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The collaborative research project Geographies of Freedom, initiated and developed by Egbert Alejandro Martina and Miguel Peres dos Santos, investigates the ways in which geography, architecture and the law produce, maintain, and spatialise freedom. It consists of a publication, a film, an exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut and a series of public events, centered around the questions “What is freedom and what constitutes a free life?”   

The first of the three Research Meetings in the context of the project is about Architecture. As the project's initiators put it:

"Legal architecture—the courthouse and the courtroom—provides legal discourse to a proper space, and as such it is an essential factor for understanding the complexity of space. Legal architecture provides not only a structure, a space, an almost sanctified place for the operation of law and justice, but also sets the stage on which people come to experience judicial authority through the pomp and ceremony of the judicial procedure. Linda Mulcahy argues that “the environment in which the trial takes place can be seen as a physical expression of our relationship with the ideals of justice.”

We will consider some of the following questions: what is architecture’s relation to the law? To put it differently, what kinds of architecture have been produced to accommodate and help the administration of the law and governance? And what role does architecture play in the formation of legal and national space? What role does architecture play in communicating democratic ideals of freedom, equality, the rule of law, and justice? What role does architecture play in the social construction of race, and, in particular, freedom? What were the design ideas that have formed the basis of the justice system? What are the design considerations for courthouses and courtrooms—material symbol of justice in democracy? In other words, how are courtrooms and courthouses designed and concretely structured, and thus materially experienced—both legally and architecturally? What does the courtroom actually look like? What can the spatial arrangement of the courtroom tell us about the ways in which law lays claim to authority and legitimacy? And how does the design of the courthouse reveal dominant social ideas about the body, the senses (sight, touch, hearing/listening), authority, fairness, and justice? The absence of Claes’s “voice” doesn’t necessarily indicate an absence of speech. We posit that by paying close attention to the complex relationship between (legal) space and the Black body, we can take account of the significant role legal architecture plays in shaping how Black people’s experience “justice.” "

13:30 – 16:30

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


The capacity is limited. In order to join the meeting and participate in the exchange, please leave your name, e-mail address and a motivation (of no more than 150 words) via the project's contact form

Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker