Sandi Hilal at Brown University

February 28, 2017, 4:00-6:30PM

Displacement has been a structuring force impacting the work of creative practitioners around the globe throughout the modern period. As a prominent factor shaping forms of subjectivity, power relations of inclusion and exclusion, and institutions of state authority and industrial and creative production, displacement has served as a site of resistance for artists, architects, and other creative practitioners while simultaneously molding the frameworks and institutions through which they seek to engage the world.

This fifth seminar in the Displacement and the Making of the Modern World series seeks to bring together creative practitioners from multiple disciplines and mediums to engage with the question of how displacement has guided their work and how their creative practice serves as a sometimes physical impediment to the borders, state powers, political economic relationships, and other forces driving displacement. This seminar will begin by allowing the artists and architects assembled here to introduce their work and subjective relationships to displacement before moving into a discussion of how their work serves as both a locus of resistance and a site of institutional critique.


Refugee Heritage

February 24, 7pm, with Suad Amiry, Thomas Keenan, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal; moderated by Nikolaus Hirsch
e-flux, 311 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002

Refugee camps are established with the intention of being demolished. As a paradigmatic representation of political failure, they are meant to have no history and no future; they are meant to be forgotten. The history of refugee camps are constantly erased, dismissed by states, humanitarian organizations, international organizations and even self-imposed by refugee communities in fear that any acknowledgement of the present undermines a future right of return. The only history that is recognized within refugee communities is one of violence and humiliation. Yet the camp is also a place rich with stories narrated through its urban fabric. In tracing, documenting, revealing and representing refugee history beyond the narrative of suffering and displacement, Refugee Heritage is an attempt to imagine and practice refugee-ness beyond humanitarianism. ​

Contemporary notions of heritage and conservation are buttressed by institutions of great power, which are often oriented towards cultural expropriation. UNESCO’s “Format for the nomination of properties for inscription on the World Heritage List (Annex 5)” is a monumental building built during a colonial era. Over the course of two years, organizations and individuals, politicians and conservation experts, activists, governmental and non-governmental representatives and proximate residents gathered to discuss the implications of nominating Dheisheh Refugee Camp as a World Heritage Site. Refugee Heritage seeks to deploy the potential for heritage to be mobilized as an agent of political transformation.

On February 24 at e-flux, a panel event featuring Suad Amiry, Thomas Keenan, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal (moderated by Nikolaus Hirsch) will seek to address the potential for practices and institutions of conservation to be understood as a force capable of mobilizing the political constitution of built space. The panel will streamed live here. Click here for more information.

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti have been awarded the 2016-2017 Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism at Bard College

The Concrete Tent, Dheisheh Refugee Camp, June 2015 (Photo Anna Sara)

In this particular moment of our practice based research trajectory and after having established DAAR and Campus in Camps, we would like to use the year of the fellowship as an opportunity to reflect on urgent political questions around refugeehood, exile and displacement.

Since our first work together, “Stateless Nation” for the Venice Biennale in 2003, a public installation made of enlarged travel documents and passports of Palestinian refugees situated between national pavilions in the Giardini, we have aimed to investigate and act upon the formation of different social, political and spatial relations between people, state and territory beyond the liberal notion of citizenship. These relations have been explored further for more than a decade, most recently through the project of the “Concrete Tent” in the garden of the Al Finiq Cultural Center in Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, a pavilion that embodies the contradiction of the permanent temporariness of Palestinian refugees.

In this year long fellowship we hope to contribute to a better understanding of the limit and potentiality of socially engaged artistic practices in the greater struggle for justice and equality. The Human Rights Project will provide the fertile intellectual terrain for the re-conceptualization of refugee camps not only as humanitarian spaces but also as sites where the right to politics can be reclaimed. Furthermore, the Center for Curatorial Studies, its art community, library and archive will provide a critical cultural context around which to explore ways of making exhibitions as forms of research and political intervention.

