Institutional Architecture: Winter Reads

Iconic or concrete,
eye-catching or dilapidated,
buildings make international law.

Law – Space – Architecture

Over the winter months legal sightseeing presents a mini-blog series on international law’s institutional architecture. We explore how institutional architecture is international law in concrete. Buildings, spaces and infrastructures make law physical and visible, felt and imagined, functional, historic and exclusive. Through this series we both reflect on a recent workshop at VU Amsterdam convened around this theme, and prepare for a joint handbook going forward.

Across the series we show how architecture concretely materialises international law. The past workshop took us from carefully constituted town squares to the subversive connections drawn in liminal spaces to outright sites of destruction and the creative potential that lies therein. We visited the UN headquarters in Geneva and New York, and also in the Amazon. In the words of one participant: What is it architecture does? What is it the law does in response? How does architecture become a legal matter? How does law become susceptible to the many lives of architecture?

In finding how architecture can serve to destabilise law, contributors look for the echo of law in the gardens of Sydney and Stockholm, they look for the touch of law in the lasting materiality of left-behind international conference settings, they trace courtrooms online. As we travel after these architectural highlights in Nairobi, Rojava, Paris, and elsewhere the question arises: how does architecture move people towards protest, towards participation, towards certain centres and not others? When is architecture a conduit for aspirations, when more attitude than sight?


Courts in a Time of Crisis

The Nightingale Courts of England and Wales

by Lorna Cameron

The People’s Parliament of Rojava

Architecture as a Transformative Power

by Bart van Klink

Frozen in Liminality

prestige infrastructure abandoned before completion in Amman, Jordan

by Dorien Keizer

Psychiatric Architectures and Institutional Aesthetics

The Materio-Legislative Entanglement of Outsider Art

by Lucy Finchett-Maddock


CJEU, Luxembourg

by Renske Vos

Law and Architecture’s Brutal Times of Prishtina

The legal meaning of liminal spaces

by Vittoria Becci

York, a Human Rights City:

Materialising International Human Rights Law?

by Alice Trotter

Locating the Archives:

The United Nations and El Salvador’s Collective Memory in Midtown Manhattan

by Valeria Vázquez Guevara

Senate Square, Helsinki

by Panu Minkkinen

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