Prof. Keller Easterling, architecture, Yale University, spoke about her recent book, Extrasatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, and the ways in which infrastructure space can bring aesthetic pleasures and affect politics Monday afternoon in Sibley Hall.
Easterling, who is also an architect, urbanist and writer, began her lecture saying that her book is an experiment “that rehearses a habit of mind about design.”
“It works on unfocusing eyes to see not only buildings of shapes and outlines but the almost infrastructural matrix space in which these buildings are suspended,” she said.
Clarifying what she meant by the word infrastructure, Easterling defined it as a “spatial, operating system for shaping the city” that is “coded of laws and formulas for making repeatable spatial products.”
Easterling went on to note that “radical changes” of the globalizing world are being written into this matrix space that is currently being coded by specialists. This coding, she said, was both “a secret weapon of some of the most powerful people on Earth” and “a secret best kept from those of us designers who are trained to make space.”
This coding secret is what led Easterling to argue that the infrastructure space “brings to [architect’s] art another relevance as well as another set of aesthetic pleasures and political capacities,” adding that architects need to find a way to hack this spatial operating system.
Easterling also pointed out three global infrastructure platforms and particularly highlighted and critiqued one platform called the Free Zone, which she has termed “extrastatecraft” because of the numerous sources that now have the power to influence or undertake the building of infrastructure.
“In a sense the zone swallowed the city and became the germ of a city-building epidemic,” she said.
According to Easterling, there are thousands of zones today and major cities and national capitals are creating their “own zone dopplegänger” so that the city and zone can use each other’s brand. She calls the zone “a form of market manipulation.”
She stressed that it would be more powerful if architects could also design an active form, objects similar to switches or remote controls that act as a “a multiplier that can use this infrastructure as a carrier.”
Additionally, Easterling said this active form would not replace the object but “works with it, empowers it.”
Connecting her ideas back to her book Extrastatecraft, Easterling said the book acts as a rehearsal for an encounter in space and rehearses a state of mind that is comfortable with interplay.
The different political capacities of the active form in infrastructure space “benefit from not only indirect but undetected action that can be initiated or removed in space and time,” Easterling said.
Easterling ended the lecture saying that architects and thinkers might be able to change something in space to dissipate the violence of binaries.
“This infrastructure space may be the secret weapon of the most powerful but two can play at this game,” she said.