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A “total-blue” pavilion welcomes visitors of the Dutch exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. By Riccardo Bianchini

Blue is everywhere here, from the net fabric wrapping the pavilion itself, to walls and furniture, up to the title of the exhibition, curated by Malkit Shoshan, a research fellow at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. But why?

The answer is simple and articulated at the same time: a specific type of blue (35.7% red, 57.3% green and 89.8% blue) is the flag-color of the United Nations as well as the their peacekeeping mission carried out across the world by the so-called “Blue Helmets”.

But “the Blue people” (for their indigo clothes) is also a name which usually identifies the Tuareg nomadic populations living in the North-eastern part of Africa, including Mali, where a UN compound has been built and is managed by the Netherlands.

“Defense, Diplomacy, Development & Design” by Jacqueline Knudsen. ArchitectuurNL

Zojuist is in het Nederlands Paviljoen in Venetië de expositie BLUE: Architectuur van VN Vredesmissiesvan architect Malkit Shoshan geopend. De boodschap van Shoshan: de architectuur van Verenigde Naties vredesmissies hervormen tot nieuwe ruimtelijke oplossingen die het leven voor de lokale bevolking verbeteren.

designboom: “dutch pavilion at venice biennale focuses on the architecture of UN peacekeeping missions.”

‘reporting from the front’ is the theme of the 2016 venice architecture biennale, under which alejandro aravena has curated projects from around the globe that focus on the need to provide growing numbers of people with accommodation and basic living conditions, under increasingly difficult circumstances. as the director of the 15th international architecture exhibition, aravena has identified front lines around the world where creative architects can bring about a breakthrough in extremely complex urban issues, not least of all in places of military conflict. it is this particular topic that is the focus of malkit shoshan’s ongoing research into the architecture of the united nation’s (UN) peacekeeping missions.

de Volkskrant: “Nederlands paviljoen Biënnale Venetië kleurt blauw van de camouflagenetten Architect Malkit Shoshan ontwierp een Nederlands paviljoen over de VN-vredesmissies.” Bob Witman (NL)

“De Nedrlandse bijdrage aan de Architectuur Biënnale van Venetië steekt felblauw af tussen de tientallen andere landenpaviljoens. De Israëlisch-Nederlands architect Malkit Shoshan, heeft het eerbiedwaardige Rietveldpaviljoen uit 1954 in blauwe camouflagenetten verpakt voor haar presentatie BLUE: Architectuur van Vredesmissies, over de Nederlandse blauwhelmenmissie in Gao, Mali.

2016 Architecture Biennial, Dutch Pavilion: Blue by Bettina Schürkamp for FSB

” UN peacekeeping missions in Africa as an urban phenomenon: architect and curatrix Malkit Shoshan researched the hermetically guarded “Camp Castor” in Mali and in her “Blue” exhibition shows how UN bases can become networked “sharing spaces”.

This year’s Dutch Pavilion is in a radiantly ethereal blue that settles like a veil of confidence over photos, maps and models from 170 UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. In contrast to the architectural concepts predominant in many of the other Pavilions, here the public enters a spacious panorama of international diplomacy. LED dots of light on the rear wall indicate UN locations on maps that twinkle like a star-lit sky in the azure-blue semi-darkness. The meditative sounds of Nigerian musician Abdallah ag Oumbadougou, founding father of a rock and traditional music crossover dubbed “Tuareg blues”, give visitors an intimation of life on the edge of the Sahara. Artificial palms and an area of sand in the middle of the Pavilion round off this recreation of an African desert oasis. It takes a while to realise that the “Blue” exhibition is actually a richly detailed research project on the urban construction of UN camps for the MINUSMA international peacekeeping mission. It was also shown in January 2016 at UN headquarters in New York.”

Link to the essay.

“6 must sees voor de Architectuur Biennale in Venetië: Te gast op een militaire basis.” by Mariska Wildschut (NL)

Natuurlijk mag een bezoek aan het Nederlandse paviljoen tijdens de Biennale niet ontbreken. De Israëlische architecte Malkit Shoshan tekende voor de presentatie, met een wel heel bijzonder onderwerp: het onderzoek naar VN Camp Castor in Gao in Mali. Shoshan is gespecialiseerd in ‘de architectuur van het conflict’.

“Mission is completed: A nobel response to the biennale request.” (RU)

BLUEArchitecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions. Павильон Голландии

Архитектура как миссия. Голландские кураторы выбрали тему временной и не очень архитектуры для баз и структур ООН, спроектированной военными инженерами-архитекторами для пребывания миротворческих миссий, голубых касок, в разных уголках мира.

