Trials of Things

Forensic Architecture

Built environments are composite assemblies of structures, spaces, infrastructure, services and technologies with a certain capacity to act and interact with their surroundings. They structure rather than simply frame events, although never perfectly so. The attribution of liability to material things is almost as old as law itself. It can be traced to the origins of ancient Greece, where a class of Athenian judges presided over a special court in charge of cases brought against unknown agents and inanimate objects. Miguel Tamen, who discusses this capacity of things, describes a curious incident in which a statue of Theagenes made after the athlete’s death was beaten by one of his rivals by way of revenge, until the statue fell and killed him. The statue was put on trial for murder, was found guilty and thrown into the sea, only to be recovered years later.

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