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Sternberg Press / Critical Spatial Practice Series

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Pre/architecture by Spyros Papapetros
Available on (05-04-21)

Pre/architecture

Book 13
Paperback $17.95

Sternberg Press / Critical Spatial Practice Series : Titles in Order

Book 13
On the study of prearchitecture that took place after WWII.

Can there ever be a world before architecture? Is there an arche–origin, beginning, or authority–that precedes the appearance of architectonics? This book argues that such a pre-architectural state became a central object of investigation by architectural historians and practicing architects in the aftermath of world historical events and major epistemological revolutions.

Confronted by the ravages of war and omens of modern architecture’s own ending, architects like Frederick Kiesler tried to trace the origins of human design by exploring the foundational techniques of human and animal building through conversation with paleoanthropologists and evolutionary biologists of the first half of the twentieth-century. At the same time, historians like Sigfried Giedion attempted to reinterpret a number of recently discovered prehistoric monuments, if only to corroborate theoretical principles that were already in use by modernist art and architectural critics.

After WWII, the narrative of Prearchitecture moves progressively backwards to the middle of the nineteenth century when the term “prearchitectonic” was coined even before the institutional emergence of prehistory as a discipline of scientific research. Gottfried Semper wrote about the “prearchitectonic conditions” of peoples from eras preceding the historical civilizations of the Near East, expressed through smaller structures such as ceramics but not yet through monumental structures. For Semper, “prearchitectonic” elements described not a single temporal period but a general structural condition that survived the inventions of history and of architecture.

Ultimately, the study of prehistoric origins could uncover not only the causes of modernity’s present crisis, but also the signs of architecture’s futures past. By juxtaposing the fossils of prehistory with postwar cosmic anxieties and prognostications of a post-histoire, what is ultimately invented is a pre/post/erous history–a fictional prehistory of future architectonics. Pre-architecture is not simply “not architecture;” it is what architecture could have become but ultimately disavowed. The same unfulfilled potentialities haunt not only the distant past but also architecture’s anxious present that periodically circles back to an aborted prehistory.
Book 12
Documentation of an on-site art exhibition response to the Fukishima nuclear disaster, which won’t be seen until the area is no longer contaminated.

The twelfth volume of the Critical Spatial Practices series focuses on Don’t Follow the Wind, an internationally-acclaimed collaborative project situated in the radioactive Fukushima exclusion zone. Co-developed and curated by the Don’t Follow the Wind collective (composed of Chim↑Pom, Kenji Kubota, Jason Waite, and Eva and Franco Mattes), Don’t Follow the Wind explores the notion of contesting long-term environmental crises through the powerful mnemonic of an ongoing invisible exhibition, maintaining the traces of human presence amidst the contamination that forcibly displaced entire towns.

