We also know, however, that evacuated colonial architecture doesn’t necessarily reproduce the functions it was designed for. There are examples of other uses, both planned and spontaneous, that have invaded evacuated colonial architecture, subverted their programs and liberated their potential. Even the most horrifying structures of domination can yield themselves to new forms of life. Believing in the potential of existing forces to shape reality, the starting point of our investigation is the most complex option of the three – the strategy of subversion – which speculates on the use of colonial architecture for purposes other than those they were designed to perform. For this reason, the project seeks to spatialize a set of possible collective functions into the abandoned military structures and the evacuated houses of the colonists. What new institutions and activities can model the evacuated space and what physical transformations these spaces require? The guiding principle is thus not to eliminate the power of the occupation’s built spaces, but rather to reorient its destructive potential to other aims. We believe that if the geography of occupation is to be liberated, its potential must be turned against itself.

Given the scale of Israeli construction in Palestine, and the need for housing, all three approaches may need to be applied and simultaneously coexist. Some areas of settlements will be destroyed, some reused and others subverted. Because the reuse of the colonial architecture is a general cultural/political issue, we do not seek to present a single, unified architectural solution, but rather “fragments of possibility”.

This is our starting point in dealing with the scenario of the evacuation of Israeli colonies and military camps, calling for the subversion [transformation] of the evacuated spatial infrastructure of these colonies, using their structures to ends other that those they were designed for.

Staro Sajmište [old fair ground] (Belgrade – Sebia)
Demonstrating the power of life over structure was the conversion, near Belgrade, of Staro Sajmište, the old fairground, built in the 1938, around a central circular structure according to an optical layout to showcase new technology, into a Nazi concentration camp during WW2. From all concentration camps in Europe, this one was the closest to a city. From Belgrade, people could directly watch into the camp. The visual order of exhibition turned into the logic of surveillance and control. After the war this site has turned into a Gypsy camp-village. The circular layout has thus been interpreted in radically different fashions. From a display mechanism, to a site of incarceration and murder, and then a site of renewed communal life, now again under threat.

Staro Sajmište. Source: Google

Staro Sajmište. Source: Skyscrapercity

Eyal Weizman telling the history of Staro Sajmište:

Fossoli / Nomadelfia (Carpi – Italy)
Fossoli started as a camp where Jews were imprisoned before being deported to the death camps in the east. After WW2, in 1947, the priest Zeno Saltini occupied the camp together with the catholic group Piccoli Apostoli and founded there the community Nomadelfia, where orphans were welcome. They changed the size of the windows, made them much larger to reflect the new life emerging. The place where they used to gather all the prisoners had been turned into a cinema. They transformed the ground from a flat and barren surface to a planted landscape. Now it is a museum and the fence around the camp has been built and destroyed many times depending on the use of the building – camp, orphanage, refugee camp (from 1953 until the end of the ’60s dalmatian refugees lived there), museum. In this case you have layers of how life changed the place. The doors, which were built to be very small, were changed to be much larger. The camp watchtower was transformed into a church. The addition of the church changed the fabric of the camp. Fondazione Fossoli; Nomadelfia

The occupation of the camp in 1947. Source:


Fossoli barrack transformed into a Nomadelfia house

Interiors of the Nomadelfia orphanage

Church of Nomadelfia

Open-air cinema

The museum is situated inside some restored barracks