The Architectural Free Zone - Reunion Island and the Politics of Vegetation

Zourgane, Philippe. 2013. The Architectural Free Zone - Reunion Island and the Politics of Vegetation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Plants are fundamental to the creation of colonial space from the very beginning: the discovery of specimens, their acclimatization into areas under surveillance, the development of their intensive production, their transportation to the European areas of consumption, their distribution starting with the hubs that, (during the Classical epoch) were Amsterdam and London and, to a lesser degree, the French ports of the Indies Company. Vegetation as a Political Agent, shows the fundamental role of plant life in the planning of the colonial territory. Plants acquired their full power in the first economic globalisation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

I focus my attention on Mauritius Island and Reunion Island that used to be a node for the French East India Company, a place of plant production but also a place that grouped important botanists such as Pierre Poivre, Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Philibert Commerson, Pierre Sonnerat. This research examines the agriculture-intensive colonial plantation and the natural sciences that emerge around it and enable it, bringing together explorers, philosophers, and botanists.

The Architectural Free Zone that gives this work its title is the shadow zone, the not-visible hidden behind that imperial construction. It is a zone off-camera that doesn’t fit within the framework of the territorial ordering by the plant; a zone off the grid that escapes the table; a zone that doesn’t respond to the imposed technical rationality or function via the primacy of vision in urban and architectural planning. The Architectural Free Zone is a radical and pragmatic implementation of escape from the control of the State. One Architectural Free Zone in Reunion Island, in La Riviere des Galets is presented as a case study.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


arcchitecture, planning, ladscape design, urban planning, architectural free zone, postcolonial studies, Indian Ocean, East Indian Comapany, Enlightment, Reunion Island, Algeria.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


January 2013

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Date Deposited:

21 Jan 2014 13:46

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2018 15:42


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