Archaeology of the Present: Organized Crime through the Study of Urban Built Environments

Eyal Weizman
Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa
November 30, 2012

The urban landscape is a testament to the impact of transnational organized crime (TOC) in the everyday lives of citizens. Because of this, architects and urban planners have an interesting role to play in understanding the complexity of this issue. Acting as archaeologists of the present, they can trace the intricate relationship of crime and its different actors within a transnational network, as it touches ground and transforms cities across borders.[i] Cities are the ultimate battleground of TOC. The controversial topic of occupation law is approached in a conversation on how urban environments are increasingly performing both as spaces of control and spaces of contestation and resistance, and are therefore shaped and transformed by this interplay. Eyal Weizman, director of the Centre for the Research of Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, developed a ‘forensic’ field of study within the realm of architecture, where, by examining the traces of history and its politics within the built environment, a larger understanding of a city and its society can be read.[ii] In the context of this issue, Weizman discusses with Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa, architect and Master in Design Studies candidate at Harvard University, how architecture can perform as an able narrator in interpreting and unveiling the way crime embeds itself within the built environment of our cities and thus becomes an active participant in shaping them.

[i] “The Least of All Possible Evils: Architecture, Forensics and the Laws of War” (lecture, University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, Melbourne, Australia: 6 September 2012).

[ii] Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (London, UK: Verso, 2012) 99-134.