Decolonizing Architecture (2021-2022)
The topic of this year aims to reflect and intervene in the debate regarding the architectural heritage associated with painful and violent memories. The course will focus on the rural towns built in the 1940s by the “Entity of Colonization of Sicily” during the fascist regime. These rural towns were built by the regime to “reclaim,” “modernize,” and “repopulate” the south of Italy considered “empty,” “underdeveloped,” and “backward”. The analysis of these towns will offer course participants the opportunity to problematize the persistence of today’s colonial relationship with the countryside, especially after the renewed interest in the countryside as a solution for the pandemic. Parallel to the collective research, every student is asked to research an individual case study of difficult heritage. The intersection between individual and collective research is shared with a larger public at the end of the year in a discursive exhibition. The course is organized in collaboration with the Critical Urbanism course at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and will take place in Stockholm, online, and in the former building of the “Entity of Colonization of Sicilian Latifundia” in Borgo Rizza, Municipality of Carlentini in Sicily.
Decolonizing Architecture (2020-2021)
Modernism and demodernization
With an increasing presence in European cities of populations with a migratory background, the struggle of decolonization, once primarily located outside of Europe, has today moved within its borders. Historical processes of colonization and decolonization, as well as today’s conditions of coloniality and decoloniality, have shaped the world order and continue to either sustain, or struggle to dismantle, inequality, structural violence, systems of privilege and white supremacy. In this global scenario, architecture has always played a crucial role in organizing colonial spatial relations and reflecting or contesting Modernity, its rationalities, ideologies and hierarchies.
The specific focus of this year’s course is to unveil the connections and relations between modernism and colonialism, and to speculate on possible projects of architectural demodernization. The European colonial/modern project of exploitation, segregation, and dispossession has divided the world into different races and nations, constructing its identity in opposition to “other projects” labeled as traditional or backwards. The suppression of alternatives was, and is, an attempt to create a singular modernist/colonial epistemology, and hence modernity cannot exist without the disqualification and degradation of other approaches, and world views. While architectural modernism, in particular, continues to be celebrated for its progressive social and political agenda, what the modernist rhetoric of progress and innovation obscures is its dark side, namely its inherent homogenizing, authoritarian, and segregational dimensions. These modernist conceptions are still present in contemporary architecture and urban planning; where in the name of modern architecture, entire communities, forms of lives, and historical sites, are erased. While alone, a critique of modernism is not enough, having already been conducted by postmodernism, the task of the present is, additionally, to imagine architectural forms of demodernization.
The course is intended for those with a background in architecture, art, urban research, decolonial theory or activism who are interested in the ideological, social and political dimensions of Architecture. It welcomes applicants from diverse backgrounds committed to developing an artistic, architectural and collective practice that is both theoretically and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. The course is particularly relevant for participants interested in collaborative forms of knowledge production that emerge from collective discussions, peer to peer learning and engagement with specific sites and communities.
Decolonizing Architecture (2019-2020)
Experimental sites of knowledge production
In the last decade, art led educational projects have experimented with practices grounded in lived experience and forms of knowledge production connected to social struggles in societies. Architectural knowledge in these critical learning environments have been deployed both as an analytic tool to redefine conceptual categories as well as a pragmatic and material form of activist spatial intervention. What is at stake in these experimental learning environments is the possibility to connect different urgencies, without falling into the trap of reproducing universalizing or identitarian models.
During the course of 2019–2020 we will ask ourselves, what role do institutions of higher learning have in the greater transformation of society? How can the knowledge produced within its walls continue to be relevant and useful for students interested in developing a practice engaged in social and spatial transformation? What kinds of spatial settings, structures and institutions are required for the accommodation of interests born from the interaction between students, teachers and the broader social context? And finally, how to reconcile theory with action through combining a rigorous understanding of the problems with pragmatic spatial interventions?
The course aims to reflect on architectural and other spatial knowledges that emerge from sites — understood as physical spaces, as well as communities, experiences and bodies. Based on the assumption that every student is a bearer of knowledge, the course participants research interests, methods, questions and urgencies that serve as points of departure in establishing a common methodology and a common vocabulary. The aim is to come together in a collective ongoing artistic research project and an online platform, that is constituted by descriptions, conceptualizations, video essays, manifesto, photographic dossiers and other forms of analysis and intervention.
