Early Theory: Cases for the Post-Liberal Project

There is a theoretical void in terms of what follows today’s model of capitalism and international development, typically known as globalization.  Contemporary design methods and cultural disposition rely upon a dominance-based, liberal method of reflection and discovery.  Countering current assumptions, the post-liberal project asserts that an alternative design narrative exists outside the trappings of liberalism.  Few architectural theorists have advanced models for urban development after liberalism, iterations that include a compromised local-global form known as Critical Regionalism; an approach that relies on hyper-liberalization detailed by Lebbeus Woods; and a neo-medieval form championed by John Hejduk For the post-liberal project, this neo-medieval vein serves as the best beginning to conceptualize a minor design practice.

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Rooftop Dining, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala

Adopting a neo-medieval theory of urbanism allows a stand-alone method to observe, test, and document a formal apparatus of minor architecture.  The post-liberal design object can be best observed by applying the conditions of minor production provided by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their treatise, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature.  In this book, three factors are outlined that must be present for a cultural object to perform as minor: (1) the major language of execution must be highly deterritorialized; (2) everything produced must be political by direct exercise; and (3) everything produced must take on a collective value common to those that have suffered marginalization.  After evaluating half-dozen real-world cases of urban production based on these factors, three became evident design models for expressing minor architecture.  These include the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, Dharamsala, India; Student Bonfire, Brazos County, Texas; and the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District, Santa Barbara County, California.

These three exhibit how architectural design can perform as a political-urban mechanism against environmental injustice.  Each community faced relative exile by literally building an urban-architectural form (UAF) on a satellite location away from their home of origin.  With clear boundaries and limited authority from their host, each community designed a self-sufficient sanctuary for the continuation of their shared and threatened worldview.  In Dharamsala, refugees of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) voluntarily live as citizens of a Tibetan nation that no longer exists.  In Brazos County, students of Texas A&M each year build a monumental bonfire as traditionally performed in spite of outright university prohibition.  In Santa Barbara County, a small underfunded park district that defines the unincorporated Isla Vista residential block exists with the authority of a municipality, portraying power, budget and civic rights without the legitimacy to actually do so.

Each community has defined the boundaries of their other community by merging the “writing” of interior buildings, spaces and civic amenities with a politically “medieval” knowledge of suffrage.  This synthesis of space, architecture and political enunciation creates the urban-architectural form, a mechanism that has as a sole aim to fulfill the desires of the residents who live within its exiled existence.  For Tibetans, Bonfire enthusiasts, and Isla Vistans, the urban-architectural form necessarily provides a sanctuary for each community’s tireless pursuit of equity.

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