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Border Definition in Oslo Airport Gardermoen


Intervention Strategy: Managing Dissidence in Gardermoen

Bolleria Industrial/Factory-Baked Goods (Paula Currás, Ana Olmedo and Enrique Ventosa)

Intervention Strategies speculate on the architectures associated to the particularities of each site, and can range from spatial strategies, typological variations, and material prototypes to digital platforms and legal propositions, among many others. Managing Dissidence in Gardermoen operates on the airport’s manufacturing and assimilation of fabricated experiences. Departing from real stories in which airport regulations have been exposed and contested, the project seeks to produce a set of devices which, singling out the passengers’ cultural particularities, question the airports’ homogenizing rituals and configure a platform for criticality.

Through the boredom, the oddly familiar scenarios, and the climate-controlled atmospheres of in-transit buffers, the spaces and technologies of the airport relax our sensory spatial apprehension which camouflages the control parameters to which passengers are submitted. Managing Dissidence aims to achieve an enhanced sensory perception which activates the body within the airport’s environment.

In contrast to the individualizing rules of the airport, interactions among users–established in trying to kill time during delays, helping to solve shared inconveniences, or by proximity in the waiting line–create micro-communities based on temporal alliances. Eventually, these interactions can develop into indirect, unsophisticated forms of dissidence, political discussions, and negotiations. Managing Dissidence aims to rethink airport rituals to achieve new forms of aggregation. This project is understood as a form of a soft activism which re-codifies these existing rituals, provoking new social conventions that oppose pre-existing regulations.


Site Brief:

Site Briefs provide the framework for the In Residence: Call for Intervention Strategies and Call for Associated Projects, and open up architectural questions associated to each site.


Duty Free Shop at Oslo Airport Gardermoen, Ryszard Parys (2014). Courtesy of the author.

The architecture, landscape, and urbanism of airports materialize the divisions and boundaries of nation-states’ differing sociopolitical, economic, and aesthetic conditions. As such, the airport acts as a two-fold regulator: on the one hand, its spaces and thresholds filter the transit of bodies into and out of the country, defining the subjects’ belonging to a specific political, social, and legal status; on the other hand, through luggage control and taxes, it administers the circulation of these bodies’ belongings which finally populate domestic landscapes.

Located about fifty kilometers from the center, and currently undergoing an extension to double its area, the Oslo Airport in Gardermoen has experienced a continual increase in the number of passengers, receiving a total of 24,269,287 in 2014. Approximately a third were tourists.[1] The airport’s design is characterized by an insistence on the tropes of the Nordic, which are embodied in the dialogue between an architecture characterized by the wooden interior textures of the airport – even the corporate-like glass facade of the offices is covered in wooden louvers – and a carefully crafted landscape project which merges the facility with the surrounding pine tree and lupine forests.[5] On entering these spaces, individuals cross one of the biggest areas of duty frees shops in Europe. On leaving them, their bodies pass through the “state-of-the-art” in airport security, including different types of scanners considered less aggressive for inspected travelers.[3]

Amongst those departing are also counted a record number of “illegal immigrants”[2] who are expelled in many cases after having stayed just a few meters away from the airport, in the military barracks of the Trandum Detention Center.[4] The remains of an old military airport facility integrated into Gardermoen, the Center complements a perimeter flanked by hotels. The airport’s urbanism is, thus, strategically built around a warm welcome for both locals and tourists, and the legal expulsion of migrants. Despite the Nordic architectural veil, Gardermoen is the scene for wider conflicting sovereignties, enacted in spaces including the US Customs and Border Protection preclearance system for inspection before boarding a direct flight to US.[6]

Within the Oslo Airport, we can examine the contemporary use of aesthetic regimes and technologies in the spaces that some can call home, that some can access while in transit, and that some are not allowed to enter.


Site Report (A Teaser):

James Bridle on Border Definitions at Oslo Airport Gardermoen

Reports about the sites have been commissioned from a group of international architects, artists, journalists, and other professionals. The commission for these reports is intended to challenge ideas of ‘site’ solely concerned with geometric boundaries and contextual references. Intervention strategies and associated projects do not need to respond to these reports.

The Aresti Catalogue is a series of figures which describe the movements of aircraft during aerobatic displays. Devised in the mid-20th Century by the Spanish aviator Colonel José Luis Aresti Aguirre, they are a method for abstracting a complex series of movements in space, which take place within the fixed three-dimensional volume of the display zone, but can be redeployed anywhere. Acting as both flight plan and basis for competition scoring, they are descriptive and prescriptive at the same time: a system for visualising complexity, and for judging it. They stand in for visualisations of all kinds of complex human-machine and human-social interactions, literalised and judged at the moment of performance; a choreography of a network event.

In contrast to the abstraction of the Aresti Catalogue, the processes and techniques of Air Crash Investigation seek to approach through forensic study an approximation of the truth; an understanding of systemic failures which produce a catastrophe. This kind of investigation may also be read as a form of augury and haruspicy: the inspection of the flight paths and entrails of birds, in order to comprehend the past, and predict the future.

The path taken by the businessman and the migrant, the tourist and the refugee, involve the same physical actions and take place within the same bounded architectures, but traverse radically different cognitive, legal, and social spaces. Their experience, status, and reception are all similarly mediated by different technological and institutional systems.

At Gardermoen (IATA Code: OSL), I will use the language and graphics of the Aresti Catalogue, and the processes and techniques of Air Crash Investigation, to understand, explore, visualise and critique the architecture, systems, and processes of the International Airport. In an increasingly borderless world, these so-called “non-places” of international transit become the most concrete places of all, reifying and making visible national policy, surveillance culture, and the ebbs and flows of migratory journeys.

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