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White House Urbanism: White House Redux competition entry

Category : Brooklyn Dec 29th, 2008

White House Urbanism: Radical Democracy vs the Presidential Palace

This project considers the White House as a generator of effects – effects that can be traced on the urban scale of democratic process.

Painting the Presidential Palace white laid the first architectural grounds for its erasure as palace. In the place of the function of palace, the White House enacts a dissemination of executive authority.

In this white architecture (not even a building so much as a notion of a building), bleached of specificity and abstracted from luxury, the executive function of government can define its own territories. These territories include the diplomatic functions under the wing of the first lady, as well as the military apparatus that headquarters itself outside the boundaries of Washington. In this sense, the presidential palace as White House produces effects that extend the place of Presidential decision-making beyond the urban boundaries of Washington (as the Pentagon shifts to Virginia), while simultaneously complicating the agency of presidential decision-making beyond the singular personhood of the President. The White House, both opaque and transparent, visited by thousands daily and deeply submerged in privacy, produces terms of executive authority in American democracy.

What to make of it, then? Tear it down! Build a Palace of the People! Perhaps. But let’s learn from the undeniable political success of the existing architecture.

Is this even architecture? Is it not an object? What’s really acting here, and what is registering the act? What is phenomena and what is agency, here?

It might be worthwhile to note that the architecture of extension that the White House achieves so successfully is embedded in the L’Enfant plan of DC, itself.


BORDER:

Locking Federal Public institutional growth within the territories of L’Enfant’s plan.

CONTAIN:

Surrounding the White House with non-governmental organizations and other quasi-public institutions, including local public institutions. Embedding non-governmental organizations in the political arena has
been successful in combating corruption in 3rd world nations.

DIVIDE:

Divide the functions of Presidential Palace from Oval Office.

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