JOSHUA COMAROFF, Architect and Geographer, Lekker Design, Singapore FELICITY D. SCOTT, Architect, Columbia University

Francis Cody, Anthropologist, University of Toronto Katja Grillner, Architect, Royal Technological Institute, Stockholm

JOSHUA COMAROFF, Lekker Design, Singapore 

Paramilitary Gardening: Landscape Urbanism and Authoritarianism

How might landscape be deployed as a form of warfare, or, more precisely, how might it operate in an urban setting as a substitute for more police, barricades, or instruments of surveillance? This presentation explores such paramilitary gardening in Singapore, where the ruling People's Action Party have worked to forge national space in concert with its own social vision.
Singapore is a paradigm of authoritarian landscape, where the environment provides an instrumental set of processes and practices for shaping a nation and structuring its envelope of human possibility. It is a “garden city” where, according to sociologist Victor Savage, “every tree and dustbin is in a designated public place, a product of overall design and conscious policy making;” in which each living thing is situated, tended, and monitored. Here, the landscape itself becomes a feedback mechanism, which signals potential unrest and provides a visible index for the capacities of state. This hybrid system combines local innovations and the peculiarities of tropical ecology with defense technologies from the anxious urbanisms of Israel, China, and the United States. Alternative visions and practices emerge, however, and in particular within the realm of religion and spirit practices, suggesting other modes of thinking about urban geographies, democratic personhood, and new spaces of trouble-making within the contemporary city.


Joshua Comaroff is an architect practicing in Singapore. He is also a geographer and has published widely on topics of architecture, geography and political philosophy. He is co-author of the forthcoming "Horror in Architecture" (December 2012).

FELICITY D. SCOTT, University of Colombia

Urban Insecurity: Discourse, Seek, Interact

This talk will address the recasting of the architect’s role within the institutional context of MIT in the late 1960s and early ’70s, looking at the development of techniques of controlling increasingly "insecure" urban and environmental "systems" and the populations who inhabited them — their monitoring, quantitative description, regulation, management, organization, and visualization. Focusing on the Urban Systems Laboratory and the Architecture Machine Group (Arch Mac), it traces how a systems-based environmental paradigm became inextricably coupled with heavily funded research into the application of computer technologies and scientific knowledge. Behind the apparent neutrality of systems-based analysis and quantitative methodologies, with their claims to objective evaluation and rationalized design responses, their seamless ability to modulate across fields ranging from art installations and pollution barometers to data on race and poverty, and their claims to institute new prospects for "choice"
and "participation," it traces a symptomatic acknowledgment and simultaneous bracketing of contemporary social, political, environmental, and territorial injustices and instabilities (both in the US and globally) that suggests the need for further historical scrutiny. Emerging during a period seemingly threatened by urban insurrection both at home and abroad, and in which military technologies and paradigms of governmentality were increasingly addressed to figures of insecurity, it asks: for whom was this environment to be invented?


Felicity D. Scott is director of the program in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at the GSAPP, where she also teaches architectural history and theory. Her research focuses on articulating genealogies of political and theoretical engagement with questions of technological transformation within modern and contemporary architecture, as well as within the discourses and institutions that have shaped and defined the discipline. In addition to publishing numerous articles in journals, magazines, and edited anthologies, her book, "Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism," was published by MIT Press in 2007, and "Living Archive 7: Ant Farm," appeared on ACTAR Editorial in May 2008. She recently completed the manuscript for a book entitled on the Austrian émigré architect Bernard Rudofsky, entitled "Cartographies of Drift: Bernard Rudofsky’s Encounters with Modernity," and is currently working on a book project entitled "Outlaw Territories:
Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counter-Insurgency, 1966-1979."
Felicity is also a founding co-editor of Grey Room, a quarterly journal of architecture, art, media, and politics published quarterly by MIT Press since Fall 2000.