Today I receive David Garcia to talk about quarantine. And David is a founder of MAP Architect and also the editor of their publication of the same name, MAP, Manual of Architectural Possibilities. He’s also teaching at Bartlett in London and Lund in Sweden. He’s based in Copenhagen and he’s a future ahead of the coming Institute of Architecture and Technology of the Royal Danish Academy. Hello David.
David Garcia: Hello, Léopold.
Lambert: So, we’re gonna talk about quarantine, which is one of the topics of the second issue of MAP. But as you were saying a little bit earlier, in the other MAPs about Greenland, about Chernobyl, about floods, about Antarctica, about archive, you would be able to also find this topic. So I suppose that it is a recurrent theme of yours.
Garcia: In a way if we look at quarantine as systems of containment, then in a way one could also look at many other fields through that perspective. And when I was suggested to do a MAP on quarantine, I had a very narrow perception of what quarantine actually was. And it was through the months of research for MAP that one could see that the concept permeated many other fields which the publication already takes on in a way, with regards to immigration or forced migration policy, even planetary issues.
So certainly the tag or the bubble of architecture or space viewed as a system of containment has hovered around me, and in a way it’s a lens that I always flip on and it always reveals some layers of that reality in almost anything that I do, especially in a society like ours.
Lambert: So yeah, let’s talk about containment because I would definitely be eager to say that it is almost in the essence of architecture to have this function of containment. And obviously we find we invented some little devices that we call doors, that we call windows, to create a porosity within this containment. But one of the reasons that I’m interested in quarantine is that all of a sudden if a quarantine is declared, your own house that you thought was like, protecting you from the outside is basically imprisoning And nothing changes physically, right. Like things are just at their…at the legal level, architecture was containing in itself the possibility that this could happen and therefore you becoming trap within your own house. But I suppose it is a rather a political approach to the question when your MAP has maybe a broader approach to it which obviously approaches it through like through all the diseases that can possibly trigger the state of quarantine. So we will have a few of the MAPs on the web site so that people can see what we’re talking about. But can you maybe tell us a little bit more about that?
Garcia: Well in a way we went through a very classic approach with the publication and we started to look at its regional implications which were, directly, disease-related, and how especially when the world started to be a smaller place through navigation in 15⁄1600, that started to be a much wider issue. New diseases suddenly arrived more and more often. So the lazarettos and the concept of quarantine from the isolation of forty days—sometimes it was twenty, sometimes it was forty. All this—
Lambert: It might be actually interesting to tell the non-Latin speakers that “quarantine” comes from forty—
Garcia: From forty yeah, exactly.
Lambert: —which would be the amount of days to stay isolated, right?
Garcia: Yeah. I mean, the problem was very much…it was very parallel to today’s airports, which is one of the greatest challenges if we look at spread of serious diseases throughout the globe today. The same type of paranoia permeated the urban context of the 15/1600s. And at the very beginning, the boats were literally left at bay for thirty days and then forty days later on, because it was a cycle of fevers. If you survived forty days with a fever, it probably wasn’t very serious. Or you will die and then that ship would still be its own isolation. So the idea of the architectural element that one composes and that you can become trapped by, was already a reality in the representation of a ship. So the ship which allowed you to navigate and communicate and spread was also an island, and that was kept at bay.
Later on when there were too many ships they thought well this is a bit of a problem. We need cargoes to come in and so forth. So they created—normally artificial islands, or derelict structures—Venice still has their own lazarettos which you can visit, later on being used as other functions. But in essence they were islands fortified where the individuals would then be removed from the boat if there was the suspicion of any disease, and it would stay there. Or if there was a disease, then that ship could also be emptied and placed in a lazaretto.
So these [indistinct] structures— And Ellis Island actually is a direct implication and translation of that many hundreds of years after. It wasn’t only a way of surveying, controlling, and charting individuals, it was also a way of screening and people were often isolated if there was a suspicion of any disease.
