Project by
Alon Sarig
Master Track
Salomon Frausto, Bas Gremmen, Wouter Vanstiphout

The Dutch West Caribbean Company – A global company

Problem description
In 1724, Captain Charles Johnson*, published his partly fictional, pirates biographies collection “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates”. The book recounts exotic tales of creative penalties innovated by pirates (such as marching prisoners on a beam protruding from a ship’s deck) and heroic biographies that sometimes couldn’t resist the dark joy of gossip: who liked to drink tea, who abstained from drinking alcohol and whose skull transformed into a beverage cup after his death.

Among these stories, Captain Johnson describes the story of Libertatia. Libertatia was a pirate colony, or a compelling literary fraud, founded by two hundred pirates (under the leadership of Captain Misson) that were, at the end of the 17th century, fed up with the suppressing limitations of the monarchy in Europe. On their epic journey to Libertatia, the pirates were waging wars against states and lawmakers, attacking ships, sparing prisoners, and freeing slaves that later joined the pirate’s community in the north of Madagascar.

Libertatia existed, according to the text, for 25 Years, as a collective christian colony, based on the catchy and explicit slogan “For God And Liberty”. The notorious gang, that only years earlier engaged in piracy, became a farmers community. The property was common and money in Libertatia had no more use.

Almost 300 years after the glamourous story of Libertatia, today, the global rich are on the move. Whether it’s wealthy French or Americans fleeing the prospect of higher taxes or wealthy Russians and Chinese trying to escape political uncertainty, millionaires and billionaires around the globe are withdrawing with their wealth or families to the offshore world like never before.

The offshore world, has been gaining enormous popularity since the 1980’s and despite increasingly defining the operations of the globalized economy** and the spaces it generates, it is a spatial phenomenon that is mostly ignored by the architectural and urban discourse. Manifested by the forms of tax havens, freeports and special economic zones, the offshore world offers an exterritorial space where people, objects, and capital can operate beyond the burdens of national sovereignty, and remain in an unregulated limbo, in theory, forever. A spatial observation on this deregulated offshore world displays how architectural design and urban planning operate as a political activity or how, on the other hand, political, economical and ideological process formulate space and new aesthetic pleasures – Involving the power relations between public and private, between companies and states, and between the privileged and the excluded.

Research questions

  • Following political and ideological mechanisms as instruments that formulate the spatial environment, Does this offshore world (manifested by tax havens and freeports) is a physical space, external to the nation-state system, or only a juridical fictional-virtual space that is territorially embedded within the onshore world?
  • If international art events and iconic museums is the contemporary substance that decorates various regimes and ideologies, are the corporate surfaces of the offshore world, the secret and secure spaces of the freeports and tax havens is their dark network, their customary path, into which people, objects, and capital disappear, as into an abyss of withdrawal?

Goal of your project
the project offers an an architectural response to an ongoing geopolitical and geoeconomic process (the development of the offshore economy). A process, whereby not only unusual goods such as artworks, battles of wine and stolen antiquities (that were in times past, part of inalienable collective goods) are turning into commodities, but also basic human rights such as the right to asylum, freedom of speech, right to health and more are turned into commodities.  The project, focuses on the tax haven and the freeport as a withdrawal facility, one that seeps through the cracks of national sovereignty and establishes its own logistic network. In the tax haven and the freeport, rules still apply, though it might be difficult to specify exactly which ones, to whom or what they apply, and how they are implemented.

Design Description
Rather than the ideological logic or the social contract of the nation state which include or exclude its citizens based upon a common cultural or ethnic identity, and provided them with basic human rights. The starting point of the project, the micro state tax haven, offers a deal. An ex-territorial autonomy that disobeys the good old spatial cliches of  the representative democracy – openness, transparency and accessibility and provide basic human rights such as the right to asylum, freedom of speech, right to health as commodities for sale.

*Captain Charles Johnson, was probably a pseudonym of the English writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe
** Today it is estimated that over 80% of international transactions take place ‘offshore’