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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Anarchy for Anarchists

I continue to receive questions about the role of anarchists in architecture. I’ll respond by first stating that you would all do well to share your comments/questions with readers (therefore on the blog)so as to illicit a more broadly based consensus on the topic. Since I am responding directly to those of you who have written in, I will take the necessary liberties in expanding on the definition.

Anarchy as it understood in the context of architects as critical thinkers, is above all not concerned with an architecture (no pun intended) without rules. It does not refer to an absence or defiance of all authority. (Therefore I proudly declare myself an anarchist.) It is instead a system of thought/practice based on a self-regulated and non hierarchical operandi. In architecture and planning we can look to shanty towns, unplanned settlements and self generated communities as examples of this. The cape flats in Cape Town, South Africa as well as the favelas (see image) of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil both evidence this type of bottom up approach to community planning. The latter despite preconceived ideas about the lack of order, displays a neighborhood structure based heavily on regulations, discipline and adherence to social structures which the residents themselves create.

In politics, we’ve seen the use of text messages and email to mobilize masses for protests such as the WTO Seattle marches in 1999. In the Philippines two years later, then president Joseph Estrada lost power in large part due to the ad hoc mobilization of citizens through cell phone text messaging. In the 2008 US elections we are likely to see candidates such as Hillary Clinton (should she decide to run) make full use of peer to peer communication to maximize the effectiveness of their campaign. In culture and technology, P2P efforts(see P2P Architecture) to help find the cure for cancers and other diseases are examples of decentralized and random agents working collectively.

In summation, Anarchy is not practiced solely by anarchist (if we insist on holding the Newtonian definition of the term). It is not understood here in its mechanistic view which suggests disorder. I’ll state again, it is in fact the very opposite. The seemingly isolated practices that yet engender cohesive and complex results is the perfect example of how we ought to rethink the "old" paradigm of anarchy. Anarchy is above all is therefore cooperative, non-linear and systemic.


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