And the same happens today with the airport. The airport has exactly the same characteristics. And I would even say it has characteristics of pre-lazaretto. Because today the airplane can easily become your contained sphere, when we experience being sprayed upon when we perhaps go to South America, where we experience an hour pause when we land in China if there’s a SARS scare and every single individual is laser scanning to measure their temperatures. If someone has a fever, that plane is locked until a controlled mobile system can literally take every single individual in that plane to another isolated zone for thirty or forty days.
So that story has not changed. In the individual level, the fear of contamination reaches such heights in the research platforms. For example the CDC has a very strict protocol of what to do with an individual that through the research is feared to have come in contact with a deadly virus. And there’s media shutdown, isolation, no contact. And you are literally deposed of any single artifact—brush, necktie—maybe for fear of taking your own life because you might be scared of having ebola, but most of the people have actually tried to commit suicide even though they weren’t contaminated by any disease. Just by the fact that they had to be isolated, on their own, for forty days or so. So there’s also this extrapolation of the individual in isolation and the risk that power thinks imposes or might have on a society, but also the risk that you actually have upon yourself just by the fact that you’re isolated as an individual. Psychologically that is a burden.
Lambert: And you actually desig— So to explain a little bit of the MAP publication, you you have one side of the MAP that is very factual, very objective, very analytical. But you have another side of the MAP that is displaying a few projects that you’ve been working on with your office. And the sound we can hear is you turning the MAP the other way, and one of the projects you’ve been designing for this MAP quarantine is I suppose extremely related to what you just described, which is this little mobile bubble that one person that is in the state of quarantine can continue to lead his social life while still being within a protected…well, while being in a bubble that protects other people from their suspected disease that this person might have, right?
Garcia: It’s true, yeah. We called it the Domestic Isolation Unit, and that was a comment on precisely that phenomenon. That if someone at home in a domestic situation comes or starts to show symptoms of some serious or pseudo-serious disease, normally what happens is that individual is removed to a controlled unit, normally part of hospital. And that has a huge impact and it’s described by many physicians that the state of the individual becomes sometimes dangerous even though later it shows that they had no disease just by the psychological effect of not being able to see their family, almost luckily they can get to speak to them.
So our comment was how can that still be contained but take part in a domestic situation. So this unit is a unit that one could have at home and it’s plugged in. You actually immediately inhabit it and it kind of develops and grows. And there’s a series of vignettes of plans as well in the publication that show different days of isolation. So you can spend a couple of days in your bed. We’ve all done that. We can more or less survive. But if you have to spend more days you would like your territory to expand. You would like…in this case he’s able to—the bubble—to go out of the window and actually look out, almost sit out, of the window and perceive the environment beyond the residence. And at an extreme situation, this allows him to go all the way to the kitchen, play chess with his kids or whatever, sit and watch TV with his or her partner. So there was the idea of domesticity being an intricate part of the proposal, with a very thin layer of separation, this thin transparent latex bubble.
But we added a comment to that. There’s extended rubber hands and arms that you can kind of get very close to another individual with. So hug, play, caress…
Lambert: A little bit what you see in a laboratory, right?
Garcia: Yes. Yeah. It’s the same things that you have been in a contained unit, sometimes for newborns, that you can actually reach in— In this case this is from in to out. Also zippers with double chambers so you can sterilize food or—literally deliver the domestic food to the person who’s sick.
But I think more interesting for us was the addition of “I don’t give a damn” zipper. Which is that at the end of the day the family might think, “This is silly. I don’t care. If it’s not deadly I’d rather just get sick with you and we’ll just go through it together even though it’s horrible than having you separated from the family.” So we thought that this…or we know that this is actually an option that is desired by many individuals on both ends of the spectrum. The isolated and non-isolated video both think this is ridiculous, I don’t care. You know, yeah it’s a bit painful, yeah it’s going to last long, but I don’t feel I’m alive. So the zipper is literally only accessible from the outside. And the inside. So the two individuals have to pull the zipper at the same time and in accord decide to break that local quarantine.
