The Site Magazine Editorial Team
is a writer, editor, installation artist, and architectural designer based in Toronto.
is part-time faculty in the Humanities and Sciences department at Art Center College of Design (Los Angeles).
is an Architect and Urban Systems Analyst in Zurich, focusing on strategy in business and design.
The Site Magazine is Canada’s longest running independent magazine for architecture and urbanism. The following roundtable for ArtsEverywhere is a curation of content from Volume 35: Borders. The excerpts of pieces published in this volume were selected for their ability to frame, individually and collectively, the specific ideas outlined below. To read complete pieces and the full breadth of the current issue, please visit: thesitemagazine.com.
The line that defines an area has the power to create, and an equally great capacity to divide and destroy. We think of borders as lines, markings on maps, clear divisions, but their cartographical representation is only one part of what they are. They can be defined by crossings, becoming places of exchange, or they can be exclusionary, fortified, architecturally enhanced and strategically controlled. Three dimensional constructs possessed of width and depth and volume, borders are zones and walls, edges: places defined by what they are not. They can migrate according to changes in climate and geography as well as politics, sketching out the limits of habitable territory and the difference between north and south. A cut, a stitch, a scar, hard or soft, thick or thin, borders exist in time as well as space. And memory collects along them, inside them, in the gaps we imagine for them between one thing and another. Whether they mark out definition or destruction, beginnings or ends, depends in large part on context, in the depth of meaning we find in the thickness of these lines, in whether, looking across the border, we see possibility or control.
James Bridle is a British artist and writer based in Athens, Greece. His artworks have been commissioned by galleries and institutions and exhibited worldwide and on the internet. His writing on literature, culture and networks has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Wired, Domus, Cabinet, the Atlantic, the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Observer and many others. He lectures regularly at conferences, universities, and other events. His formulation of the New Aesthetic research project has spurred debate and creative work across multiple disciplines. His work can be found at http://booktwo.org.
Text by Ania Molenda
Seamless Transitions is a story of borders that are mute and invisible. They are not supposed to be seen or heard. If airports are non-places, what name can we give to the sites of immigration judgment, detention, and deportation that are depicted in this series? They are hidden and inaccessible spatial embodiments of international law, hideouts where justice is executed. They are a part of what the actual borders are and what they look like, borders that most of us don’t see and are not even aware of.
Seamless Transitions puts forth a very important question. How do we picture the processes of immigrant detention, judgment, and deportation? Many of us have no knowledge about deportation. We might even imagine it on a level as abstract as teleportation. The picture we see is, however, very different from the reality, which has a physical dimension, shape and feel than what was actually designed. Even though the images allow us to get back on the ground, they are still just visuals that, as in the case of renderings of buildings yet to come, miss a dimension of reality. They are a bit too neat, too optimistic, and clean, they don’t smell, don’t reflect time and don’t depict any people. Nevertheless, they build a better picture of the unseen borders and their architecture. They allow us to see the buildings that represent the system of justice — that in this case regulates the relationships with people from other countries — from behind the border. This visualization is meaningful because it allows us to have a better understanding of immigration policies, ask questions, and be critical of the law that in fact works in our name.
draftworks*architects was founded in London in 2006 by Christiana Ioannou and Christos Papastergiou and is currently based in Nicosia and Athens. The team crafts, documents and communicates new ideas by text, drawings and model making, while sharing interests between public competitions, private commissions, exhibitions, design research and academic teaching.
The New Zidonians
The French psychoanalyst André Green says that ‘You can be a citizen or you can be stateless, but it is difficult to imagine being a border’. In every conflict we are accustomed to the division of ‘either.. or…’ and we understand the border as an immaterial dividing line between two conflicting conditions.
In the following project the dividing line in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes a place. Rajiya, the daughter of a Palestinian father and an Israeli mother describes a celebration of independence in the year 2050 for her hybrid nation called ‘New Zidonians’. This nation consists of the Palestinians and Israelis who now occupy the spaces leftover from conflict.
