Diploma 14 Sorina Siddall, Analogous map of the Territory of Bucharest

Barbarism Begins at Home: Territory and Primitive Accumulation

Pier Vittorio Aureli and Maria Shéhérazade Giudici

If capitalism can be described as the asymmetrical relationship between possessors and non-possessors, then primitive accumulation was the process through which possessors accumulated the wealth that formed the backbone of their capital. Classical political economy represented such a process as the virtuous labouring activity of one part of society, while Marx emphasised how primitive accumulation was essentially a theft effected through the enclosure of land and the violent appropriation of resources that deprived large parts of the population of their livelihood.

Yet understanding primitive accumulation as a specific moment in history can be a mistake, since capital is an apparatus that constantly dispossesses for the sake of accumulation. This process of dispossession takes a myriad of forms, which are often embedded in the way the territory has been historically constructed. What appears to us as territory is not just the given environment in which we live but also a 'machine' whose goal is to extract surplus value from the totality of social relationships. Roads, railways, streets, infrastructure of all sorts, parks, houses, dams, public buildings, etc, can be considered as gears of a gigantic and all-encompassing machinic apparatus built and transformed over time in order to reproduce and augment the asymmetrical relationship between classes. This year Diploma 14 will encourage students to critically read specific territories in order to put forward scenarios that reflect a gradual deactivation of processes of accumulation. These scenarios of transformation will be addressed from those simple moments of our existence - circulating, reproducing and dwelling - which also form the most crucial field for architectural design. We will question the role of architecture at different scales - from housing to landscape - as a fundamental locus where reproduction becomes one of the most powerful forms of primitive accumulation. The main question of the studio is: what sort of forms of life are possible beyond accumulation? And what sort of spatial framework can be imagined in a post-accumulation territory?

Unit Staff

Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator. His research and projects focus on the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. He is Louis Kahn Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University and is the author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Architecture (2008). He is co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels and focused on the project of the city.

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici is the founder of the publishing and educational platform Black Square and the coordinator of the history and theory course at the School of Architecture of the Royal College of Art. She holds a PhD from TU Delft with a thesis on the construction of modern subjectivity through the project of public space. Before joining the AA, she taught at the Berlage Institute and BIArch Barcelona and worked on large-scale urban plans with offices BAU Bucharest, Donis Rotterdam and Dogma Brussels.

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