In Context | Léopold Lambert



Architecture and the Law


The relationship between architecture and the law is a similar one than the egg and the chicken: it would be difficult and probably useless to determine which one created the other. What is interesting to question however, is whether one can exists without the other. The law requires architecture to crystalize the territory on which it applies on (the example of private property is the most obvious one), and architecture, in its inherent power to control the bodies, cannot help but to create new laws for each diagrammatic line it materializes into walls.

Those five examples constitute my selection as they engage the legal framework they are embedded into. The Center for Urban Pedagogy stresses the contradiction between one of the law’s axioms (nobody shall ignore the law) and its application by creating a series of pamphlets presenting the rights of a specific – often vulnerable – profession or citizenship. WhOWNSpace examines the ambiguous legal status of the New York privately owned public spaces, particularly revealed during the 2011 occupation of Liberty Square. Edward Emile Richardson investigates the New Orleans’ social housing regulations and how the latter triggered a pauperization of the low social class after hurricane Katrina. Alex Lehnerer shows us how visualization tool brought enough attention to influence San Francisco’s building height legislation. Last but certainly not least, the projects of Santiago Cirugeda and his Recetas Urbanas, which implement themselves in the ambiguity of the law’s interpretation. This last example is fundamental as it explores the possibility of an architecture that, rather than being subjected by the legal framework, uses the latter as a generator of projects which, most of the time, serve the collectivity.

If one agrees with my base thesis according to which architecture and the law are inseparable, one will recognize the importance to give as much importance and power to the former than to the latter. Just like there are no laws that are not fundamentally political, there are no apolitical architectures either and both should be continuously questioned within the societal debate. In order to do so, we need to examine the relationship they have between each other. Those articles are a good beginning.


Projects by the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)

Essay by Quilian Riano on behalf of the #whOWNSpace collaborative project

Essay by architect Edward Emile Richardson
Issue: 8 | PUBLIC WINTER 10

Essay by architect and urban designer Alex Lehnerer
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11

Projects by Santiago Cirugeda, architect and director of Recetas Urbanas


Léopold Lambert is a French architect[e] living in New York. His work is based on a balancing act between writing/editing and designing. With this method he created a book, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012) that examines the inherent characteristics that makes architecture systematically conceived or instrumentalized as a political weapon. He is also the editor of the blog The Funambulist that approaches architecture through an interdisciplinary spectrum (philosophy, cinema, literature, law, politics etc.).

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