1973, Casabellamagazine, Apartment 42, Via Gian Battista Vico, Milan, Italy
The Radical Global Tools workshops and the BodyGroup under the direction of Franco Raggi
In January 1973, at the editorial offices of Casabella magazine in Milan, a number of designers, theorists and architects, including Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi, Riccardo Dalisi and members of Archizoom, 9999, Superstudio, UFO and other groups, held a gathering at which they founded Global Tools, a system of workshops that would continue to exist until 1975. The group’s aim was to create a school of arts and crafts, independent of an institution, that would experiment with tools, processes, crafts and instant learning. Coming from an anti-disciplinary attempt to establish a platform for the free exchange of different ideas and experiences, this was a place suited to the stimulation of individual creativity and the development of human potential.
Global Tools, as a “school but non-school”, was founded on the idea of rediscovering the direct relationship between a craft and an object made without the intermediate step of conceptualising a design. Five workgroups were formed (Communication, Body, Construction, Survival and Theory), inspired by the work of the American linguist Noam Chomsky, who several years earlier had demonstrated the impact on language of human creativity and had presented the theory of a generative grammar. The groups would function in an autonomous but tightly interconnected and interdisciplinary way.
This presentation will focus on one of the groups, addressing the body as the theme of its research, and will attempt to offer a possible understanding of the material and discursive positioning of human bodies in spatial and materialist education. Also, it will aim to understand the use of embodiment in educational practices and how the pedagogical utopia of Global Tools can inform contemporary methods of teaching and learning in architecture.
9 March 2020, 10pm, Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli, Rome, Italy, outside the emergency room
White Walls Policlinico
Amid the obviousrisks involved in entering a hospital in Rome during the COVID-19 pandemic, a cancer patient needed immediate medical assistance. She found herself in an emergency roomthat had been oddly reduced to a small and ethereal white room. In this two-by-two-metre pre-triage area, machines were swiftly attached to the incoming patients to assesstheir condition. Doctors relentlessly repeated the same procedures, noting via their machines and an endless stream of patients entering the hospital that an entirecity was in a state of utter crisis and exhaustion. Heroically, they worked overtime and accepted isolation from their own families in order to keep them safe from thevirus. But in their hazmat suits, the hospital staff increasingly began to use disciplinary measures in order to get the chaos in the hospital under control. This paper will draw attention to the risks inherent in the rhetoric of war and of depicting healthcare providers as heroes. This research aims to examine the systemic failure of the Italian health care system: a lack of funding and personnel, an ageing population and prevalence of chronic illnesses, the continual necessity of upgrading medical equipment. It will acknowledge care as a matter of space, distance and extreme proximity, thus allowing links to be drawn between the experience of illness as a fundamentally static event and the perception of time and space by both patients and caregivers.
Fabricating Testimonies from a Dilapidated Neighbourhood– Reporting Marginalised Subjecthood(s) Affected by Colonial Negligence to a GlobalPublic
First released 16 years ago, Portuguese film directorPedro Costa’s film Colossal Youth, originally titled Juventude em Marcha (which translates as Youth on the March), embodies a cinema of complexities – framing subjects in the Fontaínhas neighbourhood, highlighting the lives of impoverished residents neglected by the Portuguese nation-state. Located near Lisbon, Fontaínhas is mostly populated by Cape Verdean immigrants; as a hybrid of documentary and fiction, Colossal Youth is an important contextualisation of the problematic intricacies linking the histories of Cape Verde and Portugal and their linear colonial kinship.
In my research, I seek to investigate immersing counter-colonial vocabularies and epistemic frameworks, rethinking practices and works that have had a significant impact on architectures of power, social choreographies and institutional configurations, adding to the question What can inhabit what?when bodies are negotiated across public and domestic spaces and are overshadowed by the architectures surrounding them.
Pedro Costa’s work depicts displacement in time and space. The scenes are of silence punctuated by dialogue, and are performed by non-professional actors from these slums. The film was shot over 15 months on digital video using natural light and ambient sound. The resulting 155-minute motion picture tells the story of an ageing Black man namedVentura who was forced to move and was shuffled into a new apartment block. Throughout this work of docufiction, we witness how Ventura moves between old and new houses and between friends and acquaintances who call him “Papa”, becoming increasingly conflicted by the emptiness of these new buildings as well as by his own longing. along, with architectural compositions intersecting the bodies, the surrounding edifices thus depicting relationships detailed in corporeal movements as displaying either impersonal or intimate proximities.
On 10 September2023, Storm Daniel, which formed over the northern Mediterranean Sea and brought heavy precipitation and floods to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, caused the most deadly and destructive flooding for decades in Libya when the Mansour and Derna Dams collapsed. This presentation will look at this event as a catalyst for understanding architectures of water extraction and the geopolitical implications for territories in Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan.
Environmental disasters and catastrophes highlight a pressing need not only to restore sustainable resource management due to the effects of climate change but also to understand the historiography of extractive infrastructure. The collapse of the Derna and Mansour Dams in Libya is crucial to understanding the genesis of many gargantuan projects that began with the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement in the early 1960s. In the climate of a new world order of the Cold War, many countries undertook massive territorial development based on a long-awaited process of decolonisation in the hope of seeing their independent economies flourish.
The beginning of the Great Man-Made River Project in Libya, waves of nationalisation such as in Egypt, and numerous other vast extractive projects in the MENA region underscore the need to establish a Pan-Arab coalition, revealing rapid instability due to differences in ideology and governance. Moreover, the aftermath of a protracted period of colonisation left the region with fragile economies, obsolete infrastructure and disputed borders, making the extraction of oil, water and minerals determining factors for an economic upswing. The hope of ceasing dependence on the former Western coloniser soon faded due to the need for the projects to be contracted to exterior key industries – to the profit of Western stakeholders. A historiographic investigation mapping the extractive water infrastructures in Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan is necessary to reveal the nexus between the global environmental crisis, post-colonial Western imperialism and the resultant unstable governance and thus to shed light on the region’s territorial organisation, landscape metamorphosis and urban development in the desert.
6 October 2019, Locked Gates of Morgade’s Polling Station, Portugal
Sensing Anew: Against and in Spite of Lithium Extractive Dispossession
On 6 October 2019, the population of Morgade– more than three hundred citizens of a rural parish in northern Portugal – refused to vote in their country’s legislative election. At the locked gates of the polling station and amid protests, a banner declared Não à Mina, Sim à Vida (Noto Mining, Yes to Life). Part of a continuum of resistance against the Romano lithium mining project and the extractivist expansion across the Barroso region at large, Morgade’s electoral boycott was a sharp rebuke of the national and European desire to pursue a so-called “green” transition that renders superfluous any alternative modes of coexistence.
While the Romano lithium mine is now the latest mining project to be approved in the Barroso region, revisiting this episode of resistance from below may offer clues as to what other emancipatory practices may emerge. To do so, this investigation offers a close reading of the electoral boycott in its multiple scalar instantiations: a banner message that invites people to experiment with resistance not only in terms of negation but also in the multiplicity of practices of hope, complexity and desire; an architectural border that exposes the contestation of spaces of institutional authority disconnected from the reality of local livelihoods; and a territorial presence, regarded as a patchy entity that may as well exist in broader socio-environmental assemblages.Ultimately, this analysis attempts to expand the spectrum of aesthetico-political tactics that may cumulatively contribute to strategies of environmental justice in spite of differences.