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San Rocco

San Rocco


San rocco

San Rocco

Call For Papers

San Rocco 1:


An island is any piece of land that is surrounded by water. An island is any object lost in an endless extension of a uniform element.
As such, the island is isolated.
The island is by definition remote, separated, intimately alternative.
The island is elsewhere.
Islands can be natural or artificial: atolls, rocks, volcanos, oases, spaceships, oil rigs, carriers.
In his L’île déserte, Gilles Deleuze divides islands into the oceanic and the continental. Oceanic are “originary, essential islands”. Continental are “accidental, derivative islands”.
San Rocco 2 will try to use oceanic and continental as categories to explore the possibility of architectural islands, either literally or by analogy.
Oceanic islands are the radical islands, truly isolatednot only in space, but also in time. Oceanic islands have no past. Oceanic islands are immediately a “new world”, a reconstruction, a miniature, a utopia. Oceanic islands need to contain everything, because they cannot rely on anything else. Oceanic islands are “a world”, one that appeared all of a sudden. Oceanic islands are fortresses (and fortresses are  always doomed to surrender). Contrary to an archipelago, which is a project of a civilization, an oceanic island is a project of a world (and a project of escape).
Continental islands, on the contrary, are the product of the erosion of a continent. Continental islands are linked to something that exists close by or that existed sometime before. Like icebergs, they are the ruins of what previously contained them. Continental islands are fragments. They presuppose a totality (either lost or promised), to which they belong. Continental islands can be part of a larger ensemble: a continent, an archipelago, a city. Continental islands are “urban” islands. They host the domesticated heterotopias that are necessary in a city: prisons, zoos, hospitals, theme parks.
In the next pages San Rocco presents a provisional list of islands we would like to explore in detail:

33°02’N 44°26’E/ Baghdad

Possibly the most radical island city ever built (even more than  Venice  or  Tenochtitlan)  is  Al  Mansur’s  Baghdad. The round city was not only walled off and surrounded by water, and not only isolated in the desert, but also stubbornly utopian, and deliberately different from anything else. Even if Creswell lists at least twelve known circular cities dating to before Al Mansur’s city (see the list in K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture [London: Penguin, 1958]), Baghdad stands out as the most radical, most accomplished example. The design of Al Mansur’s city is as notorious as it is unknown. Only descriptions survive. Nothing of Baghdad’s original construction remains. No ruins, no drawings. The descriptions of the city are fascinating but unclear; the absoluteness of the circular border and of the monumental centre of the city combine with a dark zone in between, whose purpose remains unknown.
The city was enclosed in a circle about two kilometres in diameter, which led it to be known as “al-Mudawara”, or “the round city”. A ring of residential and commercial structures ran along the inside of the city walls. In the centre of the city lay the Golden Gate Palace (the Caliph’s residence) with a green dome, which was thirty-nine metres high, and the mosque. Surrounding the palace was an esplanade, in which only the Caliph could come riding on horseback. The walls were pierced at inter-cardinal points by four gates that opened towards Kufa, Basra, Khorasan and Damascus, with roads radiating outward in those directions. Each gate had double doors made of iron. The thirty-metre-high wall was about forty-four metres thick at the base and about twelve metres thick at the top. This wall was surrounded by another wall with a thickness of fifty metres, protected by solid glacis and by a water-filled moat. The walls were made of mud bricks. Al Khatib states that in each of the layers there were 162,000 bricks.
The founding of Baghdad was astrologically planned, and the architects (the Zoroastrian Naubakht and the Jewish Mashallah) decided the date of foundation (30 July 145 AH, or 762 AD) by considering the horoscope of the Caliph and then translated it into the city plan.
By the tenth century, the city’s population was between 1.2 and 2 million, making it the largest city on the planet at the time.
On February 655 AH (1258 AD) Baghdad was besieged by the Mongols, led by Hulegu Khan. On February 10, Baghdad surrendered. The Mongols swept into the city on February 13 and began a week of massacre and destruction. Many quarters were ruined by fire or looting. The Mongols massacred most of the city’s inhabitants, including the Caliph Al-Musta’sim, and destroyed large sections of the city. The canals and dykes forming the city’s irrigation system were also destroyed. San Rocco proposes imagining a reconstruction of Al Mansur’s Baghdad.

