Nepal Agenda_Iteration 1 and Iteration 2

[Details and Credits]

Nepal Agenda: After Nature [Iteration one]

Advanced Option Studio, Spring Semester 2016. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD_ASD).

Tutors: Eva Castro, Federico Ruberto, Ignacio Lopez Buson.

[Group1: Bhote Koshi] Students: Bai Xueni, Jean Lee, Liu Hongzhe, Ong Yong Siang, Rachel Tan.

[Group2: Lal Bakaiya “Strategies for a resilient food production system in the Lal Bakaiya watershed”] Students: Cheryl Ng, Chloe Tan, Lee Zi Qing, Matthew Yeo, Tee Yong Kiat.

[Group3: Madi River “Open Water Network] Students: Au Cheuk Yee, Chan Wei Jie, Ee Hui Jie, Jezamine Chua, Sia Chin Kiat


Nepal Agenda: After Nature [Iteration two

Advanced Option Studio, Spring Semester 2018. Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD_ASD).

Tutors: Eva Castro and Federico Ruberto.

[Group 1: Bhote Koshi “Strengthening Alpine Habitats] Students: Peng Haonan (Senior), Daryl Ho (Senior), Iffah (Masters), Timothy (Masters), Amanda (Masters).

[Group 2: Madi River “Hydro Territories”] Students: Chew Cheng York, Caroline, Wei Lin, Daniel Tay.

[Group 3: Lal Bakaiya “Assembling Agricultural Cities”] Students: Lim Wan Rong (Iris), Cheryl Lim Jia Li, Joei Wee Shi Xuan, Michel Sim Yi Ting, Zhao Zhqing.


The unit has landscape urbanism’s methodology at its core (different is the case of South China Sea Agenda) and focuses on mapping/indexing three Nepal’s rural areas, their risks, trends, political and geopolitical actors that define their material logics and structures. With this methodology we aim at defining synthetic design strategies —cutting through data— to develop autonomously built communities, locally grounded but unconditionally committed to the creation of a common (meaning global) infrastructure, and to see nature as a “second (technological) nature”. Specifically the Unit’s aim is to investigate logics of development of  communities ranging from 20000 to 500000 people, villages detached from main centers of urbanization that become networks of cities, centers that in the process of growing must utilize the “site” as the opportunity to determine their own, relative independence. Communities are formed by designing their decentralized processes of shared-regulations, which are syntheses of local-material opportunities and socio-cultural demands. We intend to explore urban mechanisms closely, bringing the purely territorial analysis and intervention to its systemic geometrical and topological concretization.

The sites of intervention (and the territorial “strategies” deployed therein) are the following:

-Madi River (micro-dams, terracing for water harvesting, reconnecting existing villages); -Lal Bakaiya (agricultural intensification, seasonal river dynamics, moving existing villages to higher plateaux); -Bhote Koshi (agricultural production and urbanization on steep slopes, fostering interconnectivity between existing villages).

[References_Citations_Starting Points]

[What Can Architecture Do? Tafuri on Hilberseimer…]

“In the face of modernized production techniques and the expansion and rationalization of the market, the architect, as producer of ‘objects’, became an incongruous figure. It was no longer a question of giving form to single elements of the urban fabric, not even to simple prototypes. Once the true unity of the production cycle has been identified in the city, the only task the architect can have is to organize the cycle. Taking this proposition to its extreme conclusion, Hilberseimer insists on the role of elaborating ‘organizational models’ as the only one that can fully reflect the need for Taylorizing building production, as the newest task of the technician, who is now completely integrated into this process”.

“On the basis of this position, Hilberseimer was able to avoid involvement in the ‘crisis of the object so anxiously articulated by such architect as Loos and Taut. For Hilberseimer, the object was not in crisis because it had already disappeared from his spectrum of considerations. The only emerging imperative was that dictated by the laws of organization, and therein lies what has been correctly seen as Hilberseimer’s greatest contribution” (Manfredo Tafuri, “Towards a Critique of Architectural Ideology”, in Heys, ed., “Architeture theory since 1968, p.22. From PV Aureli, “The Project of Autonoty”, p.77)


[What About Technology and (Shared-)Universalism?]

“The left must take advantage of every technological and scientific advance made possible by capitalist society. We declare that quantification is not an evil to be eliminated, but a tool to be used in the most effective manner possible. Economic modelling is — simply put — a necessity for making intelligible a complex world. […] The tools to be found in social network analysis, agent-based modelling, big data analytics, and non-equilibrium economic models, are necessary cognitive mediators for understanding complex systems like the modern economy. The accelerationist left must become literate in these technical fields”  (Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek – “Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”)


[Local and/or/if Global]

“While producing new spaces involves —at least for a while— a certain closure, it invariably also constructs possibilities hitherto unheard or undreamed. Negotiating the cliff between tending to the specific and the local, while aspiring to the universal and the common, spatio-temporal utopias recognise the importance of closure, of choosing, of -if need be- excluding, yet are sensitive to the processual dynamics of emancipatory change. This requires not only the mobilisation of enormous creative powers, but also a courage and will (something critical intellectuals seem to have cowardly retreated from) to search for the universal in the particular, to painfully carve out the niches where possibilities for change reside, to enter the troubled waters of forging alliances and to connect the threads that emanate from all those that resist the forces of globalisation” (Erik Swyngedouw and Maria Kaika, “The Making of the ‘Glocal’ Urban Modernities: Exploring the Cracks in the Mirror”)

