ROGUE ECONOMIES: (IN)SECURITY – BETWEEN RISK AND OPPORTUNITY
THIRESH GOVENDER & SARAH DE VILLIERS
‘…it is not by our arts, our politics, or our science that we understand ourselves—it is by our crimes. — the recent transformations in the triangulation of capital, the state, and governance have led to an era where crime and policing are ever more complicit, they offer a powerful meditation on the new forms of sovereignty, citizenship, class, race, law, and political economy…’ — Jean & John Comaroff
Unit 14 continues its interest in ‘rogue’ economies, those subversive economic practices, tactics and transactions that shape contemporary Johannesburg in bewilderingly dramatic ways. We look to understand these dynamics to build a relevant architectural literacy around emergent economic practices that are defining our African cities. This year, Unit 14 will focus our attention on (in)Security. We examine both the attainment of security and the consequences of its inverse, insecurity, which results in the forfeiture of rights, sovereignty and stability. Instability’s self-perpetuating and pervasive nature is here to stay. The great social and political shifts since ‘94 in South African cities have resulted in a deeply contested and divisive geography. However, Johannesburg offers us a rare opportunity to examine the relationship between architecture and security at both intimate and grand scales. The city comprises fascinating social and spatial juxtapositions that yield peculiar and yet unique relationships to negotiate risk and opportunity. In the places of great inequality, those with resources secure their livelihoods and assets with reinforced infrastructure (barriers, private security, insurance policies and brute force), while those with limited resources resort to softer infrastructure (trust, threshold, power and programme) to navigate and negotiate risk. Employing forensic drawing methods to decode our public and private spaces, students in Unit 14 communicate through maps, catalogues and cartographies the hidden meanings and value of how security operations have come to define and construct our urbanity. Insights are employed to speculate an architectural proposition that purposefully operates between binary extremes of risk and opportunity. The Gate House - a typology that reconciles its operation for both fortification and access – is explored in terms of its capacity to provide a threshold for retreat, safety, passage, access and vantage. What kind of architecture is cultivated from the very drama of this impulse to secure, protect and seek opportunity? How and by whom is it constructed? Whom will it serve and to what end?