* * *
The year is 2050 and I am 18 years old. I am among the few that have survived the conflict and among the even fewer to have been born after the Act of Segregation. For as long as I can remember, I have only known war. My homeland was once known as the Space of Confinement; for me though, and for all of us who have lived all our lives here, this has always been the space in between two enemies, a space dividing two states, an alternative to that war. I suppose, and this is what I have heard, that for a lot of people in many countries we did not, until recently, exist at all. For the people that lead the conflict during the Age of Confinement, we were nothing more than rats. Rats living in the gap left by their conflict, a space empty of any interest for the two sides beyond its function as a buffer zone for the conflict. For us though, and for a lot of Israelis and Palestinians, this space was a way of moving goods and people, a means of communication with families and friends. In a peculiar way, as a transition zone between two distinct sides, it meant hope.
This New Year’s Eve, we will celebrate our new citizenship. It is already the third year after the Declaration of Independence and for the first time I will formally be a citizen of the ‘Third State’ of Zidonia.
Yes, we are now formally a state, one that was formed out of conflict. With no borders to define a territory, our homeland is itself a border. Does this sound strange to you?
We are used to living on a border; we are used to being a border.
It has taken a lot of time and effort for the International Community to understand our peculiar kind of citizenship, our incredible kind of state. A state that is not sovereign over its people or its land, as the states of our Palestinian and Israeli neighbours are. Our state exists in the equilibrium created by the convergence of differences and is fostered by the accumulation of these differences. If the singularities defined by our border zone were to merge into a homogeneous entity, our homeland would cease to exist.
 André Green, La Folie Privée: psychanalyse des cas-limites. Paris: Gallimard, 1990: 107, cited in Étienne Balibar, “What is a Border?” in Politics and the Other Scene. Trans. Christine Jones, James Swenson and Chris Turner. London: Verso, 2002: 75.
Ruth Jones is currently based in Toronto and LA, where she is part-time faculty in the Humanities and Sciences department at Art Center College of Design.
Our feature photographer for Volume 35: Borders is Rob Cleary. Currently based in Los Angeles, he has captured an oneiric set of images by helicopter that reveal many of the city’s hard edges within its seemingly endless sprawl. Editor Ruth Jones, who also occasionally calls LA home, explores Rob’s images, discussing the highways, landscapes, and social conditions that divide the city of dreams.
Los Angeles is an agglomeration, as segmented as it is sprawling, and from the air its freeways carve it up. In 1904, the city passed the first ordinance on urban land use in the United States, a document that laid out the borders of two residential neighborhoods west of the LA River. Specifically the concern was washhouses and public laundries: zoning for the restriction of activity, an official precedent for putting “this thing here and not that” as the city began a sprawling century.
As growth decentered Los Angeles, the city’s roads knit it together. Mike Davis called it carceral in its manipulation of public and private space, the “bad edge of post-modernity.” Edward Soja and other Los Angeles School urbanists were more optimistic.
If you’re always taking the off-ramps that feed you into the middle of the familiar, do you ever cross a border? But lines matter: historically and socially determined boundaries based in class, race, and language reverberate through contemporary discussions of gentrification and identification, whether we’re talking about the legacy of Rodney King or a Hollywood actor’s awkward attempt to legitimize a less than glamorous youth by confusing the Spanish-speaking, ungentrified, Latino, neighborhoods of East LA with what’s become, with its newish wine bars and upscale boutiques, best identified as the hipster, rather than historical, east side.
If the limits that circumscribe LA’s neighborhoods and populations define one aspect of the city’s form, its seeming ignorance of other conditions has been equally important to its sense of limits. From the early 20th century on, suburbia crept outwards, up the sides of mountains and along the valleys that snake through them to the desert, pushing the regional capacity of resources, infrastructure and water needed to support such growth.
There’s a reason Chinatown, the 1974 film with Jack Nicholson, a tragic Mulholland figure, murder, corruption and a water crisis, has worked its fiction into the city’s founding myth.
In Rob Cleary’s photographs LA slips into night. From Malibu beaches to houses perched on the crumbling edges of palisades that take in the view, from the crisp lines of lawns defined by the reaches of sprinkler systems all the way downtown, only the thickest dividing lines appear: the freeways that snake around each other and the natural geography. Every day the city seizes, then around 7pm walls of traffic begin to dissolve, headlights go on, things start moving again. Along and across the borders of Los Angeles, cars move in their bubbles of light.
