Forensic Architecture: an Introduction
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
Forensic Architecture is both a recent, transdisciplinary research method and a specific research group headed by the method’s originator, the scholar Eyal Weizman. Combining architectural studies of the built environment, forensic investigation, geography, ecology, ethnography and journalism, Forensic Architecture takes up not the traditional architectural task of creating new environments, but rather attempts to understand, methodically and rigorously, how existing environments have been taken apart by violence. Investigating particular war zones, borders, and sites of climate change, Forensic Architecture, in a relatively short period of time, has become vital in providing evidence for international courts, journalism, and a wide range of activist groups, not to mention transnational organizations like Amnesty International and the United Nations.
In this class, students will examine several cases: an investigation of shrapnel fragments lodged into a room struck by drones in Pakistan; audio analysis of a shooting in the West Bank of an unarmed civilian by the Israeli army; the reconstruction of a Syrian detention center based off the acoustic memories of its survivors; the advanced mapping of a day-long battle in Gaza; an investigation of environmental violence in the Guatemalan highlands; and the use of machine-learning software to trace the use of police teargas on the U.S.-Mexico border. How do violence and militarism impact built environments, and how can architecture both serve as an instrument of violence as well as a backdrop before which violence unfolds? How can spatial analysis be used as an optical device to investigate crimes against humanity, especially when cross-referenced to a variety of evidence sources, including new media, remote sensing, material analysis, witness testimony, and crowd-sourcing? How does Forensic Architecture fit into debates surrounding the relationship between politics, aesthetics, and theory? Readings will revolve around Weizman’s own writing, with additions by Okwui Enwezor, Thomas Keenan, Laura Kurgan, and Ariella Azoulay, among others.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:45-9:45pm
January 28 — February 25, 2020
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Tuesday, February 11th.