|MANUAL OF DECOLONIZATION
Conceived within the frame of “Decolonizing Architecture: scenarios for the transformation of Israeli settlements”, a project by the London–Bethlehem based architectural studio of Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti and Eyal Weizman. Decolonizing Architecture was originally conceptualized and its pilot stage produced in dialogue with Eloisa Haudenschild & Steve Fagin partners in Spare Parts, a division of the haudenschildGarage.
With Barbara Modolo, Manuel Singer, Alessandro Zorzetto.
Salottobuono designed several ‘strategies of subversion’ for Israeli residential settlements in the West Bank and included them in a
“Manual of Decolonization”: a generic toolbox for post-occupation scenarios.
The manual determines to what extent the evacuated structures are flexible to accomodate new uses, and displays the various ways in which they can be adapted or transformed, on a detailed architectural scale.
Located on the hill of Jabal Tawil, 900 meters above sea level, the colony visually dominates the entire Palestinian area.
Until the occupation it was used as an open space for recreation.
The hills of Jerusalem and Ramallah were popular with families from the Gulf, especially Kuwaitis who travelled there to escape the summer heat (the people of Ramallah still call the hill “the Kuwaiti hill”).
In 1964, the municipality of Al Quds (Jerusalem) bought the land and prepared a plan for its development into a tourist resort. The work started in early 1967 with the construction of an access road. The work was interrupted by the Israeli occupation. In July 1981, on the initiative of the Likud party, the colony of P’sagot was inaugurated as ‘compensation’ to right-wing Israelis for the evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula.
The area designated for tourist accommodation was the first to be occupied by settler housing. The first houses set on the hill of Jabal Tawil were prefabricated structures wheeled over from Yamit, a settlement in the north of the Sinai. P’sagot is at present a religious settlement inhabited by 1,700 people, mainly American Jews and a minority of recent Russian and French immigrants.
Rather than a single unified proposal of urban planning covering the entirety of Palestine, of even the entirety of this settlement, our project presents detailed transformations on the architectural scale. There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli built structures in the West Bank, but because the number of typologies in settlements and military bases are limited – variations on the single-family dwelling in settlements and concrete prefabricated barracks in military bases – these ‘fragments of possibility’ constitute a semi-generic approach that could be modified to be applied in other evacuated areas.
The manual seeks to determine to what extent the evacuated structures are to accommodate new uses and will demonstrate the various ways in which they can be adapted or transformed. The production of the manual
is based upon a series of meetings with the “stakeholders” in this process. It includes representatives of various organizations and individuals, the local community, members of various ngos, government and municipal bodies, academic and cultural institutions, local residents and resident associations. Their genuine participation is the crucial factor and the only agency that could guaranty the implementation of the actions outlined in the manual.
In the course of our analysis, we made use of both documentary and narrative sources to identify some of the landowners within the areas of the colonies. Jabel Tawil/P’sagot is at the gravitational centre of various orbits of extra-territoriality: displaced communities, individuals, migrations and family connections.
Our investigation traced some of the Palestinian landowners to the US, Australia, Kuwait, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and of course closer at hand in Palestine, sometimes fenced off a few meters away from their lands. Their private and family histories are the intertwined histories of Palestine and its displaced communities, forced out by the occupation and by economic and professional opportunities overseas.
About half of the area occupied by the Psagot colony belongs to private owners with the other half registered as belonging to one of various kinds of collective lands. The fate of private lands should be decided by their owners, it is within the communal lands that we propose various types of collective uses.
In the first stages a controlled erosion deteriorates the existing roads, lots, parking, and sidewalks. Thepassage of time and the natural and unnatural results of neglect are allowed to overtake the land, while at the same time preserving certain features for potential reutilization.
This suspension of decay occurs at sites of intersecting streets where the asphalt is preserved and refigured in the service of an eventual connectivity to the adjacent town of Al Bireh. As the surrounding ground is alternately eroded and buried, a series of new conditions emerge – terraces of arable land re-form the western hill replacing the strategic importance of the hillside with new visual and infrastructural linkages to Ramallah. In other areas of the settlement, zones of new terrain emerge implying various types of development, forming an archipelago of parcels guided by a new logic of land ownership and distribution.
Whether thought of as parameters or as contingencies, the intrinsic variability of this process must be understood as indeterminate in outcome – its ultimate resolution subject to the negotiations, localized planning, and apportionment over time that will, no doubt, accompany a re-inhabitation of the site.
The placement of the containers (In P’sagot we have counted at least 60, even if the recent surveys have pointed out a bigger number) within the fabric of the settlement densifies the existing structures and allow for connections between the homes. This help to de-suburbanize the space. We propose to insert them in some interstice available, one slab of the container connects between existing buildings, giving a form to one continuous used surface which is adaptable to diverse urban functions.
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