Border Ecologies Exhibition at The Harvard Graduate School of Design

Borders shape and consolidate relations between states, people, jurisdictions, political entities, and territories. They are tools entangled in complex sociopolitical and economic ecologies. While some borders are relatively stable, others are in a constant flow. They regulate economic relations and access to places, resources, and rights. Borders determine the way our surroundings are organized, inhabited and controlled, and the ways communities relate to one another—while some break through borders to survive, others fence themselves off.

The postcolonial borders of the twentieth century partitioned and shaped emerging nation-states. These borderlines were restructured and redefined time and again, particularly towards the end of the Cold War and again with the onset of globalization. Today the unprecedented forced movement of individuals and communities across borders—lawfully defined as refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants—ought to make us reconsider borders as an apparatus of exclusion and open an inclusive debate about human rights and societal values of solidarity.

Border Ecologies examines the spatial processes of bordering in conflict- and post-conflict contexts. It concentrates on the way borders impact communities and produce new spatial forms. The exhibition will present five case studies from FAST’s ongoing investigations and engagements with conflict and post-conflict areas.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.

The exhibition includes a presentation of the following projects:

1. ZOO, or the letter Z, just after Zionism

The Gaza Strip is surrounded by a 25-foot-high barrier that runs along 38.8 miles of land and includes six crossing points. Continued military surveillance throughout its 12 miles long coastline is imposed by warships and drones. The Gaza airport is shut and its airspace is restricted. The Gaza Strip, a territory of 141 square miles, is the home of 1.85 million Palestinian that are trapped inside hermetically controlled borders since 2005.

Photographs by Justin Knight

ZOO main page

ZOO additional  impressions

2. Atlas of the Conflict, Israel-Palestine

The State of Israel has no fixed, undisputed borders. From the moment it was established in 1948, Israel’s frontiers have been in perpetual flux, annexing, separating, isolating, and dividing territories. Ceasefire lines, international treaty demarcations, withdrawal zones and security barriers have all left their marks on the land.

The absence of official borders and the presence of so many unofficial ones, has generated a unique spatial condition, whereby the state is compelled to keep inventing ways to guard its territory. As a result, borders are internalized: small as well as large areas of land are either fenced in or fenced out.

Photographs by Justin Knight

Atlas of the Conflict: Israel-Palestine main page

3. Village: One Land Two Systems and Platform Paradise.

The village of Ein Hawd is a small locality in Israel of 250 forcibly displaced people. The (until recently) “unrecognized” Palestinian village lies within a viewing distance of the inhabitants’ former locality, now an Israeli artist community known as Ein Hod, founded by the DADA artist, Marcel Janco. Since the occupation of their former homes during the 1948 War, the Ein Hawd community continuously negotiates with the local authorities for its right to access basic resources, such as water and electricity. In 2004, the village was recognized by the state. Now, a governmentally drawn municipal line accompanied by protracted bureaucratic processes that are used as a lawful tool to halt the growth of the village. This seemingly positive act of recognition increases the pressures on the community and the tensions between individual households.

Village by Ali Kazma for One Land Two Systems and Platform Paradise project. Ein Hawd, 2008.

Photographs by Justin Knight

Village One Land Two Systems main page

One Land Two Systems magazine main page

Village publication

4. Hotel Abkhazia

Hotel Abkhazia was designed in Moscow by Soviet architects and built in Tbilisi, Georgia in the late 1950s. At that time it offered midrange accommodation to Moscow bureaucrats during their visits to Tbilisi. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Caucasus region was violently reconfigured. Nation-states emerged and population groups were forcibly displaced from one territory to another based on their religion and ethnicity. The South Ossetian and Abkhazian wars forced 260,000 people to leave their homes. As part of a resettlement plan, the Shevardnadze government offered old Soviet hotels as a temporary accommodation for the incoming refugees. Hotel Abkhazia—by then a rundown space with inadequate facilities—hosted 250 Georgian families fleeing South Ossetia.

15 years after the displacement, in 2007, FAST together with Julia Roth and Dirk Jan Visser documented the living conditions and itinerary of the dwellers of the former hotel. By then, 660 occupants were living there, amongst them were 160 children and 200 elderly people. At that moment, the stories of personal experiences and memories of violence, displacement, and economic hardship were overshadowed by a new worry: rocketing real estate prices in the city and the privatization of the hotel. The community was on the brink of yet another displacement.

Photographs by Justin Knight

Hotel Abkhazia essay

5. BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions

After the end of the Cold War and increasingly after 9/11 and the War on Terror, UN Peacekeeping Operations moved to operate from cities. Although these missions proclaimed to be temporary, their bases and material footprint turn into lasting features within local urban fabrics. BLUE examines UN peacekeeping operations as an emerging urban phenomenon while taking Camp Castor—a Dutch base for the UN in Gao, Mali—as its case study. On the edge of the Sahara Desert, the encounter between the “blue people” (the Tuareg, known for their indigo-dyed clothing) and the “blue helmets” (the UN) has the potential to lead to the emergence of new spatial forms and new boundaries. The research was done in collaboration with Dutch military engineers, architects, landscape designers, planners, human rights activists, anthropologists, policy makers, novelists, and rebels. It is both critical and pragmatic, and it incorporates multiple narratives, policy recommendations, and design interventions.

BLUE is based on the presentation at the Dutch Pavilion for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Malkit Shoshan.

List of contributors to BLUE

BLUE main webpage

Border Ecologies Exhibition Production:

Dan Borelli, David Zimmerman-Stuart and Marianna Gonzales.

Exhibition photographs:

Justin Knight