San Rocco 01 / Islands

“… if someone who has a valid point of view wants to give it an audience, he has no choice but to start a magazine.” - Eno Dailor On Pamphlet Architecture 1-10

San Rocco Magazine is a new architecture magazine conceived under a five-year plan which researches on their creators fields of interest. Their second issue covers the subject of ISLANDS in whatever meaning you can imagine for the word “island”. As they wrote:

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, volcanoes, oases, spaceships, oil rigs, carriers.

Based on Gilles Deleuze book, L’île Désert et autres textes, the magazine is divided in two main blocks: oceanic and continental islands. Can we talk, then, about the possibility of architectural islands? More after the break.

In the introductory text, Mark Lee turns upside-down the current architectural research which tries to dissolve boundaries or at least, give new meanings to the existent borders. Lee presents a trajectory that is being countered by the opposite propensity for a search for limits. His research is based on the idea that island or archipelago organizations have great potential as generative models in the contemporary city. Islands and archipelago as spatial segregation taken to the extreme.

Within this context, Mark Lee analyses the city of Berlin, based on the island’s structures, using two specific projects for that: Mathias Ungers’s “Berlin as a Green Archipelago” and John Hedjuk’s “Victims” for his article. The most interesting part is to know that the projects have different scales and organizations and how Lee drives this comparative speculation to Deleuze’s Desert Islands… again.

The magazine has 25 articles, so diverse that you can really feel yourself travelling from one island to another. In this context, YellowOffice makes a wonderful selection of texts from Mark Twain’s “Letters from Hawaii” and through this excerpts, it’s possible to travel to the year 1866 and know a bit more about Hawaiian history.

And what about growing your own island? Dirk de Meyer takes us to a trip through linguistic definitions and geopolitical conflicts on the term “island” and the existent efforts to grow up small floating rocks to transform them into “naturally formed areas of land” able to “sustain human habitation or economic life”, which means, once again, island. And he ends saying that in an era of rising sea levels, and with many reefs and small atoll nation-state at risk of being submerged, island growing techniques might become a flourishing business.

This capitalistic point of view is followed by some essays about the creation of new cities, as happened with the circular city of Al-Mansur’s Baghdad described by Martino Tattara or Francesco Librizzi‘s theorem, based on the fact that atomic experiments on Bikini has introduced in our history, the paradigm of organized visibility: it showed us the rapid expansion of the range of what one can see and what one is allowed to communicate with global masses.

“What is it that gives an island its special charm? I think the main reason is that an island has clear physical limits, and the mind is able to grasp it and make a picture of it as a whole.” - Lord Tweedsmuir

Tetsuo Kondo Architects on his article “Between Artifice and Nature” writes about man-made environments to cover the island of Hashima with a green layer, with the aim of dissolve the differences between man-made and natural elements. New and different approach on the concept of eco-design.

San Rocco also includes some graphic work, such as “Islands of Memory” by Davide Rapp or Ido Avissar and his wonderful story about how 1,100 palm trees were planted in the island of Bora Bora, which were transferred in a small boat that carried out several round-trips between motus, in a sort of informal variation on Robert Smithson’s Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan. Also, in “The Island of the Man with the Golden Gun”, 2A+P/A writes about Francisco Scaramanga, a man who decided to build an artificial island capable of producing and storage solar energy, while the rest of the world is immersed in an energy crisis.

Point Supreme Architects speculates on “Archipelago Cities” on the geography of the Greek archipelago, which seems to reappear in the urban setting of Athens; the city is seen as a translation of the archipelago landscape of the Cyclades, with hills and mountains floating in the urban fabric in an approximated circle around the Acropolis. With some “archigramesque” collages, they imagine the Kawaii imaginary linear city located in the ocean.

The Maunsell Sea Fort is the place that has inspired Joana Rafael and the photographer Alessandro Sambini for the article “Island of Light and Steel”. Rafael and Sambini focus their research on war systems and techniques born for World War II and how this sea forts has used unorthodox engineering solutions to support night bombing. Due to their structure and location, they served not only to detect, locate and illuminate enemy aircraft after nightfall, but also to give overhead camouflage to the defensive fort by means of deceptive arrangements.

Andrea Balestrero interviews Andrea Zittel, the American artist and they talk about the three different projects that Zittel has done on floating islands. Zittel pointed: “I find that I am repeatedly drawn to the idea of an island because I think that it has become the ultimate metaphor for being alone…”, and don’t forget that Balestrero himself has worked on this concept too, on his project Deep Garden. This fact makes the conversation fluid and full of interesting references.

Lieven De Cauter makes with “The Prison Island and the State of Nature” the introductory text to the photo-work “Desertmed”, a project which aims to document the desert islands of the Mediterranean Sea, most of them used as prisons when they were inhabited.

We can end talking about Sina Najafi who has published recently, on Cabinet Magazine, an interview with Christina Duffy Burnett, where they talk about legal issues concerning to islands, and Najafi pointed:

“… the historical evolution of imperialism in both the East and the West has meant that most of the world’s actual islands became, at some point, off-shore colonial possessions of a distant metropolitan power. Treated as way stations, outposts, and resupply harbors, these outre-mer acquisitions tended to be spatially and legally marginal, regardless of their economic importance.”

In between this geopolitical and social context where islands are located, reading San Rocco’s essays and articles opens a whole new overview on “these outre-mer acquisitions”, where embassies can be islands and islands can be utopias.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Please note all the geographical coordinates placed on the first page of each project or article, open your Google Earth app and start placing them. Suddenly you’ll be travelling from one island to another!

———————– You can see the complete table of contents, here and buy it here.

The magazine works on “call for submissions” guidelines, si if you want to submit some article, drawings or photos, here is the five year planning on forthcoming monographs.

About this author
Cite: Ethel Baraona Pohl. "San Rocco 01 / Islands" 23 Apr 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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