22 November 2022
‘DocTalks x MoMA’

Can We Speak of Andalusian Coloniality?
Spatial Measures for Social Control, Land Distribution, and Cultural Extraction after the Conquest of Nasrid Granada (1492-1609)

Dumbarton Oaks

Respondent: Juan Luis Bourke, University of Maryland

1570 copy of the 1539 foundational plan of Mancha Real, new town settled in the Andalusian frontier according to similar instructions and regulations of Spanish colonial cities in America. Archivo de la Real Chancillería de Granada. MPD nº 21// Caja 1 - Pergamino 8.

The early stage of the Spanish American conquest in the sixteenth century is often presented as a period of continuity and evolution of the rising Habsburg imperial system applied in America. According to this approach, certain colonial traits were directly exported from the Mediterranean context -like the traditional patio houses- while others would be developed and refined in America -such as the urban Spanish grid- with little to no echo in Europe. However, in the early years when the limits between Europe and America were highly fluid, when the Indies were still mapped as an extension of Asia and western Andalusia was a struggling morisco province, the category of colony was not so clear. Before Spain had any fixed center and not even the first stone of El Escorial was placed, the distinction between here and there was yet to be stablished. The absence of the encomienda regime and precious metals to be extracted may leave regions such as eastern Andalusia out of the category of colony as it is understood today but, still, it may be possible to speak of Andalusian coloniality.

This presentation looks at a series of architectural and urban transformations in the province of Granada, the last Muslim province in the Iberian Peninsula, during those fluid decades immediately after its conquest in 1492. We will delve into its connection with the colonial image of imperial power, the social control through new public spaces and institutional architectures, the imposition of modern military infrastructure connected to the Caribbean, the modification of the Alhambra palaces and, finally, the occupation and distribution of land through urban planning methods that mirrors their American siblings. We will look at archival documents that show in-between stages such as the construction site of Granada’s cathedral besides the still undemolished remains of the old mosque; images that defy how colonial geopolitical hierarchies are usually depicted and inspire new ideas for decolonial epistemology.


From Land to Rubble to Soil.
Thinking with the Urban Unfinished

Akademie der bildendenden Künste in Vienna

Respondent: Christina Shivers, Harvard GSD

A field in Sociópolis, La Torre (València, Spain) in winter 2022.
Film photograph taken by the presenter.
In 2003, thirteen international architecture offices –including Toyo Ito, MVRDV, FOA and Greg Lynn, among others– presented their vision for Sociópolis, a Project for a City of the Future. Sociópolis was a 350.000 m2 social housing urban development planned in the outskirts of Valencia (Spain), on protected agricultural land. The project promised a sustainable urban design in which nature and architecture would merge seamlessly in a rurban environment, according to Vicente Guallart, Sociópolis initiator.
In 2007, as construction works began on site, the bulldozers removed the fertile layer of soil. Some time later, the 2008 financial crisis brought the development to a halt.
In 2022, Sociópolis remains partially unfinished and offers a landscape of vacant lots and isolated high rise buildings. Weekend urban farmers, as well as a small group of professional producers, are now working a land that is made out of rubble. They take care of the soil, slowly reviving the ground.
Sociópolis is a tale of architecture and nature, of the urban and the rural and ultimately of a site of tensions, of failure and, perhaps, of potential. My dissertation focuses on this single study case to research the urban unfinished, drawing from a wide range of fields, each chapter analyses the project and its failure from a different angle.
This presentation takes the form of a walk focused on the histories of its ground, introducing the architecture project as disturbance (Tsing, 2015), analyzing the current agricultural work on site as caring for the soil (Tronto, 2017; Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017) and exploring the makings of hands-on urbanism (Krasny, 2012).

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