And outside the photographs the city stops. Is Los Angeles finally reaching the limits of its ability to sprawl? The natural boundaries are the ones that I keep scrolling back to, the one’s that let even outsiders know where they are. There’s the river, the long line of it, channeled and contained in its concrete trench. There are the mountains. There’s the beach.
The beach shows up in shot after shot, a line that thickens and narrows as it wraps around at the city’s edge. From Mexico to Oregon the California coast is public land, unownable (if you can cross the borders you need to cross to get there). At the edge of the frame there’s the horizon, disappearing in the sun.
 Rob Cleary is an Architectural and portrait photographer, commercial and branded content director, cinematographer and editor. He is trained in design and loves to travel. He is currently based in Los Angeles, but proudly calls New York City, Chicago, and the Rocky Mountains home. Rob is our feature photographer for Volume 35: Borders. He has contributed a series of photographs, shot from helicopter, of Los Angeles that are featured in our print edition and online.
 City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. Mike Davis. 1990
Dongsei Kim is a principal at axu studio. He has taught at Columbia, Carleton, RMIT, and Korea Universities. His work was invited to the Korean Pavilion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. He holds master degrees from Harvard and Columbia Universities, and is completing his PhD at the University of Melbourne.
The First Iteration: Uncovering the Agency of Unknown Armistice Maps
How we understand territories and nation-states — more importantly how we imagine them — depend on how we map them. This reciprocal relationship between the formation of nation-state and mapping has been well discussed in the past. Apart from the influential ‘Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Intervention’ by landscape architect James Corner, numerous recent publications discuss this relationship between mapping and power. Publications such as The Cartographic State: Maps, Territory, and the Origins of Sovereignty by Jordan Branch; Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics by Laura Kurgan; and The Birth of Territory by Stuart Elden each address this reciprocal relationship between mapping and power. They all highlight the complex reciprocal relationship between the two. These publications highlight not only illustrates the potency of maps in serving power, but it equally points to the possibility of deploying mapping to radically re-imagine the nature of nation-states.
* * *
Juxtaposing the armistice maps produced in 1953 (after the ceasefire of the Korean war) with Google Earth satellite images of identical locations produced in 2015 reveals the contradictory and complementary nature of maps and how they represent territories. The incongruous relationships between the real and the represented, exposure and concealment, and accentuated and omitted are ripe for further interrogation and imagination. Such juxtapositions reveal the contradictory and complementary nature of maps and how they represent territories. They further disclose the reciprocal relationship between maps and nation-state formations. By understanding the very potency and limits of mapping processes we can start to question the representational objectiveness or how close to ‘reality’ a map is. More importantly, mapping these border territories through novel perspectives, we can start to fundamentally question the nature of borders, and how they act as instruments in conceiving nation-states and their subjects.
 Jordan Branch, The Cartographic State: Maps, Territory, and the Origins of Sovereignty, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
 Laura Kurgan, Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics, (New York: Zone Books, 2013).
 Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
 Google Earth. Google Earth. © 2015 Google. Map Data: US Department of State Geographer, © 2015 Digital Globe, © 2015 CNES/ Astrium, © 2015 SK Energy, © 2015 SK planet. (The Google Earth Satellite images were digitally stitched images from these sources in 2015.)
Emma Xin Ma
Emma Xin Ma holds an M. Arch from the University of Waterloo, where she completed a graduate thesis on Shenzhen’s social and urban morphology as results of the Second Line. She is currently practicing as an Intern Architect in Toronto.
Emma Xin Ma
The Second Line
In 1979, a geographic border divided the City of Shenzhen in southern China and inaugurated the Special Economic Zone, kick-starting a new Chinese economic paradigm after decades of economic suppression. The process began the contemporary ‘Made in China’ phenomenon, where a select geographic area was quarantined for economic experimentation with the global market. Flows of capital, goods, and people across this line were restricted, and certain incentives were promoted within the segregated territory. As a result, the macro physical segregation also created micro fissures within the city, including the segmentation of social strata and their associative urban typologies, ranging from the Tiananmen-esque plazas to exemplifying the power of the state to gated communities of the social and economic elite, to the factory-dormitory compounds that support the migrant labour that makes up the mechanics of the economic regime.
