In talking of slavery in relation to architecture one thing must stand very clear. That the nature of the slave defines an environment, a landscape and therefore has a strong effect on architecture.


But if we think of the architecture of slaves as just that, the houses and buildings made by and for slaves we would be quickly finished.


There is, beyond containment and control, little architecture of slaves, there is only the architecture of slavery.


That is a wider story.


This comes from what Orlando Patterson has defined as the nature of the slave: a slave is not mere property, the slave is made into an object, a thing, which then is owned.


As Patterson pointed out, a husband and wife relation conceives aspects of belonging. A slave does not belong in the sense that a husband belongs to his wife with mutual rights and duties. A slave belongs to his owner in the way that a toaster can be owned.


It is in that dehumanising objectification that the absurdities and banalities of being an owned object become cruel. Slaves are not objects. They are people made into objects. But of course that metamorphosis is never complete and even rebels.


It is the complicated dialects of that partial and humiliating success and that partial and seemingly hopeless failure that define the strange environment which a slave-based economy creates.