Official announcement


DAAR and studioazue have been commissioned by the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation a reconstruction Plan of Al Nada Neighborhood in Gaza. The overall objectives of the assignment are to assess the existing land, shelter, urban services and economic situation in the area, and to integrate the analysis into a comprehensive Detailed Development Plan for Al Nada ensuring enhancement of environment, governance and equitably serving the vulnerable. The process will develop synergies among public and private stakeholders towards the effective economic and social development of the area. Expected results are: the elaboration of a Detailed Development Plan of Al Nada adopting a participative and neighborhood-centered approach, the draft of guidelines for implementation (planning and building regulations), and the design of specific regeneration Projects
according to a Priority Action Plan.
The resident will be offered a studio and residency at DAAR in Beit Sahour (Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories) for a period of 3 months, from April to June 2016.
The resident will receive a salary according to work experience.


Please submit:
1. CV
2. Examples of architectural projects
3. Cover letter (one page)
Sent to

OPEN CALL GAZA_03-compressed



APPLICATION DEADLINE: March 11, 2016 (8pm GMT)

Position open for UK candidate (From March 17 to May 17, 2016)

Theme of DAAR residency 2016

In the last years architectural conservation has become a field of knowledge and a practice able to re- frame our understanding of esthetics, cultural heritage, and history. Historically, architectural conservation was understood mainly as a discipline that froze time, space, and culture, reducing buildings to lifeless objects to contemplate. Today, instead, it is an operative field that includes material and immaterial cultures, preservation of social and identity structures, a contested space where national identities are constructed and demolished.

We started to preserve and protect structures built centuries ago. Later on we discovered that even modernism that claimed to be ahistorical needed to be preserved as part of an historical narration of the city, and we ended up considering rough industrial zones as national heritage. Refugee camps became sites of heated discussions on what needs to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten. If we look at refugee camps with the lens of architectural preservation, how might our understanding of camps change?

Refugee camps are considered temporary spaces to be quickly dismantled. But how then do we understand Palestinian refugee camps that are now almost 70 years old? Can we consider them cultural sites to be preserved? For many it might even be disturbing to be forced to look at refugee camps from this perspective, but this is the reality in front of our eyes that we cannot negate. So one of the urgent questions becomes, do Palestinian refugee camps have history? And how could this history be mobilized for the right of refugees to return instead of perceived as a threat? At the same time, how does the concept of architectural heritage change when applied to refugee camps?


What is a Refugee Crisis?

This year, events in the Middle East, Africa and Europe have led to popular movements that have been described as the largest refugee crisis since WWII.  This demands a response, and how this crisis is defined, mediated, and understood is central to the responses (global and local, personal and political, affective and activist) that can be generated.  This day-long workshop, along with an accompanying visual archive, will consider the question of “what is a refugee crisis?” focused on media combined with political theory.  Speakers include Lorenzo Pezzani and Charles Heller, Forensic Architecture; Mia Cherlene White, University of California/Santa Barbara; Thomas Keenan, Bard College; Mezna Qato, Cambridge University; Paul Feigelfeld, Leuphana University; Itamar Mann, Georgetown University; Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, DAAR; Ayten Gundogdu, Barnard College.

March 11

10:00am – 6:00pm
Pembroke Hall 305
172 Meeting Street,


Common Assembly IV (Taiwan)

DAAR long-term project Common Assembly presented for the first time in 2011 in Neuchâtel (I) and later in 2012 in Nottingham (II) and New York (III), this September will take a form of an art installation in Taiwan (IV) to think through spaces for political participation, decision and action for exiled communities.

The centrepiece of DAAR exhibition is a life-sized section through the abandoned Palestinian Parliament in a suburb of Jerusalem – a parliament that has never been used. Construction started during the 1996 Oslo Accord when peace seemed possible and was halted in 2003 after the Second Intifada, (the Palestinian uprising) marked the failure of the political process.