Lambert: I see. Well the I guess that’s a very interesting aspect of this project because there… I suppose what quarantine is paradigm of is a society which at least supposedly acts for your own good without asking for your permission for it.
Lambert: We can talk about Michel Foucault a little bit later, but it’s interesting to see that at some point you include the option of having at least the freedom to say no, I don’t want the society to take care of me, I need to agree with it.
Garcia: Yeah. I mean obviously the consequences would be very interesting, right. If this was a product it probably could not exist as such, that zipper. But I think when you speculate I think that’s when you can bring in these comments as physical manifestations that have a reason, that have a desire, and circumnavigates obviously the rules of manufacture but also probably the medical code. But there’s a long history of kind of sacrifice in both directions. The individuals around someone who’s sick who say, “I don’t care, you need help. So I help even though I might get sick.” There’s a huge literature and history of that.
But there’s also the self-isolation… During the Black Plague there’s a description of a small village in Ireland, if I remember correctly. The village realized that someone had come down with the plague. So they built a wall around their own village and very clearly stipulated “Do not come here. There is the plague and know we want to just isolate ourselves to see what happens.” And food was taken from other villages and left at the perimeter. But this was a self-inflicted decision. Which probably was a more rational decision in the way that they manufactured their containment than the decisions taken by power structures when they were forcing how to act with regards to the spread of plague in a village.
So I think for me that was a very interesting… We’re talking about medieval times, but sometimes a group can rationalize a problem and react perhaps in a much more balanced manner, and perhaps even a much more efficient manner, than when all the problems that one might encounter are engulfed by one single protocol. So, the fact you know, if all of Manhattan was in a very serious epidemic, probably the bridges would be cut down and it would become an isolated island… By decree, probably. I don’t know. That’s a scenario that could happen. Whereas the difference of maybe a whole building, if individuals find this out, they might actually create other forms of containment which are less…I would say drastic, but maybe even more efficient.
So what I’m trying to argue for is that sometimes self-control instead of top-down control, because it’s very specific to the context, can be much more efficient than the draping of one single gesture from a top-down structure.
Lambert: And I suppose that it’s…beyond quarantine that’s something that’s valid also for designing architecture in general. And in addition of that, it’s as I was saying a little bit earlier, it’s interesting to see that architecture and the cities that we live in seem to have a ready embodiment of such a crisis condition. I mean, you were talk about Manhattan, which obviously is an island so that definitely helps. But any architecture already has the protocols that you were evoking of being able to be…sealed.
Garcia: Yeah. Yeah, and some architectures more than others. I mean if you visit new housing complexes in Tel Aviv, they all have a core. Which is a bomb-proof core that everybody can run into. So you have an elevator shaft core, but there’s also cores that run through all the flats, which are normally on the order of a meter and a half by a meter and a half, and they already house gas masks ready to survive—if one could call it that—an X type of chemical threat or other type of threat. And I think that you can find many examples of that category in a wide spectrum of versions. But we are designing systems of containment in our contemporary cities and housing units which are related to present or local threats.
One very interesting addition to the public space is how we are conditioning and defining the public space with regards to eventual attacks. And it’s changing the landscape radically. And the very first knee-jerk reaction was concrete blocks in front of many institutions. Now they’re trying to design these concrete blocks so they seem something which is part of the landscape but the presence and the robustness is still so violent that it’s hard to hide the intention. That’s a type of containment, you know. You’re trying to contain heavy machinery running into an institution’s facade. As late as today I visited the new kind of containment center building in front of the UN. And they’re masked, they’re covered. And you see how this cylinder of steel is connected to a branch, and underground branch which obviously is going to be submerged underground to be able to contain pressures. And it’s—it’s hu—it’s very aggressive. I mean, how can you landscape yourself out of that?
Lambert: Yeah. I think it’s part of like US is building a new embassy there’s a requirement for the architects and engineers to resist to a very specific dose of explosive.
