Oculus - Winter 2015 - (Page 32)
©Courtesy of SITU Research and Forensic Architecture
In April 2010, SITU Research
collaborated with Forensic
Architecture on a report
investigating the death of
Bassem Abu-Rahma, a
Palestinian man killed during
a peaceful protest in the West
Bank village of Bil'in. A spatial
analysis included this 3D
virtual model reconstruction of
the scene at the moment of
3D for the Defense
An architecture firm's research arm
empowers human rights activism
through spatial analysis
B Y Jon At hA n L e r n e r
If architecture is about creating beautiful spaces,
SPEA can do so only in a metaphysical and
paradoxical way, by helping to redress injustice.
This kind of work "in its highest ambitions, is a
form of accountability."
Oculus Winter 2015
rchitecture would seem to have little to do with global human rights work.
Yet SITU Research, a branch of Brooklyn-based SITU Studio, is undertaking a project called Spatial Practice as Evidence and Advocacy (SPEA) with
just that in mind. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation and the Oak Foundation, SITU will apply the technologies of
geospatial analysis and visualization to help human rights groups in their factfinding, legal work, and advocacy campaigns. "It's very much at the perimeter
of traditional architectural practice," explains Bradley Samuels, a SITU partner.
If architecture is about creating beautiful spaces, SPEA can do so only in a
metaphysical and paradoxical way, by helping to redress injustice. Its tools "are
the same ones we use in our design projects," he says. "It's just that the human
rights organizations haven't necessarily integrated these capabilities in-house."
SPEA's first project is in aid of attorneys representing the families of 49 participants in the Maidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, who were killed on February
20, 2014. "There's a lot of video content taken that day, documenting the same
few hours from many different vantages," Samuels says. SPEA's role is "synthesizing all the spatial information that can help us understand what happened,"
not only the sequence of events, but also precisely where they occurred. It
was "a well-organized protest in a dense urban context, so understanding the
spatial realities of the site is a big part" of helping construct a legal case to hold
the perpetrators responsible. In a courtroom, he points out, objective and
quantifiable information can count.
SPEA is not SITU Research's first human rights venture. The firm collaborated between 2010 and 2013 in a European Research Council project called
Forensic Architecture - a title that in its startling juxtaposition of normally unrelated terms quickly indicates that disciplinary boundaries are being crossed.
One investigation produced visuals to accompany a Human Rights Watch report on a crowded prison in Syria. Using Grasshopper software, SITU, says its
website, "developed a dynamic 3D model with adjustable parameters reflecting
the dimensions of the detention cell, the number of prisoners to be retained
inside the cell, the area occupied by one prisoner inside the cell, the distance
Reinventing Architecture: Design in a Digital World
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2015
First Words Letter from Two Presidents
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: Practical Attitudes
ICE in the River: Cornell Tech’s Center of Connectivity
Restoring – At Least Virtually – One of England’s Greatest Lost Buildings
At the Corner of Past and Present
The Design-Fabrication Dynamic
How Big Data is Reshaping Architecture
Architecture at the Digital Edge
3D for the Defense
Thinking Beyond the Flat Page
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Winter 2015