Humanitarian Support: Planning Emergency: Rony Brauman and Eyal Weizman in conversation

While it is not obvious why a physician and an architect should speak together or seek to develop a common language, I have to admit that I have been inspired by your work for a long time, searching for ways in which the dilemmas and paradoxes of humanitarian practice can teach us something about the way we think of architectural intervention. Maybe a point of convergence is the moment in which, according to Michel Foucault, the history of modern architecture and planning intersect with the emergence of scientific medicine, through the perspective of a certain medicalisation of space that took place around the end of the eighteenth century. The physical design of the camps is the junction of military and medical principles, and both their spatial regime of multiple separations and their strict regimentation of time and space are somewhat reminiscent of the principles of the eighteenth century machines à guérir (‘healing machines’) of early hospitals. This is when categories such as hygiene, sanitation, and health become informative of new typologies of buildings, institutions, and urban organisations, to the extent that it became the vital logic in the organisation of life. Maybe we shouldn’t call the buildings of modern architecture ‘machines for living’, but ‘healing machines’. A refugee camp is perhaps the most extreme contemporary spatialisation of this phenomena that structured the reformed urbanisms of the nineteenth century. When Medecins Sans Frontières organises camps (that are built by UNHCR 1), it must think spatially. It needs to take into account categories such as the management and containment of plague and other diseases, the vulnerability of people, the best way to organise displaced communities, and, in effect, creating what Michel Agiers called a proto-urban environment.
So, let’s start with this moment of intersection of space and medicine: what are the categories and spatial principles you must take into account? How do we think through their precise location and territory? What are their boundaries? How are they organised internally?


This entry was posted on Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 11:46 pm
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