Lambert: It’s interesting. But I suppose what I was getting at was not as much the literal protection of something that comes from the outside, whether it is viruses or bombs or any form of direct antagonist—[indistinct] let’s say—but more in general of like there is a…and it’s not a new thing but there is Something latent in the construction of architecture which is that there is this suspicion? I would say towards the outside, toward the otherness, and that makes us build our buildings the way we build them. And that seems to embody already this actual, literal, situation where there would be indeed like, a very material antagonist all around. So it…
Garcia: It makes it easier.
Garcia: Especially in the West I think, any construction is about isolation. A housing unit.
Lambert: And a crystallization of private property.
Garcia: Of private property, yeah. And a distancing. And in other cultures that is much more blurred. You can hear, you can almost go in… I remember in the tiny islands of [Taiyo?] outside of Hong Kong, there’s a fishing village. And that fishing village, due to the tide, has built most of the housing units on stilts. And they were very tiny so they’ve had to grow. So these stilts hold piers which are the small streets, and they put units along these streets. But very often they had not enough space, so they started to build on the other side of this pier—this pier’s about two meters wide. And there’s no wall, there’s no blur. So you’re walking through this path, and you’re walking through the bedroom. So there’s you know, a gentleman sleeping next to you and the kitchen with a TV is open.
So they’ve appropriated those extra square meters which is a public street. We would understand it clearly as a public street because people are literally walking up and down. But they have no problem in that open facade, on that privacy. Where I think the West obviously is characterized with isolation and containment, which is sometimes due to clim—or excused a climatic efficiency. But I think it is an underlying desire of isolation. You would rather not hear absolutely anybody around you. That’s kind of like a generalized desire. [crosstalk] And no smells.
Lambert: It’s good to record podcasts.
Garcia: Yes, exactly. And yeah. So I think you’re absolutely right. It is a prescription of almost any housing unit, and you can extend that probably to many other typologies of isolation. That here you are in another space that tries to put almost every other space outside. And perhaps the only one that sometimes we like to break is the visual. Mainly because we would like to see out, not so much because we would like people to see in.
Lambert: Well, talking about the West and staying with this notion of quarantine, maybe one of the most illustrative examples that you already evoked is Ellis Island. And I would like to maybe draw the attention to the way their unwanted bodies were being designated there, which was with this little piece of chalk, right. And all of sudden there’s no more individuals, there’s only bodies that are being scanned. Which obviously in this era means to scan people, which is not the same nowadays but the principles are the same. And there’s a designation that is extremely physical and recognizable through this letter in chalk on the back of people that would then bring them to whichever department they had to go to deal with what it was that made unwanted on the American territory. There is a clear material designation, I think that’s what I’m getting at.
Garcia: I think at those levels one is absolutely not treated as a human. You’re treated as an artifact. As an import. So you’re approved or not approved, or you have a category. And that is something we experience at many other levels in the world of course today, where under the name of efficiency, and if you can add to that under the name of safety—or goal of safety—then you can get away with much more. And the individual obviously loses their character and becomes an object that can be accepted or not accepted.
What’s interesting is that the elements of containment also go through these categories. But sometimes they’re rescued through time and become even more humanized than the humans which were inhabiting it were at their own time. So if we look at Ellis Island has become today, it is almost the expression of this collective. It’s trying to humanize as much as possible to kind of…make you understand how dehumanizing it actually was. So suddenly there’s nobody, there’s only tourists. But the decor, the narrative, is about the single individual, how they looked and how they were treated. And in a way it impregnates a space with humanness which at the time, actually, when it was full with humans, every single human wasn’t, it was designated almost as an object. So there’s a strange parody of how the buildings have survived and now have this pseudo…
Lambert: Have survived thanks to the accepted bodies—
Garcia: Exactly yeah, yeah.
Lambert: —not by the non-accepted.
Yeah, because this designation is a very, once again, literal ostracization of something we could see a little a bit less literally through the idea that there’s a norm, and each individual is being judged through these behavioral or this appearance norm. And obviously in the case of Ellis Island it becomes incredibly literal. Like there is literally people that are in and people that are out. And let’s recall that like, quarantine is involving people who were suspected to have maybe a disease, not necessarily people who actually have a disease. So there is an incredible process of, again, ostracization that is working here.
