The Anti Architecture

Prompt 1


I am interested in the attendant problems of each type of space below, and what of the possibility for making? I have a 2-d, figurative art practice that wishes to extend itself and consider problematic spaces and non spaces.  I am deeply concerned about the racial, gendered aspects of  the built environment like who builds it, who occupies it and how. But as you will see in the list below I am powerfully moved by social architecture as a tool for self or group empowerment. When I curated the 2014 show “Ruffneck Constructivists” at the ICA Philadelphia it was my first attempt to grasp at an idea I had of anti-social space.  I want to find ways to shape a space/build a monument to actively address my interests below.



  1. home/homelessness “Eternally Displaced Persons”  What impact has architecture on the nomad, refugee, migrant, stateless actor?



  1. Confederate monuments, collectibles and Memorial Plaques.
  2. Mammy monument, unbuilt or unbuildable dreams.
  3. Taliban and Isis destruction of world hertitage sites
  4. Controversial monuments
  5. Dramatic upheaval of monumental sculptures


Ideological sites and Architectural resistance:

  1. Branch Davidian compound
  2. Nuwaubian Nation of Moors
  3. People’s Temple (Jim Jones)
  4. Hancock Shaker Village
  5. Amish villages
  6. Hassidic neighborhoods/ architecture
  7. MOVE compound/ bombing of west Philly
  8. Ruffneck Constructivists
  9. LDS compound
  10. The United Nations
  11. Washington DC Mall
  12. City of glass.

Underground organizations/ architectural absence. Black Sites

  1. mafia sites
  2. gang hangouts
  3. secret societies aka KKK, white supremacists etc.
  4. conspiracy/ fantasy sites
  5. CIA black sites


  1. rules of spatial organization, what are they? Order/ disorder
  2. who has entre? Women? Men? Black? White? Gay?  what kind of club is this? all comers?
  3. Intitiation rites. How does one gain entry? (secret word? Secret knock? Hazing, Arrest. Permission from whom?)
  4. Structure of society as “Anti” What’s the difference between a religion and a cult? A social club and a gang and how do they conceive of art and architecture?
  5. What do buildings and spaces look like in each case? How are power or powerlessness conveyed in structure, in form? Does ego or vanity or love or pride or lust or imbalance present itself in space? Can it?
  6. are spaces necessarily confining? do modern spaces always crush the soul?





14 thoughts on “The Anti Architecture”

  1. Hey Kara and all,

    I’m Sam, we met over croutons. I just wanted to say I think we have some similar interests.

    For your first prompt I recalled a quote. “The resting place of the nomad, is on the edge”. I forget who said it. But it’s a nice one. It’s the edge of an idea, but also maybe a shape, or a geography.

    Also I’ve been thinking a lot about underground. Literally and figuratively. Like the sewers and tunnels of New York. The figures who reside there. Swamp thing. Stray Animals. Or just invisible figures in general.

    Sorry if I’m not giving these thoughts enough writing time.

    I sort of failed to do a project about something like this at this guerrilla McDonalds residency. It’s somewhat relevant.


    Also one last thing. I been reading about ruins, I found this quote that sort of guided me.
    “Ruins are a didactic display of where society has failed”

    Hope ur guys weekends are good.


  2. The ruin quote has me thinking about one of my favorite essays “Monumental Seduction”, by Andreas Huyssen in “Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory”:

    “The monumental is aesthetically suspect because it is tied to nineteenth-century bad taste, to kitsch, and to mass culture. It is politically suspect because it is seen as representative of nineteenth-century nationalisms and twentieth-century totalitarianisms. It is socially suspect because it is the privileged mode of expression of mass movements and mass politics. It is ethically suspect because in its preference for bigness it indulges in the lager-than-human, in the attempt to overwhelm the individual spectator. It is psychoanalytically suspect because it is tied to narcissistic delusions of grandeur and to imaginary wholeness. It is musically suspect because, well because of Richard Wagner.” (39)

    and this…:

    “The growing recognition since Baudelaire of the provisional, the transitory, the ephemeral, and, yes, the fashionable as key parameters of modernity generates a the opposing end of a tension-filled axis the desire for lasting monumentality. . . In Wagner, the anxiety produced by this tension results in a paranoid aggressive streak that couples insight into the transitoriness of art with images of ruin, death, and destruction. The pressures of the transitory affect the monumental itself: the only monument that counts is the one already imagined as ruin.” (38)

      1. Hi,

        Thanks for that article…I didn’t quite realize the extent of those acts of iconoclasm. The trade center attacks were also a destruction of a monument to neoliberalism, global capitalism, corporate/neo feudalism etc.. a monument that was definitely morally suspect. One can abhor the attacks, but the instigating dynamics of U.S. power, violence, and authority are pretty transparent. The more recent attacks on these religious sites by contrast don’t quite feel like the same relation to power. It seems more like an attack on Difference itself, monumental or otherwise. Makes me wonder about the actual remains of those sites and structures. Are they really “turned to dust?” Is it more powerful for them to show these defigurations and ruins as registrations of their power, or is the idea to completely eradicate history leaving no trace at all?