The Second Line (the First being the boundary between Hong Kong and China as a result of the Opium War) created an intentional economic expansion, an unprecedented speed of urbanization, leading to social and economic disparities, including drastic increases of employment opportunities and real estate values inside the line. Yet upon closer examination, these broad strokes generate ‘Lines of Flight’ (à la Deleuze and Guattari, ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, Micropolitics and Segmentarity) that were never intended by the state. The indigenous people and the land they inhabit leverage the system to create resourceful hybrids of architectural typologies inhabited by transitional social classes. The physical segregation also produced a cultural separation from the central government, while the global economic interaction also increased the permeability of communication and ideas. In this milieu, pockets of contemporary artists begin to emerge in this specialized space from the outside world, converting former inner-city factory spaces into studio lofts as Shenzhen continues to evolve and urbanize.
The immediacy of the combined factors and extraordinary acceleration of urbanization as a result of the border has created a microcosm that allowed for the emergence of new architectural forms and social identities, healing the Chinese population divide from the Mao years by forming a space of exception where people of different geographic origins could co‐exist. While its intended economic effects were undoubtedly successful and replicated across the Chinese eastern seaboard and abroad, the Second Line also became the inadvertent catalyst for unprecedented Chinese political and social reform.
Gili Merin is is an architect, photographer and journalist based in Tel Aviv. She studied architecture in the UdK Berlin, Waseda University in Tokyo and The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, where she teaches today. Gili’s various training include AMO*OMA Rotterdam, COBE Berlin and ArchDaily in Santiago, Chile.
The Cartographic Anomaly
In 2011, the Lebanese army handed a diagram to the United Nations, who then transferred it to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The drawing depicts the dimensions and locations of thirteen enclaved territories which are found, according to Lebanon, on the wrong side of the electric fence.
The armistice line of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, known as the “Green Line,” is based on this line, but was never officially signed and therefore does not constitute an international border. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and remained there in various territorial and military configurations until June 2000. Upon the IDF’s withdrawal, Lebanon asked the United Nations to draft a new boundary. Trilateral meetings between Israel and Lebanon with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as a mediator lead to the creation of a 1:50,000 map where the width of the line itself amounts to 35m, with half-a-dozen stretches differing from the 1923 border in lengths of up to 475m. Conflicting recollections and documentation of past agreements further complicate how this line, known as “The Blue Line,” has materialized in the landscape. It is no surprise then, that in August 2010 Lebanon announced that thirteen enclaves have been left on the Israeli side. These oddly-shaped ex-territories total approximately 95 acres. Despite much discussion between both sides, there are no imminent plans for land swap. In the upcoming years, the area will be left in a geopolitical limbo where hostility potential is at its highest. Suspended between often arbitrary cartographic acts and the geographical reality, thirteen territories remain enclaved between the overdrawn and ever-disputed Israeli-Lebanese border.
Although both sides of the frontier share nearly identical climatic and geological conditions, the border anomaly has given rise to a number of architectural aberrations. While vernacular villages sprawl on the Lebanese side of the border, where families reside close to each other and cultivate land in their home’s proximity; the Israeli landscape is the result of excessive, top-down planning executing post-war regional theories. For example, 26 Mitzpim (meaning lookout-points) were built between 1979-1981 in one of many government-funded programs to populate the north with Jewish residents. At the time, 75% of the Galilee was non-Jewish. In order to promote migration to this region, the government created many frontier-line benefits such as tax exemptions and discounted insurance. Many rural-communal settlements on the Israeli side are physical markers of the border, reinforcing peripheral security by civilian land occupation and creating a collective frontline solidarity. These settlements are supported by vast agricultural efforts that contribute not only to Zionist territorial strategies, but also to an intense ideological attempt to create a young generation of farmers-fighters who would physically work the land and, in due time, defend it. The fields often belong to the commune and not to a single family. Great swathes of forests have been planted on the Israeli side to serve as organic tank-barriers and natural border markers.
Ania Molenda is an independent Rotterdam-based researcher and curator. She is a founder and editor-in-chief of Amateur Cities and a member of Rotterdam’s Culture Council 2017-2020. Ania publishes on architecture in various periodicals and academic journals.
