In 1980, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari published a collection of essays written as a sequel of their first book dealing with “capitalism and schizophrenia”, Anti-Oedipus (1973). This book is entitled A Thousand Plateaus in reference of the way it should be read, one plateau after another no matter in which order. This chapter, Smoothing and Striating Space is dedicated to three of the fourteen chapters composing this book. Those three chapters, respectively entitled:
227: Treatise on Nomadology; The War Machine,
7000 B.C.: Apparatus of the Capture
1440: The Smooth and the Striated Those plateaus elaborate about two transformative processes that Deleuze and Guattari call smoothing or striation as two antagonistic operations and visions of territories.
Smooth spaces are the territory of the nomads while striated spaces are created by sedentary. Their conflict is a confrontation between the State and the War Machine, the Logos and the Nomos, Chess and Go, Movement and Speed, Arborescence and Rhizome, Royal Science and Nomad Science. The whole chapter on Nomadology is built on those manichean antagonists and their incompatibility with each other. However, as established by Manuel De Landa in his book War in the Age of Intelligent Machines , it has been recognized that only State’s armies that have been adopted a nomadic way of operating were to be victorious in the long term. Strategies of capture are therefore constantly elaborated by the State in order to appropriate the War Machine. This whole conflict is fundamental for architecture in the relationship this discipline has always maintained with military strategies in history.
As indicated in the introduction, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari elaborate a definition of the smooth space and the striated space based on their absolute opposition at every level. The following paragraphs will therefore attempts to make an inventory of the notion used in this regard in the definition of these two types of spaces.
The State is a settled institution that established a set of rules and provides to its subject the insurance that the more they will actually conform themselves to those rules, the more they will socially evolve within a pre-established hierarchy. The War Machine, on the contrary is fundamentally non civilizationnal in the way that it is not interested in the notion of progress. Its structure can be organized in a protohierarchical way but the latter remains sufficiently fragile in order to be easily overthrown in case of strong disagreement.
The first symbols used to establish the confrontation between striated spaces and smooth spaces are made by attributing to each the principles of two games, respectively Chess and the game of Go. In fact, Chess establishes a function and therefore a skill to each entity composing both armies. Its production is therefore a strategy based on hierarchal relationships between those entities. As far as the practice of the Warfield is concerned, both armies try to conquer the biggest part of land in order to exercise a control over it.
On the contrary, the game of Go is based on fast movements of territorialization and deterritorialization intensifying a conflict in one zone, then leave it and attack the next one. The function and power of every pawn are the same, thus allowing interesting potential turnarounds. Another extremely interesting aspect of this comparison yet not mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari consists in the fact that the Chess’ pieces are operating with the walled frame of the squares whereas Go makes its pawns moving on the line as soldier funambulists. In this regard, it seems appropriate to recall that when the Wall of Berlin has been deactivated, the people were not just climbing up the wall in order to reach the other side but rather to inhabit for a moment this one foot wide world.
One can however observe that both Chess and Go dramatize the opposition of two armies which operate with the same organization and strategy. It would therefore be extremely interesting to elaborate a set of rules for a game that would confront a nomadic War Machine like the Go’s army and a State army like the Chess’ one.
What Deleuze and Guattari calls Royal Science is interesting for architects since they use their very example in order to express the essence of this sedentary discipline. In fact, architects tend to avoid the notion of spontaneity and improvisation in favor of planning and control. That is why the architect -maybe they ought to say the engineer- appears in this regard as the paradigm of the Royal Scientist. In fact, the example of the Gothic journeyman who applies a nomadic science by improvising their design directly on the construction site depending on the forces felt in situ. On the contrary, architects establish plans which are the direct expression of their transcendental control over the matter and architecture’s users. The examples of Orleans and Beauvais’ Cathedrals are then evoked as failures of the nomadic Science to provide a perfect safe built environment but rather to insert in its design a dose of uncertainty. This notion if interesting in the fact that the State cannot accept this degree of uncontrol, based on its original promise of security contained in the social contract. The fact that those two Cathedrals have been built according to nomadic science’s principles and eventually collapsed are an expressive manifesto of considering risk and danger as fully integrating part of the lethality of life and the awareness of it.
The act of striating space is fundamentally inherent to the birth of agriculture and therefore to property as well. Indeed, agriculture is the first act that brings value to the land and this results in the parcelization for ownership. Agriculture additionally brings a population to become sedentary and therefore the need and implementation of new tools. This process of innovation is called progress and is the base of a civilization’s growth. Architecture embodies the striation and thus defines the limits of the land. Property is thus claimed and wars can begin. This narrative is perfectly expressed by the myth of the creation of Rome. Romulus established the limits of the city by digging a trench (or building a wall depending on the version). When his brother Remus leaped across it, Romulus killed him for the first violation of private property in Roman history .
Architecture creates an inside separated from the outside and whose property is being claimed by people or institutions. Lines of property are being virtually traced and architecture materializes them into violent devices actively controlling bodies. The wall is quintessential and paradigmatic in this regard and is operating at every scale, from the domestic wall of an apartment to the United States’ border with Mexico via various scales of gated communities. The original city’s limit from Romulus however disappeared during the 19th century to let the city diffuse and spread into a quasi total ambient milieu.
The following paragraph will elaborate about how the urban Warfield became a territory submitted to processes of striation and smoothing since the 19th century.