        Makes me also wonder about something Michael Taussig wrote about defacement –that far from tarnishing the power of the object, defacement draws out the sacred dimension of the state, it intensifies and transmits its power by being marked and unveiled (“there is nothing more invisible than a monument!” -Hyussen).

        I have a grotesque image in my head. During the Occupy protests we were marching past an Urban Outfitters and they erected a massive ad-hoc plywood advertisement-flat outside their store replete with spray painted slogans and faux silk-screened text. It awkwardly blended into all the homemade signs and banners in the crowd. But they are just one of the corporations that clearly understands the power of the co-option of the aesthetics of negation, aggression, and defacement. (In a not so different way, we might also think about the perverse mode of ideological reification in Albert Speer’s “1000 Year Theory of Ruin Value”!!)

        If the Williamsburg Condos that replace the Domino Factory incorporate old beams and reclaimed materials, what does that mean? A sanitized history? A faux-one? Or, regardless, is it merely the same monument of power under new conditions of exploitation? (I think we lose an affective dimension of trauma with a new building…)

        A couple of links:

        Rosalyn Deutsche’s critical demolition of the new 9/11 Memorial:

        Albert Biome, “The Unveiling of the National Icons”, (horrible cover)…I have but have only skimmed this…but seems like an important reader for several of these prompts. There’s a chapter on anti-monuments as well. I can also Xerox the book and email to everyone. Biome, a Marxist historian is AMAZING elsewhere…pretty hardcore. He’s got a wonderful book called “The Magisterial Gaze,” exploring the spatial politics and elevated vantage points in the Hudson River School paintings.

        Here’s a book review of the “…icons”

        (Image of remnants of an Atomic bomb test on a bunker in Nevada)

  3. Hi Kara,

    Thanks so much for setting this up. It’s really exciting to have you involved with the program.

    Your prompt brings a lot of difficult ideas into play. It is common knowledge that the space of Rutgers University, is itself problematic. In all likelihood, this makes it similar to every university in the country, Columbia being an especially visible example, with its role in gentrifying Harlem.

    I think that the quotation Sam gave us offers a lot to think of, as does Marc’s follow up. Its my impression that you could invert the quotation to say “Monuments are a didactic display of where society has failed”.

    I think that grand university buildings are also monuments. In late fall 2015, the protests over police brutality (read: police murder) in New York city spread to Rutgers New Brunswick. During that time, I was told by several Rutgers students, from other departments, that there are many buildings on campus still bearing the names of slaveowners. In fact (and this is reiterated in a quote I’ll post below) Livingston Ave — the street on which Mason Gross is located — takes its name from two men who were Charter Trustees of Rutgers, and slave owners/traders. Livingston also cuts directly through a portion of New Brunswick which is predominantly African American and Latino, acutely impoverished, and effectively ignored by the school, except when in reference to the danger posed to students as a result of street crime.

    So, there is a question that probably needs to be confronted in a very direct way, of what a university is going to prioritize, apropos the physical buildings out of which it is built: maintaining the school’s provenance, or maintaining its ethical responsibility. Maybe the decision between those options is not so clearly defined. And to complicate the question, and to reinforce that this is a question relevant to artists, I would suggest that the school’s provenance is a crucial aspect of its aesthetic character. In any case, it strikes me as being directly relevant to your prompt.

    Here are two links to articles that get into this situation, and a couple of quotations from each.

    “The younger Hendrick was no doubt instructed in management of the farm where barley was grown for the brewery, as well as in the brewing process. At some point, either formally or informally, he acquired a proficiency in surveying, as well as a practical knowledge of architecture and construction. He would also have learned how to manage workmen, servants, and slaves, several of whom were owned by his father and worked at the brewery. Slaveholding was common among Dutch Americans. During the 1741 New York City slave uprising, another Rutgers family member had had three of his slaves convicted of conspiracy—one was hanged, one burned, and one transported. And John Hughson, the white man who allegedly incited the slaves, may have been gibbeted on the shoreline of the Rutgers property “at a place commonly called Hughsons Point.” Like his father and grandfather before him, Henry Rutgers would himself own slaves.[11]”

    “Many of the founding charter trustees of Rutgers University (formerly Queen’s College), along with scores of tutors and graduates, were either slave owners themselves or hailed from slaveholding families. Craig Steven Wilder writes in his book ‘Ebony and Ivy: Race Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities’. “The charter trustees of Queen’s came from the most prominent slaveholding and slave trading families in the region, and they included Philip Livingston, Robert Livingston, Theodorus Van Wyck, Peter Schenck, and Abraham Hasbrough”.

