18:00 SAST

18:00  SAST

Unit 19
The Act of Service: The Myth of Violence

Unit Leader: Tuliza Sindi
Unit Tutor:
Muhammad Dawjee
Unit Assistant:
Lynette Breed

“…For you, the ocean is for surf boards, boats and tans
And all the cool stuff you do under there in your bathing suits and goggles
But we, we have come to be baptised here
We have come to stir the other world here
We have come to cleanse ourselves here
We have come to connect our living to the dead here
Our respect for water is what you have termed fear
The audacity to trade and murder us over water
Then mock us for being scared of it…”

- Koleka Putuma, Excerpt from Water.

Unit 19 approaches state service infrastructures – such as religion, the military, and the law – as frameworks of societal myths, and through it, investigates what mythological role(s) their architectural translations fill. The word ‘myth’ comes from the Greek mythos, meaning (in part) “rumour”, that US philosopher Matthew Dentith (2014:146) describes as a social grooming activity that works together with existing social beliefs to produce alternative versions powerful enough to override those existing beliefs (Dentith 2014:146).

The Unit approaches architecture as a rhetoric device that induces compliance to the often-unintelligible societal systems of beliefs that constitute social production. Through storytelling, image-making and performance, the Unit investigates architecture’s semiotic and semantic constructions, toward proposing and (re)constructing myths that incite new spatial fantasies and futures.

In 2021, students will investigate the intersection between architecture and violence through the lens of military service. Militaries are inextricably linked with the formation of states and predate the creation of modern states. They fulfil opposing functions in different regions of the world. While Europe’s military forces are outward-facing and function to expand their territorial access, Africa’s inward-facing military forces were co-opted into colonial armed forces to preserve African states in their image, and to control their own people.

For this year’s Major Design Project (MDP), students will propose a ‘Defence Base’ as a heterotopia. In definition, a defence base is a shelter for military equipment and personnel that facilitates training, innovation, and operations. In modern practice, however, it often masquerades as supply centres for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. French philosopher Michel Foucault (1967:3) describes ‘heterotopias’ as outside of all places, even if located within a real site, and calls them “counter-sites” (Foucault 1967:3) whose corresponding real sites are “simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted” (Foucault 1967:3). As site exploration for 2021, students will go in search of shores of past, present and/or future military significance in Cape Town – South Africa’s colonial gateway. They will investigate the country’s spatial language of violence – and its socio-political and economic dependencies on it – that includes its inland spatial systems of control expressed as apartheid townships. Designed as labour camps, townships’ spatial articulations include militarised control elements, and infrastructural buffers as its bounds. The country’s majority of citizens remain in those townships today, which sustains their historically restricted use of state resources in favour of hoarding and extraction by the ruling classes and the colonies; making their continued presence perversely bound to our shores. Housing spectres, superstitions, and myths, the Cape shores function as graveyards, yacht routes, nature reserves, and important routes for free shipping. They are portals steeped in economic pillage and betrayal, for classist respite and ancestral mourning. As mythologists, dreamers and performers, students will investigate the myths upon which their shore sites are spatially articulated, to reimagine those foundations and their corresponding spatial futures.

1. Dentith, M., 2014. The philosophy of conspiracy theories. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
2. Foucault, M, 1967. Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias. Translated from French by J Miskowiec. Architecture/ Mouvement/Continuité: l’Architettura


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