Assignment Task (Assignment Number: UA503)
MARC6000 – Thesis Studio
Studio 2 (Blended)
Embracing the Black Cloud: A Tale of Two (Ideal) Cities
Gonzalo Valiente Oriol
Satellite Image of the Australian Bush fires 2019-20
Roma Interrotta. 1978
Act 01: The Black Cloud
On January 7th, 2020, a continuous ‘black cloud’ emitted by the 2019-20 Australian bushfires covered
the 11.000km oceanic leap between Australia and South America, shadowing the coasts and plateaus
of Chile’s central regions on what was foreseen to be a sunny summer day. The tragic event gave birth
to a literal and symbolic connection between the cities of Sydney (Australia) and Valparaiso (Chile), at
a time when both cities were staging (in quite spectacular manners) two contemporary simulacrums of
‘The End’. Sunny and wealthy Sydney was suffocating under the devastating effects of an increasingly
familiar climate change paradigm. The worst bushfires experienced by Australia’s recorded history had
submerged the nation’s iconic metropolis under a blanket of deadly smoke, turning it into one of the
most polluted cities in the globe for two months. Meanwhile, Valparaiso was staging a civil uprising
and a war between a democratic state (aligned to the interests of global corporations), and its own
citizens. The ‘black cloud’ wrapped both cities (and their citizens) with a toxic atmospheric continuum
that, in one end, emanated obscene volumes of dead forest, while on the opposite pole, emitted an
unbreathable blend of police teargas, and smokesfrom burning barricades, carbonised monuments, and
Molotov cocktails. In both cases, lungs, stratospheric layers, and air conditioning systems were
breathing/carrying/filtering microscopic metaphors of today’s state of planetary “I can’t Breathe!”. The
metaphor of the cloud also helps unveiling a violent confrontation between two mythological
conceptions of ‘The End’, each one, represented by the unfolding of events hosted by either city.
Sydney’s apocalyptic (and very instagrammic) sunsets captured a mesmerising portrait of Australia’s
mainly undisputed —therefore, post-political— embrace of technological advance and its algorithmic
optimisations, as the time-buying messianic hopes to resolve climate change’s catastrophic effects.
Sydney embodiesthe end of what Chantal Moufe calls ‘the political’ and, with it, the end of planetary
life as we know it. On the other end, Valparaiso’s citizen takeover of the streets, monuments, and
institutions, epitomises the resuscitation of ‘the political’; a pluri-ideological, citizen-led reaction to the
disasters of the present that, so far, has turned Chile into the first nation to ignite a constitutional process
with intersectional and direct presence of feminist, indigenous and anti-capitalist perspectives and
agendas. Valparaiso enacts a mythology of the end of capitalism, and its imperial foundations.
Intermezzo: Designing (for) the End
Designing (for) the end is a common place in contemporary architectural practice. When us, architects,
dream with SMART cities/architectures, or resilient masterplans and communities, we are embracing
the end of the city as a political project, in favour of techno-deterministic and authoritarian conceptions
of the urban space. However, while we witness how a capitalism-driven climate disaster threatens the
continuity of planetary life as we know it, speculations and debates across multiple disciplines
increasingly demand us to collectively design (for) the end of capitalism itself. That symbolic
dichotomy, designing the end of ‘the political’ vs designing the end of ‘capitalism’ will frame the
theoretical and conceptual atmosphere of the studio. It is, indeed, an architectural battle for the future
of urban spaces and lives. Do we need politics to run our cities? Can we survive the financial pressure
imposed on urban life by real-estate speculation? Is it possible to derail the historical linkages between
the city and modern productivism? Can algorithms script and rule feminist urban agendas? what are the
boundaries of a post-political city? Do robots have rights? And obligations? Is the historical city
incompatible with non-transactional programs? How will heritage and smart technologies relate to each
other? What models of citizenship fit within each mythological conception of the end? What institutions
will respond to each political imaginary? What monumentalities?…
Act 02: The Tale of Two Ideal Cities
To do so, the studio engages with the large architectural tradition of designing and theorising sacred
precincts and ideal/utopian cities. Students will embrace one mythological conception of ‘The End’
(Post-political or post-capitalist) and transform a delimitated area of their associated city (Sydney or
Valparaiso, respectively) into urban sanctuaries: heterotopic crystallisations of the relations between
power structures, political imaginaries (or ideologies), and built environment. Additionally, they will
conceptualise and design (at least) one institutional architecture. What institutional frameworks will fit
and represent the sanctuary’s ideological alignments? Will it incorporate any form of
Post Hegemonic Monumentalities. Urban sanctuary. Student work. 2020. Teacher, Gonzalo Valiente. Interior Architecture, UTS
A selection of theoretical and spatial referents will help students weave transdisciplinary encounters
between architectural practices/theories/typologies/tools and political cultures/imaginaries, so that they
can reorient architectural thinking/design towards aggressive engagements with emerging and
consolidated ideological frameworks such as feminist, xenofeminist, post-labour, post-identity, posthumanist and/or queer perspectives, among other.
