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Transient Liquidities Along the New Silk Road
MSc3/4 Graduation studio



Studio Participants



Christopher Clarkson 

Tomasz Dudek 

Augusta Fiseryte 

Henryk Gujda

Houry Jamkojian 

Josh Jerome 

Szymon Kaniewski 

Karolina Krajcíková 

Małgorzata Łysik 

David Marcinek 

Caleb Mehari

Ana Mendica 

Theodor Reinhardt


Marc Schoonderbeek 

Stefano Milani

Negar Sanaan Bensi

Oscar Rommens

Pierre Jennen

When seen on a map or satellite image, the territory nowadays called Panama comes across as constituting a geographic hinge. Literally located on two continents, that narrow piece of land separtes the Pacific ocean from the Carribean sea (and the Atlantic ocean beyond). A border(ous) country, therefore, situated between two vast water bodies. Of course, the Panama isthmus is more than merely a geographical anomaly. The bridging of continents also has caused a unique mixture of ecologies to unfold in the course of time, resulting in a dynamic evolution of exchanges and interferences. Until this very day, that specific ecology remains to incorporate several uniquenesses.

Yet at some point the European explorers and colonizers came, introducing an ‘exchange’ that had rather severe, if not fatal effects. And since a few decades, that other, more contemporary colonial power, has had considerable influence as well. The Panama Canal is the direct consequence of US interests, later influencing, partly at least, the intervention in Noriega’s regime, only aimed at ensuring US economic and global interests. It was not the first, nor the last example of a regime that was installed or fundamentally supported by the US, until the moment its military, economical or criminal activities were no longer, or even fundamentally detrimental to US interests. Displacement is an almost natural consequence of such interventions as the 1989 ‘Just Cause’. Nowadays, the Darién Gap seems to constitute another disastrous geographical location. With the Scottish attempt as historical parallel, nowadays the almost un-transgressible Darién divide has become the killing grounds of South Americans, mostly Venezualians, attempting to pass on and over to a more prosperous future in the North.

Within this context, the Panama Canal remains an enigma. For sure Werner Herzog must have found his inspiration for the famous boat lifting across the Amazon mountain, in his film Fitzcarraldo, from historical Panama Canal footage. Equally intriguing are the extensive fortifications during WWII. While the mechanics of the older locks remain a fascinating spectacle, the newer lock systems showcase an impressive sequence of enginerial innovations and ingenuity, even though their water consumption remains unresolved, and thus problematic. As the news has recently reported, water shortages have even become obstructive. The Panama Canal still is one of the few logistical knots in the global network of sea trade and sea transport that are crucial and critically vunerable. No wonder, then, that the Canal has become the focal point of the ever expanding BRI, drawing even more capital to the country. The Panama Papers reminded us about the logic of international capital, revealing its flows, whereabouts and financial constructions.

These arguments and references are clear arguments implicating the importance, relevance and intriguing aspects of Panama as a case for spatial-material (i.e. architectural) investigations. Taking global political developments into consideration, especially in the latest post Cold War relationships between the US, China and Russia, this territory seems to be quite crucial. The afore-mentioned ecological anxieties, pressured coexistences and economically driven migratory movements, has caused a contemporary territorial condition to emerge that showcases a stratified landscape of superposed spatial regimes.

Please see ‘Read more‘ for the collective research booklet.

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