Decolonizing Architecture (2018-19):
The afterlife of fascist-colonial architecture II
On July 8, 2017 — during the first session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Krakow Poland — Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The winning application entitled “Asmara — Africa’s Modernist City” refers to the modernist architectural and urban transformations that occurred during the Italian colonial occupation of the country between 1890 and 1941. The listing of Asmara as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a complex story of controversies surrounding outstanding issues of colonial heritage, which raises a series of contradictory questions: does the nomination constitute a new chapter in the Eritrean national narrative of liberation from Ethiopia? Does it signify the end of a long path of decolonization from fascism marked by the re-use and re-appropriation of colonial buildings and infrastructure? Or, on the contrary, is it a post-ideological and economic initiative that aims to revive the bygone “colonial times” for western tourism? Is Asmara’s listing under the UNESCO criteria the ultimate submission of Eritrea to European universalistic, colonial and Eurocentric values?
Decolonizing Architecture (2017-2018)
The afterlife of fascist-colonial architecture I
During the period between the two world wars, under the fascist regime, Italy built a vast number of public buildings, housing and monuments that have shaped Italian cities as well as those under former Italian occupation, such as Asmara, Addis Ababa, Rhodes and Tripoli. In the last years, these built structures have been celebrated and completely detached from the violent, fascist, and genocidal regime that produced them. With the re-emergence of today’s fascist ideologies in Europe—and the arrival of populations from north and east Africa—it becomes urgent to ask: what kind of heritage is the fascist-colonial heritage? How do the material traces of the Italian empire today acquire different meanings in the context of migration from the former colonies? Should this heritage be demolished, simply reused or re-oriented towards other objectives including reparations from Italian colonization?
The course uses the term decolonization as a starting point to understand the globalized present and the associated contemporary conditions of exile, displacement and migration, revolts and struggles against oppression and domination with the aim of producing a convincing conceptual vocabulary and practice engaged in today’s struggles for justice and equality. After the Second World War decolonization emerged as a powerful cultural and political process to liberate many countries from direct European colonial control and reshape power relations. It was a great moment of hope but also of great disillusionment..
Architecture in the process of colonization and decolonization plays a crucial role in organizing spatial relations and expressing ideologies, and even when abandoned or in ruins, is still mobilized as evidence for political and cultural claims. The analysis of the ways in which colonial architecture has been re-utilized is a new arena for understanding broader political and cultural issues around national identity and exile, senses of belonging or alienation, and social control or urban subversion.
In this course architectural space is seen simultaneously as the product of the interaction of social and political transformations and as a privileged site for the analysis of these dynamics. Drawing on the wealth of literature, recently discovered archive materials, and empirical research undertaken on the subject in the fields of geography, urban studies, politics, sociology and anthropology, the course’s methodological foundation remains anchored in the uniqueness of architectural analysis and spatial intervention.
The course is divided into two modules during one academic year. The Fall semester is divided into three mandatory blocks and the Spring semester in four mandatory blocks consisting of intensive program of seminars, lectures, studios, mentorships, collective readings, site visits and walks. Between blocks, participants are expected to independently develop their research. During the spring semester, more emphasis will be put on the production of a collective intervention and/or a discursive-exhibition.
The course benefits from being located at an art institution of higher learning with an experimental artistic research environment. The Royal The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm is a leading art institution of higher education located in Stockholm with a long artistic tradition dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. The education offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Arts and postgraduate studies in Architecture. At the end of the first semester it is possible for course participants to apply for university funding in order to develop their research projects and present it to a wider public during the research week. The course culminates with a discursive exhibition at the end of the year, where the artistic and architectural research developed is used as a support structure for public discussions, seminars, lectures and performances.
In order to fully benefit from the collective research atmosphere we strongly urge participants to reside in Stockholm, however if for some reason this is not possible, we ask non-resident students to attend a minimum of seven blocks and submit substitute assignments. The course will also offer field trips in Sweden and abroad. Course participants are expected to pay for part of the costs. The field trips are not mandatory and for those who are unable to take part a substitute assignment will be given.
2nd-year continuation course
After the successful completion of the course, students have the opportunity to enroll in a second-year course that allows them to further develop the research project that emerged during the first year. Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course offers a unique opportunity for participants to join a collective international community of practitioners interested in the social and political dimension of architecture and to receive the necessary material and intellectual support for developing a self-driven artistic and architectural practice.
Applicants should hold a Master Degree in art, architecture or relevant field, or else have equivalent and documented knowledge and experience. Admission is assessed on previous projects and experiences as well as a letter of motivation, that together forms the application. The letter should clearly state why the conceptual frame of the course is relevant for the applicant’s study. Ideal candidates should be interested in the ideological and social dimensions of Architecture, and in conceptual speculations and theories that are grounded and emerge from artistic and architectural practice. Candidates should be open to experimental forms of collective production which challenge individual authorship, and to an open-ended process oriented towards material and immaterial outcomes. The course requires that participants can efficiently manage independent study and production time between course blocks.
EU/EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students do not pay fees. Fees applies for non-EU citizens. Scholarships are available for participants from outside the European Union.