Selected by ARTFORUM in January of 2010 as one of the top ten projects of the decade, Decolonizing Architecture was originally conceptualized and its pilot stage produced in dialogue with Eloisa Haudenschild and Steve Fagin, of the haudenschildGarage, Spare Parts projects.

Decolonizing Architecture is a collaboration between the haudenschildGarage and London-based architect and theorist Eyal Weizman and Bethlehem-based architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti. Decolonizing Architecture is a multi-pronged project that addresses the possibilities of understanding and redesigning Palestine in preparation for a post-evacuation time and context through two case studies, the former military base, Oush Grab, and the settlement of P'sagot. A scale model, architectural plans and public events, including an exhibition and symposium with Eloisa Haudenschild, Steve Fagin, Sandi Hilal, Eyal Weizman, Alessandro Petti and Lieven de Cauter at the Bozar Center for Fine Art in Brussels (October 31 2008 - January 4, 2009), were produced around plans for turning the fabric of the case studies into Palestinian public institutions.

The Manual of Decolonization was the result of a residency at Decolonizing Architecture in August 2008 with Salottobuono The manual was a choral work where different approaches stood out at the same time. The production of the manual was supported by the haudenschildGarage and based upon a series of meetings with the “stakeholders” in this process including representatives from various organizations, community members, NGOs, government and municipal bodies, academic and cultural institutions, and local resident associations. Click here to view the manual.

The manual and scale models were on view in Los Angeles at SUPERFRONT as part of the exhibition UNPLANNED: Research and Experiments at the Urban Scale (March 25 - July 2, 2010).

In 2009, the project was presented at the Venice Biennale and was selected for the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2008). Decolonizing Architecture has also been exhibited at COAC in Barcelona (2009) and at the 4th International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam (2009-2010).

 

Exhibition and Symposium at BOZAR Center for Fine Art

The haudenschildGarage, Spare Parts project Decolonizing Architecture was exhibited at the BOZAR Center for Fine Art in Brusseles from October 31, 2008 - January 4, 2009.

On October 31, a symposium was held with Eyal Weizman, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eloisa Haudenschild and Steve Fagin. Exhibition curator Lieven de Cauter was the moderator.

 

The Manual of Decolonization

The Manual of Decolonization was the result of a residency at Decolonizing Architecture in August 2008 with Salottobuono. The manual was a choral work where different approaches stood out at the same time. The production of the manual was supported by the haudenschildGarage and based upon a series of meetings with the “stakeholders” in this process including representatives from various organizations, community members, NGOs, government and municipal bodies, academic and cultural institutions, and local resident associations.

The manual and scale models were on view in Los Angeles at SUPERFRONT as part of the exhibtion UNPLANNED: Research and Experiments at the Urban Scale (March 25 - July 2, 2010).

Just as the discipline of architecture faces a re-imagination of itself in this era of slow-motion global capitalism, the human population finds itself crossing the threshold to a predominantly urban existence. Many of the basic tenets underpinning urban planning – Cartesian geometry, programmatic taxonomy, contextualism – have been subject to skeptical investigation and rebellion in architecture throughout the past decade. Yet conventional urban planning continues, the discipline of urban planning operating much as it has since the 1960s (if not the 1860s). Leveraging an interdisciplinary focus, UNPLANNED: RESEARCH AND EXPERIMENTS AT THE URBAN SCALE boldly presented a collection of radical methods for envisioning and producing space at the urban scale.

A group exhibit with more than twenty participants, UNPLANNED spanned architecture, urban design, industrial design, conceptual art, and cartography to present an array of experimental work at the urban scale. Multi-disciplinary practitioners addressed emergent urbanism, “wild building”, and other alternatives to conventional urban planning. The exhibit was curated by SUPERFRONT Founder + Director Mitch McEwen with Associate Curator Cecilia Brock and Gallery Intern Jackie Koenig.

Work was exhibited in multiple formats, from physical models to drawings, animations, software applications, consumer products, and live film. Dealing with urban situations from derelict construction sites to refugee camps, favelas, temporary housing and other contemporary spatial phenomena, the exhibition confronted the current economic crises and larger issues of globalization.

 

MANUAL OF DECOLONIZATION

Text by Salottobuono & Decolonizing Architecture with Barbara Modolo, Manuel Singer, Alessandro Zorzetto.

Salottobuono designed several 'strategies of subversion' for Israeli residential settlements in the West Bank and included them in a "Manual of Decolonization": a generic toolbox for post-occupation scenarios. The manual determines to what extent the evacuated structures are flexible to accomodate new uses, and displays the various ways in which they can be adapted or transformed, on a detailed architectural scale. Located on the hill of Jabal Tawil, 900 meters above sea level, the colony visually dominates the entire Palestinian area. Until the occupation it was used as an open space for recreation. The hills of Jerusalem and Ramallah were popular with families from the Gulf, especially Kuwaitis who travelled there to escape the summer heat (the people of Ramallah still call the hill “the Kuwaiti hill”).

In 1964, the municipality of Al Quds (Jerusalem) bought the land and prepared a plan for its development into a tourist resort. The work started in early 1967 with the construction of an access road. The work was interrupted by the Israeli occupation. In July 1981, on the initiative of the Likud party, the colony of P’sagot was inaugurated as ‘compensation’ to right-wing Israelis for the evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula. The area designated for tourist accommodation was the first to be occupied by settler housing. The first houses set on the hill of Jabal Tawil were prefabricated structures wheeled over from Yamit, a settlement in the north of the Sinai. P’sagot is at present a religious settlement inhabited by 1,700 people, mainly American Jews and a minority of recent Russian and French immigrants.

Rather than a single unified proposal of urban planning covering the entirety of Palestine, of even the entirety of this settlement, our project presents detailed transformations on the architectural scale. There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli built structures in the West Bank, but because the number of typologies in settlements and military bases are limited – variations on the single-family dwelling in settlements and concrete prefabricated barracks in military bases – these ‘fragments of possibility’ constitute a semi-generic approach that could be modified to be applied in other evacuated areas.

The manual seeks to determine to what extent the evacuated structures are to accommodate new uses and will demonstrate the various ways in which they can be adapted or transformed. The production of the manual is based upon a series of meetings with the “stakeholders” in this process. It includes representatives of various organizations and individuals, the local community, members of various ngos, government and municipal bodies, academic and cultural institutions, local residents and resident associations. Their genuine participation is the crucial factor and the only agency that could guaranty the implementation of the actions outlined in the manual.

 

DE-PARCELLING

In the course of our analysis, we made use of both documentary and narrative sources to identify some of the landowners within the areas of the colonies. Jabel Tawil/P’sagot is at the gravitational centre of various orbits of extra-territoriality: displaced communities, individuals, migrations and family connections. Our investigation traced some of the Palestinian landowners to the US, Australia, Kuwait, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and of course closer at hand in Palestine, sometimes fenced off a few meters away from their lands. Their private and family histories are the intertwined histories of Palestine and its displaced communities, forced out by the occupation and by economic and professional opportunities overseas. About half of the area occupied by the Psagot colony belongs to private owners with the other half registered as belonging to one of various kinds of collective lands. The fate of private lands should be decided by their owners, it is within the communal lands that we propose various types of collective uses.

 

UN-GROUNDING

In the first stages a controlled erosion deteriorates the existing roads, lots, parking, and sidewalks. Thepassage of time and the natural and unnatural results of neglect are allowed to overtake the land, while at the same time preserving certain features for potential reutilization. This suspension of decay occurs at sites of intersecting streets where the asphalt is preserved and refigured in the service of an eventual connectivity to the adjacent town of Al Bireh. As the surrounding ground is alternately eroded and buried, a series of new conditions emerge – terraces of arable land re-form the western hill replacing the strategic importance of the hillside with new visual and infrastructural linkages to Ramallah. In other areas of the settlement, zones of new terrain emerge implying various types of development, forming an archipelago of parcels guided by a new logic of land ownership and distribution. Whether thought of as parameters or as contingencies, the intrinsic variability of this process must be understood as indeterminate in outcome – its ultimate resolution subject to the negotiations, localized planning, and apportionment over time that will, no doubt, accompany a re-inhabitation of the site.

 

RE-COMBINING

The placement of the containers (In P’sagot we have counted at least 60, even if the recent surveys have pointed out a bigger number) within the fabric of the settlement densifies the existing structures and allow for connections between the homes. This help to de-suburbanize the space. We propose to insert them in some interstice available, one slab of the container connects between existing buildings, giving a form to one continuous used surface which is adaptable to diverse urban functions.

