BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions at the Dutch Pavilion

Het Nieuwe Instituut commissioned Malkit Shoshan to curate the Dutch Pavilion during the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, with the presentation BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions.

BLUE is part of an on-going research into architecture in conflict areas.

The legacy of the UN’s Peacekeeping Missions

The United Nations has active peacekeeping missions in hundreds of sites around the world. The military bases are self-sustaining islands, shut off from their direct surroundings. The extreme design of these compounds mirrors the power structures and systems of the peacekeeping forces and makes no contribution to improving the lives of the inhabitants of these regions. The urgent need to reach new spatial solutions that can also have significance for local communities is an important motivation for her research.

As research fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Malkit Shoshan has focussed on the progressive way that the Netherlands contributes to UN peacekeeping missions. The United Nations itself talks in terms of ‘Guidelines for the Integrated Approach’, uniting Defence, Diplomacy, and Development. Shoshan proposes adding a fourth ‘D’ for Design. The ambition is to see the UN base not as a closed fort but as a catalyst for local development.


The presentation in the Dutch Pavilion centres on the case study of Camp Castor in Gao, Mali, where the UN is carrying out a peacekeeping mission. The colour blue is used as a metaphor for the conflict, uniting architecture and human rights. The peacekeeping mission is located in the desert region of the Toeareg, known as ‘blue men’ because of their indigo clothing, and is carried out by UN Blue Helmets. In this nomadic region the borders are fluid and shift with the seasons; there is a state of permanent crisis due to war, climate change, sickness and hunger. The color blue has also guided designer Irma Boom who, together with Malkit Shoshan, has designed the exhibition’s graphics.

The confrontation between different systems – foreign and local, military and civilian, settlement and desert, Blue Helmets and blue people, the crisis and the Dutch response – provides the prerequisites for new spatial conditions. By linking cultural research to architectural research, the Dutch submission to Venice aims to make visible the spatial challenges and opportunities of this complex situation.

BLUE presents a new series of narratives for architecture in conflict areas, central to which is the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. These stories are based upon conversations with military engineers and architects, anthropologists and economists, activists and policy makers.


  • Het Nieuwe Instituut


  • Irma Boom with Julia Neller
  • Malkit Shoshan

Contributors to the exhibition BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions

  • Arnon Grunberg
  • David Turnbull
  • Debra Solomon
  • Erella Grassiani
  • Joel van der Beek
  • Laura van Santen
  • LEVS architecten
  • Malkit Shoshan
  • Marcel Rot
  • Marion de Vos
  • Moussa Ag Assarid
  • Peter Chilson
  • Rob de Vos
  • Stichting Dogon Educatie
  • Studio Jonas Staal
  • Travis Bunt

Contributors to Design for Legacy research and policy recommendations

  • Debra Solomon/URBANIAHOEVE
  • Erella Grassiani/University of Amsterdam
  • Henk Ovink
  • Joel van der Beek/Econovision and Economists for Peace and Security
  • Maaike Groot/East-West Seeds
  • Malkit Shoshan/FAST
  • Robert Kluijver
  • Samir Bantal
  • Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Eran Nagan, Marleen Monster, Renilde Steeghs

  • Dutch Ministry of Defense

Cap. Thomas Boonen, Cap. Wouter Eidhof, Lt. Col. Alex Jansen, Maj. Erwin Marx, Col. Kees Matthijssen, Col. Norbert Moerkens, Maj. Marcel Rot



  • Studio Rob Gijsbers
  • Studio Roel Huisman
  • Studio Jonas Staal

Exhibition production and construction

  • Landstra & de Vries
  • Basile Marée
  • Ellik Bargai
  • Frits Ham
  • Gunnar Bech
  • Hans Jansen
  • Rob Gijsbers
  • Judith Öfner
  • Madeleine Mans


  • Riwi Collotype

Catalogue publisher

  • Archis/Volume magazine

With thanks to

  • Ankie Schellekens
  • Bryce Detroit
  • Claudia di Palermo
  • Creative Industries Fund NL
  • Dutch Ministry of Defense
  • Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Foundation Rietveld Pavilion Venice
  • Gerard Forde
  • Gert Staal
  • Jane Szita
  • LEVS architects
  • Matthijs Bouw
  • Master Soumy
  • Meira Kowalsky
  • Mirjam Tassing
  • NCRV/Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
  • NL Architects
  • Prince Claus Fund
  • Vicky Anning
  • Volume/Archis
  • Yael Davids
  • Zvi Efrat

Exhibition photographs by Iwan Baan and Simone Ferraro

LINK to BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions at Het Nieuwe Instituut