Don’t Follow the Wind is an inaccessible exhibition inside of the restricted Fukushima exclusion zone, a radioactive area established in the wake of the 2011 disaster of meltdowns at the adjacent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that contaminated the environment, forcibly separating residents from their homes, land, and community. New commissions by artists Ai Weiwei, Meiro Koizumi, Trevor Paglen, Kota Takeuchi, Ahmet Ögüt, Taryn Simon, Nikolaus Hirsch & Jorge Otero-Pailos, Aiko Miyanaga, Nobuaki Takekawa, Grand Guignol Mirai, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Chim↑Pom were installed at sites around Fukushima lent by former residents. The exhibition opened on March 11, 2015, yet as the exclusion zone remains inaccessible to the public, it is largely invisible–a condition akin to radiation itself. It can only be viewed in the future when restrictions are lifted and the residents are able to return, but there is no clear timeline: several years or a decade–or a period that could extend beyond our lifetime.
Book 10
New spatial notational systems for protecting and regaining Indigenous lands in the United States.In The Language of Secret Proof, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik challenges the conditions under which Indigenous rights to protect and regain traditional lands are currently negotiated in United States legal frameworks. This tenth volume in the Critical Spatial Practice series responds to the urgent need for alternative modes of evidentiary production by introducing an innovative system of architectural drawing and notation. Kolowratnik focuses on the double bind in which Native Pueblo communities in the United States find themselves when they become involved in a legal effort to reclaim and protect ancestral lands; the process of producing evidence runs counter to their structural organization around oral history and cultural secrecy. The spatial notational systems developed by Kolowratnik with Hemish tribal members from northern New Mexico and presented in this volume are an attempt to produce evidentiary documentation that speaks Native truths while respecting demands on secrecy. These systems also attempt to instigate a dialogue where there currently is none, working to deconstruct the fixed opposition between secrecy and disclosure within Western legal systems.
Book 9
In architectural history, just as in global politics, refugees have tended to exist as mere human surplus; histories of architecture, then, have usually reproduced the nation-state’s exclusion of refugees as people out of place. Andrew Herscher’s Displacements: Architecture and Refugee, the ninth book in the Critical Spatial Practice series, examines some of the usually disavowed but arguably decisive intersections of mass-population displacement and architecture—an art and technology of population placement—through the twentieth century and into the present. Posing the refugee as the preeminent collective political subject of our time, Displacements attempts to open up an architectural history of the refugee that could refract on the history of architecture and the history of the refugee alike.Critical Spatial Practice 9
Edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Markus Miessen
Featuring artwork by Omer Fast
Book 6
One common feature of the wave of recent revolutions and revolts around the world is not political but rather architectural: many erupted on inner-city roundabouts. In thinking about the relation between protest and urban form, Eyal Weizman starts with the May 1980 uprising in Gwangju, South Korea, the first of the “roundabout revolutions,” and traces its lineage to the Arab Spring and its hellish aftermath.Rereading the history of the roundabout through the vortices of history that traverse it, the book follows the development of the roundabout in Europe and North America in the early twentieth century, to its subsequent export to the colonial world in the context of attempts to discipline and police the “chaotic” non-Western city. How did an urban apparatus put in the service of authoritarian power became the locus of its undoing? Today, as the tide of revolt that characterized the Arab Spring seems to ebb, when nations and societies disintegrate by brutal civil wars and military oppression, the series of revolutions might seem like Dante’s circles of hell. To counter this counter-revolution, Weizman proposes that the immanent power of the people at the roundabouts will need to find its corollary in sustained work at round tables—the ongoing formation of political movements able to enact political change. The sixth volume of the Critical Spatial Practice series stems from Eyal Weizman’s contribution to the Gwangju Folly II in 2013, an exhibition curated by Nikolaus Hirsch with Philipp Misselwitz and Eui Young Chun for the Gwangju Biennale. Weizman and the architect Samaneh Moafi constructed a folly composed of seven roundabouts and a round table in front of the Gwangju train station, one of the central points in the events of May 1980.Critical Spatial Practice 6
With Blake Fisher and Samaneh Moafi
Edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Markus Miessen
Featuring photography by Kyungsub Shin
Book 4
Unbuilding is the other half of building. Buildings, treated as currency, rapidly inflate and deflate in volatile financial markets. Cities expand and shrink; whether through the violence of planning utopias or war, they are also targets of urbicide. Repeatable spatial products quickly make new construction obsolete; the powerful bulldoze the disenfranchised; buildings can radiate negative real estate values and cause their surroundings to topple to the ground. Demolition has even become a spectacular entertainment. Keller Easterling’s volume in the Critical Spatial Practice series analyzes the urgency of building subtraction. Often treated as failure or loss, subtraction—when accepted as part of an exchange—can be growth. All over the world, sprawl and overdevelopment have attracted distended or failed markets and exhausted special landscapes. However, in failure, buildings can create their own alternative markets of durable spatial variables that can be managed and traded by citizens and cities rather than the global financial industry. These ebbs and flows—the appearance and disappearance of building—can be designed. Architects—trained to make the building machine lurch forward—may know something about how to put it into reverse.
Book 3
A history of the modern architectural manifesto, with a focus on Mies van der Rohe.The history of the avant-garde (in art, architecture, literature) can’t be separated from the history of its engagement with mass media. It is not just that the avant-garde used media to publicize its work; the work did not exist before its publication.    In architecture, Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe came to be known through their influential writings and manifestos published in newspapers, journals, and little magazines. Entire groups, from Dada and Surrealism to De Stijl, became an effect of their manifestos. The manifesto was the site of self invention, innovation, and debate. Even buildings themselves could be manifestos. The most extreme and radical designs in the history of modern architecture were realized as pavilions in temporary exhibition. In the third book in the Critical Spatial Practice series, Beatriz Colomina traces the history of the modern architecture manifesto, with particular focus on Mies van der Rohe, and the play between the written and built work. This essay propels the manifesto form into the future, into an age where electronic media are the primary sites of debate, suggesting that new forms of manifesto are surely emerging along with new kinds of authorship, statement, exhibition, and debate.Critical Spatial Practice 3
Edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Markus Miessen 
Featuring artwork by Dan Graham

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