45°59’N 1°12’WFort Boyard

Fort Boyard is a pile of stone located between the Ìle d’Aix and the Ìle d’Olëron in the sluice of Antioch, on the west coast of France. It is 61 m long, 31 m wide, and 20 m high.
In plan, Fort Boyard looks like a cookie (a Pavesino, to be precise) or a little primordial bug. As an object in the sea, it seems like the boat version of the Slag Brothers’ Boulder Mobile in Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races cartoon. Strangely enough, this clumsy, funny – and actually quite little – thing is a fortress.
It is no surprise that this military machine never worked. The construction of the fort was first considered by Louis XIV, but Vauban, his leading military engineer, advised against it. Construction of the fort did not begin in earnest until 1801 under Napoleon, in order to protect the arsenal of Rochefort from possible incursions by British navies. Following difficulties in establishing a firm base, the project was suspended in 1809. Construction resumed in 1837 under Louis-Philippe. The fortifications were completed in 1857, with sufficient room for a garrison of 250 men. However, by the time of its completion, the range of cannons had markedly increased, thereby making the fort unnecessary for national defence. In 1988 restoration work commenced on Fort Boyard in order to prepare it for a television game show, also named Fort Boyard.

37°10’N 12°43’E/ Ferdinandea

It was the end of June, 1831, when some earthquake tremors were felt along the southwest coast of Sicily. The sea was turbulent and the air smelt of sulphur. Then a column of smoke was seen at a distance of thirty miles from Sciacca. On the same day, the brig Gustavo passed through the area, confirming a bubbling in the sea that the captain thought was a sea monster. Another ship reported dead fish floating in the water. July 17 was the time for the earth’s rebirth, a spectacular and terrifying event accompanied by the release of lava, ashes and lapilli and the creation of towering water columns. At its largest, the island reached a circumference of 4.8 kilometres and a height of sixty-three metres. It had a circular form and an irregular skyline.
A dispute over the sovereignty of the new Mediterranean volcano immediately erupted, at first between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of two Sicilies. For the British, the island was the property of the UK and hence was quickly named Graham Island. At the same time, Ferdinand II, who was in Sicily during the summer of 1831, and after whom Sicilians christened the island Ferdinandea, sent ships to the nascent island to claim it for the Bourbon crown. The French Navy also made a landing, naming the island Julia. Even Spain declared its territorial ambitions, for the island had a useful position along the Mediterranean trade route, and so for five months the conflict raged in newspapers and diplomatic offices as the various nations fought over the piece of basalt. However, as quickly as the island had appeared, it disappeared. By December 17 the island had vanished completely. Today, the “island” lies six metres below sea level. The rush to plant a flag on such a provisional piece of earth seems like a sort of geopolitical farce, a Swiftian bagatelle that ridiculed nineteenth-century diplomacy. In 2000, renewed seismic activity around Ferdinandea led volcanologists to speculate that a new eruptive episode could be imminent, and the seamount might once again emerge as an island. To forestall a renewal of the property disputes, Italian divers placed a 150-kilogram marble plaque on top of the volcano. It read: “This piece of land, once Ferdinandea, belonged and shall always belong to the Sicilian people.” But six months later the stone had been fractured into pieces. Was it an accident? Who broke it? Good old Colonel Gaddafi? Perhaps it is the beginning of the screenplay for a new Bond film: “The Island That Lived Twice”.

The Floating Prisons of Fincantieri

Fincantieri ( recently proposed resolving the problem of Italy’s overcrowded jails by constructing floating prisons that could be moored in abandoned harbours, in military arsenals or along unused stretches of the nation’s coast. The proposal grew out of similar interventions recently studied and developed in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US.
The new floating prisons are expected to be realized in twenty-four months. Fincantieri’s design includes 320 sixteen-square-metre cells, which can host 640 prisoners. The floating prisons will be 126 metres long, 33 metres wide and 34.8 metres high.
The project is composed of modules and, as a result, can be expanded. The area for the prisoners is 5,000 m2, while the offices, talking areas, infirmary and multipurpose hall occupy 3,900 m2. External spaces come to a total of 2,700 m2. The prison’s volume is 83,000 cubic meters and its tonnage is 24,800 GT. The floating prison will be easily linked with the shore, without increasing the costs associated with a traditional prison on the mainland.
San Rocco does not know more about this design.
Can you find information? Could you propose a design by using this data as a point of departure? What if these floating prisons could move, like Roman galleys? Could they perhaps combine tourism and punishment? The Love Boat meets Ben Hur . . . ?