Rabbit à la Berlin
This is an overview of the discussion between The Site Magazine Editors Ania Molenda, Aisling O’Carrol, Ruth Jones, and Miriam Ho, published in Volume 35: Borders.
Architecture’s most basic element is the wall, a fence, a protection that provides a backup when social agreements fail. Walls such as the one in Berlin (in the past) or the ones in Palestine and Mexico are not the backup, they are the failure.
In the Polish short movie Rabbit à la Berlin (2009), which tells the story of the ‘death strip’ of the Berlin Wall from the point of view of rabbits who lived there, the massive architectural barrier becomes a paradise for the animals. The film is an unorthodox reflection on confinement (on both sides and in-between the wall), life (of different forms) and security.
The enclosure of the rabbits is an allegory for a totalitarian system. They are living in enclosure, not knowing the outside world, and new generations are born within the limits of the wall, so this is their new universe. The film shows how easily nature adapts to new situations: we also get used to things very quickly. When our world is defined by borders, what happens when we don’t know what’s beyond the border?
The rabbits observe how “strange war structures are being raised,” they cannot understand their purpose. In nature, barriers are either already there or they are created as a result of a natural disaster, something you know happened. Architecture is a divisional instrument, which in this case divides people and protects the rabbits, a war instrument that creates a safe habitat for the animals. The movie is not a natural history documentary, but it does reflect on the division we tend to keep creating between humans and nature. Is nature simply not welcome in the city, does architecture always have to resist nature? Did you have a similar impression that these two forces were excluding each other and that the paradise for rabbits would be impossible without the wall, without a clear border.
When humans fail, nature thrives. Is this how a man-made environment has to be, defined by being unnatural? Here the wall becomes a natural habitat, but only for a while and by a mistake. Do we need to draw a strong border between what is man-made and what is natural? Is it even still possible?
Lada lives and works in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is artist, but also curator (member of curatorial and activist union Hudrada) and educator (co-founder of the Course of Art – curatorial project investigating contemporary art education). Since 2005 she has been part of the R.E.P. group.
Personal Shield (2011)
object, steel, wheels
115 x 80 x 20 cm
courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin
Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin
“Personal shield is an object, the archetype of which was noticed by the artist during her stay in Switzerland. It is a small fence erected between buildings in order to separate the access to the space between them. It was turned into a mobile object for personal use, a personal shield, which makes it possible to set borderlines between its user and his or her environment. The work was prepared for the artist’s exhibition in Switzerland, made relatively cheaper in Ukraine and transported by the artists over the Schengen border as hand luggage.”
~ Marianna Dobkowska
Evan is a designer currently pursuing his Master of Architecture in the History and Theory of Architecture at McGill University where his research explores the intersection of sexuality, architecture, memory, and urban space.
Lost Rivers – Divided Bodies
When physical gender and heteronormative binaries are decoupled from our identity, language and action become critical in articulating our sexuality. We employ language to reveal orientation, or lack thereof, while our actions function as implicit markers of heterosexual or non-heterosexual desire. As the boundaries of sexuality are not strictly defined, articulation and action are required to perform and re-perform our sexual identity. These performances leave traces of sexuality that both others and ourselves can comprehend.
These articulations of our sexuality resonate in the spaces and places we inhabit, the public and private environments where our sexuality is performed. But if our gender, sexuality, and cities are all constructed, then where do they meet? While performances of sexuality disrupt the borders of heteronormativity, urban contexts are built to reinforce or isolate binary conditions. Boundaries between public and private, indoor and outdoor, residential and commercial neighborhoods are clearly demarcated in our cities. How then do the performances of sexuality, which extend beyond established borders, accumulate or imprint the city, which is constructed on the basis of limits and edges?
* * *
Rivers, similar to queer spaces, are defined by their temporal presence. The movement, volume and boundaries of these water bodies are constantly shifting. These ephemeral actions leave traces of their presence as physical markers in the landscape. During the industrial expansion and development of Toronto, many rivers were buried or drained. Despite being empty and invisible, these buried rivers are still influential in establishing geographic borders of certain communities. Where the immateriality of the performance of our sexuality marks the built environment, rivers mark the physical landscape with their flow. When both disappear, we habitually engage and interact with their traces as if their physical presence remains. The shores of the river continue to act as geographic borders while queer spaces, in turn, remain to establish territories of sexuality. If both of these ephemeral influences on the urban landscape operate between material reality and immaterial traces, where do they intersect? Do rivers, either exposed or buried under years of development, influence the psychogeography of queer communities? I argue that the rivers of Toronto play a role in shaping the accumulated borders of sexuality within the city and as a result affect the visibility of these borders.
