‘OPEN Gaza’ is a collaborative project involving academics, architects, planners, engineers and theorists from the UK, USA, Palestine and India to bring expertise in design and urban thinking in order to expand the possibilities for intervention and change in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza Open aims to create a platform for discussion and sharing of ideas, and to practice – one of the most essential roles and responsibilities of planning and design - to better the livelihood of people, to create through responsive design a humane, equitable, and tractable environment.
The contributors include Terreform, Palestine Regeneration Team (PART), and many other organisations and individuals who aim to create collective spatial change and a critical form of practice and thinking that can challenge the current inequalities facing Gaza.
Nasser and Yara's contribution to Open Gaza is titled 'Subver-City, Absurd-City'
Their contribution to OPEN Gaza, is part of an on going research by design which they have been conducting -- over the past 6 years or so -- to explore spatial possibilities in Palestine that can heal and empower the fragmented communities.
Under the title of Subver-city, Absurd-city, Nasser and Yara will combine speculative ideas along with live design projects to offer spatial alternatives for Gaza while also provoking a critical form of architectural practice. Working in the Gaza Strip, their contribution will be specifically oriented towards exploring new means to re-read and re-inhabit the city. While looking at the challenges and constraints there, they will also try to celebrate everyday forms of survival, which have been carving out new social and spatial realities.
In the context of Gaza, or what they have called the ‘absurd-city’, the spaces have become exposed, and the relationship between the internal and the external is blurred. Gaza no longer dwells its city in a conventional sense; the relationship between the street, the block, the room, and the living room, has changed with a new perspective to everyday life.
They will thus be working on two different scales; the bigger scale of the whole of Palestine where they will re-read and re-draw the map from a new perspective away from the dominant power of lines. And the micro-scale, where they will explore alternative means to re-inhabit the city.
Acting as a link between the two scales, a new typology will be proposed to trigger new possibilities and stitch the living room, the house, the street with the neighbourhoods and yet, go beyond Gaza to reach all Palestine.
The work on the typology is a follow on what they have started back in 2010 while being in Gaza and working with the local community, to initiate what they have called Gaza Green Lab or Green Learning Room. The Green Learning Room is aimed to act as a threshold between the private and the public space. It aims to offer alternative ways for ‘self-help’, hinting at possible alternative forms of reconstruction, which can be self-sufficient and enhance the living conditions of the community there.
Nasser and Yara's on-going search stems from the urgent need for an alternative discourse that can nourish the Palestinian space -- both the physical as well as the imaginative one.
Santiago's project is titled 'Democratisation of the Land: Beyond Gaza'
The proposal revolves around the issue of boundaries in contemporary societies exploring it through the contested boundaries in Palestine/Israel context, aiming to understand, re-imagine and collectively discuss the possibilities. Initially, the project choses to study the issues, given that it is a place affected not only by physical boundaries such as the separation wall, but also internal less visible boundaries that form part of a daily routine. Using the book, 'Golda slept here' and the film 'Divine Intervention', the project takes you through a journey that starts from a daily practice leading to plot or land distribution between a potential population of 27 million!
The re-imagined scenario suggested, which goes beyond the Gaza strip and the current boundaries into historic Palestine, consist of an invisible grid that equally divides the territory amongst the proposed population. This is played out from a personal (rather distant) perspective, where the granted piece of land comes with a set of limitations in order to protect it from further conflicts. However, this is done with the intention to spark a discussion from the proposed decision makers, and attempt to establish this speculative scenario as a common ground for debates. Therefore, just as the conflict has affected the daily activities, the aim is for a widespread discussion that fuels from the absurd situations in order to be part of the everyday life for people of Gaza and Palestinians as a whole as well.
Rim's project is titled 'A funeral for a building: The right to mourn'
Looking at the subject of ‘The politics of Urbicide’ and rebuilding devastated cities. This project will explore the types of buildings Israeli militants attack and why they attack these buildings whilst aiming to understand what the relationship is between these buildings and the people who once inhabited them.
Sometimes we care for cultural buildings and our home as much as we would care for our children or as much as we care for family members. We ‘raise’ a home in the same way we would raise a child, with love and care. Ariel Sharon once stated that he would eliminate houses row by row, saying that he knew the Arabs very well, that there is nothing more important to them than their homes. He would not shoot a child next to his father because it is better to bulldoze an entire village. Similarly, when the Stari Most was destroyed, Andras Riedlmayer termed the ruin an act of "killing memory"
This project will aim to search for a way (or ways) in which the Palestinians can express their right to mourn for the loss of their homes through art and Architecture.
The Green Learning Room