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The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism

by Viktor Ramos

June 01, 2011

via BLDGBLOG

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view larger].

For his final student project presented last month at Rice University, Viktor Ramos produced The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism.

The project explores how new forms of habitable infrastructure might be extrapolated from a geopolitical agreement – in this case, materializing architectural form from the legal interstices of the Oslo Accords.

The result is a fantastic example of architectural speculation: genuinely massive – and impossibly cantilevered – bridges used as transport links, aerial housing, and skyborne agricultural complexes, all in one.

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos].

While clearly defying security protocols, as the "continuous enclave" and its network of bridges cross through sovereign Israeli airspace, these structures would link the dispersed islands of infrastructurally underserved territory now under Palestinian control.
From Ramos's own project description:

One might say that these bridges present us with the staple as geopolitical form.

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view poster-sized].

"The Oslo Accords," Ramos continues, "have been integral to this process of division."

In the following cross-section, you can see the internal stacking of the space – an inhabited borderzone that weaves through the lower atmosphere.

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view larger].

To my mind, the project avoids the most obvious and expected pitfall of such an approach – which would be to suggest, naively, that architecture can, in and of itself, lead to a more thorough and lasting peace in the region, as if the entirety of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be eradicated if only they had better architecture.

Ramos instead uses the Oslo Accords as a kind of spatial source-code from which unanticipated structural forms might be extracted.

For those of you who have read Delirious New York, it's as if the Oslo Accords have been turned into a geopolitically active 1916 Zoning Law. That law, of course, established spatial guidelines – for instance, enforcing setbacks for buildings, leading to an era in which skyscrapers rose up like ever-narrowing ziggurats – from which the buildings of Manhattan would then be shaped.

As Koolhaas himself writes, in the wake of the Zoning Law architects would "have to carve the final Manhattan archetype from the invisible rock of its zoning envelope in a campaign of specification."

In Ramos's project, that "invisible rock" consists of disputed territorial claims hovering virtually over the geography of the West Bank. The distinct new form of spatiality "carved" from that rock is the bypass.

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; definitely view larger].

Again, from the project description:

Thus creating what Ramos calls bypass urbanism, or a self-connected maze of new territories in the sky.

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos; view much larger: top, bottom].

There are any number of other directions such a project could go, but I'm particularly excited by the idea of applying this same sort of analysis to other conflict zones, elsewhere, all over the world.

Of course, the precedents for this are many. After all, what is the Berlin Wall but a piece of architecture pulled from the dreamscape of international legal infrastructure?

In fact, I'm reminded here of Rupert Thomson's under-appreciated recent novel Divided Kingdom – especially because the basic premise of that book was at least partially inspired by Rem Koolhaas's own student thesis project, Exodus, or The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture. As Koolhaas wrote:

The U.S.–Mexico border would seem an obvious place for any investigation of "bypass urbanism" to begin; just today, the New York Times looked at the decaying after-effects of the Dayton Accords and their spatio-sovereign impact on the future of Bosnia; and Lebbeus Woods has long explored the architectural effects of political separation, from Paris and Berlin to Israel and Sarajevo, seeking out those fissures wherein geopolitics exhibits its own peculiar form of spatial tectonics.

But what new kinds of space might we yet extract from territorial agreements between, say, India and Pakistan over Kashmir, or Turkey and Greece over Nicosia – or, for that matter, what strange infrastructures might we build in Baarle-Hertog, what pavilions inspired by the Akwizgran Discrepancy, and how might most interestingly extract architecture from the international date line?

The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos
[Image: From The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism by Viktor Ramos].

Even with so many precedents, it would seem, such studies have still barely begun.

You can see much, much larger versions of all of these images in this Flickr set: The Continuous Enclave: Strategies in Bypass Urbanism. They are incredibly detailed and well worth exploring in full!

(Viktor Ramos's Continuous Enclave was produced at Rice University. It was advised by Troy Schaum under the direction of Fares el-Dahdah and Eva Franch, with additional input from John Casbarian and Albert Pope).

 

Graduation Design
Architecture students: Viktor Ramos
University: Rice University
Time: 01/2009
Category: cultural building, experiment design

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