“Models of fluidity, process, self-organization and complexity today enjoy near-hegemonic status in the fields of architectural, landscape and urban design. As against the putatively top-down practices of planning, and the authorial mastery of modernist design, we are led to believe that a progressive turn to more bottom-up, networked, ecologically sensitive, and “new-materialist” principles is underway. However, in their origins and their applications, as I have written elsewhere, this turn, and its advocates, are in thrall to the same models as are to be found in the history of neoliberal thought, and are frequently employed in the achievement of its political and economic agendas.
The writings of the architect and teacher Pier Vittorio Aureli appear to offer a clear and decisive critique of this development. Perhaps most appealingly, his account of the architectural archipelago offers a way for architects and architecture to counter the purely economic logic of neoliberal processes of urbanization — particularly where the urban comes to stand, as in Landscape Urbanism, as the purely processual — through the assumption of a political project. The field conditions of urbanism as connective landscape are countered, by Aureli, with the self-sufficient autonomy and formal limits of architecture as island.
In what follows, I question the adequacy of Aureli’s politics of architectural form as a means to contest the prevalence of models of the fluid, connective and self-organizing in design, as well as the broader neoliberal conditions in which they operate. To this end, after elaborating on the affirmations of process and connectivity in Landscape Urbanism, I present an analysis of the roots of Aureli’s archipelago model in the thought of the Nazi jursit Carl Schmitt. Addressing the latter’s characteristic polarisations of terms as such land-sea, political-economic, friend-enemy and limited-unlimited, and exploring both the mythic and fascist roots of these, I then turn to a critique of Aureli’s project that centers on the shortcomings of his own adoption of this agonistic politics.”
From ‘The Limits of Limits: Schmitt, Aureli, and the Geopolitical Ontology of the Island’ forthcoming in New Geographies 8: Islands, Harvard GSD, 2016.