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From instrument of war to a place where people can dream again

When armed forces retreat an occupied territory, they leave numerous war settlements behind. Polluting the view and the morale of the survivors, most of the time these structures are simply destroyed. It may symbolise the end of suppression, but demolishing it results in an enormous pile of rubble. As a poison this rubble will characterize the land for many years to come and prevent the building of a new society.

With their manual of decolonisation, titled: The Future Archaeology Of Israel’s Colonisation, the architects Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti and Eyal Weizman offer a constructive solution for the remaining Israeli battle constructions in Palestinian territory. The beauty of this project is that the three architects don’t pretend that their answer is the best. Main goal is to create a forum, bringing people together to think in an innovative and fresh way on this subject. The inhabitants also have to be aware that their ravaging-tactic, which may seem easy and releasing at the time, is not the most useful. It’s a better approach to dismantle the hostile settlements, to pull them out of the context of war and to give them a new interpretation. You can only break the logics of colonisation through a substantial transformation of the infrastructure. What is more glorious than defeating the enemy with its own weapons?

ungrounding tactic

The Israeli colony in Psagot, in the vicinity of Ramallah, is one of their test cases. Decolonizing this abandoned settlement will be carried out in different steps. Removing the first 15 centimetres of surface is a tactic that is called the ungrounding of the terrain. It’s like pulling a carpet of roads, footpaths, front gardens from under the houses. Thus new walking tracks come to exist, creating a free movement. In the second place the different house lots will be redivided, deparceling the terrain. The idea is to superimpose a map from 1954 onto a more recent plan of the colony. Because the old parcels don’t match the recent ones, it creates a big randomness in the settlements tissue. Sometimes these new boundaries even go straight trough an existing structure. Unhoming the premises is the last step in the decolonisation process. Trying to find a way to connect all the houses, the single-family home becomes the core of a bigger structure with a public character. Which has the goal to contain schools, hospitals, offices and lots more.

return to nature

The second site where the three architects and their team of volunteers are active, lies on the hilltop of Oush Grab. Since the evacuation of the territory, the old military base has become the centre of a cat and mouse game between the Israeli and the Palestinians. Often with a violent undertone. Hence the idea of literally dismantling the bunkers by punching holes in it. This way they cannot serve as a hideout and protection anymore, ever again. Instead of the violent purpose the structures were made for they can now act as a stopping place for the thousands of migrating birds, which pass by every year. Another strategy is to change the surrounding landscape radically. By enclosing the base with more hills it loses its function as a look-out. The hill can now become a public park. The potential of a military base is now completely eliminated.

‘Architecture is not only about building, it’s a way to read and examine changes in the city and society’, says Alessandro Petti. The emphasis in this project not only lies in the actual realization but also in the political and economical aspects. Nevertheless the contact with the local inhabitants too, is an important facet. It suits the architects that they don’t sit in their ivory tower but visit the projects often. They go see local soccer games and drive around in the neighbourhood to talk to the people. On the website there even is a section were architects, artists and graphic designers can sign up to lend a helping hand. Not as an office but more as a group of friends they try to give a future to a country that has experienced decades of war.

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Simon Claessens.
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3 Antworten
  1. Sofia Sousa says

    While some people are concentrated in disorder, war and destruction, is important and useufull that others are trying to contradict this issue converting and remodel the confusion left behind.

    With this concept of “rebuild from the war remains” this architects bring some balance to this destruction, almost like a “reborn from the ashes”.
    Instead of thinking to big or having to high expectations, this young architects understand that it’s urgent to change and do something fast about this problems so they act in a pratical way, getting the people involved in this problems that affects them directly.

    In my opinion, a really inteligent way of acting in something that really needs a change in our world!

  2. Sofia O'Neill Esquível says

    I find really interesting and inovate this young architects ideas. To go out, work exactly on terrain and talk with the people who is used to live in that place is the best place to understand and feel what is going on there. It is the way to understand architecture and help some place to grow up with new perspectives, “fresh air” in this case.

  3. Pauline Berschandy says

    Traces from the past are important, not to remind people that terror happened for decades, but to remind them and all of us that we should not forget, that we should learn from what happened. And this way of transforming those war settlements show that we can change things, we can make them evole.
    Although, it is very moving to see architects working together, hand in hand to help those people to live in a better way.
    We’ll never erase what happened, but we can always help.

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