From 1960 to 1966, the French colonial regime detonated its first atomic bombs in the Sahara Desert spreading radioactive fallout across Africa and the Mediterranean, and causing irreversible contaminations among humans, natural and built environments. This talk examines the architectures designed and built for France’s nuclear program and exposes the toxicity of the norms and forms of this program, including the classification of its very sources.
Samia Henni is an architectural historian and Assistant Professor of History of Architecture and Urbanism at the Department of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University. She is the author of the multi-award-winning Architecture of Counterrevolution: The French Army in Northern Algeria (gta Verlag, 2017, EN; Editions B42, 2019, FR), the editor of the gta papers no. 2 titled War Zones (gta Verlag, 2018), and the maker of exhibitions, such as Housing Pharmacology / Right to Housing (Manifesta 13, Marseille, 2020) and Discreet Violence: Architecture and the French War in Algeria (Zurich, Rotterdam, Berlin, Johannesburg, Paris, Prague, Ithaca, Philadelphia, 2017–19). She received her Ph.D. in the history and theory of architecture (with distinction, ETH Medal) from ETH Zurich and taught at Princeton University, ETH Zurich, and Geneva University of Art and Design. Her teaching and research interests include the history and theory of the built, destroyed, and imagined environment in relation to colonialism, displacement, gender, natural resources, and wars. Her current book project examines how the French military authorities toxified and transformed the Saharan territories and environments in the aftermath Second World War. Henni has lectured and published widely.