Did architecture contribute to the violence against Palestinians?

2014-09-14 15:00

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You can’t escape the visceral destruction of Gaza.

It’s on our screens?–?TV, tablet, mobile, monitor?– almost every night as Israel and Palestine continue a tragic, blood-soaked tussle without end.

A recent YouTube video showed a block of flats being destroyed as one of the inhabitants filmed it. A minute and a few seconds. A slightly shaky camera focusing on a building that’s just standing there. And then it’s not. It’s obliterated in a shower of flames, bricks and dust.

Israeli-born, London-based architect Eyal Weizman is greatly concerned by this kind of destruction. But first, he’s preoccupied by the creation of the buildings that are being blown to pieces and how their structure, form and existence contribute to “a slow violence” imposed on Palestinians.

At the beginning of The Architecture of Violence, part of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architectureseries, Weizman is walking purposefully towards a concrete tower. He calls out in Hebrew to a soldier hidden in the tower wanting to know if he can come closer.

Weizman worked on a project on this site and wants to see it again.

The soldier isn’t budging?–neither from his tower nor is he giving access to this interloper. Safe in his structure, he threatens violence with nothing more than his voice and menacing absence.

Weizman curses and walks away, then asks the camera: “Doesn’t he look ridiculous in his pipe house?”

This is fascinating viewing. Weizman is an engaging narrator, and film maker Ana Naomi de Sousa lets him have his space. He is dwarfed by the walls, the towers, the buildings that stretch to the sky and, in some areas, are clad with stone to make them look like the structures that dot the holy city of Jerusalem.

In Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank, all the houses have red roofs. This isn’t just at the whim of a town planner who likes sameness?–?the roofs act as a visual guide for the Israeli Defence Force and tells it what not to bomb.

Weizman talks about architecture as a “weapon” that exerts separation and control.

In a particularly poignant sequence, he zones in on the “borders, fences, checkpoints and valleys” used by the Israeli government to make easy navigation impossible for Palestinians.

De Sousa’s camera pours the viewer uncomfortably into the tiny spaces created by turnstiles at military checkpoints.

The turnstiles often trap those who are a little too tall or too overweight, Weizman says in the voice-over. They reduce “Palestinians to nothing more than bodies”.

South Africans know all too well what happens when architecture is roped in to make a political point. We see evidence of it in our cities every day. The Architecture of Violence is highly recommended, smart and emotionally charged viewing.

.?View the doccie in full on YouTube by searching for Rebel Architecture?–The Architecture of Violence

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