively these past months about what we allow ourselves to know in the discipline.  Because a discipline doesn't just deliver unending knowledge or create knowledge out of nothing.  It defines what is relevant, it collects... View full entry

  • Profound Modernity in Mexico City

    Mitch McEwen
    Oct 31, '17 10:51 PM EST

    Below is an excerpt from Profound Modernity, my essay on the design of dry ground in Mexico City and its image of modernity.  See e-flux for the full text. Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time…—Mierle Laderman Ukeles This article is not about... View full entry

  • Drawing bombs

    Mitch McEwen
    Jul 24, '17 1:05 AM EST

    This drawing by Ludwig Hilberseimer has been fascinating me recently.  Most architects with any interest in urban planning in the USA know the story of RAND corporation doing post-World War II consulting on the dispersal of the American city.  The assumption was that the kind of weapons... View full entry

  • Notes on time travel

    Mitch McEwen
    Apr 16, '17 2:06 PM EST

    This musing on time travel comes from notes that I jotted down in February of this year.  With the beginning of the illegitimate real estate developer presidency, my only way of making sense of this moment in America was to think of travelling back in time (What if Comey hadn't done that, What if... View full entry

  • We Are Not Innocent

    Mitch McEwen
    Mar 23, '17 7:16 PM EST

    Back in December I posted an entry about the White Flight from American Democracy, where I predicted that this new President wouldn't be using the White House and the L'Enfant Plan the way it was designed.  Rather:The axes of legislative authority and executive power must be extended dramatically... View full entry

  • Geometry doesn't have to be white - on Descartes, Baldwin, and grids

    Mitch McEwen
    Feb 20, '17 1:39 PM EST's a mini-podcast on Descartes, whiteness, and grids.  Let's liberate geometry from empire.  Especially in honor of today's American holiday.  View full entry

  • Watercraft - on Detroit's subsidy to its suburbs & slum clearance by infrastructure pricing

    Mitch McEwen
    Feb 15, '17 6:41 PM EST

    [This is an excerpt from a forthcoming article to be published later this year in Yale Perspecta #50]This study of water in Detroit and its intersection of racialized geographies of inner city and suburban sprawl uncovers parallels between water infrastructure and transportation planning as... View full entry

  • A Short Piece of Fiction on the Aesthetics of Nuclear Fallout

    Mitch McEwen
    Feb 5, '17 9:05 PM EST

    [I wrote this at the end of the summer, as I was mulling over certain relationships between aesthetics and warfare and image-making.  At the time I was thinking of it as a sort of historical line of research I wanted to do....   Now it feels related to many weird and horrifying things, including... View full entry

  • Interview w/ Sampsonia Way of Pittsburgh-- reparations, algorithms, autonomy and Black American poetics, gentrification, and other topics

    Mitch McEwen
    Jan 12, '17 7:04 PM EST

    The full interview is here -  Interview by Leah Wulfman    /  January 12, 2017  Excerpts below: LW: You are opening up and engaging architecture outside... View full entry

  • The White Flight from American Democracy

    Mitch McEwen
    Dec 27, '16 4:26 PM EST

    "The city in L'Enfant's Washington is really new nature. The models derived from the Europe of absolutism and despotism are now expropriated by the capital of democratic institutions, and translated into a social dimension certainly unknown at the Versailles of Louis XIV."-Manfredo Tafuri... View full entry

  • Another Review of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale / Insider’s Perspective from the US Pavilion

    Mitch McEwen
    Jul 1, '16 12:46 PM EST

    NO ONE CARES ABOUT AMERICA’S STUPID ARCHITECTURE PROBLEMSThe United States is accustomed to being the center of global networks in pretty much any field: film, finance, the art-world, pop music, development economics, tech start-ups, military strategy, and much more.  Architecture, though, is... View full entry

  • Teaching Representation versus Fabrication

    Mitch McEwen
    Apr 10, '16 8:29 PM EST

    What is the relationship between representation and fabrication today, between drawing and building, or thinking and making? When are we building indications of a process or an idea, representing something, and when are we building the actual thing? If we no longer have to represent in order to... View full entry

  • Miami Beach (a semi-private party that might continue above the flood)

    Mitch McEwen
    Jan 10, '16 5:23 PM EST

    Last month I visited Miami and witnessed the carting away of Art Basel.  On the Sunday evening that Art Basel wraps up, as well as the morning after, Miami Beach looks like a truck stop ran into the ocean.  Tents are being dismantled, beach signage points to furniture that's no longer there, and... View full entry

  • Detroit Detroit Detroit

    Mitch McEwen
    Jun 19, '15 2:17 AM EST

    Detroit is now my home city, so I am thrilled that next year's U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale will be dedicated to exploring the intersection of Detroit and architectural imagination.  As excited as I am that The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of... View full entry

    House Opera video

  • Interviewing a sociologist about equality, neighborhoods, and everyday people

    Mitch McEwen
    Mar 23, '15 5:12 PM EST

    Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Southern California, Veronica Terriquez received her Ph.D. in sociology from UCLA. Her research focuses on educational inequality, immigrant integration, and organized labor. Her work is linked to education justice and immigrant rights organizing... View full entry

  • I Can't Breathe = You Can't Dance

    Mitch McEwen
    Jan 19, '15 5:13 PM EST

    Thank you Archinect Sessions podcast for featuring me on the first podcast of 2015.  It looks like with everything happening in December I missed a chance to post here on Another Architecture.  Let's catch up.    Mimi Zeiger wrote a great opinion piece for Dezeen last month asking why... View full entry

  • 90's Throwback: Rem + Mies

    Mitch McEwen
    Nov 23, '14 4:05 PM EST

    Posting this much about Mies makes me feel like this blog is circling back to where it started two years ago, when I posted about Modernity and Ideology from my studio in Germany.  Somehow this recent time in the MidWest, transitioning from Brooklyn to Detroit, does remind me of settling into... View full entry

  • Affording Mies

    Mitch McEwen
    Nov 4, '14 1:02 PM EST

    One of the principles that guides my approach to architecture and urban design is the sense that architecture has much more to offer than luxury.  Whether you consider our field professionally in comparison to doctors and lawyers, or as a discipline comparable to art, we have a lot of room to be... View full entry

  • Interview with Keller Easterling about Subtraction

    Mitch McEwen
    Aug 26, '14 7:07 PM EST

    Keller Easterling is an internationally-recognized architect and theorist working on issues of urbanism, architecture, and organization in relation to the phenomena commonly defined as globalization. Her latest book, Subtraction, is published by Sternberg Press.  Easterling is a Professor of... View full entry

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About this Blog

Posts are sporadic. Topics span architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these. I sometimes include excerpts of academic articles.

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