Focusing on issues of statelessness and representing the unrepresented, DAAR gathers architects, artists, activists, urbanists, film-makers, and curators to work collectively on the subjects of politics and architecture.
DAAR was founded by Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal who were brought together by a mutual interest in issues concerning stateless populations. Petti and Hilal look at several important issues:
The first is how the process of colonization can be resisted through art and architecture. Petti and Hilal work on what they call the “decolonization of the mind,” looking for ways to overthrow the mental frameworks which undergird and sustain physical and militaristic forms of occupation.
The second examines the “right to return.” It seems intuitive that a person has a ‘right’ to return to where they’ve resided for years or decades. Yet for refugees and the forcibly displaced the situation is more complex, especially if conflict and/or political factors prevents an immediate return. This juxtaposition of a right to return and a right to place has frustrated many of the historical attempts at designing for refugees and refugee camps.
Creating infrastructure and amenities within a refugee camp can be viewed as making it permanent, implying a sacrifice of the right to return. Yet at the same time, denying improvements to the camp and living in inhumane conditions violates the right of every human being to make a home where they are. Therefore, refugees must simultaneously preserve both a right to return and a right to place.
In the case of Palestinian refugees, a right to return is enshrined and supported by both international law and the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.
DAAR addresses this duality through several strategic practices. This includes drawing together a consortium of global universities to create an educational program called Campus in Camps that examines the living and spatial conditions in refugee camps. Additionally, DAAR has worked to create new ways of thinking about public space within refugee camps and has completed numerous community scale projects.
We had an opportunity to have an extended conversation with Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episodes below.