The Israeli architect and writer examines architecture’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Eyal Weizman is a London-based Israeli architect, academic and writer who mainly focuses on architecture as a form of political intervention and the discipline’s role in modern urban warfare.
He currently runs the Research Architecture department at Goldsmiths College, University of London where he is the head of the EU-funded Forensic Architecture Project. He is also part of the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR), an art and architecture collective and a residency programme based in Beit Sahour, in the Occupied West Bank.
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Architecture and the built environment is a kind of a slow violence. The occupation is an environment that slowly was conceived to strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for the people there.
In 2002, Weizman and fellow Israeli architect Rafi Segal were commissioned to produce the Israel pavilion for the International Union of Architects congress in Berlin. The exhibition they created was entitled A Civilian Occupation and was a passionate expose of the role of architecture in the occupation and repression of Palestine.
The Israel Association of United Architects (IAUA) withdrew its support, cancelled the exhibition and destroyed the catalogues, but the incident won Weizman and Segal worldwide attention.
In 2007, Weizman published the book Hollow Land, a ground-breaking analysis of the spatial organisation of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, from the construction of settlements, roads and walls, to the influence of architecture on Israel’s conceptualisation of military defence.
The Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, which Weizman runs together with the Palestinian architect Sandi Hilal and the Italian architect Alessandro Petti, is a multi-media project which tries to imagine the future of the Occupied Territories after “decolonisation”. It takes ‘toxic’ structures such as settlements and military posts and proposes physical changes and alternative uses such as bird-watching towers, hospitals, and schools.
Weizman’s latest undertaking, Forensic Architecture, is a research project which repositions architecture within the field of forensics, and proposes architectural evidence for the investigation of crimes against the state.
On cases ranging from drone strikes to genocide, Forensic Architecture interrogates the physical ruins and debris left behind, drawing on various media – archaeological scans, mobile phone footage, interviews with witnesses – and creates detailed, architectural reconstructions of events in an attempt to establish an order of events. Most recently, their work has been used by a United Nations investigation into drone strikes.
Weizman’s work on the architecture of occupation has led him to understand the discipline’s role in modern urban warfare. He asks: “What can we do as architects today to resist the destruction and violence that is enacted by architecture?”
For more on Eyal Weizman and his work:
Forensic Architecture: http://www.forensic-architecture.org/
Decolonizing Architecture: http://www.decolonizing.ps/site/