The Subversive Architect | Speculation I

“I am very curious about the notion of the subversive architect, one that uses architectural design and innovation to game the system, to get around certain political constraints, or to help recalibrate the urban environment in some way that currently operates at a level of injustice, or illogic. I don’t think architecture is so intertwined with power that it cannot be trusted on any level and therefore cannot exist. But, I am interested in how architects can perhaps use their skills and knowledge and the value of architecture as a political art, as a space of urban negotiation with institutional power, to in effect bring changes about spatially on their own, to force new balances of power, to in effect establish dialogs with power through the medium of design that can challenge the institution in some way.”

Bryan Finoki [the editor of Subtopia] in an interview with Léopold Lambert in March 2010 . source


An Atlas of Radical Cartography

Latino/a America Selecciones 2003/2006 . Pedro Lasch . in An Atlas of Radical Cartography


Loosening the Pacific Stronghold:

Subverting and exposing Australia’s geopolitical northern boundary

The ‘Pacific Solution’, implemented as a result of governmental panic following the Tampa incident and the SIEV X tragedy of 2001 caused the excision of approximately 4,600 islands on Australia’s northern periphery from the Australian migration zone. This inversion, or shift of geographic boundaries, converted northern Australia into a buffer. Stemming from a desire to externalise, and distance the issue, and to implicate other nations in the region, such as Indonesia and Nauru, to take responsibility for patrolling, and detaining in exchange for economic aid, the solution caused off-site repression, away from public opinion. A larger and more frequent patrolling of the waters and a thickening of the border to a territory, as opposed to a line, have further complexified the entry of intended migrants to Australia.

This brief project [to be posted in the next few days] seeks to reveal the impacts of the inversion of the boundary, and to offer a subversive strategy to make it safer for vessels to travel between Indonesia and Australia. Challenging the government’s ‘solution’ to its migration ‘problem’ Loosening the Pacific Stronghold negotiates the northern buffer through a series of floating architectural apparatuses that provide relief through shelter and provisions for those seeking to reach the mainland.


Landscape architects and architects have a valuable contribution to make to the status of geopolitical boundaries. Borders are an integral part of the process of global making. So why not design for them?

Touching on, and then extending a point raised by dpr-barcelona: If there are frontier conflicts all around the world, why is it that geopolitical points such as US-Mexico and Israel-Palestine incite so many speculative proposals and our own boundaries incite little response? Is it because of the lack of articulation of what is occurring along them? In failing to represent them in a digestible way do we remove the ability for people to engage with them?

Some questions:

  • What can design contribute to such a contentious and important geopolitical point in Australia’s border negotiations?
  • [and] Can design bring transparency and offer suggestions for the management of Australia’s northern periphery?


About the image . Pedro Lasch distributed 40 maps titled Road Maps (#1 Arrival New York) to 20 persons who were to cross the US-Mexico border. Each person received two maps, one to keep and one to return to Lasch on their arrival in New York City. 8 maps had been returned on the publication of An Atlas of Radical Cartography, each inscribed through wear with the experience of the traveller. The maps were exhibited along with excerpts from conversations Lasch had with each migrant or traveller.

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