Architectures that have been designed by military purposes are useful in the study of architecture weaponization since they visibly express the control they embody. The violence contained in architecture in that case, is fully assumed and optimized. However, the means of using architecture as a military weapon are various and numerous. I want to distinguish two of them here: circulation, and occupation. War, and we should consider this word in all its meanings here, implies movement. He who maximizes movement and control the movement of the opposite camp leads the battle. Architecture and circulation therefore have some close interactions between each other in the realms of military design. I think of Haussmann’s renovation of Paris between 1852 and 1870 when there was an interest in maximizing the movement of troops.
Indeed, during the French Revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848, using Paris as his main motor, Napoleon III wanted the capital city to be an operative warfield for the suppression army. Haussmann, his Prefect, therefore re-thought Paris as a hyper-penetrable mass allowing a fast deployment of artillery and cavalry which would not have been possible to achieve prior to the construction.
This strategy has been applied several times in asymmetrical conflicts. Shortly before Haussmann’s transformation of Paris, in 1840, the French Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, finished to achieve the Algerian colonization by destroying vast parts of Algiers’ Casbah and by this way, prevented the resistance groups to be able to organize their forces’ movement. This same Casbah, more than a century later, will also suffer from the counter insurrection operations of the French paratroopers before the Algerian independence as we will see in the chapter Smooting and Striating Space. In this same chapter, we will also observe Eyal Weizman’s reading of Nablus’ refugee camp siege in 2002 by the Israeli army which re-questioned the principles of military movement in urban conflicts as soldiers were moving through the walls rather than in streets. In a more general regard, the Israeli army is in fact, organized in order to maximize its movement in the West Bank as this region is now full of roads exclusively controlled by the Israeli in contrast to the highly limited movements of the Palestinians, strategically cut off from key routes to the rest of the disputed territories as we will see in the second part of this book.
However, maximizing one’s movement is not enough to implement a military power. In order to do so, one must also control the enemy’s freedom of movement. The compartmentalization of Palestine by the Israeli army is part of this strategy. The checkpoints, a rare porosity in this opaque wall system, architecturally subject a population on a more or less justified basis. This form of control is as much a security device as the occupier’s expression of control over the occupied.
Comparatively, special police forces use mobile fences during demonstrations as a mean to limit the movement of protesters, keeping them out of the crucial areas of the city. This situation is particularly visible during the G8 and G20 summits as documented by photographer Armin Linke for the Genoa 2001 Summit. The opposite of this police fence, the barricade is used in a similar way; however, the architectural language clearly expresses the difference between institutional representation of control and immanental organization of protesters. The official anti-riot fence has been produced and stocked in the potentiality of an antagonistic situation as a preemptive apparatus, whereas the barricade is the result of a bricollage with local materials creating a chaotic and heterogeneous wall of defense.
Occupation is a second way that architecture is used to serve military purposes. Of course one could think of the Roman Legion’s settlement and some other temporary military structures; nevertheless, it seems more interesting here to understand the word military as an ensemble of means by which a nation exercises its power over a group of people. In this regard, occupation appears to be even more efficient when it is applied through a civil materialization rather than a strictly military one. 19th and 20th centuries’ European countries understood it perfectly and their bureaucratic administration -architecturally organized and represented- probably acted – and sometimes retroactively still do- more on the colonized country’s biopolitics than the colonizers’ army did.
Currently, two powerful countries, China and Israel still apply what Eyal Weizman and Rafi Segal calls for the West Bank’s case, a Civilian Occupation. China, being a vast and diverse country has transferred a important number of members of its majoritarian population, the Hans to various regions (Xinjiang, Sichuan, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, etc.) where an autonomous orientation is fear by the authorities.
The case of Israel will be studied more specifically in the second and third parts of this book.
Military design thus represents the supremacy of engineering over architecture. In fact, if we consider the definition of engineering as the discipline that rationalizes, diagrammatizes and optimizes space and if we affirm that architecture should tend towards the opposite, then military architecture as a notion, has all the reasons to belong to the realm of oxymoron.