Re-charge | Part I

The ma[r]king of territory:

Speculations on spatial resilience

NB. This essay is not intended to be a political discussion, but rather the intention is to set up a number of points of enquiry regarding the consideration of a territory and it’s making, and the resilience of the territory within the frame of landscape architecture.

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Future olympic park 2007 . Bas Princen . source

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INTRODUCTION / SPECULATING ON THE SPATIAL RESILIENCE OF TERRITORIES

An understanding of territory as a component of space is inherent in the work of the landscape architect. Our work discerns parks as integral to the fabric of cities and metropolitan areas, and the size and dimensions of these, as well as the interiority and outward perimeter plays a large part in the operations and functions of the reserve[1]. Over the past two decades, a series of publications have emerged, supporting an interest in landscape. Large Parks (2007), the most recent of these, following The Landscape Urbanism Reader (2006) and Recovering Landscape (1999) (a series of publications by Princeton Architectural Press), initiated a study of parks and provided the opportunity to review these collectively, as well as foregrounding the concept of ‘large-ness’ in landscape discourse, referencing the complexities of ‘large’ matters of “ecology, public space, processes, place, site, and the city”.[2] This essay explores the concepts of boundary and resilience at the large(r) scale of a national territory, building on themes explored in Czerniak and Hargreaves’ ‘Large Parks’. Two thoughts motivate this essay. First, how is resilience registered at the territorial scale of a nation, as opposed to the scale of a park? And second, how is resilience mediated across national boundaries, and affected through ecological, political and social change?

01. TERRITORY & BORDER IN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

In ethology, socio-biology and behavioural ecology the term territory refers to any geographical area that an animal of a particular species defends [against conspecifics and occasionally animals of other species]. As a political/spatial concept, territory refers to a tract of land; or a geographical area that is brought under the control of a single governing body; an area whose borders are determined by the scope of political power rather than solely by natural features such as rivers and ridges. In understanding the scope of the concept of territory, it is then possible to understand borders as the linear limit or edge of a territory such as a private piece of property, a county, state, or country. [3] “Borders can be solitary or political entities, however they can also be bodies that are sensitive to a greater context and can be transformed by factors such as social, environmental, political and infrastructural complexities. The nature of what a border is thus changes.”[4]

To understand a border condition and to be in a position to judge its resilience we need to understand the identity [and the making] of its territory. In her essay Landscapes of exchange: re-articulating site Clare Lyster discusses the making of territory (namely public space) through processes of exchange. Lyster argues that spatial typologies evolve through time, being reorganised as a result of event-based optimisation. Within the process she describes is obsolescence.[5] I would suggest also, that obsolescence is a significant, and not negating factor of resilience.

“The border is beginning to multiply and fractalise both within and outside the razor wire fences. This challenges our ideas of the border as a geographical edge of a nation-state – where the colour changes on a school map. The logic of the border goes beyond physical checkpoints to permeate labour, institutional, family and other relationships.“[6]

With the development of air travel and other rapid forms of transportation borders are no longer singularly a linear phenomenon, but have become articulated in multiple, as a network of management and control occurring at the scale of a nation. As a thickened field, with its corresponding forces of mobility, power, technology, production, geographic intelligence, program, ecology being responsible for its material and operational specificity, in turn determining the morphology/negotiation and occupation of the border landscape.

The making and marking of Australia’s state and territory borders might be better compared to those of geopolitical borders globally, though not fraught with warfare they are not as clear and fixed as they appear in standard representations:

“It’s not the actual border that counts but the way that the border gets represented, as a means for separating things we want to believe from things we want to believe aren’t relevant because they apply to somebody else”[7]

The following case study attempts to identify geopolitical border operations in Australia considering the forces that tension them as well as the exchanges that occur at and across them.[8]

02. MOBILE BOUNDARIES

“At the junction of the Pacific Ocean with the Arafura and Timor seas, Australia’s coastline, its outlying islands and territories, its varied kinds of tenure over place, form a mobile, unstable, racialised border.”[9]