The first one implies Paris’ situation between the First Empire and the end of the second. In fact, this fifty-six year period of time in French history saw three revolutions emerging from the Parisian urban fabric. As both a theoretician and a practitioner of urban insurrection, Auguste Blanqui makes the link between two revolutions of 1830 and 1848, the Paris’ Commune in 1871 and urban modification in a conflict situation. In fact, he took activelly part of the two revolutions and was emprisoned during the Commune which lead to him bein considered as an icon of the resistance against the governmental forces. In 1866, he wrote a small manual entitled: Esquisse de la marche a suivre dans une prise d’armes a Paris which establishes an extremely precise protocol of modification of the Warfield in order to optimize it for the weak –yet victorious- camp of asymmetrical urban conflict:
”This labor done, one put the two lateral barricades together by piercing the thick walls that separate the houses situated on the defense’s front. The same operation is executed simultaneously, in the houses on the two sides of the barricaded street until its extremity, then backwards, on the right and on the left, along the parallel street, on the defense’s front and on the back. Openings have to be practiced on the first [ndt: first floor in Europe is second floor in the United States] and last floor in order to obtain two ways; work is being achieved in the same way in the four directions. All the blocks of houses of the barricaded streets should be pierced in their perimeter, in such way that fighters are able to enter or exit by the back street, out of sight and out of reach from the enemy.
The interior of the blocks generally consists in courtyards and gardens. One could open access between those spaces, as they are usually separated by weak walls. It should be even compulsory on the bridges whose importance and specific situations expose them to the most serious attacks.
It would be therefore useful to organize companies of non-fighters such as workers, masons, carpenters, etc. in order to jointly achieve work with the infantry. When, on the frontline of defense, a house is more particularly being threatened, one demolished the ground floor staircase and one achieves opening in the various rooms’ floor of the first [second] floor in order to shoot the potential soldiers who would invade the ground floor to apply some bombs. Boiling water can also play an important role in this circumstance. If the attack embraces an important extent of the front, one cuts the staircases and pierces the floors in all the exposed houses. ”
The urban modifications that Blanqui advocates for, are precisely applying processes of striating and smoothing the space . In fact, the construction of barricades with the paving stones of the street adds another layer of striation of the city which interacts with its normal functionality. On the other hand, the piercing of holes through the walls associated with the destruction of staircases tends to deny the physicality of architecture and thus smooth the urban space. With those processes, the city is assimilated as a single malleable matter that can be acted on and reconfigured according to the needs of the insurrection army.
The ability of the insurgents to act on this matter, and therefore to manipulate the Warfield in favor of their strategies probably has a lot to do with their victories in 1830 and 1848. On the other hand, the Paris Commune’s ultimate defeat against the Versaillais, was very likely influenced by the State’s modification of the same Warfield for the last two decades by Napoleon III and his Baron Engineer Haussmann as seen in the first chapter.
The second example in French history and the French State strategies of counter-insurrection. It occurs between 1954 and 1960 in Algier’s Casbah where the first operations of the FLN were being organized. In this regard, Gille Pontecorvo’s 1966 pseudo-documentary film entitled The Battle of Algiers depicts the guerrilla opposing the French paratroopers with the Algerian anti-colonialists within the labyrinthine Casbah. The chronology is important here: The typology of the Warfield is in a first period perfectly used by the Algerians who apply what will later be Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of speed as the absolute character of a body whose irreducible parts (atoms) occupy or fill a smooth space in the manner of a vortex, with the possibility of springing up at any point . Whoever is carrying out a mission for the FLN, strikes intensively then immediately disappears in the maze of the Casbah.
However, some years later, by following the officer in charge of the counter insurrection Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu’s strategies, the French paratroopers manage little by little to capture the War Machine’s principle by acting directly on the Casbah’s materiality and infiltrating the organization of the FLN. The final result was the absolute suppression of resistive forces in Algiers in 1960. Nevertheless, the resistance had to last long enough to provoke a national mobilization that would lead eventually to the Algerian independence in 1962.
A final example of urban striation and smoothing in a conflict situation would be one studied by Eyal Weizman. In 2006, in an article entitled Lethal Theory , Weizman analyzes the Israeli General Aviv Kokhavi’s strategy during the 2002 siege of Nablus’ Palestnian refugee camp in the West Bank. In fact, Kokhavi developed a theory of inverted geometry that avoids the camp’s streets in order to move through the wall of the dense urban fabric and this way, surprise the Palestinian fighters. This technique also reduced the spectacular damages in the camp to deep scars within homes, invisible from outside and therefore insignificant to the International Community.
“Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings, and floors across the urban balk reinterpreted, short-circuited, and recomposed both architectural and urban syntax.”
It is not innocent that the State that succeeded the capture of the War Machine is a state who established war as its main contingency and its population as entirely composed of soldiers. The elaboration of the oppression towards the Palestinians led the Israeli Army to associate a striation of the space both by its walls, colonies and roads and to adopt a nomadic behavior, springing up from its border, infesting Palestinian land and folding itself back in its own territory. This coexistence of State and War Machine is probably due to the status of the Jewish People who was involved in what Deleuze calls a common becoming due to a long persecution through ages and who eventually become a State. Thus was established a normalizing benchmark that internalizes some of its subjects and oppress the others.