In July 2011, The Mayor of London presented Shubbak, the city's first ever celebration of contemporary Arab art and culture. Shubbak (Arabic for 'window') showcased over 70 events the city, including visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture, lectures and discussion. The Palestine Regenration Team took part in a series of architectural events including talks and exhibitions taking place at the RIBA as part of the festival.
The photographs shown here have been taken by the Palestinian Regeneration Team [Murray Fraser, Nasser Golzari and Yara Sharif] in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Realising that the limitation with most western analysis is its fixation with the negative aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the team aims instead to find constructive ways to implement architecture and urban design. By focussing on existing everyday patterns of life in Palestine, often under situations of extreme duress, possibilities arise for spaces in which new and creative practices can occur.
The photographs show a community divided by Israeli policy but nonetheless trying to inhabit their historic centres and new settlements as normally as possible. Along the ancient streets of towns like Birzeit or Hajja, old people and children sit under shade, or sell food and other goods in an ad-hoc manner, and men group together to chat about the latest stories. In the Gaza Strip, the extreme poverty and lack of resources gives everything a makeshift feel, and yet children in Gaza City still invent ways to play in the ruins that exist, or to relax with each other on the beachfront.
The Palestinian Regeneration Team are involved in projects with local communities and NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, working on self-build housing strategies, urban master-plans and prototype ‘green’ dwellings which use less energy by adapting traditional cooling methods. Team members also teach in the architectural schools at the UCL Bartlett and University of Westminster. Out of a current ‘live’ project for Westminster students on the MA Architecture, Cultural Identity and Globalisation, a memorable scheme by Clare-Ann Hamel Smith proposes a series of ‘narrative screens’ woven by the women of Jaba to shield house rooftops from ever-present military surveillance.