Think Public Space
Work title: SURVEILLANCE IS THE NEW BLACK
The recent economic collapse in Europe and abroad has triggered a global crisis whose scope has rightfully been recognized as extending past the financial sector and onto the social, political and environmental realms. Yet, when the public takes to the street to denounce the greed and shortsightedness of the institutions responsible, emphasis is often put on the structural failures of Neoliberalism as a reckless economic doctrine rather than on its pervasive and undisputed ideological hegemony which now extends onto every field of human activity, including the domain of public life itself. Today, political endorsements are seamlessly being compared to ‘’capital rights’’, elections to ‘’marketplaces of ideas’’ and citizens to ‘’human capital” tending to their own present and future value by ‘’investing in themselves’’. As market terms, market metrics and market practices pervade the very recognition of the commons, political speech is no longer a medium for deliberation and persuasion but rather the mere expression of personal freedoms under capitalist terms. Thus, blind faith in the indisputable tenacity of public space as a democratic stage becomes problematic.
Within this context, it is unrealistic to expect more of the current state of architectural production. At best, its outputs are used for city marketing, raising the public profile or ‘’quality-of-life’’ ratings of a given destination. At worst, they are vehicles for financial speculation, whose actual rental earnings are marginal compared to the fictitious speculative worth being generated. What’s more, the discipline’s internal conceptual discourse has progressively evolved to coincide with that of global finance’s: well intended, but dogmatically geared towards the perpetual creation and amplification of future ‘’added-value’’ in some form or another... It is easy for architects to challenge this new reality by proposing self-righteous rebuttals, symbolic interventions or romanticized & bygone models of civic responsibility. But ultimately, the cultural consequences of viewing the world as an enormous marketplace go well past the domain of architecture.
SURVEILLANCE IS THE NEW BLACK is instead the earnest attempt to engage open-mindedly with the logical conclusions and opportunities of this current path. Inspired by NSA monitoring and the omnipresence of social media as de-facto and unavoidable points of departure in the 21st century, PROTOTYPE FOR PUBLIC SPACE and PROTOTYPE FOR ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE are two complementary theoretical speculations on surveillance’s intangible yet ‘’spatial’’ potential to have a genuine architectural impact on public space, at a time when traditional design efforts have become increasingly ineffective…
PROTOTYPE FOR PUBLIC SPACE begins with a simple proposition: information across all platforms (physical, digital, public, private) generated on the bounds of public space becomes a public resource held in common rather than privatized by third parties.
PROTOTYPE FOR ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE proposes a scenario in which architecture firms evolve to operate on the basis of tech and media companies: giving out their core service for free (traditional design-build services) and generating their revenue elsewhere (the aggregation and deep-reading of data).