Urbanism of Conflict
by Andrew Griffin

Certain moments in life liberate us to rethink the notions of how we perceive issues, ideologies and the world around us. With the constant bombardment of information and misinformation in modern life, we sometimes miss the obvious. Urbanism is an incredibly kinetic notion. It is also an incredibly dangerous proposition. Of the politicians that have now been ousted, many started as popular prophets for change. Like the ostracism of these politicians, urbanism (when mishandled) can be compared in the same debate. Ideas which were once popular can be clearly seen as flawed and defunct once they become operational, highlighting the weakness of ideas when embedded in a real system and not a laboratory experiment.

Critical to understanding the scope of urbanism today is not the practice in which architects and urbanists carefully consider how to better the areas with which they are tasked, but the fundamental principle that urbanism relies on predetermined policy to exist. When urbanists pragmatically solve problems of new urban areas or city plans, few of them question the parameters and codifications they face or the political will that shapes those guidelines. This notion of policy, the true precursor of urbanism, is where we need to explore. In most cases, policy is developed from experience; case studies, discussions, interventions to create ideals on which to base a society. What is interesting, however, to explore is misshapen policy (and how to prevent it); policies that are bent and moulded not to liberate people but to contain them, not to improve their lives but to keep them subsistent.

In this series I will be exploring the theme, Urbanism of Conflict, in other words, the extrapolation of distorted policies and how they affect human life and the systems in which they operate. When viewed in this light, policy is potentially one of the most dangerous and violent thoughts to mankind. The fact that a body of people or more worryingly one singular person can shape an agenda for entire cities and even millions of people in a potentially suppressive way is a stark notion.

In Eastern Europe we still see the fractures of urban policies which helped oppress the people that had lived through the Soviet occupation until the eventual liberation in 1989. The Soviets enacted an urban agenda to quash possible revolt, a subversive campaign of urban change designed to combat dissidents. The widening of streets in Prague was, not unlike Hausmannian development, a vehicle for the rapid introduction of tanks and artillery deep into the city center, enhancing the military’s ability to quell possible revolts in places of public gathering. Where else do we find this logic? Is it merely limited to despot regimes and ex-Soviet states or is this notion of an urbanism of conflict quietly built into the very principles we deal with in daily life? Can we compare the adoption of the American sprawl city to the invention of the atomic bomb? Are the current failed social policies and gangland crime of South Central Los Angeles borne of the urban racial segregation of the 1960s? In this series I will explore a number of contexts with particular urban themes from racial segregation (LA) to strategic infiltration (Eastern bloc Europe), infrastructural isolation (Beirut), and initially religious separation (Belfast).




Andrew Griffin is a Director of JDS Architects leading the Copenhagen HQ on a day to day basis. JDS Architects is a multidisciplinary office that focuses on architecture and design, from large scale planning to furniture. Rich with multiple expertise, the office is fuelled by talented designers and experienced architects that jointly develop projects from early sketches to on-site supervision. Born in Ireland, Andrew graduated at the top of his class from the Dublin School of Architecture, DIT with 1st class honours. Before joining JDS Architects he worked for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture/ Rem Koolhaas (OMA) in Rotterdam on the CCTV project in Beijing and was part of the winning team for the White City Masterplan in West London.








Sectarian Segregation, Belfast