The Wall Game: No Place To Hide

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 12:14

Posted by Corrado Curti | This post is the third entry on No Place to Hide: an online map of potential places

Title: The Wall Game
Place: Israel-Palestine Border, 31°47′0″N 35°10′0″E
Type: Project

Architect: Lebbeus Woods
Date: 2004


Description: Lebbeus Woods elaborated this project for a transformation of the Israeli-Palstinian Wall in 2004. It is a further exploration in the series of proposals by Lebbeus Woods for re-interpreting the archetype of the wall – both as symbolic and tectonic form – making it an instrument for connection, rather then separation, and a support for further development of urban, social and political developments. According to Lebbeus Woods’ description of the project: “The Wall Game uses some sections of the wall as a two-sided playing field. Palestinians control one side, Israelis the other. Each side has a team of builders, architects, artists, and performers, who make a construction on their side of the wall, using it as sole support. In other words, the new constructions cannot rest in any way directly on the ground, but only on the wall. They are cantilever constructions. As such, the cantilever on one side must be balanced by the cantilever on the other side, or else the wall will fall to one side or the other, and the Game will be over.(1)

It is a game only for two opposing sides. One side cannot play it alone, as unbalanced structural forces will bring the wall down very quickly. A one-sided game has no point, that is, no winner. The point of the Wall Game is to win.
There are three levels of winning. The first level is to keep the game going. In this sense, both sides win against the improbability of their continuing to play and against the Wall itself and the complex set of forces it activates. There is no time limit to the game. It ends only when one side wins over the other–the second level of winning–or they both lose. To understand how one side wins over the other, a little more must be known about the nature of the constructions they build.

It may be assumed that each team will build a different type of construction. Different materials, different configuration, different method. This is because the different teams represent different cultures, religions, histories, and aspirations. Even if both teams were to produce similar constructions, they could win on the first level only, because to win on the second level one construction must convert the other.

Conversion of a construction occurs when its system of order, that is, its basic system of spatial reference is transformed by the system of order of the opposing side. This occurs during predetermined time periods when the construction is left open to infiltration by the opposing construction, through the wall. During these time periods, the opposing team may construct within the construction left open. Not every attempt to convert the opposing construction will be successful. If a construction left open to a conversion attempt is syntactically clear and strong, the attempt will have to be even clearer, stronger, and above all more succinct to reorder the open system of space and form in the time allowed.

The third level of winning is the most difficult to attain. It occurs when both constructions are converted, not according to the system of order of one side or another, but in such a way that an entirely new system of order is created. At this level, both sides win, because they transcend, together, their former states of opposition, and enter a more complex, multivalent state. Resulting from the fusion of the former systems, their constructions achieve a new and hybrid system of order. They meet each other not as contenders but as co-inhabitants of a new spatial condition to which they have both contributed, and which they must both work to not only maintain, but to evolve further.”

Lebbeus Woods, The Wall Game, in: Michael Sorkin (Editor), Against the Wall, Free Press, 2005 (1)
Images: Hypothetical Wall Game scenarios, source (1)

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