"Outlaw Territories" Book Launch and Discussion

"Outlaw Territories" Book Launch and Discussion

Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency by Felicity Scott

Thursday, October 13, 2016, 6pm

Ware Lounge, Avery Hall, Columbia GSAPP

Response by Brian Larkin

Discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin


During this event, author Felicity Scott spoke with Brian Larkin about her book Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency in a discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin.

In Outlaw Territories, Scott traces the relation of architecture and urbanism to human unsettlement and territorial insecurity during the 1960s and 1970s. Investigating a set of responses to the growing urban unrest in the developed and developing worlds, Scott revisits an era when the discipline of architecture staked out a role in global environmental governance and the biopolitical management of populations. She describes architecture’s response to the displacement of persons brought on by migration, urbanization, environmental catastrophe, and warfare, and she traces architecture’s relationship to the material, environmental, psychological, and geopolitical transformations brought on by postindustrial technologies and neoliberal capitalism after World War II.

At the height of the US-led war in Vietnam and Cambodia, with ongoing decolonization struggles in many parts of the world, architecture not only emerged as a target of political agitation because of its inherent normativity but also became heavily enmeshed with military, legal, and humanitarian apparatuses, participating in scientific and technological research dedicated to questions of international management and security. Once architecture became aligned with a global matrix of forces concerned with the environment, economic development, migration, genocide, and war, its role shifted at times toward providing strategic expertise for institutions born of neoliberal capitalism. Scott investigates this nexus and questions how and to what ends architecture and the environment came to be intimately connected to the expanded exercise of power within the shifting geopolitical frameworks at this time.

Organized by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture in collaboration with Zone Books

The Decolonization of Design: Pierre Bélanger

Pierre Bélanger in conversation with Kate Orff

Friday, April 13, 2018 at 1pm

114 Avery Hall

"What we from our point of view call colonization, missions to the heathen, spread of civilization, etc., has another face—the face of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry—a face worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen. All the other eagles and other predatory creatures that adorn our coats of arms seem to me apt psychological representatives of our true nature."

-Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961)


The current discourse on climate change has failed to acknowledge the territorial sovereignties and political geographies that confront the bounded systems and perceived permanence of the nation state. The real crisis, if there is one, seems to be located in the minds, models, and media of city-centric populations that are more and more removed from means of material production and territories of resource exploitation. Put otherwise, the map is no longer the territory.

This spatial, ontological divide—between metropolis and hinterland—is exacerbated by an explosion of industrial operations and incorporations seamlessly crossing political boundaries and geographic borders. So large, so vast, and so fast is the pace and scale of these operations, they are seemingly impossible to imagine, let alone to represent. Although the flow and concentration of industrial extractive capital may vary with ‘urban demand,’ ‘technological capacity,’ or ‘discovery of resources’—whether onshore or offshore, structures of political power and systems of social control have remained relatively unchanged and unchecked for the past four to five centuries. In the words of systems thinker Georg Hegel (Philosophy of Right, 1820): “the development of the State into a constitutional monarchy is the supreme product and power of the world today, in which its ideal and unlimited condition has been reached.” Clearly, the contemporary, colonial condition survives.

If, then, “the problem of territory, and of territoriality, is one of the most neglected in geography and political economy,” according to the alter-urbanist Claude Raffestin (Pour une Géographie du Pouvoir, 1980), how should we re-imagine the current axis and power relations between the metropolis and the hinterland that underlies the contemporary focus on the city and on the state? How do we rethink, resist, and subvert the imposed, imperial binaries between the urban and the rural, the north and the south, the center and the periphery, that are entrenched in misleading oppositions of town and country, property and sovereignty, occupation and inhabitation, settlement and seasonality, civilization and wilderness?

Drawing from the claim by contrarian economist John Kenneth Galbraith (The New Industrial State, 1967) that “capital and power became more important than land in the past century,” the renewal of the geopolitical discourse on territory is fundamentally contingent on the reclamation of land, landscape, and life.

Proposing a contra-colonial lens, Pierre Bélanger's presentation profiled current Canadian states and scales of extraction through three inter-related processes that lie between the colonial conceptions of the metropolis and the hinterland: territorial displacement, regulatory discrimination, and Indigenous dispossession. Drawing from subliminal symbols and persistent projections of state power throughout the past 800 years, specific references were made to professional practices and institutionalized disciplines of architecture, engineering, and planning whose origins reveal underlying imperial motives and whose pedagogical curriculum continue to normalize colonial systems of spatial inequity through countless standards, surveys, specifications, and signifiers. Inscribed in this bureaucratic structure and infrastructural grid of banks, prisons, parks, cities, suburbs, highways, dams, mines, pipelines, and reservations (to name a few), these systems represent the engineered slate upon which the State—and the Crown—exercises influence and perpetuates supremacy.

Critically questioning the colonial practices of planning, architecture, and engineering, Bélanger's work contributes a basis for undermining the industrial underpinnings and imperialist hegemonies that lie on, above, and below the surface of contemporary settler-state space whose foundations rely and rest on the perpetuation of spatial inequities, environmental injustices, and cultural inhumanities. The presentation was followed by a series of counter-projects and retroactive strategies that inquire into the implications and possibilities of unplanning and undesign vis-à-vis the current colonial structures of oppression.

Power and the Space of the Planet

"Power and the Space of the Planet"

Friday, April 15, 2016, 2PM

Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia University


Spanning the planet, the dynamics of climate change bind together innumerable, often incompatible categories, things, and processes. Among these are energy infrastructures, politics, nature, biological and social life, and the built and unbuilt environment. The struggles and contradictions they entail, and the powers they sustain, impose limits on our capacity to grasp their connections and to conceive alternatives. This event, which brought together contributors from comparably disparate domains, explored some of those connections imaginatively and concretely, in the past, present, and possible future. It served to inaugurate the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture's long-term research project, “Power: Infrastructure in America,” which extended the Center’s earlier work on housing, inequality, and real estate into another dimension of the planetary commons. Where the earlier research began with an analysis of land ownership and its relation to housing and the public sphere, “Power” began with the air circulating above that land, the energy coursing through it, and the earth below it, all in relation to the lives lived within it.



