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the architecture of violence;
constructing Rotterdam: from the polder parcel to urban housing

Architectural History Thesis, TU Delft,
Chair History of Architecture and Urban Planning

under supervision of Amy Thomas

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Violence in relation to architecture is typically viewed in relation to sudden cataclysmic disruptions such as war, natural disaster, slum clearances, or attacks of some kind; or as a blatant exercise of containment such as prisons, borders, or surveillance watch towers; or perhaps in the construction of buildings via slave labor, or monuments that serve to legitimize violent authority through building facades, plazas or promenades.

This paper shifts a thinking about architecture and violence to embodied, and accumulated, slow violences that are inflicted upon bodies and social relations within an environment, over long stretches of time. A shift from moment to duration, this paper investigates what the logics embedded and inherited from specific spatial arrangements does to the inhabitant. An argument is made that violence is enacted through the built environment, through the (re)production of the maintainance of a particular system of order, that is not unconnected to singular moments of ‘violence’ but contains these moments, along with the seemingly banal, within a processual unfolding.

This is done by illustrating a case study of the creation of the urban district of the Oude Noorden in Rotterdam, as it transformed into poldered parcel plots and then to housing blocks in the late 19th century, on the periphery of a rapidly expanding colonial port city.

1. An introduction to embedded violence (7-10)

2. The project to build a port (city) (12-23)

3. Ordering the landscape: Bloomersdijk Polder (24-41)

4. Embodied logics in urban expansion: Oude Noorden (42-73)

5. Violence of individuation (74-79)

6. Conclusions on power (80-81)

Bibliography (84-89)