Space without Borders

While I am on the subject of books, I was reminded of an essay by Eyal Weizman titled Lethal Theory. Truthfully, I do not know what the whole essay discussed. I do however, remember some interesting theories that caused me to daydream and skim through the last half of the text.  Weizman recounted the interactions between the fighting units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian guerrilla fighters in the Palestinian city of Nablus in April 2002.  The idea that sent my concentration on a spiraling downward path was a comment about the way the troops moved within the city.  With the dense city saturated with soldiers from either side of the conflict the guerrilla fighters were planing traps and ambushes for their opponents.  The Palestinians expected the IDF to follow the logical path of least resistance and laid traps in door ways and corridors and posted scouts at windows and in alleys.

The IDF recognized this pattern and began to alter their attitude towards logical movement. In an interview with Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, commander of the Paratrooper Brigade of the IDF, Kokhavi told Weizman

We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps, I want to surprise him!

Space without borders was born.  Not wanting to be predictable and fall into the Palestinian traps, the IDF began moving through the city in “swarms,” blasting and crashing their way through walls, refusing to pass through doorways or alleys.  From one room to the next, zigging and zagging through the city.  One home at a time they closed in on their enemy.

Another example of operational architecture?

Wired Magazine’s guide to Valve’s Portal

The really enticing bit of the story was how they came upon this solution.  From the onset of the conflict the commanders realized there was a need to create a new way of thinking about and perceiving space in order to penetrate the Palestinian defenses.  Generals and soldiers alike began studying Architectural text in an attempt to transform their methods of interpreting space within the city.  Allowing them to find more creative solutions than simply using a door for a door.  The military was training self-proclaimed  “operational architects.”

As I am trained as a “traditional architect,” I tend to consider the space left behind after these “operational architects” complete their work.  Like a terrifying version of the giant Koolaid man, the swarms of troops crash from room to room in erratic patterns.  Redefining space within the homes they pass-through by creating openings where there used to be none.  Imagine the new relationship you would have with your siblings if suddenly there was a direct connection between your two rooms, or how much better you would have to get along with your neighbor if the common wall you share was suddenly torn down and in its place was a gaping irregular opening.  Maybe you would be fortunate enough to conceal the opening, with a bookshelf or a drapery, but you always know it’s there, ready to be used like a secret passage way our of Indiana Jones.  Perhaps if you had an opening blasted through your dinning room ceiling, and you were optimistic enough, you would consider installing a fireman’s pole and never having the kids late for dinner again.

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