During the semester, students will engage within a permanent debate and research on the following
(1) The fall and rise of ideological critique. Contemporary political theories
(2) Ideal Cities. The impossible spatialisations of political fantasies.
(3) Spatial Conceptions of the Sacred. The Platonic Vs the Constellative
(4) Power structures and spatial regimes. Biopolitics, Somatopolitics and Psychopolitics
(5) Power, Violence and non-violence
(6) The Politics of Architectural Representation
(1) Moufe, C, (2004). Agonistic Politics in a Multipolar World. CIDOB (Barcelona) P 21-35
(2) Valiente-Oriol, G; Valiente-Oriol, J; Sánchez-Velasco, A and Rodriguez-Casellas, M. The
Embrace of the Dark Cloud. ARQ (Santiago). 2020, n.106, pp.80-91. See:
(3) Ybarra, L., & Ybarra, L. (2021). Beyond the apocalypse: an interview with Marina Garces.
Retrieved 21 June 2021, from http://lagrietaonline.com/beyond-the-apocalypse-aninterview-with-marina-garces/
Pedro Pitarch. Madrid archipelago Lab
(1) Point Supreme (2) WAI Garcia Frankowsky (3) Leon Krier, Roma Interrotta
Gianbattista Piranessi, Campo di Marzio
Assignment Solution/Sample Answer
The United States announces troop withdrawal on November 17, 2020.
2,500 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the middle of January, according to Acting Defence Secretary Christopher C. Miller. As of February, thousands of soldiers have already been withdrawn as a result of a deal with the Taliban, bringing President Trump one step closer to achieving his campaign pledge of ending the so- After months of impasse in discussions between Afghan government and terrorist organisation, President Hamid Karzai made his declaration.
Before a mission in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers board a chopper.
If forces are withdrawn too soon, the Taliban will have a refuge in Afghanistan and the Islamic State would be able to recreate its caliphate, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stol..
Biden Decides on Complete US Withdrawal by 9/11 on April 14, 2021
Acting US Defence Secretary Christopher C. Miller reveals plans to reduce the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by half to 2,500 by mid-January, just days before President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Following an agreement with the Taliban in February, thousands of soldiers had already been withdrawn, bringing President Trump closer to achieving his campaign vow to stop the so-called perpetual wars. The statement comes as talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban remain stalled as the terrorist organization continues to carry out lethal strikes.
Following his service in Afghanistan, a US soldier hugs his family upon his return to the United States in December 2020.
NATO soldiers in Afghanistan will also be withdrawing. According to Biden, the United States will continue to help Afghan security forces and support the peace process. The Taliban has stated that it will not attend “any meeting” on Afghanistan’s future until all foreign forces have left the country.
The Afghan government collapses on August 15, 2021, when the Taliban seizes Kabul.
With minimal resistance, Taliban forces storm Kabul and seize the presidential palace just hours after President Ghani flees the country. Taliban commanders have stated their intention to have discussions with Afghan officials in order to create a “open, inclusive Islamic
There is a group of Taliban fighters posing outside
government.” Former Afghan President Karzai and Abdullah, who served as Ghani’s top executive, form a committee to promote a smooth transition to a Taliban government. The seizure comes after the Taliban’s swift march, during which it took all but two of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals and border crossings. According to reports, Afghan security personnel in some places negotiated surrenders rather than battling the Taliban.
Biden Defends Withdrawal on August 16, 2021
President Biden believes his government made the correct decision in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, claiming that the US counterterrorism mission is accomplished.
During remarks at the White House, President Joe Biden defends the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
However, he admits that the military pull-out has been “messy,” and he criticises Afghan security forces for failing to combat the Taliban. Meanwhile, the US dispatches 6,000 troops to evacuate US and partner people and protect Kabul’s international airport, where chaos reigns as thousands of Afghans escape. Biden says the military will assist in the evacuation of thousands of Afghans who have collaborated with the US, and he increases refugee-status access for vulnerable Afghans.