Базы ООН как катализатор локального развития после окончания миссии милитарной. Впечатляет “история войн” – инфографика, наглядно и беспощадно показывающая непрерывное пребывание человечества в состоянии войны. 

Mission is completed – благородный ответ на запрос биеннале.

Blue: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions review by The Venice Insider

At the Dutch pavilion, curator Malkit Shoshan presents her ongoing research on architecture in conflict areas. She focuses this exhibition on the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions, more particularly on Camp Castor in Gao, Mali. This topic fits perfectly within the ‘Reporting from the Front theme’, set by Alejandro Aravena.

Reflecting on Venice: Design positions at the Front by Andrea Prins. (NL)

“Malkit Shoshan, oprichter van de architectuurdenktank FAST en curator van het Nederlandse paviljoen, onderzoekt in BLUE de militaire kampen van UN-vredesmissies. Ze constateert, dat de veiligheidshekken rondom die kampen voor het militaire personeel letterlijk én figuurlijk een grens vormen naar ‘de ander’ en voor de ‘buiten’ levende bevolking de zoveelste buitenlandse bezetting van hun land symboliseren. Shoshan wil, door middel van haar onderzoek, zowel de situatie binnen de kampen als de relatie tussen kamp en omgeving verbeteren. Onderdeel van haar werk is het onderzoeken van de wisselwerking tussen militaire kampementen en ‘de stad’; het verzamelen van verhalen en het houden van interviews om vat te krijgen op het complexe functioneren van een kamp. Interessant is de vraag hoe de opzet van een kamp zou kunnen veranderen, wanneer het als een ‘normaal’ stedelijk project gezien zou kunnen worden.

Debate: ‘Reflecting on Venice: Design Positions at the Front.’ July 7, 2016

Can (or should) a designer engage with complex social and political issues? What stance can architects take within this field? Are they really given room to bring about improvements or is it simply a matter of good intentions? These and other questions will be discussed in relation to several exhibitions currently on view at the Venice Architecture Biennale under the banner ‘Reporting from the Front’. With contributions from curators Sabine Dreher (Austrian pavilion, Places for People), Oliver Elser (German pavilion, Making Heimat), Malkit Shoshan (Dutch pavilion, BLUE. Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions) and Luke Korlaar (UNHCR). The discussion will be led by Lilet Breddels, director of Volume.

The opening of the exhibition ‘BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions’ at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Photos by Simone Ferraro

Metropolis: Timely, Urban, and Contextual: The Venice Architecture Biennale’s Most Thought-Provoking Pavilions

“Dutch Pavilion
BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions

Malkit Shoshan, founder of the architecture think tank FAST and curator of the Dutch pavilion, has spent the past decade researching the intersections between architecture, politics, and human rights, particularly in conflict zones. For this year’s biennale, Shoshan examined the UN’s bases around the world, which have historically taken the form of enormous, militarized compounds inside and around cities (170 to be precise), and explore how these compounds could better achieve their peace-keeping missions. After all, as Shoshan explains, every UN base should represent diplomacy, defense, and development; existing complexes give tribute to defense only.

The New York Times: Six Not-to-Miss Shows at the Venice Architecture Biennale

“The Netherlands

The curator Malkit Shoshan specializes in the architecture of conflict, and for “Blue,” she focuses on the structures created by the United Nations at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali. “Blue” indicates, on the one hand, the blue helmets of the peacekeeping mission, and on the other, the “blue men” of the Tuareg, in whose region the mission is situated. Shoshan suggests the military camp itself as a permeable cultural location rather than a fortress, and one that brings with it the possibility of positive change.”

By Hettie Judah

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Haaretz: “איך האו”ם יכול באמת לעזור לתושבי אפריקה” (Hebrew)

האדריכלית מלכית שושן אצרה את הביתן ההולנדי עטור השבחים בביאנלה בוונציה. היא מציעה בו דרכים שבאמצעותן יוכלו גם תושבים באפריקה ליהנות מהתשתיות של בסיסי האו”ם

By Naama Riba

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Architizer: Venice Biennale 2016: 4 Remarkable Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises

“BLUE: The Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions presents Camp Castor (Gao, Mali), designed, constructed and deployed by 450 Dutch soldiers, as a case study. BLUE refers to the color of U.N. helmets and the local Tuareg people’s indigo-dyed clothing.

The opening program at the Dutch Pavilion during the vernissage of the Venice Architecture Biennale

Thursday, 26 May 2016 

  • 11 AM

Official opening of ‘BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions’ with General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence

  • 5 PM

Live performance by the Malian rapper Master Soumy

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