DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) is an architectural studio and art residency programme based in Beit Sahour, Palestine. DAAR’s work combines conceptual speculations and pragmatic spatial interventions, discourse and collective learning. DAAR explores possibilities for the reuse, subversion and profanation of actual structure of domination: from evacuated military bases to the transformation of refugee camps, from uncompleted governmental structures to the remains of destroyed villages.
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. DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, Foundation for Art Initiatives Grant, and shortlisted for the Chrnikov Prize.
DAAR co-director: Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti
Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti are both architect and researcher in urbanism, founding member and co-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, the foundation for Arts initiative Grant, shortlisted for the Iakov Chernikhov Prize and showed in various biennales and museums around the world (www.decolonizing.ps). Alongside research and practice, Hilal and Petti are engaged in critical pedagogy, they established an experimental educational program in Dheisheh refugee camp Bethlehem in partnership with Al Quds University and hosted by the Phoenix Center (www.campusincamps.ps).
More recently they co-authored the book Architecture after Revolution (Sternberg, Berlin 2014) an invitation to rethink today’s struggles for justice and equality not only from the historical perspective of revolution, but also from that of a continued struggle for decolonization.
Their projects have been published in national and international newspapers and magazines: the New York Times, Al Ayyam, Al- Quds, Art Forum and Domus and they have 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.
DAAR Architects, Artists and Researcher in Residence
Haneen Abo Khiran, Lucia Disluci, Nathan Witt, Dalia Abu Hashish, Lucia Maffei, Margo Van Den Berge, Eduardo Cassina, Liva Dudareva, Arne Carpentier, Nick Axel, Jacob Burns
Lorenzo Pezzani, Sanne Van Den Breemer, Patricia Fernandes, Gabriel A. Cuellar, Zhongqi Ren, Sai Shu, Rizki M. Supratman, Lieven De Cauter
Nicola Perugini, Sonia Arw, Benoît Burquel, Luisa Cerlini, Elisa Ferrato, Alesssandra Gola, Suzanne Harris-Brandts, Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, Michael Baers, Amina Bech
Sean Murphy, Marco Cerati, Ahmad Barclay, Merlin Eayrs, Sebastiaan Loosen, Marcella Rafaniello, Maria Rocco, Mahdi Sabbagh, Bert Ruelens, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik, Tashy Endres, Diego Segatto
Allegra Martin, Roberto Sartor, Armina Pilav, Sara Pellegrini, Mario Abruzzese, Francesca Vargiu, Beatrice Catanzaro
Bianca Elzenbaumer, Fabio Franz, Vincezo Castella, Anne Gough, Zakiya Hanafi, Jake Himmel, Jesse Long, Salvatore Porcaro, Francesca Recchia, Lorenzo Romito
DAAR board members: Ghaida Rahil (Board Director), Cristina Al-Shaib (Treasurer), Maher Qassis (deputy board director), Wafa Qumsieh (board member), Lia Musleh (board member), Issa Andoni (board member), Sawsan Khair (board member), Arwa Shomali (financial officer).
DAAR research and practice
DAAR is a combination of an architectural studio and a residency program. DAAR aims to use spatial practice as a form of political intervention. DAAR’s program has gathered together architects, artists, activists, urbanists, film- makers, and curators— to work collectively on the subjects of politics and architecture.
The architectural studio and art 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 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 postconflict 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 postconflict state might be—a desired state of affairs or a desired State?
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 a different nature and by different means.
Instead of critical distance we sought critical proximity. Our wish was to inhabit the subject of our study, to become part of the constellation of forces that shapes our environment.
Although our form of research and practice is collective, relational, and active, it would be wrong to think of it as “activist.” We do not work in an ameliorative manner; we have never proposed the kind of informal architecture we see worldwide promoted as a solution to alleviate poverty; we do not use photography to reveal injustice or protest it. Rather we have sought to establish a different balance between withdrawal and engagement, action in the world and research, fiction and proposal. Our work should neither be interpreted as an attempt to articulate an architectural utopia nor as a political instrument for “denouncing” or “mobilizing public opinion.” Our practice is not reactive to dominant forms of power; instead, it has a different temporality.
In a place like Palestine the risk is in becoming dependent on the frenetic rush of mainstream reporting. We envision our practice instead as an attempt to produce a space from which it is possible to operate in the here and now but with radical long-term transformative visions.
We want to find a place for architecture to act in the world and not in the service of a pre-existing agenda. Our architecture has materialized in both built and political space, and in the cultural collective imagination of actors— in meetings and presentations, in legal challenges, in negotiations…
DAAR architectural proposals are a combination of fiction and reality. Their effects could be the opening of the political imagination.