Introduction 2:00pm

Reinhold Martin (Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture)


Plenary 2:15pm

Phillip Wegner: "When It Changed: Bodies, Cities, and Worlds in Science Fiction, circa 1984"


Panel and Discussion 3:30-5:00pm

Ed Eigen: “Power of the Pardon: Evel Knievel, Robert Smithson, and the Landscape of Reclamation, circa 1974”

Jeanne Haffner: "Dwelling on Power: From the Garden Cities to the Nuclear Age"

Paige West: "Town, Island, Ples: Structure(s) of Feeling in the SocioEcological Now"


Reception 5:15pm


Keynote 6:00pm

Kim Stanley Robinson: "Utopia Against Finance"

with response by Phillip Wegner and discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin

Public Works for a Green New Deal

Climate change is a crisis of unevenly experienced and systemic injustices that asks hard questions of scholars and practitioners of the built environment. To date, the Green New Deal (GND)—most famously as drafted in H. Res. 109 and S. Res. 59 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  and Sen. Ed Markey, but echoed by politicians and activists around the world—addresses these questions head-on, systemically, and at scale. Over the course of the semester, as a part of its project “Power: Infrastructure in America,” the Buell Center is organizing a series of research, curricular, and programming initiatives to consider the social, technical, and political contours of the ambitious—but still largely undefined—proposal.

In this frame, as a part of its "Public Works for a Green New Deal" curricular initiative and following up on the September 13th "Designing a Green New Deal" event at the University of Pennsylvania, the Center hosted an event at 3:00pm on September 27th, 2019 that examined the topic of "Public Works" relative to the GND in more detail. After an introduction by former Buell Center director Reinhold Martin and brief presentations by the cohort’s faculty members, the afternoon featured presentations on “Public Housing” (by Daniel Aldana Cohen), “Public Transportation” (by Hayley Richardson), and “Public Electricity” (by Abby Spinak), which were followed by a discussion (moderated by Alyssa Battistoni).

Watch the video here.

Design Earth

Design Earth in conversation with Tei Carpenter and David Eugin Moon

March 28, 2018

Wood Auditorium, 4pm 

This conversation with El Hadi Jazairy and Rania Ghosn, the founders of the research practice Design Earth, was organized by Tei Carpenter and David Benjamin as a part of Columbia GSAPP’s Advanced Studio IV in conjunction with the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture’s “Power: Infrastructure in America” research initiative, with Kadambari Baxi and Karen Fairbanks for Barnard’s “Environmental Visualizations of NYC” seminar and David Eugin Moon for GSAPP’s “Speculative City” seminar.

Design Earth is a collaborative research practice that focuses on work engaging the geographic to open up a range of aesthetic and political concerns for architecture and urbanism. Literally, "earth-writing" from the Greek geo (earth) and graphia (writing), the practice of making geographies involves the coupled undertakings of “writing about,” projecting or representing the earth and also “writing on,” marking, forming or presenting again a world. 

The Right to Infrastructure

In this webinar, Danielle Purifoy and Louise Seamster presented their conceptual framework for understanding Black towns within extractive white space, highlighting questions of citizenship, extraction, and exclusion through their focus on how legal, spatial, racial, and economic systems structure Black spaces’ access to infrastructure and facilitate environmental violence.

After four years of tracking infrastructure access and local development challenges in Black-led communities and cities, Purifoy and Seamster found the framework of environmental racism provided inadequate explanation for the predictable cycles of dumping, stagnant development, and socio-ecological vulnerability experienced by Black places. More than the simple result of white NIMBYism and anti-Blackness, these cycles were instrumental to the development of white places. Creative extraction is a race-relational development framework that describes how white towns catalyze their own growth with resources from beyond their own borders, especially from Black places. Purifoy and Seamster explain creative extraction in two articles supported by the Buell Center’s "Power: Infrastructure in America" project: “What is Environmental Racism For?” in Environmental Sociology and “Creative Extraction: Black Towns in White Space” in Environmental Planning D: Society and Space. The articles focus on the case of Tamina, Texas, an unincorporated Black community dating back to 1836, to demonstrate how mundane local development practices such as municipal utility districts, planning jurisdictions, and sales tax structures are routinely used to leverage the value and resourcefulness of white places at the expense of Black places. In this conversation, Seamster and Purifoy discussed how their individual research on seemingly disparate Black places—rural Black-founded towns and urban majority-Black cities—led to a series of inquiries culminating in the concept of creative extraction.

Purifoy and Seamster's work combines an environmental focus with data and frameworks from urban studies, fiscal sociology, geography, and law to show how these harms are not the result of discrete “racist” acts, but are written into the law itself, and are central to the functioning of racial capitalism. The conversation was introduced by Reinhold Martin, Professor of Architecture and Director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia GSAPP and was moderated by Catherine Fennell, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and Buell Center Advisory Board Member.


Free and open to the public. Virtual events hosted on Zoom Webinar do not require an account to attend, advanced registrations are encouraged.

GSAPP is committed to providing universal access to all of our virtual events. Please contact Lyla Catellier via email at [email protected] to request accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

A black and white illustration shows various components of "Blacktown" and "Whitetown," separated by train tracks and showing cleanliness and prosperity in "White Town" but dumping and other nuisances in "Black Town"

Illustration by billy dee, originally published in Environmental Sociology