T-walls are the concrete units devised for the West Bank barrier wall in Israel. Different versions are used throughout Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Army: the 1.1m Texas, the 3.7m Bremer, the 6m Alaska. The 1m traffic barrier, Jersey, has sloped edges at the base and is used on highways seemingly everywhere.
New World Design, Jeffrey Olinger, Heather Boesch, Darby Foreman and Cliona McKenna, have developed a housing project based on T-walls for Al Querna, Iraq. The T-wall unit is at once concrete wall and foundation: the units are deployed in a morse code grid, and houses are developed from and between them. A basic L-shaped house unit multiplies to make alleys and courtyards in a number of configurations.
The project is simple and subversive. It is useful and uses the defences of war. It is culturally cognisant and based on imperialist debris. How much more interesting can this be?
Despite that the term, T-Wall, is a registered trademark of the Neel Company in Virginia for precast retaining walls, t-wall is the common name for the barrier units. The Arab Land Group, established in 2003 and headquartered in the UAE to work with the US Army, manufactures the barriers.
Clearly the shape of a pre-cast reinforced concrete slab with a footing cannot be proprietal, any more than can be a gable roof. What New World Design has done is to appropriate a form that divides and obstructs, and to de-nature its malevolence as a form by embedding it in the construction of housing.