35°19’N 136°42’E/ Hashima

There is no time left for a pacific compromise: the climax of Battle Royale has been reached. The Wild Seven declare war on adults. Tokyo is under attack, while Japanese society is collapsing: At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed.
At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. Adults lost confidence and, fearing the young, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act, aka the BR Act . . . 
To a movie director’s eye, there could be no better place to stage the “Battle Royale” than Hashima Island. Hashima   may   be   the   monstrous   masterpiece   of Westernized,  industrialized  Japan.  For  almost  ninety years, thousands of people, many of whom were probably  forcibly  recruited  from  other  parts  of  Asia,  inhabited the world’s most densely populated island in order to dig coal for Mitsubishi. Like a fortress standing fiercely upon the sea and surrounded by high walls, the island possessed an air of self-sufficiency. Every basic need could be satisfied on the island, except finding a place to be buried. Nowadays, an ashen daylight pervades the deserted island. Only ghosts have remained in Hashima, whose nights are darker than darkness and whose days are grayer than rotting concrete.

45°53’N 8°31’E/ Isola Bella

Isola Bella, or “the beautiful island”, is a little island in northern Italy’s Lake Maggiore. Isola Bella is one of the about sixty historical “buildings” appearing in Fischer von Erlach’s Entwurff of 1721. Isola Bella is depicted as the last illustration in the second book as the last classic episode before the exotic architecture that dominates the third.
Fischer’s Isola Bella looks far emptier and far more slender than the real one (the real island measures about 320 by 400 metres). Fischer’s Isola Bella is portrayed with the same extremely elongated perspective as the pool in OMA’s “The Story of the Pool”. The elongated perspective is a way of introducing the issue of remoteness into the drawing. Both island and pool seem to stretch towards something far away.
However, if the pool is clearly moving, due to the efforts of the Constructivists escaping the USSR, Isola Bella is supposedly idle. But are we sure? As with the
Constructivists in the pool, we suspect that there is a secret hidden within Isola Bella. Can it move as the pool does? Is it possible that the Isola Bella will one day escape from Lake Maggiore? Maybe move to Lake Como? Or to Switzerland?

0°31’S, 166°56’E/ Nauru

Nauru is a 21.4-square-kilometre island in the middle of the Pacific.
It is a phosphate rock island whose phosphate deposits originated from the droppings of sea birds. Nauru’s phosphate deposits are close to the surface, which allows for simple strip mining operations. Nauru was a «rentier state» with the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world in the late 1960s and early 1970s, until the deposits ran out during the 1980s. After the phosphate reserves had been exhausted and the environment had been seriously harmed by the mining, the government resorted to unusual measures to generate income: Nauru has used its position as a member of the United Nations to gain financial support from both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China by changing its position on the political status of Taiwan, and from Russia by not recognizing the breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia.
Nauru is the only country in the world without a capital city. From 1907 to 1995 a railway existed for the mines. There is one airport, and there are two taxis. There are no personal taxes in Nauru. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 90%, and the government employs 95% of those Nauruans who do work. There is no tourism, because there is little to see or do in Nauru, and there are no facilities for tourists. What is to be done for Nauru?

to 37°50’N 24°25’E to 25°54’E/ Cyclades
to 28°27’N 154°48to 178°22’W/ Hawaii

Archipelagos seem to have been particularly good locations for the development of civilizations. Ancient Greece is probably the best example, and Hawaii was on the same track before it was “discovered” by Cook in 1778. The geography of the archipelagos seems to reappear in the urban settings of their cities. Athens, for example, can be understood as a translation of the archipelago landscape of the Cyclades into a city. This condition at least resurfaces in the contemporary city, where a few rocks (the Acropolis, Filopappos, Lycabettus) emerge from the seamless ocean of apartment blocks; a particular landscape seems to persist as the unconscious model for the production the city. So would it be possible to imagine a parallel urban archipelago using a different landscape as the inspiration? For instance, if Athens is the city that corresponds to the Cyclades (to a “circular” archipelago), what kind of city would correspond to Hawaii (to a “linear” archipelago)?