Garcia: And then there’s levels which actually have different containment parameters which are not physical structures but just frontiers. And sometimes within their own country. So internally displaced people, IDP is what they’re called—are a very curious kind of reality, I would say, where individuals are pushed out of their own country due to persecution.
Lambert: Maybe you can give us an example.
Garcia: Well, I suppose we can look at Africa, as many in Angola have experienced that. Niger has internally displaced about 6,000 people. And what happens is that they’re persecuted, but the difference to many of the realities where they can flee and seek refuge in another nation, they’re not allowed to flee. And there are no neighbor nations that would actually take them on board. So they become unwanted island within a body. So it’s almost a disease that you can expel. That’s how it’s seen by the power structure.
The problem is that nobody takes responsibility. So if a neighbor takes a refugee on board, they also take the responsibility of caring for that individual. But because they are not allowed to leave, and the government is persecuting them, they actually have no kind of aid, or structure to support them. These are very interesting kind of contexts. It’s a bubble that you…you start to think how small is it going to get. What often happens is that the persecution ends up as an extermination. But very often, they won’t exterminate them, they just don’t want them in any urban context so they end up out in more or less natural landscapes to try and [survive?] on their own.
But there’s also other spectrums which are very interesting about isolation or quarantine. They can also be demystified and glorified. And almost treated as a glorious event. So when the Apollo astronauts came down back to Earth, they were in masks from the minute they left their capsule which was in the sea. They went into hazmat suits. They left their capsule in the sea and they were rescued by helicopters, and they were wearing hazmat suits. So the ritual of the astronaut coming down from the helicopter into the aircraft carrier and greeting the captains, which we had at pre-Apollo missions…all the missions that went into orbit, that suddenly disappears and it’s never in cameras. So there’s a gap in the narrative because these individuals were only seen when they came down to Johnson Space Center and they were in an Airstream trailer until they came down to a larger facility. And that’s where they were kind of greeted by Nixon and so forth.
But this was all ceremonious, you know. It was the same idea of containment, the same idea of quarantine. Let’s see if these guys drop dead from the moon or not. But it was…all these layers of stigmatization were peeled off by a ritualization of the hero coming back from Earth, and you know…
Lambert: Coming back to Earth.
Garcia: Exactly, coming back to Earth. I think for me that was a very curious… I think probably, it was probably the first time in history—I’m not sure about this—probably the first time in history where a ritual of quarantine was seen globally, accepted globally, and the only ones complaining were actually the astronauts themselves but they weren’t really allowed to complain because they had the world’s microphones in their noses. And the action was kind of peeled off. And there was only the shell of the place without the stigma of quarantine. I haven’t worked out what it actually implied later on, but I think it would [get?] a very curious event, a very exceptional event.
Lambert: I’m afraid there won’t be much of transition here, but as I said a little bit earlier, it’d be a shame not to talk about Michel Foucault when we talk about quarantine, because in his seminar at the Collège de France that’s called “The Abnormal,” from the 1974, he’s been describing a city that is under quarantine because there’s a plague, a suspicion of plague cases, in this city. And not only his description is extremely interesting in terms of for historical value but obviously because it’s because it’s Foucault it won’t stop at the simple histor…already complex, but—historical description but it’s telling us something about the mechanisms of powers that are at work in this particular event. So Foucault describes, on the absolute opposite of another very large disease that was more present during the Medieval era, which was leprosy, which as soon as you got it you were declared as dead, socially speaking and you were expelled from the city. So here it’s actually a little bit more complex and it can relate to what Foucault later has been calling biopolitics, a politics that is taking his subject and making each individual a subject through his or her very life and the administration of this life.
So, anyway I’m getting a little bit long here but the description of Foucault is based on something called quarillage in French that’s pretty hard to translate. But a sort of administrative…so virtually administrative, and physically in terms of policing and examination of every single part of the city, with every single inhabitant being in their house for a given time. And every day somebody coming by and asking to see every single person in the family to see if there is any case of the plague.
