In this Reading Room, drawing on her recent book Outlaw Territories, Felicity D. Scott addressed the growing unrest about human existence on earth in the United States in the seventies. Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London, took part in this evening as a respondent.
This Reading Room ‘took off’ from some closing remarks in Felicity D. Scott’s recent book, Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counter-insurgency, published by Zone Books (2016). After outlining the key concerns of Outlaw Territories, and mapping out its case studies, she followed the book’s nexus of concerns – which are situated at the intersection of architecture, territorial insecurity and human unsettlement in the late 1960s and early 1970s – as humanity quite literally attempted to “take off” into outer space.
Focusing on Gerard K. O’Neill’s proposals for human space colonies, which first gained visibility in the mid-1970s, she detailed the ways in which the history of his colonisation project was not only symptomatic of America’s widespread urban insecurities in the period and the rapidly transforming global geopolitical situation but also connected both to American countercultural movements and the developmental agenda of the United Nations.
Paying attention to a series of remarkable renderings and a short film produced by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), she read the purportedly ‘utopian’ visions of space colonies as code for racial segregation and an unchecked neoliberal future. These images, and their mobilisation, she argued, speak to the political nature of the period’s rising interest in the environment; they remind us that it was not natural processes (or even nature’s relation to humans as species) that was at stake in space colonisation, so much as how questions of climate, nature, weather and resources were framed as socio-economic and political concerns, and hence participated in what Foucault termed ‘the calculated management of life’.
The evening was moderated by Marina Otero. Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London, took part in this evening as a respondent.
The book Outlaw Territories (Zone Books) has been released in April 2016. Order the book at NAi Booksellers.
A visual report of this event was be made by De Beeldvormers.
Felicity D. Scott
Felicity D. Scott is associate professor of architecture and director of the PhD program in Architecture (History and Theory) at Columbia University. She is one of the founders of Grey Room, a journal on architecture, art, media and politics. Her books include Outlaw Territories (2016), Living Archive 7: Ant Farm (2008) and Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism (2007). The book Outlaw Territories (2016) can be pre-ordered on the website of NAI Booksellers.
Dr Adrian Lahoud is an architect, researcher and educator. He is the Dean of the School of Architecture and Head of the Architecture programme at the Royal College of Art. Previously, Lahoud was Director of the Urban Design Masters at The Bartlett School of Architecture and served as Director of the MA programme at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths. Read his latest article at The Avery Review
The Reading Room is a series of evenings dedicated to the act of collective reading. It is a place to decipher and interpret the world with its countless languages and systems, including phenomena that by their ubiquity evade investigation. Led by an artist, researcher or designer, a small audience will reflect upon a concept, a text, an object or an image. The Reading Room is a space for intimate, provocative conversations. It is a place for creative confusion and sometimes even frustration, in which speakers and audience are not looking for concrete solutions but for higher resolutions. Subjects in previous Reading Rooms include exhibition, surveillance, migration, liquidity, museum, insecurity.