On November 4th, 2003, a small fishing boat called the Minasa Bone arrived at Melville Island approximately twenty kilometers off the northern capital city of Darwin. At this time, Melville Island was within Australia.  Within hours, three navy ships met the boat, which was carrying four crew and fourteen passengers, and an exclusion zone was set up around the boat. The boat was towed out to sea and kept under surveillance by the navy. Meanwhile, the Australian government passed legislation excising Melville Island, as well as approximately 4000 other small islands to Australia’s north, from the migration zone. For purposes of migration, Melville Island was no longer Australian territory, and according to the government had not been at the time of the Minasa Bone’s landing. The boat was escorted by the Australian navy to international waters and was later collected for processing by the Indonesian government. Interestingly, not only had the boundary been re-negotiated, time had been too; the Minasa Bone’s crossing and re-crossing of territorial boundaries models a complex border zone.[10]

The ‘Pacific Solution’, implemented two years earlier as a result of governmental panic following the Tampa incident and the SIEV X tragedy of 2001 caused the eventual 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. As remarked by Suvendrini Perera, in A Pacific Zone? (In)Security, Sovereinty, and Stories of the Pacific Borderscape, “The relations between Australia and its outside(s)—those places that are, in one way or another, not-Australia defy—representation by linear divide: the border. Under the Pacific Solution, Australia’s border both contracts, as it excises its outlying territories for specific purposes, and expands, as it annexes the sovereign space of other states for its own uses.”[11]

With the technological advancement of mobility borders are no longer a linear phenomenon, but are now a network of management and control occurring at the scale of a nation with entry and exit occurring in a number of points and operational types. Over the past half-century the manner, rate and basis of mobility has drastically changed, causing a corresponding shift in the articulation of territory, both at a macro or global scale, and also at a local or micro scale. The plasticity of borders, and the ecologies of exchange that occur across them make them a difficult condition to represent, and thus also for designers to engage with.

03. MAPPING TERRITORY & BORDER

In Dennis Cosgrove’s seminal text Mappings, James Corner writes on the agency of mapping, focussing on its ability to “emancipate potentials, enrich experiences and diversify worlds.” “Mapping”, Corner argues, “unfolds potential; it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences.” In the context of this essay, I am interested in this type of maps, rather than those which reproduce what is already known.[12] The links between mapping and territory are explicit. “It is the map that precedes the territory”[13], Jean Baudrillard declares, noting that space is only characterised as territory through the agency of bounding and making visible, a principal role of mapmaking.  Corner positions maps as being valuable in stimulating the landscape and architectural imagination, envisioning a generation of young landscape architects, architects and urban planners for who maps are a means of ‘finding’ and subsequently ‘founding’ new projects, whereby mapping as a process, rather than a result, is valued for its revelatory and creative potentials. This operative form of mapping offers a method of perceiving ideas on spatiality through territorial, political and social processes, far more beneficial than the static form of the plan. [14]

“Even though the map is not the territory, to make maps is to organize oneself, to generate new connections and to be able to transform the material and immaterial conditions in which we find ourselves immersed. It isn’t the territory but it definitely produces the territory.” [15]

Mapping’s value as a creative practice, both in comprehending, and navigating the changing territory of our borders is as a means to articulate ways of occupying, operating and subverting borders and offers a method of enquiry and research into powers and resistance that shape the border. It offers the possibility of a richer perception of the border, and possibilities for material or performative occupations at and across the border.

03. RESILIENCE / LANDSCAPE

Resilience, as Czerniak suggests, is more a more difficult concept to grasp in a landscape architectural realm. It may broadly be understood as the ability to absorb and recover from or adjust to change and feedback. In Large Parks, Czerniak suggests that:

”As a tool for conceptualising, planning, designing and managing large parks, it is useful to think of resilience in [an] ecological sense. A park’s capability for resilience lies in the strategic design of its organisational systems and logics – whether infrastructure, form or modes of operation – that enables it to absorb and facilitate change yet maintain its design sensibility…

… [A] large park’s ability to accommodate diverse and shifting social, cultural, technological and political desires while maintaining its identity is a characteristic of its resilience. What matters in terms of a resilient park is the tension, in both design and management, between efficiency and persistence, constancy and change, and predictability and unpredictability.”[16]