The project began with the discovery that – mistakenly or intentionally – the building was constructed on Israel’s unilaterally declared border within Jerusalem. The parliament is partly within Israeli territory and partly within Palestinian controlled land – a small strip, no wider than the border line, is in legal limbo.

DAAR has built the section of the abandoned Palestine Parliament that the border line crosses in three dimensions. This suspended and elongated structure act as a forum for debate on political participation and how to be organised for exiled and geographically dispersed people.

National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (September 19–December 6, 2015)

Artist Making Movement – 2015 Asian Art Biennial

Tree School in Shufat refugee camp, Jerusalem


In September 2014, the School for Girls in Shufat refugee camp in Jerusalem, designed by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti and Livia Minoja for the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program, opened its doors to 1000 students.

The design of the school is inspired by the experimental educational approach cultivated by Hilal and Petti in Campus in Camps*, an educational program based in Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem and the tree school**,  communal  learning initiatives that are not confined within the traditional walls of academia, but which cut across different forms of knowledge, integrating aspects of life and dialogue with the larger community.

Their approach is devoted to the formation of learning environments where knowledge and actions are the result of a critical dialogue among participants, and in direct connection with communities where the interventions are taking place. To describe this egalitarian, creative and experimental environment, they use the Arabic term Al jame3ah. Translating in English as “the university”, the literal meaning of Al jame3ah is “a place for assembly”. As such, its educational approach is to create a gathering space and a pluralistic environment where participants can learn freely, honestly and enthusiastically and where participants are involved in an active formation of knowledge based on their daily lived-experience.

The common learning environments that they create are constantly reshaped in order to allow the accommodation of new interests born from the interaction between the participants and the social context at large. Here the aim of their approach is to reconcile knowledge with actions in a manner that escapes from the from the limitations of “pure theory” or “pure activism”.

Al jame3ah is not an isolated utopia, but rather it is a space that aims to contribute to the way schools and universities understand themselves, and overcome conventional structures. In doing so, it seeks forms of critical intervention for the democratization of knowledge production.

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The generative form of the School for Girls in Shufat is a circular space, an hexagonal form in which students are equally invited to participate in the class discussion, whether in an indoor classroom or in the outdoor gardens.

The open spaces of the gardens have been implemented by DAAR residents with the participations of students, teachers and organizations from the refugee camps in coordination with UNRWA. They are spaces where gatherings can take place more informally outdoors and under trees.



For Louis Khan, schools began with a man under a tree, who did not know he was a teacher, sharing his realizations with others, who did not know they were students. 

In this pedagogical spirit, the open spaces of the gardens in shufat school offer the possibility for the constitution of  a tree school where people from the community could become teachers and activate community-based discussions around topics that the participants can choose according to their relative needs.

The tree school is a device that creates a physical and metaphoric common territory where ideas and actions can emerge through critical, free and independent discussion among participants.

*Campus in Camps explores and produces new forms of representation of camps and refugees beyond the static and traditional symbols of victimization, passivity and poverty(

**In occasion of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo in 2014, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti and the Brazilian based art collective Contrafilé formed the first the tree school in Southern Bahia with thinkers, artists, and activists from the quilombola movement, the Landless Workers’ Movement and Palestinian refugees in order to activate community-based discussions around the role of education as a liberating and democratizing tool. Tree schools have been established in Cuernavaca, Beirut and Bangalore.(

Italian Ghosts

During the period of its Fascist regime, Italy employed modern architecture to represent its imperial ambitions in Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. 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 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 these architecture contrasts with the crimes of the colonization that have never been acknowledged; the “Gheddafi-Berlusconi reconciliation” of 2009 attempted to bypass, ignore or forced to 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.



DAAR contribution to Monditalia, Venice Architectural Biennale curated by Rem Khoolhaas in 2014 is an installation that turn a confessional inside out, shifting it from being a religious-psychological apparatus for personal redemption into a political tool that calls for the exposure of the neo-colonial relations that still tie Europe and Africa in a thousands of webs.