Lukas Pauer – Staging Facts on the Ground: On the Material Power of Border Markers in Contested Domains

First Supervisor: Pier Vittorio Aureli
Second Supervisor: Thanos Zartaloudis

Lukas Pauer is a licensed architect, urbanist, educator, and the Founding Director of the Vertical Geopolitics Lab. Currently engaged as Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Greenwich, Tutor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh, and Co-Founding Associate Editor at Harvard University’s Very Vary Veri Journal, Lukas pursues a practice-led studio-based PhD AD at the Architectural Association with PV Aureli. He holds an MAUD from Harvard University, and an MSc Arch from ETH Zürich. Besides numerous international recognitions, Lukas has been selected as Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum and as Emerging Leader by the European Forum Alpbach — leadership programs committed to change-making impact within local communities.
In the industry, Lukas is a member of the Swiss professional association of architects and has extensive technical experience in construction at globally renowned practices such as Herzog & de Meuron Architekten. In the academy, Lukas has devised, coordinated, conducted, and assessed courses including thesis supervision and examination at leading institutions such as Victoria University of Wellington. He has spoken publicly at institutions such as the World Bank, published in periodicals including the UCLA Planning Journal, and curated and convened public programs at venues including the Biennale Architettura di Venezia.

This dissertation investigates material objects and compounds as sources of evidence for the projection of power, authority, and influence. By portraying nation-state borders as impermeable and easy to demarcate, scholars often fail to address the more porous and fluid realities of borders between politically organized communities across time. Still today, the world is fragmented into issue-related zones which materially surpass the seemingly continuous borders of the nation-state. Frontiers and boundaries are embodied by material objects and compounds. Borders have never entirely been immaterial.
Border markers link authority, an immaterial force, to its claimed domain. Markers materialize social relations in space. As seemingly minor or banal objects, they can nevertheless have enormous territorial implications. Still, intercommunal relations’ actual material devices on the ground have rarely been subjected to theorizing throughout history. How has materiality been employed to legitimize techniques of empire-building through which bodies and spaces were made subjects? In their various historical appearances, border markers are subject and structure to this dissertation. This research hypothesizes the possibility of tracing seemingly contemporary practices back to their historical origination. Through case studies of select markers, this research explores the origins of ‘scenographical’ practice through ancient sanctuaries, ‘extraterritorial’ practice through medieval freeports, ‘geodetical’ practice through modern beacons, and ‘infrastructural’ practice through depots in recent times.
In its larger aim, this research seeks to define immaterial concepts through their material conditions, becoming apparent through human-made spatial facts on the ground in various types and scales. It seeks to interrogate the ability of architectural design practice to manifest power where stable and extensive means of control are challenged. This will ultimately allow the audience of this research to reconcile with a condition which has always been inherent but never fully untangled.

Posts by Lukas Pauer