Territory versus Territory
A positive review of the recent AD Territory, is a good excuse to further explore recent iterations of the “territory” concept and its relations to earlier ideas.
The theme of Territory appears to be moving through several publications these days, but with many different variations rooted in earlier uses of the term. For example, Foucault’s notion of territory as the site of state power (“governmentality”) is explored in the book Territories, Camps and Islands by the KunstWerk group out of Berlin. In this model territory takes on a Foucauldian (or Agamben) literalness, where territory equals the space of government in the “outland” of cities and nations. Here territory has a conspiratorial, vanguard nature. More architectural is Oase magazine’s recent theme issue devoted to Vittorio Gregotti’s notion of Territory. Gregotti’s mid-1960s concept emerged from the city/territory debates of post-war Italians (bits of it have been translated into English, here and here). Gregotti extended Ernesto Rogers concept of “preexisting conditions” and Rossi’s notion of the “Architecture of the City” to the regions surrounding expanding cities. Here Territory is the entire pre-existing realm in which human constructs must be situated (eg. notions of “site” or “place”) – like a vast geography made visible through architecture.
The idea of territory found in the Territory issue of AD certainly draws on the Foucauldian concept of territory as a site of management. But it’s closest to Antoine Picon’s concept of Territory, outlined in his book on 18th century French architects and engineers; and it relates a bit to Manuel Sola-Morales concept of Territory, outlined in his late-1970s issue of Lotus on the planned manipulation of the newly independent Catalonian territory (though still a bit related to Gregotti). Within Picon’s work in particular, territory is an active process (more than a thing or locale) in which nature is under a constant state of transformability via human constructions within and outside it. For Picon, this is achieved via a dialectical relation between objects and representations (eg. bridges and maps). This notion of territory as a representational and material project provides us with a less easily romanticized and ultimately more robust concept than many of its earlier iterations.