The resilience of the border, to resist, resonate with, and adapt to the operations that occur at and across it is key to its existence. Take, as an example the trafficking system that facilitates the illegal attempts for asylum and refuge across the northern Australian border; as a highly resilient network, dispersed across a larger region it operates in such a way that if one component is affected the others will adjust to absorb the change. In this way, should security checks and border control threaten the transit route, the operations have the rhizomatic capacity to respond. The mechanisms for control that are inflicted upon this border always act in response to forces exerted on it, rather than performing on their own. The representation of Australia’s borders as a delimited line is to be challenged, and it should be more correctly understood as a porous and resilient structure, offering an opportunity to investigate, intervene in and potentially to re-create, Australia’s borders and territories.

“Were borders insignificant, there would be no blood, and there would be no crosses erected along them”[17]


[1] Corner, J. ‘Foreword’ in ed. Czerniak, J. and Hargreaves, G. , Large Parks. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2007. p.11

[2] Czerniak, ‘Legibility and Resilience’ in ed. Czerniak, J. and Hargreaves, G. , Large Parks. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2007. p.19

[3] www.newberry.org/K12maps/glossary/index.html accessed 2nd February 2011.

[4] ed(s). Monacella, R. and Ware, S., Fluctuating Borders: Speculations about Memory and Emergence. p.20

[5] Lyster, C. ‘Landscapes of exchange: re-articulating site’, in ed. Waldheim, C. The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2006 p. 235

[6] Casas-Cortes, M., and Cobarrubias, S., ‘Drawing Escape Tunnels Through Borders’ in ed. Bhagat, A. and Mogel, L., An Atlas of Radical Cartography. Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press: Los Angeles, 2007. p.54.

[7] J. Herron, ‘Borderland/Borderama/Detroit’ in ed. Wilkins, G., Distributed Urbanism: Cities After Google Earth. Routledge: Oxon, 2010. p.65

[8] The emphasis on ‘at’ and ‘across’ is taken from Clare Lyster’s essay ‘Landscapes of exchange: re-articulating site’ in which she articulates ‘at’ as being a singular territorial consideration, a site/object relationship [similar to that broached by Corner in regards to the plan versus the mapping], to ‘across’, an organisational reading of territory occurring ‘across’ multiple sites of occupation. This reading of the two is integral to the manner in which boundary is considered in this essay. Lyster, C. ‘Landscapes of exchange: re-articulating site’, in ed. Waldheim, C. The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2006. p.235

[9] Perera S., ‘A Pacific Zone? (In)Security, Sovereinty, and Stories of the Pacific Borderscape’, in ed. Kumar Rajaram, P., and Grundy-Warr, C., Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2007. p.120

[10] Ibid. p.206.

[11] Perera S., ‘A Pacific Zone? (In)Security, Sovereinty, and Stories of the Pacific Borderscape’, in ed. Kumar Rajaram, P., and Grundy-Warr, C., Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2007. p.206.

[12] These maps are referred to as ‘tracings’ by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: “What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency… The map has to do with performance, whereas the tracing always involves an ‘alleged incompetence’. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. cited in Corner, J. Chapter 10, ‘The Agency of Mapping’ in Cosgrove, D. Mappings. Reaktion Books: London, 1999. p.214.

[13] Baudrillard, J. cited in Corner, J. Chapter 10, ‘The Agency of Mapping’ in Cosgrove, D. Mappings. Reaktion Books: London, 1999. p.222.

[14] Whereby the plan is criticised as operating in a static object-space stasis, rather than the space-time system of the map

[15] Car_tac (Cartograficas Tacticas), 2006. cited in Casas-Cortes, M., and Cobarrubias, S., ‘Drawing Escape Tunnels Through Borders’ in  ed. Bhagat, A. and Mogel, L., An Atlas of Radical Cartography. Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press: Los Angeles, 2007.

[16] Czerniak, ‘Legibility and Resilience’ in ed. Czerniak, J. and Hargreaves, G. , Large Parks. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2007. p.216

[16] Ibid. p19.

[17] Thompson cited in Haddad, E., ‘Danger happens at the border’ in ed. Kumar Rajaram, P., and Grundy-Warr, C., Borderscapes: Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2007. p.120

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