 

RE-SETTLING

Since the start of the second intifada, about 700 kilometers of fencing have been built around these settlements – totaling about the same projected length as the main section of the Wall. The settlement islands encircled by “depth barriers” were declared by the IDF to be “special security zones” and the area extending four hundred meters around them to be “sterile.” Its definition means that the military and the settlements’ civil militias may shoot-to-kill any Palestinian who happens to stray into these zones. The natural growth of Ramallah and el bireh would expand on all private lands, however islands of settlement - the odd lots of public ground cut out from its fabric would remain floating within this urban fabric, becoming the nucleus of a new set of public infrastructure.

RE-PLUGGING

Underground -The destruction of homes and other building within the settlements would leave a system of underground infrastructure intact. These infrastructure – water, sewage, electricity, telephone – buried under the coming rubble could in fact give life for a new form of over-ground urbanity. Seeing prospects for development in place of the evacuated settlement of Gaza, the EU’s foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana suggested in 2005 the “settlement villas” destroyed and removed in order “to make way for high-rise construction”. His idea was that the infrastructure that was set to serve each single family house could be extruded into a vertical core of infrastructure serving a set of new high-rise buildings.

 

UN-HOMING

The molecular level of the occupation is the single-family house on a small plot of land. Investigating ways to transform this repetitive semi-generic structure may open up ways to transform the entire geography of occupation. What are its limits of transformability? Can a single-family home become the nucleus of new types of public institutions? Which structural parts should be retained and what are the possible ways of connecting together groups of houses? The problem is also how to transform a series of small-scale single-family houses into unified clusters of communal space, to accommodate larger functions like halls and classrooms, laboratories for a research institute, clinics and offices.

 

UN-FOLDING

Design by destruction - Construction and destruction are complementary and as such somewhat indistinguishable as military actions in space. The Israeli military is involved in construction projects of settlements. The environment is shaped – strategically, tactically. It becomes a mirror of the ideological/financial interests of the parties doing the shaping. There is a relationship between the way the built environment is organized and the logic of government. Contemporary warfare is increasingly conducted through the destruction, construction, reorganization, and subversive use and reading of space. As such, the urban environment should be understood not simply as the location, the backdrop for conflict, not even only as its tools and apparatuses. But enmeshed with the forces that operate within it.

 

UN-ROOFING

Within the settlements uniformity of architectural taste is often imposed through the repetition of a small variety of single and double, family house-and-garden designs. Within all these types, the red pitched roof became the emblem, the ubiquitous symbol of Jewish settlements. In an interview a young architect based in the West Bank explained this issue to me: “A lot of ink was spilled [in critical discussion] over the issue of the red roofs… I personally think that there is something interesting about it though… since it was inaugurated as the common practice some twenty years ago… you can easily recognize, even as you are coming from the distance a Jewish settlement!… maybe it really does not blend in with the surrounding, but it makes a strong statement and marks an orientation point – this settlement is Jewish!” Beyond responding to typical middle-class suburban aesthetics, the adorning of settlement homes with red roofs also serves a security function: the sites can be identified from afar as Israeli.

 

Case Study South: Former Military Base Oush Grab

DESIGN BY DESTRUCTION

In the base of Oush Grab we have employed the first stages of our architectural proposal as forms of destruction. Because of its ‘revolving door occupation’ in which the danger of the place’s appropriation by settlers always exist, it is important to first render the building less amenable to be used, before allowing for new functions to inhabit them. As a first stage of design we propose to perforate the buildings of the military base by drilling holes into their walls. When the building is finally appropriated these would render walls into screens.

Our intervention seeks to use the shifting nature of the rampart to reorganize the relationship between the buildings and the landscape. We will partially bury the buildings in the rubble of their own fortifications.

 

Birds migration

The paths of birds migrating from Siberia to Eastern Europe to southern Africa converge over Palestine. The flocks tend to land on preeminent hilltops such as Oush Grab. Every spring and fall thousands of migrating birds can be seen at the base. Palestine is known for its location between the three main continents, Africa, Asia and Europe, where there had been estimated around 520 species of Birds and 2700 species of Plants occurring in this area, hence it considered as a major and important grassroots for Migratory birds like Storks, Pelicans and raptors (Such as Lesser Kestrel, Honey Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Egyptian Vulture) that use the Jordan Valley-Jericho; Jerusalem Mountains routes.

 

Case Study North: P'sagot Settlement

Rather than a single unified proposal of urban planning covering the entirety of Palestine, our project presents detailed transformations on the architectural scale. There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli built structures in the West Bank, but because the number of typologies in settlements and military bases are limited — variations on the single-family dwelling in settlements and concrete prefabricated barracks in military bases — these ‘fragments of possibility’ constitute a semi-generic approach that could be modified to be applied in other evacuated areas.

