Extrastatecraft, according to architect, urbanist, and author Keller Easterling, is a design thinking about not just the buildings but functions “like an operating system, the economics, the informatics, the ecosystem of making the way cities are built – a matrix space”. She says that this is the defacto way of building cities and using the land – which makes sense to the idea she is trying to throw us into – why shouldn’t we rethink the way we are building our cities, our world.
It’s the secret weapon of some of the most powerful people on Earth, best kept from those of us who are trying to ‘make space’.
Infrastructure space are stories where reasonable things don’t happen and where political superbugs go against innovation.
I understand the above quote from the author because I can relate to this very well when I reflect on the city of Bangalore and it’s history – a city where I earned most of my living thus far. The below image shows how Bangalore’s green cover reduced alarmingly fast and the city that was once proclaimed as the ‘Garden City’ of India, today has no space to breathe. Here’s more on how the depleting green cover and open spaces of Bangalore, while the metro expands.
Compare this to the city of Paris – a capital city, one with very few skyscrapers. The city has imposed on itself restrictions against any “developments” at least in and around the culture Paris center, where art, history, and culture flourished and is still well maintained. It restricts itself from allowing importance to go to any other building apart from the Eiffel Tower, the Arc Du Triumph, Notre Dame, among others.
From the above examples and by living through both of them – I can agree with the author that, the spaces itself, which is stationary is a system that does an activity – is an agency that fulfills a purpose. These “undeclared activities” are overwhelming and they are invisible to us. This is what we need to be aware of… because what might harm us in the long run – not only within our lifetime but over a lifespan over generations. Did anyone see this coming over Bangalore? May be, but what could we do or what did we do or was the power to change only in the hands of the political class?
I was working in Chennai which was within an SEZ, Special Economic Zone – and yes, I was a victim of the SEZ laws. I could not relocate, if I did I would lose my job. My salary and allowances were affected by the SEZ laws. The author shows how SEZ’s were created, and they developed into ‘modern developed’ cities. I don’t see anything wrong in this. However, I agree that there is a problem created – when she says that:
SEZ’s operated outside the law of their very own land and country.
These SEZ lands and spaces had their own law that allowed them to thrive in the way they wanted – leading to labor and human resource abuse – all in the name of development. And this is not just thriving – but it is very attractive to most or all developing nations. There is no one to protest this – because in itself, this is invisible and looks profitable, and beneficial to all – may be – but not in the long run. This “incentivized urbanism” is what we need to be cautious about.
Extending from my design manifesto and this topic, I would like to conclude by pointing out the irony that India is now heavily pursuing the plan of smart cities, for places where it ‘lacks development’ when you have ‘developed’ cities like Bangalore and even its national capital Delhi, has turned into a gas chamber where breathing is difficult. Then again, that is not the problem – which is the actual problem. The problem is that the people want ‘development’ at any cost, cost of losing forests even, not because they want to destroy forests, but because they just want better infrastructure – with no one to inform them about its evils and long-term destruction. As we speak, Mumbai might also be headed to a gas-chamber status, while the irony of the smart cities mission, thrives.