And so Foucault described that at length, obviously. But he’s also saying that this mode of sovereignty that is being expressed through the state of quarantine is very much the power of administration of life. And there’s no more bodies being expelled from the city. The bodies are being kept very much so within the city, and their lives are being administrated by transcendental entity somehow.
I’m talking…too much. But David, maybe you have something to say…that maybe it resonates for you in some ways.
Garcia: Well there’s the obvious power structure that with more or less argument establishes a series of protocols to try and kind of protect society. And it’s interesting to actually look closer to other societies have self-regulated these instances. And there’s mechanisms for example in Greenland in in their traditional culture until not so many years ago, where individuals in these very small villages would self-decide in an autonomous way, “Well, I think my family is one family too many,” and there is a potential of incest and some inbred diseases that could cost that microsociety to collapse. So it meant that they would migrate. And take the risk of finding another site far away that could allow for [livery?] and fishing. But this was a system of being able to survive, in a way, within a very small enclave.
And it is described not as the elderly saying you’re gonna have to leave, it was kind of…nobody was forced to, it was kind of obvious, apparently. Someone suddenly clicked and said, “Okay, I’m just gonna start a family. I think it’s us. I think we’re gonna go on.” Whether that was obviously true or not it’s hard to know, but there wasn’t the evidence of a very direct imposition.
That also resulted in the lack of stigmatization of adopting children. Something that still happens today and there’s no stigma. You know, many of the politicians are from adoptive families because if you had too many children your neighbor would say you know, we can take care of one of yours because you don’t have enough resources. So these ideas of self-regulation in some societies are very interesting. And they permeate on the control, on the containment, but also on the release of control and containment in areas as the infant and lately your definition of a family through the infants.
And I think that those are very interesting to compare, because obviously in the West we have difficulty in accepting…or maybe…you could call it self-sacrifice of self-regulation, I don’t know. But I think that there are reflections in societies of power structures that are not imposing. I think perhaps it feeds the seriousness of…the lack of some of these actions feeds into the society—the way they grow up and the values that they acquire.
Which brings me to something very interesting, you know. When is this ever taught in any school system or educational process? The idea of containment, the idea of isolation, the idea of how you as an individual are treated and recognized in your society. I think this is something that comes very very late. And you can see how children have a very different way of relating as well to those power structures when suddenly they fall upon you or the family. And I think some societies are much more stronger in kind of channeling and visualizing that power than others are.
Lambert: If I hear you correctly, family as a form of social structure will be a form of containment as well?
Garcia: Well I think you… There is a containment. There’s a protection instinct that defines some distancing. So there’s a very specific type of bubble that extends to your children, and that you are becoming a reflection of what the social structure is with you in a very silent and maybe unconscious way. So there is a constant control of the child’s movements. Don’t touch this, don’t touch that person, right. So there’s already an education of containment…which is most of the time for the best. You don’t want your children to get sick. But that fear overtakes sometimes the liberty of that individual, and I think in the nuclear definition of a family it often is a very direct reflection of how we are treated by other power structures, and it just literally seeps through.
Being the fact that safety is just one of these parameters that can break down almost any rationale. If you say “that is not safe” it becomes suddenly paramount, and everything else is put into question at best. At worst it’s literally put at the end of the line. And we experience it as a society but I think you experience it in the nucleus of the domestic enclave as well.
Lambert: So one of the other MAP publication was based on a trip you did in Chernobyl. And in a few weeks you will also go to Fukushima, which constitute for both of them another type of quarantine landscape. Can you maybe tell us a bit more about that?
Garcia: Yeah. I think works what’s interesting is that it is a quarantine landscape. It’s not the individual that becomes quarantined, because radiation is per se not something which is contagious. But the landscape, the dust, and the layer of earth that’s been irradiated, that becomes suddenly quarantined. A landscape becomes trapped on its own frontier, which is interesting. Individuals normally are removed. Although, there are families that have decided to stay and inhabit within that landscape, maybe bringing us back to the first example that we talked about, how the individual decides to meet its landscape, be with its family—in this case the family being the landscape and not being…literally deciding I don’t care if I die, this is my place.