32°47’N 129°52’E/ Dejima

Dejima was a small artificial island constructed in 1634 on the orders of shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa in Nagasaki Bay and was originally intended to accommodate Portuguese merchants. After an uprising of the predominantly Catholic population in Shimabara,  however, the government decided to expel all Western nationals except the employees of the Dutch East India Company. During the period of selfimposed Japanese seclusion (approximately 1639–1854), Dejima served as the sole conduit of trade between Europe and Japan. Dejima was a small island, measuring only 120 by 75 metres, and was linked to the mainland by a bridge guarded on both sides. It had houses for about twenty Dutchmen, warehouses and accommodations for Japanese officials. The Dutch were watched by a number of Japanese officials, gatekeepers, night watchmen, supervisors and interpreters. The interpreters made it unnecessary for the Dutch to learn Japanese, and as a result they could be kept ignorant of local conditions. Any Dutchman who showed progress in learning the language would, under one pretext or another, be put on board the next outbound ship.
Every Dutch ship that arrived in Dejima was inspected, and its sails were seized until it was set to leave. Religious books and weapons were confiscated. No religious services were allowed on the island. For two hundred years, Dutch merchants were generally not allowed to cross from Dejima to Nagasaki, and the Japanese were likewise banned from entering Dejima, except for prostitutes; the desperately materialistic Dutch–Japanese partnership allowed only commercial and sexual exchanges. The Dutch East India Company’s trading post on Dejima was closed in 1857, once Dutch merchants were allowed to trade in Nagasaki City. Dejima was destroyed during the modernization of Nagasaki harbor in the twentieth century. Parts of Dejima are now reconstructed to attract both European and Asian tourists.

8°16’N 98°30’E/ KTapu: The James Bond Island

Two men stand back to back on a beach and are ordered to walk twenty paces, but when it is time to turn and fire, the one with the golden gun has vanished, leaving a disappointed Roger Moore abandoned before the surrealistic backdrop of Ko Tapu Island, inside the Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.
It is 1974 and we are on the set of The Man with the Golden Gun, the ninth movie in the James Bond series, in which the MI6 agent must battle the infamous killer Francisco Scaramanga, interpreted by Christopher Lee, to recover a (sustainable?) solar-powered secret weapon, the “Solex Agitator”. In the film, Scaramanga’s hideout is on Ko Khao Phing Kan, so Ko Tapu is often referred to nowadays as “James Bond Island” both by locals and tourist guidebooks. Ko Tapu was selected for its unnatural appearance and seemingly inherent evilness. This steep, rocky monolith, which is about twenty metres tall, makes one think of the flying stone in Magritte’s Castle of the Pyrenees landing on the water or of a Piranesian ruin. The natural island of Ko Tapu seems like a piece of rotten architecture, a wild Asian Böcklin floating in warm seas. According to James Bond cosmology, wicked nature equals architecture, and architecture equals the mad attempt to conquer the world. The intimate cruelty of architecture is once again discovered (and defeated) by James Bond, thank God.

51°27’N 0°59’E/ Maunsell Sea Forts

As an extended plot in the North Sea, lying outside the three-mile limit of the UK’s jurisdiction, the Maunsell Army Sea Forts were three of the larger shore-based installations that a civil engineer named Guy Maunsell (1884–1961) designed for the Ministry of Defence to help defend the Thames Estuary from enemy attack via air or sea. Built between May 20 and December 13 in 1943, the Maunsell Sea Forts were serviced by the Thames Estuary Special Defence Units to provide anti-aircraft fire and to prevent ships from being lost en route to the capital due to the magnetic influence of the mines laid down by the Germans during the outbreak of World War II. During the war the forts shot down twenty-two aircraft and about thirty flying bombs. Each of the three Forts consisted of seven separate fortresses positioned in clusters with a central radar/control tower surrounded by four 3.7-inch heavy anti-aircraft gun towers and one 40-millimetre Bofors light anti-aircraft gun tower with a searchlight tower at the rear interconnected via tubular steel walkways. Floated out to sea and grounded in water no more than thirty metres deep, the fortresses, abandoned after the war, were self-contained, with fuel and food supplies as well as living and sleeping accommodations for a 120-strong full-complement crew. The Maunsell Sea Forts seem to form a strange archipelago of (apparently) funny and fragile tin soldiers with huge heads and skinny legs. The forts stand on the water like clusters of huge mechanic mosquitoes. Their grouping is enigmatic. Do the forts communicate with each other? Do they want to speak with somebody or something else? Do they want to surrender and simply collapse into the water? Or do they want to betray?

45°26’N 12°20’E/ Venice, Fountain, Theatre and Vago Monticello

Around 1560, Alvise Cornaro, a  versatile  and  powerful figure of the Venetian Renaissance, presented a visionary project for the basin in front of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. The aim was to boost the capabilities of the water surface as a public space, thereby physically conquering it. Three elements were displayed: un teatro, uno vago monticello and una fontana del sil. The theatre, shaped in the Roman manner, was supposed to rise from the water close to the Punta della Dogana, in a place where the lagoon floor was higher. The most unusual element of the design, a proper hill covered by trees and lawns, was placed on a line connecting the Piazzetta with the island of San Giorgio and had a belvedere resembling a small temple at its summit. A fountain fed by water from the mainland was supposed to stand in between the two columns of the Piazzetta. Obviously, the eccentric proposal remained on paper. Unconscious traces of Cornaro’s project for the basin can be found, however, in Andrea Palladio’s monumental attempt to define the vast water surface a few decades later. The ghost of Cornaro’s island floats in the middle of the three Palladian churches that face onto the basin.


