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The Architecture of Exile: Palestinian Refugee Camps as World Heritage Site
Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday, September 28th, 2015 at 6pm in Olin Room 102In recent years, architectural conservation has become a field of knowledge and a practice able to reframe our understanding of aesthetics, cultural heritage, and history. For some, architectural conservation was understood mainly as a discipline that froze time, space, and culture, reducing buildings to lifeless objects for contemplation. Today, however, it has evolved into an operative field that includes thinking about material and immaterial cultures, the preservation of social and identity structures, and the negotiation of contested spaces where national identities are constructed and demolished.Architectural preservationists started to identify and protect structures built centuries ago. Later on, we discovered that modernism, which claimed to be ahistorical, needed to be preserved as part of an historical narration of the city. Now we are at a moment when rough industrial zones can be thought of as places of national heritage, and refugee camps become sites of heated discussions about what should and should not be remembered, or perhaps more importantly, what should and should not  be forgotten.If we look at refugee camps through the lens of architectural preservation, how might our understanding of camps change?Refugee camps are considered temporary spaces to be quickly dismantled. But how are we to understand the Palestinian refugee camps that are now almost 70 years old? Can we consider them cultural sites to be preserved?For many, being asked to look at refugee camps from this perspective may be a disturbing proposition. But this is the reality that is in front of our eyes, and therefore one that we cannot negate. One of the urgent questions becomes: do Palestinian refugee camps have history? And how might this history be mobilized for the right of return, instead of being perceived as a threat? And at the same time how does the concept of architectural heritage change when applied to refugee camps?For the workshop we would like to examine these questions and explore the political implications of challenging existing categories of nation, camp, and heritage. In collaboration with the Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation and in the framework of the Riwaq Biennial, we have just started work on the documentation that will support the inscription of a group of buildings in refugee camps as World Heritage Sites under the protection of UNESCO.Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti are both architects and artists. Together they direct Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program based in Dheisheh refugee camp in Palestine. They are also co-founders, along with Eyal Weizman, of the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency  in Bethlehem.

Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Location: Olin, Room 102
Sponsor: Human Rights Project
Contact: Sarah Petty.
Phone: 401-418-3904

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