Collection no. 004

Collection no. 004 – Architecture and/as Infrastructure

Architecture, the process of designing, constructing, and inhabiting buildings and public spaces, relies on infrastructure. And infrastructure, the material components and social connections that provide foundational services for citizens, depends on architecture. Conceptualizing architecture without thinking about infrastructure is, this themed issue argues, out of the question.

Architecture and infrastructure are continuously evolving in relation to one another, constituting the basic fabric of contemporary cities. Architects as designers are becoming more integrated into decision-making processes that produce infrastructure, showing that buildings and public places are embedded in and generate living environments. A combination of design ideas and techniques, construction materials, building standards, and skilled labor confer distinct character to schools, apartment houses, libraries, promenades, and community centers. But architecture also surpasses that which is planned and constructed. Architecture operates as social practice, taking into consideration technologies, aesthetics, and acoustics. How can we utilize an architectural approach to infrastructure that emphasizes the social, material, and economic connections of urban landscapes? In what ways do built environments create racial, ethnic and class divisions as well as other boundaries? And how do buildings and public spaces produce, reproduce, and contest relationships of power and authority?

Drawing on emerging conversations between architects, urban planners, geographers, and anthropologists, we call for a perspective on contemporary cities that interrogates how architecture and urban design function as and with infrastructure. Architecture and infrastructure come together through social practices and material networks: pipes leading from and to buildings provide water and sewage solutions; the installation of solar and energy storage systems power electricity grids; wires and fiber optic cables enable heating and cooling facilities, sustainable lighting, and high-speed internet; and integrated mobility systems connect houses and recreation areas to underground car parks, vehicle sharing services, metro networks, railways, and other public modes of transportation. In all such cases, repair and maintenance are essential to avoid failure and keep modern forms of living alive. Looking beyond the discrete infrastructural systems that underlie cities, this issue examines the social and political practices that shape urban architecture.

We especially encourage submissions that include non-textual forms of art and knowledge, such as renderings, photographs, designs, sketches, and other visual and audio material.

Edited by Madlen Kobi and Nadine Plachta

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Introduction: Architecture and Urban Infrastructure Landscapes

In the introduction to this themed collection, Madlen Kobi and Nadine Plachta interrogate how architecture and infrastructure rearticulate the spaces, places, and power relations embedded in contemporary urban landscapes.

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Rebuilt Indigeneity: Architectural Transformations in El Alto

Focusing on Neo-Andean Architecture and the metropolitan cable-car system in El Alto, Bolivia, Juliane Müller shows how infrastructural development can express an urban understanding of indigeneity.

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Development as Palimpsest: Infrastructures Revived in Boten’s Architecture

Jessica DiCarlo examines how the rubbles of past infrastructures, visual culture, and vernacular architecture are employed to transform Boten SEZ into an attractive place for capital investment at the Laos–China border.

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Colonial Resonances

Jon Schubert explores how fundamental inequalities and unstainable practices of extractive capitalism resonate in the spatial layout and colonial architectural aesthetics of the Angolan port city of Lobito.

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Chandigarh beyond Le Corbusier

Looking at postcolonial urban planning in Chandigarh, Bärbel Högner and Jürg Gasser consider how in 1947 the Indian authorities implemented infrastructure programs based on Le Corbusier’s functionalist urban architecture.

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Light and Space-Making in the Accra Airport City, Ghana

Naomi Samake’s contribution focuses on everyday practices of light infrastructure and the ways in which local street vendors appropriate unlit and temporarily vacant spaces at Accra Airport City in Ghana.

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Feminine Intrastructures in a Men-made City

Anna-Maria Walter and Anna Grieser analyze how women create semi-public female spaces in Gilgit, Pakistan by repurposing small sections of their family homes, thus challenging the masculinist urban landscape. 

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Cycleways: Historical Infrastructures for Sustainable Mobilities

Andrea Alberto Dutto and Nadine Plachta address the environmental and social considerations that inspired the adaptive repurposing of former railway lines into green and sustainable bicycle paths across the Italian peninsula.

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Infrastructures of Permanence and Deserted Architecture in China

Tim Oakes explores how a new infrastructural grid of roads in southwest China contrasts with the precarious commercial ventures that arise in anticipation of a future city that may never arrive.

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Complete Roadsides Collection no. 004 in high resolution (40 MB)

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Complete Roadsides Collection no. 004 in low resolution (5 MB)

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