 

About the Participants

Alessandro Petti  

Alessandro Petti is an Architect and Researcher in Urbanism, chair of the newly established Urban Studies and Spatial Practices program at Al-Quds/Bard College Palestine and director of Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program centered in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem (www.campusincamps.ps). Petti is founding member and director of DAAR, an architectural office and an artistic residency program that combines conceptual speculations and architectural interventions. DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, received the Art initiative Grant, shortlisted for the Chrnikov Prize and showed in various museums and biennales around the world. Petti has written on the emerging spatial order dictated by the paradigm of security and control (Asymmetries: the road network in Israel/Palestine, in “State of exception and Resistance in the Arab World”, Arab Unity Studies 2010; Dubai Offshore Urbanism in Heterotopia and the City, Routledge 2008; Archipelagos and enclaves, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2007) and published several articles centred around DAAR artistic practice (Return to Nature in “Ecological Urbanism”, Lars Muller Publishers, May 2010; Decolonizing Palestine, Abitare 504, July 2010; Future Archaeology, Afterall, February 2009,). He co-curated different research projects on the contemporary urban condition such as Borderdevices (2002-2007), Uncertain States of Europe (2001-2003) with multiplicity and Stateless Nation with Sandi Hilal (2002-2007).

His projects have been published in national and international newspapers and magazines: the New York Times, Il Manifesto, Al Ayyam, Al- Quds, Art Forum and Archis. He has been invited to lectures in several institutions and universities among others: Tate modern London, Columbia University, University of Exeter, American University of Beirut, University of London, Global Art Forum Dubai, Prefix Gallery Toronto, Festival della Filosofia di Roma, Bard College University New York, Henry Moore Institute, Festival Architettura Parma.

Sandi Hilal 

Sandi Hilal is an architect based in Bethlehem. She is consultant with the UNRWA on the camp improvement program and visiting professor at Al-Quds/Bard University in Abu Dis-Jerusalem. She is a founder member of DAAR. In 2006 she obtained the title of research doctorate in Transborder policies for daily life in the University of Trieste. She is a co-author of different research projects published and exhibited internationally: Stateless Nation with Alessandro Petti, Border devices with multiplicity. Her publications include Senza Stato una Nazione,(Marsilio, Venezia 2003); Living Among the Dead (Domus 880, April 2005); Road Map (Equilibri, August 2004), la stanza dei sogni (Liguori Editore, 2004), Stateless Nation (Archis, Preview # 4 2003). Her projects have been published in national and international newspapers and magazines: the New York Times, The Guardian, Il Manifesto, Al Ayyam, Al- Quds, Art Forum, and Archis.

Eyal Weizman

Eyal Weizman is an architect based in London. He studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London and completed his PhD at the London Consortium, Birkbeck College. Weizman is a founder member of DAAR. He is the director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Before this role, Weizman was Professor of Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Weizman works with a variety of NGOs and Human right groups in Israel/Palestine. He co-curated the exhibition A Civilian Occupation, The Politics of Israeli Architecture, and co-edited the publication of the same title. These projects were based on his human-rights research, and were banned by the Israeli Association of Architects. They were later shown in the exhibition Terriories in New York, Berlin, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Malmoe, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Weizman has taught, lectured and organised conferences in many institutions worldwide. His books include The Lesser Evil (nottetempo 2009), Hollow Land (Verso Books, 2007), A Civilian Occupation (Verso Books, 2003), theseriesTerritories 1, 2 and 3, Yellow Rhythms and many articles in journals, magazines and edited books. Weizmanis a regular contributors to many journals and magazines and is an editor at large for Cabinet Magazine (New York). Weizman is the recipient of the James Stirling Memorial Lecture Prize.

Salottobuono

Salottobuono was born in 2005 as a collector of research experiences and design production. It investigates the urban space, codifying cognitive devices and triggering transformation strategies. Topics, challenges and programs are occasions for diagrammatic analyses and elaboration of paradoxical visions. Critical nodes, discontinuities and weak points are exasperated through the formulation of visionary objects and performative practicies based on non-authorial concepts and minimal rationality. Salottobuono is grounded in intellectual exchange and relational attitude built around a stable work group. Its experience develops through the participation in competitions, workshops, publications and specific assignments.