Embrace Your Conflict

June 6, 2011

Issue introduction by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context.


Mas issue conflict cover opening

The word conflict has a negative connotation. It instantly generates images of destruction, suffering, struggle and tension for us. At the same time, conflicts are inevitable. No matter how much we want to avoid them, they are always present, whether they are armed, social, political or any other kind. If we can’t avoid them, the question is, how can we think about them as an opportunity? Why not look at conflicts as a tool to test innovative and unexpected solutions? This is exactly how we explore the topic of Conflict in this issue, a starting point for a new approach to familiar issues. The issue presents the work of designers who use lenses of conflict to develop their projects.

The interdisciplinary design practice Urban-Think Tank shares its approach to working in complex environments that calls for simple solutions. Their Caracas Metro Cable and other interventions in the slums of Caracas and other cities are opportunities to redefine and design their socio-economic system in a more integrated way.

Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes from dpr-barcelona interview Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and its Chief Eternal Optimist, about the work AFH is doing in areas of natural and man-made conflicts.

Charlotte Malterre Barthes from OMNIBUS, along with Valentina Genini, explore the relationship between prostitution, migration and urban territory using Zurich as a case study, a city with one of the highest ratio of number of prostitutes per capita of industrialized countries.

The consequences of the Lebanese Civil War in Beirut’s public transportation system are exposed through the film Beirut, Under the Bridge by Sydney-based filmmaker Nora Niasari. By studying the past and present, we can lay the groundwork for new thinking.

Photographer Jonathan Andrew documents the current condition of World War II bunkers in The Netherlands, France and Belgium. Most of them abandoned, these imposing structures are a reminder of the conflicted past in Europe.

Simon Scheithauer shows the ways “the case of Weimar vividly illustrates how planning can surface opposing views. Conflicting views, dispute and controversy in this context are productive and a precondition of progress.”

We also look at two architectural projects, one that solves a future conflict and another one that is the source of a conflict. The first is represented by “Water Shore Habitat,” the proposal by David Garcia Studio, the winner of the first Prize in the UNESCO Delta City of the Future competition. For the latter, we have the City of Culture in Galicia by Peter Eisenman. A controversial project since its inception (budget overruns, oversized scale, lack of program among others), it serves as a starting point for a discussion between Vladimir Belogolovsky and its author.

Architect Alex Lehnerer writes about the “Opposition Drawings”, the tool that emerged in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s and was used by supporters and opponents of the proposed high-rises.

After the Swiss referendum that decided on a constitutional ban on the construction of any new minarets in 2009, Mika Savela speculates about what the imagery of classical Switzerland would have looked like if merged with late 19th century images of Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

And incisively, Javier Arbona argues that “sometimes deleting the image is what architecture needs a bit of” in a short of letter to the editor.

Finally, artist Thomas Hillier, in “The Emperor’s Castle,” explores the tempestuous relationship between the Emperor, the Princess and the Cowherd. As Thomas describes it “these characters have been replaced by architectonic metaphors that create an urban theatre of conflict within the grounds of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo.

As we said, conflicts are inevitable; go ahead and embrace them.