The issue of violence in Jamaican
architecture plays a specific and tightly circumscribed role. There are three
basic factors to be considered. The first is the violence which lies at the
very core of the foundation of Jamaica.
That violence is the consequence of the mechanisms of colonialism and slavery
and the geometric configuration which such mechanisms force on the landscape.
The Second factor describes how the
more recent cult of violence, carrying the weight of Jamaicaís
past, affects the modulation and configuration of space and division in the
buildings of modern Kingston.
The third describes how the resulting architecture reciprocates and in turn
does violence to society.
In this way I have identified a
largely self-referential and downward spiral of urban deterioration from which
it is impossible to break free without the fatigue of the icons and fears which
keeps a city responding to its own problems in a certain way. In this process
actual violence plays merely an iconic role, it is a principle of authority
which most people receive only through harrowing images of the media. The cause
of violence in Jamaica
is manifold. It has been well researched in documents such as the World Bank
report on Urban Violence and Poverty in Jamaica, a document I have relied
on extensively. (3) One cause they identify is the necessarily narrow focus on
survival as a consequence of economic conditions in the country. That is
important. Another cause, not unrelated to the former, is historical and
metaphysical. It is the result of a way
of seeing that has grown over time. I am referring to the consequences of
racial and social segregation which makes people from different backgrounds
appear as different biological species. Racism and classism are the direct
result of the habit of objectification; of man into a thing, of an individual
into a generality. Such objectification creates a desultory and rebellious
machine. I propose that the violence is partly the result of the simplification
of a rigid existential taxonomy in racially complex societies. Man in these
societies has become a victim of his own metaphysics, of his need to impose
hardened categories of being on to his surroundings. He has stratified himself
into a situation whereby he can all too easily be categorised as a racial,
socio-economic symbol, allowing himself to be generalised upon and judged
without reference to his humanity. Social stratas and racial identities appear
too hardened in such an environment, too self-evident, too impenetrable and yet
they are merely the result of cultural and aesthetic habit.
project of modern society has been to undermine the justification of these
stratas. The habit of racism is receding intellectually: as a result the
categories have become increasingly unstable and arbitrary. Ironically this
itself is a cause of crisis. Crisis is a word which describes a precarious
moment of ambivalence and instability. The city of Kingston is in such a state of crisis; it may
mobilise its forces to rebuild a city in love with itself. Alternatively it may
consume itself completely in a degenerate act of delirious self-destruction.