OPEN CALL: DAAR Summer Program 2011 (closed april 2011)

Posted: 18.02.2011

“Planning the Common” is the DAAR new project for the 2011 and the second collaborative partnership between DAAR, the Al-Quds Bard Honors College, Municipality of Battir and local and internationals organizations.

The project will take the form of an International Summer Research Program that will take place during the summer of 2011 in Battir, Palestine. It will bringing together students, architects, NGO staff, and village officials. The residency will involve 10 international architects and artists, 15 students from the Honors College and local and internationals experts invited for lectures and seminars. If you are interested to participate send a CV and a brief portfolio to (info [at] decolonizing [dot] ps)
The Residency Program require a full time availability [from monday to friday], for a minimum of 4 weeks. Accommodation will be provided by the Summer Residency. The applicant should know that DAAR is looking for a candidate with: 1) a strong attitude to work collectively (we believe in collective intelligence) 2) to work in difficult and sometimes hostile conditions 3) a strong self-determinations and attitude to self organization 4) to be able to produce outcomes in short period of time.


Territorially speaking, the common is different from both the public and the private. Both private and public lands are institutionalized relations between people and things that are regulated by the state. The state guaranties private property and maintains public property. Both private and public lands are territorial mechanisms for the governing of men and women. Sometimes this form of government operates by maintaining these distinctions and sometimes by blurring them. The endless privatization of the public space, mirrored by the incessant intrusion of public agents into the private domain are both techniques of government control.

In Palestine, the idea of the public is particularly toxic. Although prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, there existed a wide multiplicity of collective lands, and collective uses of land regulated at the level of different forms of community – agricultural, religious, nomadic, etc… -Upon occupying the land and excluding its people, the state flattened these all into one category – “state land”- and seized sovereign control over it. State lands became public space, but only in as much as it was reserved to the only public that was acknowledged as legitimate – the Jewish Israeli one. The contours of public land have become the blueprint for colonization, and through different legal procedures state lands have been often transformed into settlements. This form of sovereignty was willing to acknowledge only Palestinian individual rights, thus private land. The state’s mechanism of humanitarian balance could tolerate –in the “best” of the cases–Palestinian presence only as individuals. But, as we know, colonization –especially during and after Oslo– has severely targeted Palestinian private property too .

So in what way is the common different? The idea of the common land in our context is a set of relations between people and things – organized by the principle of equality – that is not necessarily mediated by the state

Case 01_The Parliament Building (Abu Dis) The idea of the first project is to engage with the empty spaces of the The Palestinian Legislative Council building in Abu Dis (the Palestinian Parliament) by imaging its reuse as a new common.

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 few meters from the building, the project has been abandoned . Today, its massive presence and incompleteness embody dramatically the frustrated ambitions of the Palestinian political leadership.
However, few crucial questions, centered around the notion of political representation and architectural form, seem to emerge: how could the building be re-imagined as an extraterritorial assembly that will include also half of the Palestinian population exiled outside the country? How could a reflection on the public and the common revive politically the abandoned building? Is this building the ultimate form of Palestine’s assembly and democracy, or do new political and architectural forms need to be invented?

Case 02_Public voids (Battir) The main legal resource reference for the Israeli colonization was the Ottoman Land Law of 1858. This law was the result of an agrarian reform across the Ottoman Empire, which was sovereign in Palestine until 1917. It recognized a plot of land as privately owned, “miri” (privately owned) land, if it had been continuously cultivated for at least ten consecutive years. If a landowner failed to farm the land for three consecutive years, the land changed its status to “makhlul”, which came under the possession of the sovereign state. Farmers did not want to pay taxes for land that could not be used for cultivation and therefore gave up ownership over uncultivated areas, even if these were only small patches of rocky ground that actually existed within their fields. “State land” could therefore inhabit uncultivated land.

The topographical folds, summits, slopes, irrigation basins, valleys, rifts, cracks and streams of Palestine, were no longer seen simply as naïve topographical features, but as signifiers to a series of legal manipulations, generating the patterns of “islands” of small privately owned fields within an area of uncultivated “state land.”

The Israeli Authority, during the 80s, expropriated fragments of uncultivated land in Battir. The result is a system of arbitrary voids. The project will re-imagine the use of these expropriated islands as common spaces for the local population. Claiming the islands as common spaces is an attempt to challenge the notion of public land as one of exclusively Jewish use.

The Egyptian protests and ‘Decolonizing Architecture”

Posted: 09.02.2011


The exhibition ‘Decolonizing Architecture’ at REDCAT speculates on what would happen if Israel leaves the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The civil unrest in Egypt adds intrigue.

By Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic
February 2, 2011

I had a review of “Decolonizing Architecture” pretty much ready to go. Then events in Egypt intervened.
I don’t mean that watching protesters in Cairo kept me from finishing a piece on the exhibition, which features the work of an architectural research studio based in the Palestinian city of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, and runs through Sunday at the REDCAT Gallery downtown. OK, I sort of do mean that: The Egypt images have been riveting for anybody interested in the relationship between political tensions and the spaces of the contemporary city. But mostly what I’m getting at is that it seems impossible to avoid reevaluating the show in light of the growing protests, which began in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt and, as of Tuesday, to Jordan.

