Hassanaly Ladha

Architectural Activist, Designer, and Philosopher

Architectural Activism

I am the director of the Mamertine Group, an experimental design lab based at the University of Connecticut. The lab brings philosophical insights to bear on state projects ranging from museums, prisons, and libraries to levees and temples.

Responding to current political discourse on immigrants in the United States, the Mamertine Group recently conceived a 1950 mile
Prison-Wall along the Mexican-American border to house, process, and assimilate or remove approximately 11 million undocumented foreign nationals. Imagined as a continuous, self-sufficient city with shopping, health care, residences for prison staff, and other facilities required to sustain life, the impenetrable prison-wall duplicates the nation it protects from the outside. Predicated on my theoretical work on the relation of architectural and conceptual form, the wall ironizes the notion that the integrity and sovereignty of the state has anything to do with a physically demarcated territory.

The Mamertine Group shared its Prison-Wall concept with Estudio Pi, a forward-looking Mexican design firm, agreeing a partnership to create architectural renderings of the prison-wall. The cross-border collaboration produced a design that echoes Luis Barragán's emblematically Mexican pink walls. Working closely on each image with me and Leonardo Diaz Borioli, the intern program at Estudio Pi developed artistic visuals of the structure in various border landscapes (
hills, the desert, a border crossing over a river, a city, and the urban landscape of Tijuana), floor plans, iconography, and symbolic use of the wall on American currency. The intention is for The Prison-Wall, consisting of both text and images and constituting a kind of virtual architecture, to intervene in the public discourse and inflect the political imaginary.

My architectural activism is grounded in my work as a philosopher. Identifying the relation between architecture and thinking in philosophy as the foundation of political theory, my written and design work aims to articulate radically new modes of sovereignty and political subjectivity. To this end, my projects produce architecture virtually and concretely, leveraging a range of platforms including digital images, text, photography, film, public lectures, and essays.