Separation wall, Palestine (Al Jazeera)

Film to explore “slow violence” of architecture in Israeli occupation

28 July 2014 | By Rod Sweet 0 Comments

With no end in site to the devastating conflict in Gaza, television station Al Jazeera is preparing to broadcast a documentary about architecture’s role in urban warfare and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Israeli architect Eyal Weizman will explore how architecture is central to the occupation and how “forensic architecture” can use visual technologies to present evidence for war crimes.

Calling architecture in Palestine “a kind of a slow violence”, he said the built environment “was conceived to strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for the people there”. 

Weizman is director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and of the Forensic Architecture project. Funded by the European Research Council, it explores the role of architecture in international humanitarian law.

Qatar-based station Al Jazeera said that in the film, “Architecture of Violence”, to be broadcast on 1 September, Weizman will “explain how it feels to live in a landscape where everything, from walls and roads, terraces and sewage, to settlements and surveillance are designed to ensure the separation of the two peoples, while simultaneously maintaining control”.

Weizman will also explain how the Israeli army “pioneered a new kind of modern urban warfare through its deep understanding of architecture”, Al Jazeera said.

The film is one of a six-part series premiering 18 August called “Rebel Architecture”, which features architects who use design to tackle the world’s urban, environmental and social crises – shunning, as the station says, the “glamour of ‘starchitecture’”. 

The six half-hour documentaries feature, as well as Weizman, Spanish architect Santi Cirugeda, who operates at the edge of the law by occupying municipal land to build public spaces, and Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect who, turned from designing glass and steel skyscrapers to design flood and earthquake proof buildings using traditional techniques.

“When we train, we are taught that architecture is like God because you create things,” Lari said in an Al Jazeera statement. “As a result, your ego is inflated.”

“This series challenges our conceptions of architecture and design, and the way we cover them in the media”, said Giles Trendle, Director of Programmes at Al Jazeera English.