Laurel Bancroft earned her Bachelor of Fine Art from Carnegie Mellon University with a concentration in Electronic Time-Based Art. Using digital technology, architectural form, and charm as her tools, Laurel strives to address real world existing conditions and act through permutation, producing work that is revealing and informative, yet subversive.
H.R. 347, otherwise known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act was signed by President Obama on March 8, 2012. As H.R. 347 passed, it sparked a passionate debate. Many decry the law as an assault on the Bill of Rights, criminalizing protests and threatening free speech. The effect of this law remains to be seen, likely materializing at the upcoming G-20 and NATO Summits. The outcry and response to this bill, whether accurate or not, highlights a larger issue in American culture. Protests and protestors have developed a stigma. While protests have become increasingly visible and relevant across the globe, many are seen as a nuisance to the space they operate within, often isolating passersby and other citizens of the city. This stigma is a result of various forces, including non-objective media representation and the physical destruction of public space.
Interruption of daily life is inherent to protest (and often a goal). But, this interruption is often what separates the "common man" from the "protester." It creates undeserved assumptions of extreme radicals vs. apathetic citizens.
Unsolicited Architectures addresses these key moments of interruption, providing an infrastructure for protest, a subversive, binary architecture that functions within and for the city, but becomes a platform for protest when provoked.
This infrastructure consists of a series of objects and spaces, operating on different scales and placed throughout the city. While in a passive state, these objects work for the city, providing amenities to citizens. Through crowd-sourced activation, these objects transform into a means for protest, providing utilities and communication means for protestors that are otherwise absent.
The NATO Summit in May is identified as an event, or site to begin to investigate this concept in more detail. A temporary pavilion is constructed in Daley plaza as a celebration space for the NATO Summit, a place where various events can be held, which highlights the diversity and culture of Chicago and the historic event.
But, this pavilion is easily hacked, becoming a form for protest with the quick removal of a few elements and a crowd's participation. These floats insert levity and spectacle in to a march, creating an enjoyable event more akin to a parade than a riot. But they still function for protestors, increasing visibility and media coverage.
After the march, the structures and materials are re-appropriated to serve the specific needs of the protest camp. There are four categories of functions that a protest camp needs to address; domestic, communication, activism and governance. Some units can be reassembled as pavilions, serving as teach-in spaces, pressrooms and event spaces. Others can be used as a single unit, as a beacon and lighting, along with surveillance capacities. They can also be appropriated as barricade structures and shelters by using leftover material from the parachutes and broken vinyl balloons.
These units will permit protestors to set up a camp that serves their needs, but also keeps the citizens of the city in mind. Creating enjoyable spaces that can be used for both protestor and citizen, in a public place allowing the lines of "protestor" and "citizen" to be blurred. "Unsolicited Architectures" obfuscates the often concrete boundaries of permitted protest, event, performance and intervention within the contemporary American city.
(Master of Architecture)