Refugeeness has today become a universal condition. This condition tends to look at refugees only as individuals fleeing from one place to another and in need of food, care and shelter. Refugees are never perceived as what they really are: communities with strong cultural backgrounds in dire situations to continue exercising, building and engaging a common civic dimension. To this end, refugees need to build a life and culture that is able to connect them to the lost homeland without only being haunted by spectres of their past.
The Harajeh is a story that narrates the architectural concept of a common space that differs from other forms of public spaces. The first episode narrates one of the stories of a common space of refugeeness, posing many questions that remain similar and universal: is there room today to think of common spaces of refuge with a common civic engagement? If yes, then how can these places still be connected to the lost histories and shared experiences of refugees, without landing solely in the past or the future?
The story of the Harajeh uses a language and a way of illustration that is a hybrid between fiction and reality, between the language of children and architectural terminology as a way to describe a complex condition in a simple way, with all its associated risks. It is an attempt to introduce a space of architecture forgotten and neglected to both children and architects and to contribute to the notion of common space from a different perspective outside of a Western framework or definition of public space.
About the artist
Sandi Hilal is an architect and researcher. She headed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Camp Improvement Program in the West Bank (2008-2014). She is a founding member and co-director of DAAR, an architectural office and an artistic residency program that combines conceptual speculations and architectural interventions. DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, the Foundation for Arts initiative Grant, shortlisted for the Iakov Chernikhov Prize and showed in various biennales and museums around the world (www.decolonizing.ps).
Alongside research and practice, Hilal is engaged in critical pedagogy. She is the founding member of Campus in Camps an experimental educational program in Dheisheh refugee camp Bethlehem (www.campusincamps.ps). She co-authored the book Architecture after Revolution (Sternberg, Berlin 2014), an invitation to rethink today's struggles for justice and equality, not only from the historical perspective of revolution, but also from that of a continued struggle for decolonization.
Hilal co-curated different research projects on the contemporary urban condition such as Border Devices (2002-2007) With Multiplicity (2001-2003) and Stateless Nation (with Alessandro Petti, 2002-2007). Her projects have been published in national and international newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Il Manifesto, Al Ayyam, Al- Quds, Art Forum and Archis. Hilal has been invited to lectures in several institutions and universities among others: Tate modern London, Columbia University, University of Exeter, American University of Beirut, University of London, Global Art Forum Dubai, Bard College University New York.