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Architectures of Emergency

It is June 2024. I arrive in sweltering New York City, prompted by a heatwave and pollution warning amidst the asylum seeker crisis and protests over the Gaza war. Torrential rains are expected today. Here I find myself amidst the eerie quiet of shuttered universities. Silence has replaced activism, enforcing order while hindering collective awareness. These experiences challenge emergency response practices that often replicate global concepts of "order" and "normality," reacting decisively to any deviation from the normal functioning of society.
Studying Architectures of Emergency in New York feels almost inevitable--the city dwell in a seemingly permanent state of exception. My project examines the spatial implications of emergency management responses intersecting with architectural design. It analyzes how architectural designs are shaped by emergency management strategies and explores diverse perspectives on the concept of "emergency," encompassing embodied experiences during disruptive events and tensions between human security and activist movements addressing social, environmental, and economic injustices.

One of the first in a series of flood walls goes up in Stuyvesant Cove Park. NYC Department of Design and Construction.

The critical approach draws from historical and contemporary events that shape emergency response mechanisms. Focusing on flooding in my hometown of Murcia in southern Spain, and in Switzerland where I currently live, this research finds reverberations in New York City. In New York, I am looking at architectural paradigms of emergency and their underlying protocols, particularly in areas like the Gowanus Canal, afflicted by recurrent floods, toxic hazards, and large-scale urban renewal projects.
Flooding at the intersection of 4th Ave and Carroll St. Photograph by Alan Kuban.
The research is conducted at the Urban Space Lab of the New School, recognized for the analysis of social conflicts and spatial dynamics. Objectives include investigating the spatial emergence of social infrastructures in response to crises, their connections, and their performativity. Thus, New York, with agencies like FEMA and environmental justice movements, and within the Urban Space Lab, offers a diverse context for studying emergency responses.
This study involves visits and documented interviews, supported by photography and video, collaborating with governmental agencies, community initiatives, artists, and activist groups, culminating in a seminar/exhibition.

The motivation for this research includes a desire to comprehend social conflicts arising from emergency management in the United States and to discern the emergence and design opportunities within activist spaces arising dynamically from emergency effects as centers for social movement contestation and archiving.
Gowanus Canal, June 2024.


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