ADVANCED COURSE

DECOLONIZING ARCHITECTURE 

Professor: Alessandro Petti

Assistant: Elof Hellstrom

Participants: Hala Alnaji, Patricia Aramburu, Matthew Ashton, Nadia El Hakim, Anna Maria Furuland, Benas Gerdzuinas, Radoslav Istok Carlota Jerez, Ioannis Karras, Tatiana Leiter Pinto, Ilaria Lombardo, Marie-Therese Luger, Yasmeen Mamoud, Filip Mesko, Ambra Migliorisi, Thomas Paltiel, Raha-Maryam Rastifard, Fernanda Ruiz, Bert Stoffels, Mauro Tosarelli, Nina Turull Puig, Victoria van Kan

Course Content
After the Second World War decolonization emerged as a powerful cultural and political process to liberate many countries from direct European colonial control and reshape power relations. It was a great moment of hope but also of great disillusion.

The course uses the term decolonization as a starting point to understand the globalized present and the associated contemporary conditions of exile, displacement and migration, revolts and struggles against oppression and domination with the aim to produce a convincing conceptual vocabulary and practice engaged in today’s struggles for justice and equality.

Architecture in the process of colonization and decolonization plays a crucial role in organizing spatial relations, expressing ideologies, and even when it is abandoned in ruin is mobilized as evidence for political and cultural claims. The analysis of the ways in which colonial architecture has been re-utilized is a new arena for understanding broader political and cultural issues around national identity and exile, sense of belonging or alienation, and social control or urban subversion. In this course architectural space is seen simultaneously as the product of the interaction of social and political transformations and as a privileged site for the analysis of these dynamics.

Drawing on the wealth of literature, recently discovered archive materials, and empirical research undertaken on the subject in the fields of geography, urban studies, politics, sociology and anthropology, the course’s methodological foundation remains anchored in the uniqueness of architectural analysis and spatial intervention. 

Course advisers and guests: Sandi Hilal, Maria Lind, Daniel Urey, Suad Amery, Giorgio Agamben, Galit Eliat, Ilana Fieldman, Sari Hanafi, Thomas Kenan, Vasif Kortun, Salwa Makdadi, Achille Membe, Rasha Salti, Rahel Shawl, Pelin Tan, Eyal Weizman.

 

FALL SEMESTER

August 29 – September 01, 2017

  1. Decolonizing Architecture I and II: demolition, reuse, subversion

(Projects: P’sagot and Oush Grab)

Evacuated colonial architectures were alternately understood as symbols of racist ideologies, physical entities embodying power relations, military weapons or ammunition, the sites and instruments of a crime, and even haunted places. In this class, we will look at different approaches to dealing with colonial structures.

Readings:

 

September, 13,14,15 – 2017

  1. Decolonizing Architecture III and IV: Lawless Lines and Common Assembly

(Projects: Lawless lines and Common Assembly)

The Palestinian Legislative Council building—known as the Palestinian Parliament—is simultaneously a construction site and a ruin. The construction of the building started during the euphoria of the Oslo Accord. The location in Abu Dis was chosen as a first step toward the establishment of East Jerusalem as the Capital of the future Palestinian State. With the collapse of the Oslo Accords, the eruption of the Second Intifada and the construction of the Wall just a few meters from the building, the project has been abandoned. Today, its massive presence and incompleteness dramatically embody the frustrated ambitions of the Palestinian political leadership. How could the building be re-imagined as an extraterritorial assembly that will include the Palestinian population exiled from the country? How could a reflection on the public and the commons politically revive the abandoned building? Is this building the ultimate form of the Palestine assembly and democracy, or do new political and architectural forms need to be reinvented?

Readings:

 

 September 15, 2017

01. SEMINAR: Moderna Museet – ethics in research, practice and activism – more info soon

 

 September 27,28,29, 2017

  1. Decolonizing Architecture V and VI: Returns and Atlas of decolonization

 Project Presentation. Returns: the right to free movement

The notion of “return” has defined the diasporic and extraterritorial nature of Palestinian politics and cultural life since the Nakba in 1947-48. Often articulated in the “suspended politics” of political theology, it has gradually been blurred in the futile limbo of negotiations. To reintroduce the return into public debate we are suggesting the use of the term Returns, to start to explore different political possibilities in which return could take place.

Project Presentation. Italian Ghosts

During the period of its Fascist regime, Italy employed modern architecture to represent its imperial ambitions in Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. The presence of ruins of Roman era architecture in Libya were used as political anchors to legitimize the “return” of Italy to these territories and the creation of a “new Roman Empire”. However crucial they were for the colonial project and for Italy’s history and identity the modernist architecture of Italian colonialism is as little known as the entire period of Italian colonialism and its ongoing legacy.

The embarrassing elegance of this architecture contrasts with the crimes of the colonization that have never been acknowledged; the “Gheddafi-Berlusconi reconciliation” of 2009 attempted to bypass, ignore or forcibly produce a farce of the past. The afterlife of these buildings might help to unpack and reveal the strict problematic relation between modernism and colonization, Italy and its colonial ghosts.