Amrit Phull is an Intern Architect living, working, and writing in Toronto. Her previous work in Eastern James Bay Cree Territory informs her current research on indigenous place-making within Canadian urban centres. She is pursuing this research with Brook McIlroy Architects & Planners.
Between North and South
Positioning power in Eeyou Istchee
My left brain drew power lines. Mapped dams. Measured kilowatt hours.
The right half researched Cree culture. Tried to study ceremonies. Looked for diagrams on how to skin a moose.
I wanted it to be the other way around.
Through time, subarctic James Bay has performed as a place of interface between ideas of “North” and “South” within the Canadian imagination. Geographically, it is the area where the all-season road ends among the last trees of the Taiga, after which the landscape extends north in sheets of rock and ice. Increased biodiversity accompanies this transition in climate. Both the skunk and the polar bear, for example, call this subarctic region home — and it is the only place in Canada where these two live as neighbours. Within the bay, freshwater and saltwater meet, informing a lasting and unique pattern of animal migration and human settlement. In addition to the northern and southern landscapes converging in this zone, James Bay has historically been a place where opposed worldviews have met. Approached by French explorers from the North and British explorers from the South, the Cree of James Bay helped to navigate these two historical foes through the unfamiliar landscape during the European settlement of Canada. A century later, the Cree would confront their neighbours to the north, the Inuit, in warfare. With the threat of resource development in the 1960s, the two joined arms in protest and constructed the odeyak, a hybrid of the Cree canoe, called an ode, and the Inuit kayak. This vessel was a symbolic affirmation of alignment between Inuit and Cree attitudes. More significantly, the odeyak is a testament to this pattern of encounter, acknowledgement, and equilibrium particular to Indigenous identity. Eeyou Istchee is a place of converging elements, sometimes separated by boundaries and sometimes coalescing despite them. Being at the centre of these crossways has fostered a culture of observing, reinventing, learning, and teaching, all central principles in Cree culture.
* * *
What is the space between “North” and “South”? Where does one end and the other begin? Does the answer differ depending on the variables in question, such as population, politics, and climate zones? While the concepts of “North” and “South” may be distinguished by contrasting cultures, ecologies, politics, and geographies, there exist many degrees of “North” and “South” in either direction. As a power resource, Eeyou Istchee is intimately connected not only to southern Canadian cities such as Montreal, but also to southern states, including New York and Vermont. Spillways and floods in Cree territory are intrinsically linked to power demands of southern citizens. Unidirectional relationships such as these allow the urban centres to reap from and mutate the soils of the “North” without having to adequately reciprocate the service. Hans M. Carlson, a writer, researcher, and ally of the Cree, argues that the refusal of the South to incorporate the North into its narrative is a grave and deep-rooted error. The unwillingness to transparently include Native presence and history in the dominant Western narrative is not only unfair, but unhealthy, as the Western world has insinuated a colonial and largely aggressive presence into Native identities.
Rosa is as an architect, publication and exhibition designer with an MA in Architecture from the Royal College of Art. After previously working for MVRDV, Grimshaw and Farshid Moussavi Architecture, she is currently working for the London Festival of Architecture: a city-wide architectural celebration of that will this June host over 350 events around the theme of ‘Community’. Her personal interest lies in the intersection of architecture and politics.
The only relationship between the territory of Diego Garcia and its indigenous inhabitants is the media. Due to its remote conditions and inaccessibility, the island is constituted, instrumentalized, and actively produced through media presence and absence.
Situated in the middle of Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia, the main island of the archipelago, is one of the most remote and inaccessible places on earth. Yet this 27 km² of coral and sand is one of the most valuable territorial and geopolitical assets of the United Kingdom. In 1966, this lush, tropical paradise was leased to the United States in order to create the biggest US military base outside of the States, which the Pentagon calls an indispensable platform for policing the world. By creating a legal fiction in the media and saying that there were no permanent inhabitants on the island, the UK brutally swept and sanitized the whole Chagossian population, committing a crime which falls within the remit of the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity. Today, the majority of the 5000 Chagossians in exile are still actively campaigning for their right to return.