“As we become increasingly confronted by such complex local/global objects of ungraspable proportion (both large and miniscule) and since these objects defy the category of concrete proximity and sense experience as a justification for reasoning, this epistemic traction can only be an alienated one. Tackling what we could call ‘average-objects’ […] entails an engagement with non-presentness” […] “Because these “average-objects” elude presentness, getting a foothold on them requires computational intervention; they require modelling and diagrammatic articulation to make them amenable to cognition” (Patricia Reed, “Xenophily and computational denaturalization”)


[Engineering (the Local/Global multi-scalar dichotomy)…World-Building]

“To reengineer and recognize reality, one can neither adopt a universal concept or paradigm nor just local and perspectival concepts. Both the overarching paradigm and local malleable solution are needed.” (Reza Negarestani, “Engineering the World, Crafting the Mind”)

“I would say universalism is at its core concerned with world-building or more precisely world-engineering to the extent that our premise, resource and space of labour is always this world and not some imaginary world or an afterlife heaven. The possible world cannot be one that is sealed off from this world, a universe or a commune that exists parallel to our world. The former is merely a fantasy, the latter is not only phantasmic but also parasitic upon the pathologies the real world without even realizing it. To sum up, the path to concrete universalism always begins from particularities of our experience of the world which are constituted by abstract universalities. So, in a sense, the trajectory of universalism should always begin from local conditions of thinking and action, rather than a purported universal condition under which we can all be integrated and unified. But this trajectory does not end with the local, it must pass through stages and encompass the global conditions of thinking and action. Remaining in the ambit the local is actually what suffers from a delusive idealism, not universalism. Why? Because this localism abides by the myth of a closed system in which jobs can get done effectively and perfectly. But a closed system is simply an idealized state, to mistake an idealized model with the messy reality is a hallmark of credulity.” (Reza Negarestani, “Engineering the World, Crafting the Mind”)


[The Politics of/and Infrastructure]

“[…] infrastructural assemblages are involved in the active social production of urban natures, for example when the hydrological systems of entire continents are shaped over centuries by practices of urban water engineering and river management, or through the ways in which capitalism sustains long-distance resource-grabs – for food, energy or water –that add to the power of political or economic urban elites. Such productions of nature are profoundly political, even though these politics are often obfuscated by conventional ways of thinking about infrastructures as being wholly technical, separated from the entirely different and equally asocial domain of nature.” (Stephen Graham: “Between Nature, Culture, Society, Technology and Politics: The ‘Infrastructural Turn”, in “Critical Territories – From Academia to Praxis”)

“In sum, the city embodies produced socio-ecological processes and, consequently, the process of urbanization is an integral part of the production of new environments and new natures in which socio-natural processes combine to produce historically specific geographical configurations .” (Erik Swyngedouw, “Circulations And Metabolism: (Hybrid) Natures and (Cyborg) Cities”)


__What is the functioning space, the architectonic, of actuality? See B.Bratton’s “stack” as a conceptual knot to understand actuality in “The Black Stacks” he writes “we wrestle with the irregular abstractions of information, time, and territory, and the chaotic de-lamination of (practical) sovereignty from the occupation of place. For this, a nomos of the Cloud would, for example, draw jurisdiction not only according to the horizontal subdivision of physical sites by and for states, but also according to the vertical stacking of interdependent layers on top of one another: two geometries sometimes in cahoots, sometimes completely diagonal and unrecognizable to one another”. See also L.Parisi’s “Reprogramming Decisionism”.

__Common Utopia 2.0 = the schizophrenia between Universalism and Autonomy?

__What aspects of contemporaneity makes “modern” utopias un-actualizable?

__What is today to project autonomy”? What is “self-sufficiency” in contemporaneity? Is “autonomy” actualizable in any form? What does it mean to design for a (localized) “community”?

__In which way “green” self-sufficiency is deployed by main stream discourse becoming the new opium of the masses? How to to think nature as a process of augmentation and exiting both: the immobilizing impasse, the environmental collapse denialists, and the brainwashing greenificaton (undercover mode for more consumption)?

__How does data+infrastructure make space? See Shannon Mattern’s “Mapping Intelligent Agents” and “Indexing the World of Tomorrow”.

__What strategy and what tactics to design a community?

__“Acceleration” (N.Srnicek and A.Williams, 12) or “withdrawal” (J.Camatte)?

__How could a radical project for a localized community be implemented given its interconnectedness to the trans-scalar, trans-national, and ubiquitous infrastructure augmenting but also controlling the “world”?

__”Autonomy” does not mean “withdrawal” from a catastrophic reality, but the implementation of new “local” means that can serve as stimuli/examples for other development to happen globally in different forms, with different materialities and with different ideals… radically different but belonging to the one same principle (implicitly to “be” is to be a “difference” among “differences”, a multitude subjected to, within, the “generic”). Autonomy is local/universalism… a schizophrenia…, an autonomy of means (ideals/materials) that points at being together with the “all”. 

__Could we start thinking the intersection between autonomy and universalism by reforming the medium of social production/exchange? New form of communication and exchange, new monetary tokens, new technology of synthesis….Blockchain: a new form of digital contracts and form of geo-affirmation? Blockchain (and its core ideology, that of verifiable-decentralization allowing emergent relations to be established without explicit coercion) should be conceptually at least implemented in community-making. Taking blockchain NOT to go towards: nomadic seclusion-withdrawals, nor  into elitarian silicon-valley type of nomadism (see Thiel’s sea-steading and the techno utopians of silicon valley). “Autonomy” can be transformed in a toxic utopia sustaining the desires of the few.

__Imperatively: Community-making trough shared infrastructure require a thought that does not dwell on technocratic-parametrized bases pushed by “anarco-feudal” ideals.

__“Blockchain” could be a tool to render the process of community-sharing more transparent, or to create a local means of exchange through which the community could decide how and where internally to invest transparently (See the case of   Berkeley 123,… among many others).