Readings:

 

  1. Decolonizing Knowledge: Campus in Camps

 Project: Campus in Camps: the right to create meanings

Campus in Camps uses collective discussions and courses to transform the notions of “space” and “agency” into practical, community-driven interventions. These practice based interventions are a corollary to Campus in Camps’ contributions to the way formal educational institutions understand themselves and their role in society, aiming to overcome conventional structures by intersecting rigorous research with the everyday life in refugee camps, involving teaching staff from universities and students (refugees and non-refugees).

Readings:

 

Project: the tree school

The Tree School is a project initiated by two groups that share a common interest in decolonizing knowledge: Campus in Camps and Brazilian-based art collective Contrafilé. The project is part of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, and aims to cultivate and produce knowledge that emerges from regions of the world that rarely speak to each other, despite the fact they have much in common. In this, The Tree School, which was formed to make new forms of knowledge production possible, presents an initiative that aims to bridge ‘two worlds’ that share similar urgencies in terms of social justice and equality.

 

  1. The Collective Dictionary: Al-Masha or the Common

Project: a square in Fawaar Refugee Camp

In 2007 UNRWA´s Camp Improvement Programme began a participatory design process for the construction of a public square in Fawwar Refugee Camp. Camps are political spaces and their built environment is a symbol of political struggle. How can one build an open public space in an exceptional environment where the concept of public and private does not exist? In an environment where any urban elements that resemble those of a city threaten the temporariness of the camps and are therefore seen as jeopardizing the refugees’ right of return? The notion of constructing a public square in the camp was controversial and it questioned how the community defined and perceived the spatial image of the camp. Moreover, it raised questions of how the space would be used and by whom. Was the plaza for children to play, for men to gather? Could women use the plaza, and if so, what activities were socially acceptable for them to carry out in this space?

Readings:

 

November 9, 2017

02. SEMINAR: Tensta konsthall “histories and politics of migration” – more info soon 

  

  1. The collective Dictionary: Normalization

(Project: The Girl’s School in Shufat Refugee Camp: the right to stay)

Shu’fat camp has been enclosed by walls and fences built by the Israeli government since 2002, trapped in a legal void neither inside nor outside the borders of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Shu’fat are threatened to have their Jerusalem residency documents revoked and therefore be forced once again to leave their homes. Is architectural intervention at all possible in such a distorted and unstable political environment? How can it avoid the normalization of the camp which undermines the right of return of Palestinian refugees? How could architecture exist in the here and now of the camp, yet remain in constant tension with a place of origin? Within this context in June 2011, the girls’ school for 1,000 students tried to imagine, despite limitations, a different approach to education. In this class we will discuss how we failed to present an architectural project for the Chicago Architectural Biennial.

Readings:

 

  1. A Concrete Tent in Dheisheh Refugee Camp

 Project: The Concrete Tent

The Concrete Tent deals with the paradox of a permanent temporariness. It solidifies a mobile tent into a concrete house. The result is a hybrid between a tent and a concrete house, temporariness and permanency, soft and hard, movement and stillness. The project tries to inhabit the paradox of how to preserve the very idea of the tent as symbolic and historical value. Because of the degradability of the material of the tents, these structures simply do not exist any more. And so, the re-creation of a tent made of concrete today is an attempt to preserve the cultural and symbolic importance of this archetype for the narration of the Nakba, but at the same time to engage the present political condition of exile.

Readings:

 

  1. Stateless Nation and the Road Map, Venice Biennale 2003

 Emerging at the end of the 20th century, in the time of western nation-state formation, the Venice biennale was conceived on the model of international world fairs. The display space of the Venice Biennale Gardens is a space organized according to national pavilions, a metaphoric space for a world organized according to nation states. In 2003, we were invited to design a Palestinian Pavilion for the Art Biennale. We asked ourselves, how is it possible to represent a nation without a state in which more than half its members are dispersed outside of its borders? The result was a project entitled Stateless Nation.

The Road Map, presented on the same occasion, is a work produced with the collective multiplicity. The work is a result of an experiment carried out in the Jerusalem region. Filming in two different days an Israeli taxi driver and a Palestinian taxi driver moving from the south to the north of Jerusalem. The first journey took one hour; the second more than five. These taxi journeys underline the proliferation of borders, checkpoints and bypass roads – the DNA of today’s urban spaces. In this class we will explore the contradictions within contemporary territories, hyper-connected for some and segregated for others.

Readings:

 

December 8,9

03. SEMINAR: Decolonizing North – more info soon

  1. Ramallah Syndrome

Ramallah Syndrome is the side effect of the new spatial and social order that emerged after the collapse of the Oslo ‘peace process.’ It is manifested in a kind of ‘hallucination of normality,’ a fantasy of the co-existence of occupation and freedom. It is as if the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state – in effect, indefinitely postponed – will be achieved through pure illusion. The consequence of this perpetual persistence of a colonial regime has not been sufficiently discussed. The colonial legacy is a vital link in national identity, and it must be resolved. Ramallah Syndrome is ultimately about the critique and potentiality associated with forms of resistance and subjugation in a colonial context.

Readings: