PETTI, A., “Decolonizing Knowledge”, Archis N. 3, 2015

In 1987, in an attempt to suppress the intifada (the Palestinian civil protests against its military occupation) the Israeli government banned people from gathering together and closed all schools and universities. As a reaction, Palestinian civil society grew through the organization of an underground network of schools and universities in private houses, garages and shops. Universities were no longer confined within walls or campuses, and teachers and students began using different learning environments in cities and villages. These gatherings and assemblies reinforced the social and cultural life of Palestinian communities. Learning was not limited to the hours spent sitting in classrooms; mathematics, science, literature and geography were subjects that could be imparted amongst friends, family members and neighbors. In order to resist the long periods of curfews imposed by the Israeli army, these self-organized spaces for learning included self-sufficiency activities such as growing fruits and vegetables and raising animals. Theoretical knowledge was combined with one that emerges from action and experimentation. Learning became a crucial tool for gaining freedom and autonomy. People discovered that they could share knowledge and be in charge of what and how to study.

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PETTI, A., “School in exile”, Archis, Archis N. 3, 2015

Since the first appearance of Palestinian refugee camps after the Nakba, the Arabic term to indicates the exile of two-thirds of the Palestinian population in 1948, their architecture was conceived as a temporary solution. The first pictures of refugee camps showed small villages made of tents ordered according to grids used for military encampments. As the years passed and no political solution was found for the plight of the displaced Palestinians, tents were substituted with shelters in an attempt to respond to the growing needs of the camp population without undermining the temporary condition of the camp, and therefore undermining their political right of return. However, with a growing population, the condition in the camps worsened. The precariousness and temporariness of the camp structure was not simply a technical problem, but also the material-symbolic embodiment of the principle that its inhabitants be allowed to return as soon as possible to their place of origin.

Thus, the camp becomes a magnetic force in which political powers try to exercise their influence, and the refugee community vehemently opposes any attempt to normalize it. Every single banal act, from building a roof to opening a new street is read as a political statement on the right of return. Nothing in the camp can be considered without political implication.

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HILAL S., PETTI A., WEIZMAN E., “Dheisheh (Cisjordanie). Retours. Penser le futur dans l’extraterritorialité (un projet architectural)”, in, Michel Agier (dir.), Un monde de camps, Paris, La Découverte, 2014, 350 p., ISBN

Les camps se multiplient et se banalisent partout sur la planète. Ils sont aujourd’hui des milliers, dessinant peu à peu un nouveau paysage mondial. Gouvernements nationaux et agences internationales adoptent de plus en plus systématiquement cette solution pour ” regrouper ” les réfugiés humanitaires, pour ” parquer “, faire ” transiter “, ” retenir ” ou mettre à l’écart les ” déplacés ” et les migrants, les ” clandestins ” et autres indésirables. Douze millions de personnes vivent ainsi dans ces camps, des millions d’autres dans des campements de fortune, au creux des forêts, dans les interstices des villes, le long des frontières ; d’autres encore sont piégées dans des centres de rétention, des zones d’attente ou de transit. Si ces ” hors-lieux ” sont des espaces de parias, nombre d’entre eux s’inscrivent dans la durée et se transforment au fil du temps : la vie s’y renouvelle, s’y attache, et l’emporte le plus souvent sur la mort ou le dépérissement. En vingt-cinq monographies qui forment une sorte de tour du monde des camps (du plus ancien, à Chatila au Liban, au plus grand, à Dadaab au Kenya, qui regroupe 450 000 habitants, en passant par le plus informel, à Canaan en Haïti, ou le plus précaire, à Calais), cet ouvrage fait découvrir la vie intime et quotidienne de leurs habitants. Loin d’être l'” exception ” que l’on évoque généralement dans un cadre humanitaire ou sécuritaire pour en justifier l’existence, les camps font durablement partie des espaces et des sociétés qui composent le monde aujourd’hui.

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HILAL S., PETTI A., WEIZMAN E., PERUGINI N., “The lawless line”, Oxford Journals Law London Review of International Law Volume 1, Issue 1Pp. 201-209 (march 2014)

The various historical plans for partitioning Palestine – from the 1937 Peel Commission Report to the 1993 Oslo Accords – not only divided the land into non-contiguous territories, they also gave rise to a new spatial condition. Between the various territories another space emerged, whose expanse was the very width of the lines separating them. Each partition line reflected the particular cartographic technologies and political conditions of the time, its size a function of the scale of the map on which it was drawn

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PETTI A., HILAL S. WEIZMAN E., “Architecture after Revolution”, Sternberg Berlin 2013

The work presented in this book is an invitation to undertake an urgent architectural and political thought experiment: 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; consequently, to rethink the problem of political subjectivity not from the point of view of a Western conception of a liberal citizen but rather from that of the displaced and extraterritorial refugee. You will not find here descriptions of popular uprising, armed resistance, or political negotiations, despite these of course forming an integral and necessary part of any radical political transformation. Instead, the authors present a series of provocative projects that try to imagine “the morning after revolution.”

the book


HILAL S. PETTI A., “Reimagining the common: rethinking the refugee experience”in The Human Snapshot, Thomas Keenan, Tirdad Zolghadr (Eds.), Sternberg April 2013

“Universalism” and “humanism” are monolithic terms that do not lend themselves to easy definitions. We propose to think of universalism essentially as the perpetual search and redefinition of what we, as human beings, have in common. So the question is: what is the common? We interpret the common as “ordinary” and “universal.” Rather than the term “commons,” more familiar in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, we prefer to use “common” in order to highlight its Latin origin communi, the Old French comun and the Italian comune. The common, as we intend it, applies not only to communal lands but also to a “form of government” (the Italian comune is also “municipality”).

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vincenzo castella. -Deisha-Camp-Betlhem-2007- copy

PETTI A., “Spatial Ordering of Exile. The Architecture of Palestinian Refugee Camps”Crios, Carrocci 1/2013, january-June pp. 62-70

It is the camp and not public space our present and future socio-spatial and political horizon. Refugee camps have been at the center of radical historical transformations that have undermined the political existence of entire communities. Although states and non-governmental organizations have been and are participating actively in conceiving and managing camps, we are still struggling to fully comprehend how the camp form has complicated and transformed the very idea of a city as an organized and functional political community. The birth of the camp thus has the capacity to call into question the very idea of the city as a democratic space. If the political representation of a citizen is to be found in the public space, what is found in the camp is its inverse, the place in which a citizen is stripped of his or her political rights, reduced to bare life. In this sense, the camp represents a sort of anti-city. But what effect does this anti-city produce on the public and political space of the city?

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Panorama4 copy

Art & Social Space (08/15/13), “Decolonizing Architecture: Interview with Alessandro Petti” by Ana María Durán

For decades, Palestinian camps have been conceptualized as temporary places. Initially, refugees built only tents. Throughout the years, the latter have been substituted with shelters. As “temporary camps” congeal, they were perceived as politically dangerous: giving up temporality means giving up the right of return. Palestinian refugees were forced into a “suspended life” in order to preserve their right to return to their land. The Palestinian leadership has to rely on the dramatic conditions of refugee camps in order to argue for the urgency of return to the place of origin. This decades-long approach is central to reestablish the right, but has forced refugees to live in an unbearable condition.


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PETTI A., “Against the extermination of space”in domus N. 970, june 2013

The design of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music offers an opportunity to engage the question of public space in the city of Bethlehem, and reconsider its value


PETTI A., HILAL S. WEIZMAN E., “The Morning After: Profaning Colonial Architecturein Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism edited by Meg McLagan and Yates McKee

In 2007, after a few years of engaging in spatial research and theory with the conflict over Palestine as our main site of investigation, we decided to shift the mode of our engagement and to establish an architectural collective based on a studio/residency program in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem. DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) seeks to use spatial practice as a form of political intervention and narration. The work of the studio/residency is based on a network of local affiliations and the historical archives we have gathered in our previous work and that we keep on assembling. The residency program has already brought together groups of leading international practitioners—architects, artists, activists, urbanists, filmmakers, and curators—to work collectively within the framework we have set up.

 Our practice has had to engage continuously with a complex set of architectural problems centered on one of the most difficult dilemmas of political practice for architects: how to act both propositionally and critically in an environment in which the political force fields, as complex as they may are, are so dramatically skewed. Is intervention 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?

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PETTI A., HILAL S. WEIZMAN E., PERIGINI N., “Il limes senza legge,  Limes, 2/2011

[ITA] Gli accordi di Oslo definiscono tre aree di sovranità: israeliana, palestinese e mista. Di fatto, però, se ne è imposta una quarta: il confine stesso. Semplice tratto sulla carta, nella realtà questa striscia di terra è un limbo giuridico.

Decolonizing Architecture and civil unrest in Egypt
By Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic
February 2, 2011


“how to inhabit your enemy’s house?”
Article by Lorenzo Pezzani

Conflitti Globali 07, Palestina anno zero


[ITA] La storia non può ridursi a un risarcimento per la geografia perduta. È anche un punto d’osservazione delle ombre, di sé e dell’altro, colte entro un’evoluzione umana più complessa.
Mahmoud Darwish

Frammentazione Il futuro visto da Ramallah Nasser Abourahme; Spazi contigui, tempi differenti Cédric Parizot; Soluzioni (im)possibili. Uno stato, due stati e altre ipotesi Marco Allegra, Paolo Napolitano; Tra Gaza e l’Egitto. Il fantasma di Israele Lorenzo Navone; La costruzione della dipendenza. Acqua, territorio e cittadinanza in Cisgiordania Ilaria Giglioli.
Resistenze Discorsi e pratiche della resistenza popolare Ala Alazzeh; Decolonizing Architecture. The Book of Activism Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman; Fatah-Hamas fra radicalizzazione e istituzionalizzazione Paolo Napolitano; Teatri di resistenza Rania Jawad; At-Tuwani. Cronaca di un villaggio sotto scorta Alessandro Doranti; Punti di vista su Gaza Mouin Rabbani, Azmi Bishara, Elena N. Hogan.

Palestina Anno Zero, Conflitti Globali 7


abitare 504, July 2010

Architectural planning for a different future
Sarah Irving, The Electronic Intifada, 15 July 2010

Return to Nature, in Extra-Territoriality in the Middle East – Open Anthology, ArteEast Quarterly 12/2009


Extra-Territoriality in the Middle East – Open Anthology
Guest Editor: Ursula Biemann

For the longest time we have thought of extra-territoriality as a designated space or status that lies outside territorial boundaries and either benefits or suffers from the suspension of jurisdiction overruling the national territory. Embassies, refugee camps, free trade zones are a few cases in point. In recent years, the number and genres of extraterritorial spaces have increased, diversified and consolidated into a dense configuration of exception and exemption that superimpose and perhaps undermine the very notion of territory. What this edition of ArteNews’s quarterly brings to light is the attempt at confining people in a bounded space always instigates a heightened desire to connect across distances and activate new forms of trans-local communication. A territory is no longer (just) a shape but also a complex system of relationships and large-scale structural networks. This issue presents innovative art, video, design and academic practices that analyze and intervene in these contested terrains and their regimes of representation. It is conceived as an open-ended anthology that can grow over time.

With contributions by Francesca Recchia, Anna Wachtmeister, Azad Shekhani, Ehsan Maleki, Ziad Turkey, Lee Wang, Oroub el-Abed, Rana El Nemr, Myriam Abdelaziz, Mona Fawaz, Marwan Ghandour, Sari Hanafi, Ismael Sheikh Hassan, Saba Innab, a-film, Ursula Biemann, Beshara Doumani, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman (Decolonizing Architecture), Ozayr Saloojee, Molly Eagen, Rasha Salti.


D la repubblica della donne 648/2009


A+ N. 214/2008 [FRA] (pdf 1,4M)
A+ s’est entretenu avec le ‘decolonizingarchitect’ Alessandro Petti et le philosophe Lieven De Cauter, commissaire de l’exposition à Bozar

A+ N. 214/2008 [NL] (pdf 1,4M)
A+ sprak met ‘decolonizingarchitect’ Alesandro Petti en fi losoof Lieven De Cauter, curator van de tentoonstelling in Bozar


La futura arqueologia[CAT] La futura arqueología[ESP]
Roulotte 05/2009, Actar D Barcelona (pdf – 2,5 MB)

Future Archeology, Afterall, N. 20/2009 (pdf – 1,1 MB)


Unhoming, in Considering Forgiveness, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York 2009 (pdf – 720 KB)


New leases on life By Yotam Feldman


Electronic Intifada. Beit Sahour reclaims military base site By Nora Barrows-Friedman


Bozar Exhibition Visitor Guide (pdf, ~12 Mb)

Decolonizing Architecture presentation (pdf, ~14 Mb)

Living among the dead, domus 880
Informal urbanism, Alessandro Petti

PETTI, A. “Dubai Offshore Urbanism”, in Heterotopia and the City, De Cauter and Dehaene eds, Routledge London 2008, pp 287-295

PETTI, A, “Archipelagos and Enclaves” in “State of exception and Resistance in the Arab World”, Sari Hanafi ed., The Center for Arab Unity Studies, January 2010

Petti, A, Spaces in Suspension

Petti, A. Wall Architecture, Domus 900