Monday, October 24, 2011

Findling_Territory_Occupy (your town here)

Occupy (Your Town Here) / Protest Architecture

The Site: Sites include downtown city squares, parks, governmental buildings, and financial districts. The scale begins as urban, though the sites may connect to one another like a network, feeding and spreading to new locations regionally or globally. Governmental legal systems break down within these spots as the protestors take up residence in public places regardless of what local police mandate. Social media is also a common way in which these movements take shape, acting as a communication line from the protest spot to mainstream society. I cannot speak much to the uses or misuses of the sites other than the obvious squatting and associated infrastructural problems that arise from such a situation, however it seems that barricades or some defensive measures would be helpful in the more turbulent instances (particularly the Middle East) the world has witnessed in the last year.

The Players: Existing players in most protests are businesses, government agents (authorities or loyalists) and citizens/rebels. In the case of Occupy Wall Street, financial employees were also targeted by the protestors. Relationships vary from peaceful, to confrontational, to outright violent. As every situation seems to vary by location, the agents involved, and the political/economic atmosphere, it becomes difficult to put a universal qualifier forward in describing what the relationships and needs are of these sites. For instance, the Rome occupiers have turned to rioting, those in Chicago were quickly arrested before they could 'dig in', and Ann Arbor has ten people wearing turtle necks and scarves leisurely lounging in the park off Liberty too lazy to even hold up their own signs. The unifying factor however is the ability/inability of these sites to maintain a population for extended amounts of time. In Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, longevity in site occupation and the ability to repel oppositional attacks were fuel for protestors to gain popular sentiment. Occupy New York was the same way, and as the protestors maintained location, people began to take notice. Housing these protestors, protecting them, or crushing them without loss of life before they gather popular support are all opportunities for architectural intervention.

Additional Resource:

Go to the park off Liberty and Division and talk with the protestors


  1. Some varied, disconnected thoughts:
    - I wonder if you would think about complexity/network theory to tie into the way in which you're observing the feeding and spreading of occupations.
    - Government systems break down but new ones start; how might architecture facilitate either part of that event?
    - You identify social media as the catalyst between the protestors and mainstream society; in the occupy wall street example I would argue that the protestors are seeing themselves as mainstream society and it's interesting to think about the ways in which social media are playing into, obfuscating, clarifying, etc, the messages being relayed between society and its representatives. Can architecture be subsituted as the catalyst and play that role?
    - I wonder if you could (should?) lift the following idea from the proposal and think about it in isolation from the context you've proposed: "the ability/inability of [a site] to maintain a population for extended amounts of time"

  2. One fascinating component to the Occupy Wall Street is the light that it is shedding on the nature of public action and the space allotted for this in our collective environments. The case of Zucotti Park – the area of occupation in NYC – is one of those quirky “privately held public spaces”. (Read about it on Wikipedia and here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/opinion/zuccotti-park-and-the-private-plaza-problem.html?_r=1&scp=7&sq=Zuccotti%20Park&st=cse and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saskia-sassen/the-global-street_b_989880.html)

    It is a curious fact that because Zucotti Park is not publically held, the police cannot enforce curfew laws, so the protesters can stay through the night and build their following to a greater degree than if they were using city owned public space. Could, privately held space, in fact, be providing a greater platform for public action than public space? This would be a dangerous situation – requiring the sympathies and solidarity of an elite group of people (property owners in high rent districts) – for our democracy. For up until now, the protestors have not been removed because the private owners haven’t organized and enforced their rules of occupation (new ones were passed on Oct 13 stating that long-term occupation was not permitted), but they could, ultimately giving them an unreasonable (?) amount of power over public life – but this may be a ship that may have sailed years ago when this space was traded for whatever additional benefit.

    Does public space, I’m speaking of its physical design, have anything to do with public voice today? How –what is the role of the architect in this, especially when dealing with privatization? Looking for specific techniques may be helpful. Spaces for actual gathering are important, but so are platforms from which to command attention (this is why balconies play a big role in revolutions), access to visibility, exit routes… pragmatics and positions.

    On a completely different note, the world-wide “occupy” protests are potentially interesting for the ways in which it has resisted specificity. There are rotating leaders, a lack of a specific list of demands, and a deliberate thwarting of pointing of fingers. Now, this may signal a lack of a certain kind of cohesion, but it speaks to a different mode of protest, I think. Rather than a mere reduction it is the simple act of occupation (and participation in a democratic process) that is, in large part, the point. Here a network example seems to be the model. How does the design of physical space learn from and take advantage of a leaderless movement?