In that context the exhibition somehow seems both more and less relevant, more and less pressing, than it did when it first opened. Compared with the typical museum show on architecture, this one is sharply political and eager for genuine engagement with the real world, beyond the isolated silos of theoretical architecture. Its focus — how to think about the future of the architecture and infrastructure of Israel’s occupied territories — seems especially timely now that the entire region has been thrown into acute political uncertainty.

Seen in the shadow of a televised, honest-to-goodness revolution, on the other hand, the show can’t help but seem mostly speculative — and a little tame, despite its occasional bouts of revolutionary rhetoric — by comparison.

Overseen by REDCAT gallery director Clara Kim and featuring work by the architects Eyal Weizman, Sandi Hillal and Alessandro Petti (and their students and colleagues), “Decolonizing Architecture” is driven by a simple but provocative question: If and when Israel decides, or is compelled, to leave the occupied territories in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, what should returning Palestinians do with the buildings, roads and bridges the army and the settlers leave behind? Should they destroy them as a painful symbol of occupation, simply reuse them or figure out ways to reconfigure or transform them?

In Cairo, of course, there has been a clear urban and architectural dimension to the protests, as massive crowds — sometimes tentatively, sometimes in a rush — move to claim spaces once controlled by the police or the army, and then are faced with the question of how to treat those spaces in the short term and, theoretically, for the long term as well. Indeed, the clearest link between Egypt and the exhibition is best expressed this way: Once you’ve won the city back, what do you do with it?

This is at once a practical, tactical and broadly political question, of course, and in the show the emphasis throughout is on a certain philosophical preparedness. As we in Southern California periodically force ourselves to prepare for earthquakes, so the show seeks to get Palestinians prepared, mentally and strategically, for the possibility of reoccupying land in the West Bank and Gaza.

Some of that land has been transformed in dramatic fashion while in Israeli hands. The government has extended infrastructural support to the settlements in the form of roads, electricity, water and security. The settlements themselves, surprisingly enough, are often filled with a kind of storybook suburban architecture: single-family houses with pitched, red-tiled roofs.

In “How to Inhabit Your Enemy’s House,” the most compelling of the three themed rooms that make up the REDCAT show, the architects explore a range of ways to reimagine those houses. One large model shows them dramatically opened up and linked together, their pitched roofs made flat and usable: suburban detachment turned into a collective urbanism.

In “Return to Nature,” the architects propose allowing an old military fortress abandoned by the Israeli army, and periodically occupied by new groups of settlers, to be closed to people and instead operate as a bird sanctuary whose concrete shell will deteriorate over time.

The show’s final room, “The Red Castle and the Lawless Line,” takes a boundary between Palestinian and Israeli sections of the West Bank, drawn on maps during the Oslo peace talks, and tries to trace its literal path on the ground. On the Oslo maps a narrow strip less than a millimeter wide, the line becomes in the real world a strip more than 15 feet across.

The show tells us that this territory, theoretically both neutral and empty, actually runs “across fields, olive and fruit orchards, roads, gardens, kindergartens, fences, terraces, homes, public buildings, a football stadium, a mosque and finally a recently constructed large castle.” The architects propose treating it as a new kind of unregulated area in this most regulated of architectural contexts, “a thin but powerful space for potential political transformations.”

One of the striking elements of the Egyptian uprising has been the degree to which many of the young protest leaders have operated without obvious ties to existing opposition leaders and their predictable rhetoric and fixed positions. And it’s in this context that “Decolonizing Architecture” seems most inflexible: The title of the show alone, with its focus on “colonization,” is a throwback, and some of the wall text and other materials that accompany the show tip into opaque academic jargon.

Still, with its clear focus on engagement — the architects write that their research “does not start from a utopian image but rather what already exists” — the exhibition is part of a new wave of projects and museum shows that are helping to redefine what political architecture means and can be. For much of the 1990s and 2000s the profession’s political wing was hijacked by a group of theorists whose goal seemed to be to make their work as inaccessible and detached from the real lives of cities as possible. But in the last few years a new rising generation of architects has been making clear that the most productive political architecture keeps its theoretical ambitions high while also seeking to be genuinely active and engaged on the ground.

The exhibition also signals a departure: It will be the final architecture show at REDCAT organized by Kim, who has announced that she’ll be leaving Los Angeles for a curatorial position at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. For REDCAT, Kim developed a number of modestly sized exhibitions, including one two years ago on Tokyo architects Atelier Bow-Wow, that nonetheless packed a significant punch.

“Decolonizing Architecture” is happily more of the same, a rather spare-looking show that manages not only to succeed on its own immediate terms but to tap into larger debates in the architecture world and in the political sphere. As swan songs go, it’s a pretty impressive one.

The first U.S. exhibition

Posted: 21.12.2010


December 7, 2010 – February 6, 2011
inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA

The exhibition centers on three recent projects:

Oush Grab – Return to Nature

In May 2006, the Israeli army evacuated the military fortress of Oush Grab [meaning the Crow’s Nest in Arabic] strategically located on one the highest hills at the southern edge to the Palestinian city of Beit Sahour in the Bethlehem region.

