Founded in 2007 by Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal, DAAR’s work combines spatial interventions, theoretical writings, and collective learning. It is dedicated to architectural experimentations on the reuse and transformation of colonial architecture, settlements, military bases, and empty villages, primarily in Palestine.
When improving environments for displaced people, it is imperative to balance the hope that the location will be temporary with the development necessary to make the space livable. Refugee camps are often viewed as places of misery, unworthy of improvement. Developing infrastructure and amenities within one can be viewed as making it permanent. However, denying improvements to the camp and forcing residents to live in inhumane conditions violates basic rights. DAAR addresses this duality through several strategic practices.
In 2012 they founded Campus in Camps, a university in a refugee camp, to connect a site of knowledge production with the site of social stigmatization. The formation of informal learning environments has been further developed in the Tree School Project in different locations worldwide. In 2015, they built a concrete tent in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem as a gathering space for conflict resolutions, alternative pedagogies, and celebration. In 2019, the reconstruction of Al Nada social housing after its destruction by the Israeli invasion introduced shared common spaces.
In addition to the physical work done, several books have been written by DAAR. Refugee Heritage challenges dominant definitions of heritage and mainstream narratives, proposing exile instead as a radical perspective that can take us beyond the limitations of the nation-state. Permanent Temporariness is a book-catalog that accounts for 15 years of research and experimentation within and against the condition of permanent temporariness. In Architecture after Revolution, the DAAR team invites the reader to rethink current struggles for justice, not only from the historical perspective of revolution but also from that of a continued struggle for decolonization, presenting a series of projects that try to imagine “the morning after revolution.”
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.