Shortlisted: Cities and Community
Searching for spatial possibilities is an on-going research-by-design project by Palestine Regeneration Team (PART) over the past six years or so. In a triangular relationship between research, design and practice, the projects combine speculative ideas along with live design projects to mend the fragmented landscapes and stretch their physical space and that of imagination. The process of design and practice in its accumulative nature tries to ‘hint’ at spatial possibilities. Between zooming in to the detail of the everyday, and zooming out to think urban strategies, the work tries to create a matrix of networks inspired by everyday practices, which if crisscrossed can create endless possibilities to heal, stitch and empower. These vary from self-help housing strategies and revitalisation plans to historic fabrics, prototypes for green learning rooms and virtual spaces to cultivate hope.
Working in a complex socio political context like Palestine, it is always crucial that, as professionals, we question our roles, address issues of ethics, and be aware of ‘consumption’ from a social-political or economical context. We always ask ourselves: Who will benefit from the work?
Therefore, as a practice based in the UK, we try to ensure that we ‘produce’ spaces, not ‘consume’ on the expenses of others. In this sense, we consider ourselves more as ‘facilitators’ where we allow the community to take over, and ‘tailor’ the projects to their needs. The work therefore, challenges the ‘iconic’ production of architectural building in its conventional sense. At times, it results in creating an architecture which may be ‘invisible’ in its form and not iconic, yet it can empower the excluded and celebrate their creative potential.
To do this, time, slowing pace and continuity becomes fundamental to the work. The most effective form of urban resistance lies in creating vibrant streets that cannot easily be stopped or blocked. Therefore, celebrating the ordinary and making it special and accessible implies a constant process mapping. Applying the principles of social mapping where one not only documents facts but also imagines scenarios for change – in a constant process of observing, testing and making – is crucial to enact spatial change. This is also critical to gain trust of community and demonstrate commitment.
When shifting the debate to practice-led research, questioning aesthetics, sustainability and what architecture is offering in a fragmented context with limited resources, becomes crucial. If architecture cannot address the immediate needs of the community – like shortage of water, sewage, or heating – and yet live up to their aspirations with responsive design interventions, then it cannot be sustained. Consequently, the work done by PART oscillates between the pragmatic and the speculative. From green roof construction techniques, through zero-gravity structures, to digital gardens creating virtual landscapes, we challenge constraints and convention to create socially-driven architecture that responds to contemporary needs and suggest future scenarios that cultivate hope.
Research by Dr Yara Sharif, Golzari NG Architects and PART, UK; Dr Nasser Golzari, Golzari-NG Architects, PART and University of Westminster, UK; Prof Murray Fraser, Bartlett School of Architecture and PART, UK