On the summit several concrete buildings formed the heart of the fortress. Throughout the Intifada the Israeli military piled sand and rubble in a giant circle around the hill, which made it appear like a crater of an artificial volcano.The buildings, damaged and evacuated, resembled edifices of a ghost town, abandoned after some mysterious disaster.
Since its evacuation, groups of settlers have attempted to establish a new settlement within Oush Grab. The fight for the hilltop has taken place as activists, settlers and the military clash on site and in courts.
The hilltop is also a point of natural singularity. It serves as one of the main sites where birds— — starlings, storks and raptors— – land to rest on their seasonal migration between North-east Europe and East Africa every spring and fall. Around them a rich micro-ecology of small predators and other wildlife gathers. The scene is at once breathtaking and terrifying, and the inhabitants of Beit Sahour now joke that the flocks of migrating birds are the real reason behind the military evacuation.
Our intention seeks to accelerate the processes of destruction and disintegration. It is an architectural project for obsolescence, where the “ghost town” of the former military base is gradually “returned to nature.”

Red castle and the lawless line

In 1993, a series of secret talks held in Oslo between Israeli and Palestinian representatives inaugurated what was later referred to as the “Oslo Process.” As is well known, this process defined three types of territories within the West Bank: Area A under Palestinian control, Area B under Israeli military control and Palestinian civilian control, and Area C under full Israeli control. When the process collapsed and the temporary organization of the occupied territories solidified into a permanently splintered geography of multiple separations and prohibitions, a fourth space had suddenly been discovered.
Existing in between, this space was the width of the line that separates the three areas. Less than a millimeter thick when drawn on the scale of 1:20,000, it measured 5.5 meters in real space. The Red castle and the lawless line delves into the thickness of this line, and follows it along the edges of villages and towns, across fields, olive and fruit orchards, roads, gardens, kindergartens, fences, terraces, homes, public buildings, a football stadium, a mosque and finally a recently constructed large castle. Within this line is a zone undefined by law, a legal limbo that acts like a vortex to pull in all the forces, institutions, organizations and characters that operate within and around it.
With areas A, B and C already claimed by different forms of cooperating governments that rule the West Bank, the thickness of the line might become an extraterritorial territory. Perhaps, “all that remains” for Palestine is, a thin but powerful space for potential political transformations.
Political spaces in Palestine are not defined by legal zones, but operate through legal voids. Investigating the clash of geopolitical lines onto the domestic space of the castle, and operating on the margin between architecture, cartography and legal practice, we seek to bring up a legal case that calls for an anarchic regime of political autonomy to inhabit this line. It is from these seam lines—, small tears in the territorial system—, that the entire system of divisions may finally be torn down.

How to inhabit the house of your enemy?

Historical processes of decolonization tended to see the reuse of the buildings and infrastructure left behind in the same way they were designed for, leaving some of the power hierarchies of the colonial world intact.
This project deals with the one of the most difficult questions of decolonization: how to inhabit the colonies and military bases to be evacuated in the future archaeology of Israel’s occupation?
Concentrating on the settlement of Psagot near Ramallah, the guiding principle was not to eliminate the power of the occupation’s built spaces, nor simply to reuse it in the way it was designed for, but rather to reorient its logic to other aims.
Psagot, like other settlements, is suburban when thought of in relation to the Jewish geography in the occupied territories These settlements are fenced up bedroom communities fed by a growing matrix of roads and other infrastructure, but they must be articulated as potentially urban when considered in relation to the Palestinian cities besides which they were built.

DAAR received a special mention at the Iakov Chernikhov International Prize

Posted: 09.12.2010

The jury of the Iakov Chernikhov International Prize made its choice, selecting ten emerging designers and a final winner. On 16 and 17 November in Moscow, the names were announced, chosen from a wider selection of 133 international architects, suggested by some fifty experts. DAAR received a special mention.

Oush Grab: Return to Nature – Gallery of Modern Art, Australia

Posted: 19.11.2010

pal_16_f18.jpegPhoto Francesco Mattuzzi

21st Century: Art in the First Decade
18 December 2010 – 25 April 2011
Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art, Australia

’21st Century: Art in the First Decade’ encompasses an exhibition, publication, blog and a series of public programs that explore the art of the past ten years. Marking the end of the first decade of the new millennium, the project will examine current directions in art practice and also reflect on the conditions for art and exhibition making in the 21st Century.

Future Archeology at the Centre Pompidou

Posted: 19.11.2010

QUE FAIRE ? Art, film, politique – Du 11 au 19 décembre 2010, la plateforme curatoriale le peuple qui manque, en partenariat avec le Département FILM du Centre Pompidou, propose des rencontres intitulées « QUE FAIRE ? Art, film, politique». Offrant un état des lieux des nouvelles stratégies critiques qui se font actuellement jour au sein de la création internationale, et en premier lieu au sein de la production contemporaine des images en mouvement, ces rencontres s’intéressent aux relations entre art & politique.

Presentation of the film “Future Archeology” by Armin Linke & Francesco Mattuzzi / decolonizing architecture