    New Brunswick was located in the middle of “the Dutch slaveholding belt that stretched from Elizabethtown to Trenton.” When Queen’s College was originally chartered on November 10. 1766, “its founding president, Jacob Hardenbergh, and first tutor, Frederick Frelinghuysen, were slaveowners.” Several streets, along with a litany of campus buildings, monuments, and other historical tributes to their legacies scattered throughout the New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden campuses still bear their names”

  4. Hi Kara!

    Thanks for setting this up. I think this is an amazing platform for everyone to engage each other and also have an active archive of what’s being discussed.

    When I think about Monuments I start question the psychology behind their purpose and existence. While doing a general and brief investigation upon the “Psychology of Monuments” I came across this article from Psychology Today which brings up some interesting points regarding the “lives” of monuments.

    I find it interesting to think of a monument as a site for emotional reactivation i.e. reactivated grief, sorrow, trauma, pride, etc. and also (for the sake of dissecting its existence) dividing monuments into Hot and Cool.

    “Monuments often mirror collective regressions and also peoples steps towards adaptive change.”

    Another interest is the idea of a monument as place for internal reflection on innermost feelings. The idea that a monument (a site or inanimate object) has the ability as a vessel to hold more human emotion/psychic material than is humanly conceivable or possible. I think of the Wailing Wall, Vietnam Veterans Memorial but also a Highway Loss Bouquet, Ghost Bike Memorial as locations where although many others encounter it either individually or simultaneously can still have a visceral or intellectual interaction that is individually hyper specific.

    On Underground Organizations/ Architectural absence. Black Sites:

    I find all these examples you’ve listed very interesting as they are all societally unacceptable and do not play by the rules. In the same regards they are all instances where the purpose behind their existence is highly loaded either ethically, politically, or emotionally (or all of the above). In that sense I am interested in in how your question about architecture comes into play. What happens when one/a group chooses to go against the grain of what is societally “normal”? Transience in relation to Nomadism is typically related to a search for resources. This would most commonly mean food, employment, shelter, etc. but I’m now interested in an idea of “Emotional Nomadism” OR “Political Nomadism” OR “Ethical Nomadism”and what that is. Is that a constant transience and what does it look like?

  5. It’s taken some time for me to digest this this very generous prompt and its replies. If I may choose to follow a particular thread– that of : “Structure of society as “Anti” What’s the difference between a religion and a cult? A social club and a gang … Does ego or vanity or love or pride or lust or imbalance present itself in space? Can it?”

    I am thinking of architecture as a cognitive space shared by people of shared suffering or elation or anything-in-between, which can be delineated or contained by actual structures in the world, or not. Even scattered across an open plain, people can create an enclosure of sorts through critical mass, or an orientation inward toward one another as opposed to diffuse wanderings.
    I am thinking or architecture as physical or psychological enclosure, in a general sense of the term– and a powerful tool for people who are denied or robbed of place in a worldly power structure. Nomads and eternally displaced persons are only connected by the mind-space of search, often trauma. Built architecture becomes a womb in which to rest, protection from beasts in the night, and when a sufficient level of well-being is established– it can become a place to record and safeguard narratives of self. ( I am thinking of the cave paintings at Chauvet, or the belief stories/myths that decorate places of worship through painting and sculpture, and rituals in squatted buildings or illicit party locations.)
    Following is the idea that social clubs/gangs, often those without sanctioned spaces, create their own spaces through action. Activism, worship, violence, escape or hysteria. I am remembering going with my aunt on a weekday in Guatemala City to a makeshift church behind a bakery, filled only with women except the priest, a notable number of whom terrified me by screaming and throwing themselves to the ground during song. (This is not intended to reinforce a stereotype of female hysteria– it’s just my most vividly lived example.)
    Intoxicants, hallucinogens, music, sex or intense physicality can also make this mind-architecture.
    To bring it back to built space– I would evaluate to what degree particular structures creates the privacy, intimacy, or even expansiveness conducive to specific types of emotional release. I’ll think more about exactly what those attributes might be.

  6. Hi all,
    many more thoughts, but here is a brief response to Kara’s 1st prompt: “home/homelessness “Eternally Displaced Persons” What impact has architecture on the nomad, refugee, migrant, stateless actor?”

