DAAR is an architectural studio and art residency programme based in Beit Sahour, Palestine. DAAR’s work combines discourse, spatial intervention, collective learning, public meetings and legal challenges. DAAR’s practice is centred on one of the most difficult dilemmas of political practice: how to act both propositionally and critically within an environment in which the political force field is so dramatically distorted. It proposes the subversion, reuse, profanation and recycling of the existing infrastructure of a colonial occupation. DAAR projects have been shown showed in various biennales and museums, among them Venice Biennale, Home Works in Beirut, the Istanbul Biennial, the Bozar in Brussels, NGBK in Berlin, The Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, Architekturforum Tirol in Innsbruk, the Tate in London, the Oslo Triennial, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and many other places. DAAR’s members have taught lectured and published internationally. In 2010 DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, Foundation for Art Initiatives Grant, and shortlisted for the Chrnikov Prize.
DAAR Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman
Directed by Alessandro Petti
Artists and Architects in residence: Armin Linke, Francesco Mattuzzi, Ursula Biemann, Brave New Alps (Bianca Elzenbaumer and Fabio Franz), Vincezo Castella, Anne Gough, Zakiya Hanafi, Jake Himmel, Jesse Long, Salvatore Porcaro, Francesca Recchia, Lorenzo Romito, Allegra Martin, Roberto Sartor, Armina Pilav, Sara Pellegrini, Mario Abruzzese, Francesca Vargiu, Beatrice Catanzaro, Sean Murphy, Rachela Abbate, Marco Cerati, Ahmad Barclay, Merlin Eayrs, Sebastiaan Loosen, Marcella Rafaniello, Maria Rocco, Mahdi Sabbagh, Bert Ruelens, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik, Tashy Endres, Diego Segatto, Lorenzo Pezzani, Sonia Arw, Benoît Burquel, Luisa Cerlini, Elisa Ferrato, Alesssandra Gola, Suzanne Harris-Brandts, Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, Michael Baers, Amina Bech.
We established our practice as a combination of an architectural studio and a residency program. DAAR, or Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, aims to use spatial practice as a form of political intervention. DAAR’s program has gathered together architects, artists, and researchers—all of whom wanted to work collectively on the subjects of politics and architecture. The residency has various modes of operation: it combines discourse, spatial intervention, collective learning, public meetings, and legal challenges.
The work of the studio/residency was further based on a network of local affiliations and the historical archives we have gathered in the years of our research. It was the necessity and the specificity of the situation that led us to assume that a viable approach is to be found not in the professional language of architecture and planning, but in inaugurating a collaborative “arena of speculation” that incorporates varied cultural and political perspectives.
The residency was established with the aim of engaging with a complex set of architectural problems centered on one of the most difficult dilemmas of political practice: how to act both propositionally and critically in an environment in which the political force fields, as complex as they may be, are so dramatically skewed. Are interventions at all possible? How could spatial practice within the here and now of the conflict over Palestine negotiate the existence of institutions and of their legal and spatial realities? How can we find an “autonomy of practice” that is both critical and transformative?
To engage in architecture in a zone of occupations and oppression is to engage in a less-than-ideal world. This has not only to do with the violence that contaminates every aspect of our life, but with determining the point in time from which speculation could begin. Conflicts create a sense of postponement. Architecture tends to await the post-conflict stage, or to imagine it, at least. But ours is an endless struggle, and, still, people and groups have different perceptions of what the desired post-conflict state might be—a desired state of affairs or a desired State? Political ideologies are not defined by present practices but by the kind of end state desired. Are you a one-, a two-, or three-state solutionist? A partitionist? A federalist? The one/two/three-state or Middle Eastern confederation solutions are equally entrapped in their respective “top-down” expert perspective, each with its own self-referential logic, system of government, and mediation. The only state we know is a state of conflict and struggle.
Thinking politics through architecture helps us enter the problem from another direction. Our architecture is not about determining a utopia of ultimate satisfaction, but simply starting from what exists—the present state of affairs and its material manifestation, from the rubble “unceasingly piled before our feet”. Our way of work seeks to find and utilize cracks and loopholes within existing colonial systems of separation and control. As such, it deals with the stuff of what might be called “real existing colonialism” and the trash it leaves behind. These include built structures, infrastructure, land ownership, and legal systems alike. Each of these elements enforces separations of different nature and by different means. We seek to reuse and profane rather than reject the material conditions of real existing colonialism. We seek to decolonize a system rather than establish a State. Our project mobilizes architecture (and, in particular, individual buildings within our region) as optical apparatuses to study these principles, and also as a tactical tool to act within the unfolding struggle for Palestine.