In a world of increasingly faceless warfare, the built environment has emerged as an important character—a witness to secret strikes in places that soldiers no longer dare venture. Alongside his report on drone strikes earlier this week, United Nations Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson also released an interactive website that presents investigations into the locations of over 30 incidents. With the help of Forensic Architecture and SITU Research, each case was visually reconstructed using architectural remnants to give insight into the attacks.
All images via Fast Co Design.
The teams pieced together information using a technique called video-to-space analysis that reverse-engineers scenes from visual evidence. The technique combines video analysis with technologies familiar to many architects, including graphic illustration and parametric modeling. Other resources included photographs, satellite imagery, interviews, survivor testimonies, press reports, cell phone videos, and computer models.
SITU Research had previously collaborated with Goldsmiths’ Centre for Research Architecture to employ a similar strategy to investigate the death of 30-year-old Palestinian Bassem Abu-Rahmeh. Image via Fast Co Design.
“The forensic architecture methods we have developed are meant to generate evidence where there is little information available. Studying buildings hit by drones reveals much of the consequences of a strike," explains Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture's principal investigator.
The result is an accessible visualization of Emmerson’s report that shows the geographic specifics of US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as attacks by Israeli drones on Gaza. Everyday architecture has replaced the battlefields of yore as the locus of military conflict. "War has become increasingly urban,” Weizman recently told Co.Design, describing the nature of drone warfare. Targets of the strikes may be specific individual people, but mainly, he reports, “what we see targeted are buildings." Forensic architecture may not be a new field, but in light of such covert operations, architects may have more power in the international community than previously realized.