A Universal History of Micronations

Islands often offer the opportunity to establish a “micronation”. Micronations are entities that claim to be independent states but are not recognized as such by world governments or major international organizations. Micronations are usually eccentric and ephemeral in nature, and they are often created and maintained by a single person or family. They usually have bizarre and suspect fiscal regimes.
A universal history of micronations should include episodes like the following:
In 1967, Italian engineer Giorgio Rosa realized a 400-square-metre platform in the Adriatic sea, eleven kilometres off the coast of Rimini, immediately beyond the boundaries of Italian waters. The platform was supported by nine pylons and was furnished with a number of commercial establishments, including a restaurant, a bar, a nightclub, a souvenir shop and a post office. In old newspaper photos the platform looks like a modernist pavilion, like a brutal version of Farnsworth House suspended on the water by means of heavy pillars (it somehow calls to mind Tigermann’s famous 1978 collage “The Titanic”, with Mies’ Crown Hall sinking into the water). The artificial island declared independence on 1 May 1968, under the Esperanto name “Insulo de la Rozoj”, with Rosa as the selfdeclared President. As a national anthem Rosa selected “Steuermann! Laß die Wacht!» from Richard Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. The new state was presented in a press conference on 24 June 1968. Rosa’s actions were viewed by the Italian government as a ploy to raise money from tourists while avoiding national taxation. On 25 June 1968 (fifty-five days after the declaration of independence) a group of Carabinieri and tax inspectors landed on the “Isola delle Rose” and assumed control. The platform’s Council of Government sent a telegram to the President of the Italian Republic, Giuseppe Saragat, to protest the “violation of its sovereignty and the injury inflicted on local tourism by the military occupation», but this was ignored. Soon afterwards the Italian Navy used explosives to destroy the facility, an act later portrayed on postage stamps issued by Rosa’s «government in exile».
After occupying one of the Maunsell Sea Forts (Fort Roughs) in 1975, Michael Bates introduced a constitution for a micronation called “The Principality of Sealand”, which he then provided with a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports.
In August of 1978, while Bates and his wife were in Austria, Alexander Achenbach, who  described  himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand, hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to spearhead an attack of Roughs Tower. They stormed the tower with speedboats and helicopters, and took Bates’ son hostage. Bates later retook the tower, however, and captured Achenbach and his mercenaries. Achenbach was subsequently charged with treason against Sealand and was to be held unless he paid 75,000 DM. The governments of the Netherlands, Austria and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed his imprisonment, citing a 1968 court decision that declared that the platform did not fall under British jurisdiction. Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach’s release. After several weeks of negotiations Bates relented and subsequently claimed that the diplomat’s visit constituted a de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. Following his repatriation, Achenbach and Gernot Putz established a “government in exile», sometimes known as the Sealand Rebel Government or the Sealandic Rebel Government, in Germany.

A Catalogue of Oceanic Islands

San Rocco is interested in developing provisional catalogues of oceanic islands.
As oceanic islands, San Rocco accepts: islands, oases, spaceships, carriers. Catalogues do not need to be complete, but they do need to be precise. Objects need to be represented in hardline drawings in scale (either in plan, section or axonometry). Proposed catalogues must be composed of at least three objects.

A Catalogue of Continental Islands

San Rocco is interested in developing provisional catalogues of continental islands. 
As continental islands, San Rocco accepts all islands included in a larger system (an archipelago, an urban environment, etc.). Catalogues do not need to be complete, but they do need to be precise. Objects need to be represented in hardline drawings in scale (either in plan, section, or axonometry). Proposed catalogues must be composed of at least three objects.
A provisional list of “urban” islands could include: Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island and Angel Island (San Francisco), the Donauinsel (Vienna), the Île de la Cité (Paris), the islands in the Baía da Guanabara (Rio de Janeiro), Gezira and Zamalek (Cairo), the Île aux Hérons, Île Notre-Dame, Île Sainte-Hélène, Île des Soeurs and Île de Boucherville (Montreal), the Malo Ratno Ostrvo (Belgrade), Manhattan, Margitsziget (Budapest), the Isola Tiberina (Rome), Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington, DC), and so on.