Malkit Shoshan, shortlisted earlier this year for the Harvard GSD Wheelwright Prize, has been selected by Het Nieuwe Instituut to curate the Dutch Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Founder of the Amsterdam-based architectural think tank FAST (Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory), Shoshan has been fellow of the Institute for the past two years having previously authored the award-winning book Atlas of Conflict: Israel-Palestine (2010). Her current work, entitled Drones and Honeycombs, is a study of the architecture and landscape of war and peace and examines “public space as war zone.” It is this research, under the title ‘Blue’, which will be presented as a new series of narratives for architecture in conflict areas.
From the institute: 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, Shoshan has focused on the progressive way that the Netherlands contributes to UN peacekeeping missions. The United Nations itself talks in terms of a ‘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, human rights and activism. The peacekeeping mission is located in the desert region of the Touareg, 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 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.