So the comment that I started this discussion with of a family member reuniting themselves with disease or with someone they love and engaging in the disease also can happen in how you will perhaps decide to engage with your landscape. And I think that’s very interesting.
But when you quarantine a landscape the results are also curious. The largest natural reserve in Europe is actually the Exclusion zone in Chernobyl. And it’s the only place which has wild horses in all of Europe. So because humans have been kept away, suddenly nature has been allowed to thrive, kind of taking the idea of disease into another perspective and kind of throwing it back into us, you know. How are we engaging with the natural landscape. Is there a similarity to a disease when that landscape is isolated from us and suddenly it thrives? I think that’s an interesting discourse as well.
There are other elements which become quarantined or isolated. I mean those spaces, because there is no presence of humans, almost become also time bubbles, almost time capsules on their own. And the lack of presence of individuals makes it even more eerie when suddenly the invisible danger of radiation is revealed through an interface, a Geiger counter. So, situation normal—literally we have a SNAFU context. Everything looks okay, but it’s actually in very bad shape.
But there are breakers. And I think this brings to how a landscape can be inoculated, or pseudo-innoculated. In one of the projects, we could see the territories used by migratory birds. And they eat the seeds which are irradiated, and lots of these birds die, or one of the immediate effects is that their brains actually shrink in size. And that means impediments in many levels, which researchers are looking into. But we’ve curiously found by talking to researchers that flax, a quite common plant, when planted on irradiated soil their seeds are not irradiated.
So suddenly you can introduce this element that can survive and thrive, and its fruit taken by the birds does not carry radiation. And it’s not an inoculation but you’re creating an oasis within a containment. Which plays again on what we’ve been talking about, how elements within a context can be pockets of violence. Within your body, within a landscape, within a society. Pockets of disease within the non-disease, or pockets of health within the disease. And that flip back and forth—it’s literally the history of containment and quarantine. You’ve always had the ship becoming an island, becoming a quarantine, becoming the opposite, which is free movement. So it becomes quite blurred often, how these pockets are almost like…Klein bottles.
Lambert: And I suppose so far we’ve been talking about it in a very anthropocentric way. But the very fact that Chernobyl has this richness of plants and animals… It may be linked to the fact that we are thinking of it within a certain almost moralistic, I would like to say, point of view because—obviously, because as the humans that we are are endangered by…whether we’re talking about viruses or radiation. But that’s not a universal truth. Obviously for some plants it’s actually…it may be a beneficial thing. So it’s interesting maybe to think of it as well in a bit less of an anthropocentric sustainability, maybe, and stop wondering what the Earth wants but maybe more like how is that all working together, right?
Garcia: Yeah. I think what’s interesting about the Exclusion Zone is that the individual is removed. The anthropocentric perspective is still there, but you’re not participating. And you kind of have this strange test tube where nature is trying to deal with our own disaster.
But what’s interesting is that we have treated the context and the landscape as we would treat a person. It’s exactly the same way. We still have 3,000 scientists that go into that landscape and try to understand it. But that understanding is also a desire to salvage it, and to cure it. We have one of the world’s largest engineering projects being built right now to cover the reactor. Mainly because that reactor is so unstable that if it gets a lot of water another explosion could happen. So the core of Chernobyl is still heavily unstable. There’s about a ton of uranium. So suddenly, it’s the inoculation, right. We still intercede, but for our own good not for the landscape. Or not for the species that live in the landscape. So the perspective is still very positivistic. It’s still a very analytical and positivistic take on science and our presence on a context. Which makes you think, you know, if there are other alternatives to that.
Lambert: Well, David thank you very much. I invite everybody to consult your MAP as well as your own studio projects and your student projects that are extremely unique. And that was for today. Thank you.
Garcia: Thank you.
Architectures of Quarantine and Containment episode page