    Michael’s piece is a tactical response to society and its spaces making use of a building’s excess energy:

    Michael Rakowitz
    Plastic bags, polyethylene tubing, hooks, tape

    “Custom built inflatable shelters designed for homeless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. The warm air leaving the building simultaneously inflates and heats the double membrane structure. Built and distributed to over 30 homeless people in Boston and Cambridge, MA and New York City.”

    Image caption:

    “We designed his shelter to be closer to the ground, more like a sleeping bag or some kind of body extension. Thus, if questioned by the police, he could argue that the law did not apply because the shelter was not, in fact, a tent. On more than one occasion, Michael was confronted by police officers. After measuring his shelter, the officers moved on.”

  7. Hi everyone,

    This is Ryan Chin, I’m in the first year of the MFA program. Hi Kara, we haven’t met but I was DJing at the BBQ. Looking forward to introducing myself in person. This conversation is interesting, thank you for starting it and I’m excited to be a part of it.

    In reflecting on ideas around anti-social spaces I began taking some notes on skateboarding and graffiti, two subcultures involving engagement with monuments, that came to public attention at about the same time in U.S., approximately mid 70s.

    Graffiti imposes upon a space attempting to leave a tag permanently, illegally, with a selfish “i don’t care about you” directed towards private property. There are designated graffiti, street art spaces in U.S. cities and Europe but the billboard above the highway will be viewed more than the designated graffiti space. It crowns the illegal activity which ends in proposed permanence of the marking, an advertisement for the alias of an anonymous self. Since one of its tenets is illegality it’s expansion is limited by the course of law.

    Skateboarding engages temporarily with surface and edge, moving along a ramp, platform or ledge in expectation of landing back on the skateboard and rolling off to the next point. The structures skateboarding interacts with is continually evolving but is one of ramps with apexes of metal coping designed for temporary engagement. Is this due simply to wheels? Of initiating a normalcy of continual movement? A state necessitating balance?

    Pigeon spikes on the edge of buildings
    Homeless people deterrents- spikes on the ground in corners of plazas
    Skateboarding deterrents, ‘skatestoppers’

    barbed wire fences & nostalgia

    Subway chairs designed to be uncomfortable
    DIY community built skateparks underneath bridges and empty pockets of public infrastructure
    -redefining, activating underutilized space to redefine use and social value

    Here is a link to a Cabinet magazine article by James Trainor on the history of playgrounds in NYC. He traces the transition from “adventure playgrounds”, sites where unfamiliar, monumental playground structures became places for individualized creative engagement (and also more danger filled opportunities) and the 90s with it’s rubber, safety coated playgrounds with clearly defined courses of interaction.

    quote from Chris Marker’s La Jetee, “Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments. Only afterwards do they claim remembrance, on account of their scars. That face which was to be a unique image of peacetime to carry with him through the whole wartime, he often wondered if he had ever seen it, or if he had dreamed a lovely moment to catch up with the crazy moment that came next. A sudden raw, incomplete gesture, the fall of a body. Only later did he realize that he had seen a man dying.”

    1. Instagram @dismalgardens has a pretty funny collection of unwelcoming public spaces, anti-homeless seating, litigation free playgrounds, and other outdoor measures of control.

  8. Aki just introduced me to the incredible Fred Moten… I know this is isn’t explicitly dealing the architecture or site, but in light of the contestation/re-appropriation of social space, and “the rules of spatial organization” …Moten said this:

    “…The particular instances of Michael Brown’s murder, and Eric Garner’s murder, are worth paying some attention to. Because, what the “drone”, the Darren Willson shot into that day, was insurgent black life walking down the street. I don’t think he meant to violate the individual personhood of Michael Brown. He was shooting at mobile black sociality walking down the street, in a way that he understood implicitly constituted a threat to the order that he represents and is sworn to protect. Eric Garner, on an everyday basis, initiated a new kind of a market place; Another mode of social life. That’s what they killed. So, when we say that “black lives matter,” I think we do sometimes is obscure the fact that it’s in fact black life that matters. That insurgent black social life still constitutes a profound threat to the already existing order of things. And part of the reason it constitutes such a profound threat is its openness. It’s unfixidy. The fact that anybody can claim it and the fact that it can claim anybody.”

    Also, yesterday posted this to the wrong page!:

    Re. Whiteness in Art from Le Corbusier, and Mussolini to the White Cube (a la J.M.Whistler)

    yes, kind of cheesy, but also an amazing provisional history lesson on the color white, and whiteness as a space and ideology. Seems to address one aspect modern architecture.

    A History of Art in Three Colors: White

    (part 1)
    (part 2)
    (part 3)
    (part 4)

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