The Post-Civic Condition and Transformation of Civic Space

Naina Gupta:

01 Luis Moreno Ocampo

The post-civic condition is a political condition where non-representative international organisations are increasingly powerful as political agents. Examples of these political agents are intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations like the United Nations, International Criminal Court and the Open Society Foundation, to name a few. These organisations are increasing in number since the 1970s and greatly influence international policy. They share an ambiguous relationship with the state, functioning as both a civic and private organisation. As they claim to work on behalf of all people, they change the relationship between people and state, transforming the nature of the city as a civic space.

Intergovernmental Organisations in The Hague
05 Intergovernmental Organisations in The Hague

The dissertation proposal is for a research project situated in The Hague in the Netherlands, where 160 non-governmental and 10 intergovernmental organisations are located that specialise in security and justice. The city is making a conscious effort to create an urban environment that attracts international organisations by providing an international zone. The Hague is also the administrative centre of the country and an important city in the South Randstad, which makes it a space of many political constituencies. Currently in The Hague there is no clear understanding of the political relationships between an international organisation, the state and the people. This ambiguity increases when the administrative district, cultural square and the international zone are all planned as discreet urban spaces and joined with neutral public plazas dotted with entertainment and galleries. The city has simply become a zone of entertainment. The research criticises the creation of the international zone as a process of ‘de-politicising’ the city. It will attempt to explore the spatial relationships existing between international organisations, the state(s) and the people in order to understand what civic space is in the post-civic era.

The Hague: Political Constituencies
02 The Hague, Political Constituencies

Problem Definition
In 2009, the city of The Hague began a project called the international zone. The city has a long association with international organisations since the construction of the Peace Palace in 1905 to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration after the first international peace conference. The International Court of Justice is located in the Peace Palace. The project is a retroactive consolidation of existing international organisations into a single urban definition, and include diplomatic missions, policy think-tanks, IGOs and NGOs. The main urban intervention was regional connectivity through a high-speed motorway linking the international zone to Schiphol airport.

The International Zone: The Post-Civic Condition
03 The International Zone, The Post-Civic Condition

The international zone is a major project in the city aimed at creating a knowledge economy based on security and justice. Another one is the new centre. The project for this centre has been redefined through numerous iterations and is ongoing since 1945, with proposals ranging from an administrative to a cultural centre. Today the new centre tries to connect The Hague with other knowledge centres in the South Randstad via the Prins Clause Plein, strengthening the economic value of this region in the Netherlands, which historically has always lagged behind Amsterdam. The new centre comprises of two main areas: the Turfmarkt, which houses the ministries of the country, and the Spuikwartier, which houses the city hall and the cultural square surrounded by theatres including the Netherlands Dance Theatre. Many of the buildings within the site are owned by the Government Building Agency, a group within the spatial planning ministry that maintains the various sites for government operations.

The New Centre: A project of culture and administration
06 The New Centre, A project of culture and administration

The international zone is characterised by issues of security and disconnection. The organisations are loosely arranged across the urban landscape, and defined by setbacks, landscape fences and moats. The international zone is a compromise, as the organisation and the state are unable or unwilling to explore and define relationships between them architecturally or at an urban scale. Though the zone is just one example, the number of international organisations are on the rise and increasingly influence the way that politics are being played out.

Existing Programmes in the New Centre
09 Existing Programme in the New Centre

It is thus simply time to define their space in the city and their relations to the people and the state. The new centre seems an ideal site to test and define these relationships. By transposing the International Criminal Court into a site that is perhaps the most civic in the traditional sense, as it houses ministries and culture, the research will explore possible relationships  in a post-civic era.

Research Question
What is the post-civic condition? What are the spatial and structural relationships between international organisations, different states and the people? How do these relationships transform civic space in a post-civic era?

0 The post-civic

Urban Question
What is the role of urban design in staging public-political encounters in a post-civic condition?

Performance Spaces and their Urban Staging
04 Performance, Urban Staging
Performance Spaces and their Transforming Sections
08 Performance Spaces, Transforming Sections

Architectural Question
What is the role of architecture in defining the relationship between the paradigmatic International Court and the city? How is an International Court different from a national court?

International Courts: Typological Comparison
07 International Courts, Typological Comparison

Read the whole dissertation proposal here .

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