Workshop @ MIT “The Architecture of Refugees: The Question of Ethics” + Summit @ University of Chicago “What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights?”

WORKSHOP – The Architecture of Refugees: The Question of Ethics at the MIT
April 27th, 2017
The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture + Planning 77 Massachusetts Avenue – Cambridge, MA 02139 (room 4-231)

Significant transformations in the world’s political landscape are signaling the emergence of a new world order that undermines the certitudes established at the end of World War II. At the core of such discussions, the concept of human rights is significantly challenged, calling for a discussion at the core of ethics for the revisions of the principles and mechanisms of intervention. In reaction to these new transformations some have called for a World Parliament representing the people and not governments to replace the UN General Assembly. The workshop addresses the agency of architecture and design in a context where the disrespect of human rights is aggravated by the incapacity of global institutions to react efficiently. What are the ethical questions regarding the architecture of refugees? What timescales, short or long terms, represent a priority for architecture and through which agenda – refugee relief, historical preservation, camp upgrades and daily life, or rebuilding and re- settlement? What is the role of design in front of the degradation and destruction of cultural artifacts? How can design be channeled towards peace building objectives and possible resettlement projects? What are the material, technological, systemic responses to address emergency needs in the context of refugee camps?

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SUMMIT – What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights?
April 29th, 2017
Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL

“What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights?” is a multi-day summit hosted by the University of Chicago and composed of a group of distinguished international artists who will propose, examine, and challenge the ways in which creative cultural resistance can broaden our collective understanding of human rights.

Day one features an immersive day of artist presentations to include performances, screenings, conversations, and lectures. Each artist has been provided with a 45-minute slot during which they will either deliver a presentation about their particular practice and the ways in which it illuminates human rights issues, or present a work of art created specifically for the summit.

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Advanced course in Decolonizing Architecture

The deadline for applications is May 3 13:00. To apply for the course use the online application form.

The course is intended for those with studies or experiences in architecture, art, urban research, postcolonial theory or activism who are interested in the ideological, social and political dimensions of Architecture. The course welcomes applicants with diverse cultural backgrounds committed to develop an artistic and architectural practice that is both theoretically and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. The course is build on the work developed at DAAR and Campus in Camps.


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.

The course is structured in two interrelated and parallel moments: 1) a period of research aimed at investigating the ways in which European colonial architecture has been re-used or destroyed in the process of decolonization and 2) activating collaboration with groups, associations, governmental and non governmental institutions for specific interventions in contemporary cities. Reference for the kind projects that the course aims to develop can be seen here


Course structure

The teaching philosophy of the course is based on the pedagogy developed by Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program established in Palestinian refugee camps www.campusincamps. In this approach, students are considered coauthors of meanings and bearers of knowledge. Therefore, the structure of the course is adapted to the urgencies and aspirations of the participants. At the same time the student-participants are asked to work under the direction of the course instructor who leads the group towards a collective project presented at the end of the year in an exhibition format and a publication. During the first semester lectures, research and site visits will help to build the case study for the Atlas of Decolonization and reading groups will help to structure a “collective dictionary”, a series of student-participant curated papers on key terms considered to be fundamental for the theoretical foundation of the architectural projects. The spring semester will emphasize the production and development of the project in the studio and its possible future realization. The course will revolve around three/four days every other week of intensive program of seminars, lectures, studios, mentorships, reading sessions, site visits, walks and convivial meals, spaced out by a week where participants independently develop work, research, write, read, draw, interview, and conduct site visits. The course is divided into two parts during one academic year: Decolonizing Architecture I, 30 credits (Autumn Semester); Decolonizing Architecture II, 30 credits (Spring Semester).

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Video Recording of “Refugee Heritage” in New York

With Suad Amiry, Thomas Keenan, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal; moderated by Nikolaus Hirsch.

Suad Amiry is a Palestinian architect and writer, and the founder of RIWAQ: Center of Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine.

Thomas Keenan is Director of the Human Rights Project and Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Literature, Human Rights Program at Bard College.

Jorge Otero-Pailos works at the intersection of art, architecture, and preservation. He is Director and Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in New York.

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti are architects, artists, and educators whose work combines critical and rigorous theoretical research with an architectural, artistic, and pedagogical practice engaged in the struggle for justice and equality.


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?