Climate change and environmental protection agreements have shaped and continue to shape territorial and political conditions on the Island. In April 2010, the British Government established the world’s largest Marine Reserve Area – an area larger than the country of France and more than twice as the size of United Kingdom – banning fishing and any other resource exploitation activities around the island. This was later proven to be an environmental blackmail precisely designed to prevent the indigenous inhabitants from ever returning.
Mapping this remote territory is an attempt to foster debate here and now about the (mis-)use of the discursive apparatus of rights – be they human or environmental rights – to support to global power structures.
Kathryn Schwartzkopf is an architectural designer based in Seattle, Washington. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies (2008) and a Master of Architecture (2015) from the University of Waterloo. Her research interests include the politics of public space, security design and forensic architecture.
THIS AIN’T TORONTO
How security reorganized the space of the city during the 2010 G20 Summit
By June 21, 2010, a six-kilometre fence built exclusively for the G20 Leader’s Summit made an island in the heart of downtown Toronto. With a three-metre high fence made of concrete jersey barriers and three different types of steel fencing, the ‘security zone’ removed roughly six city blocks from the urban grid. The area inside was not open. It carved a piece out of Toronto’s financial district, encompassed the iconic CN Tower, and encroached on Union Station and the Gardiner Expressway, two of the most significant transportation infrastructures in the downtown. The Integrated Security Unit (ISU) – the temporary organization created to manage the security efforts – assured the public that hosting the summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) minimized the area of the ‘security zone’, and thus its impact on Toronto.
This was not the case. The G20 leaders and dignitaries (Internationally Important Persons, or IPPs) rarely came into contact with the urban grid, but the effects of the increased security were felt throughout the downtown. The fence detached the buildings, streets, and open spaces the G20 leaders occupied from the public space of Toronto. On arriving at Pearson International Airport, the majority of IPPs travelled via motorcade. Sections of highway were restricted as the motorcades passed, and the Bay/ York St. exit of the Gardiner Expressway was closed for the sole use of the G20. Other IPPs travelled by helicopter into the ‘security zone’, landing on an open space at the base of the CN Tower, and never touching the grid at all. The ISU redesigned the area ‘inside’ the fence to provide a highly controlled, and therefore safe, environment. The area of the ‘security zone’ stretched to include every amenity the leaders needed, so they did not have to venture outside.
The G20 fence limited movement across the sequestered territory. Gates provided checkpoints to control the flow of people in and out of the area and accreditation controlled who could gain admittance. Prior to the summit the ISU had to accredit approximately 40,000 people, mainly those who lived or worked inside the fence. Thus, with an unsympathetic steel fence and an army of police officers, the G20 interacted with the city of Toronto.
The police not only guarded the line of the fence at the street level but at the subterranean level as well, inside the PATH. Outside of the fence, police conducted searches on people occupying the public space of the street, often citing the “five metre rule,” a reference to an amendment to the Public Works Protection Act that was misinterpreted to give police the authority to conduct random searches on people within the vicinity of the fence. Far more than just a line on a map, the security apparatus represented by the fence was a system with depth, encapsulating the downtown and stretching to areas as far as Pearson International Airport, and further still to Barrie, Ontario.
Linear defence, such as a fence, is a weak defence system. One breach and the security system fails. Defence in depth, on the other hand, secures an asset or, as was the case for the G20 Summit, a territory with multiple security measures.1 Each security measure works independently to present a different challenge to an attacker.2 According to Eyal Weizman, defence in depth builds a security apparatus, or “network” that creates “a more diffused and dynamic geography.”3 While the outmost fence became the symbol for the separation between the G20 Leaders and the public, the ISU added depth to the linear defence by reinforcing the line with two additional fences protecting the MTCC. Two additional ‘security zones’ extended beyond the fence. These zones informed police interactions with the public. The ISU also implemented a ‘No Fly Zone’, harbour restrictions, and encouraged property owners to lock down and monitor publicly accessible space. They used CCTV cameras and aircraft for surveillance as well as the police presence on the street.