Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College

Eyal Weizman is an Architect based in London. He studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London and completed his PhD at the London Consortium, Birkbeck College. He is the director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Before this role, Weizman was Professor of Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. As an architect in Israel he has been working on architectural projects related to art and theatre. Weizman works with a variety of NGOs and Human right groups in Israel/Palestine. He co-curated the exhibition A Civilian Occupation, The Politics of Israeli Architecture, and co-edited the publication of the same title. These projects were based on his human-rights research, and were banned by the Israeli Association of Architects. They were later shown in the exhibition Territories in New York, Berlin, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Malmoe, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Weizman has taught, lectured and organized conferences in many institutions worldwide. Weizman is the recipient of the James Stirling Memorial Lecture Prize for 2006-2007

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The topic of the workshop is called what can we learn from china? A lot of your work deals with analysing the Israeli context. How would you, from your knowledge and understanding of cities, analyse the Chinese urban condition? Are there parallels between both conditions?

Eyal Weizman: The Chinese cities deal with an articulation of different problems, different markets, different forms of production, different ideological basis from those in israel and the occupied territories of course. What you see very clearly in the Chinese cities is that the speed of construction, combined with a technological breakthrough in the capacity to organize resources, and especially to allows a much closer relation between financial mechanisms, financial cycles and urban development. What do I mean by that? Generally, the economical cycle operate with a delay in terms of architecture. But the sophistication of contemporary financial mechanisms and the speed in which investments can be actualized and articulated in space makes the chinese city skyline appear like a financial graph. The city is a constructed reality that takes shape through various categories of return and risk. This minute sensitivity to market fluctuation in building is rather unique.

The objective of the workshop is to look into the edges of the Tel Aviv metroplitan area and bring that in relation with the mechanism that shape the edge of the Chinese cities, the territory where the urban blends into the rural. How would you explain the urban development of Tel Aviv? What are the mechanisms driving it?

EW: I do not think that one could really think of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area in terms of center and edges. First of all your framework needs to be different. Israel is small enough to be understood as an operating volume of several patterns. There is one long city along the shoreline, all the way from Haifa down to Gaza. This is a continuously inhabited strip that alternates from high to low to high density. At the other hand you have obviously Jerusalem and around it the settlements and occupation thought of more in terms of satellites. The majority of the occupation is organized in rings around Jerusalem. So you have two models, one concentric and one lineair. Government planning concentrates itself very much on the rings around Jerusalem, where the settlements tie in a specific way in with the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, while the strip one is operated by supply and demand and market forces.

One could argue that a similar pattern is emerging in China with its coastal development and the development of second and third tier cities in its hinterland.

EW: I think the scale is very different. What we see in China is and experiment of shifting resources from the eastern coast line into the western zones, and the organization of resources along that deep space. The second tier cities are urban, with a real density of people that sustain cities.

Recently you published ‘Hollow Land‘. What is the thesis you are developing in the book?

EW: The book seeks to understand the occupation as a product of the end of the sixties, 1967 is the only year before 1968, at time where we can see the shift between modernism and postmodernism in architecture, analogic and digital technology, between various other forms of production, between a kind of Kensian politics and neo-liberalism. So the occupation becomes a laboratory reflecting upon al these other transformations happening worldwide. Postmodernism in architecture has been used and reflected by the occupation through the way it naturalizes the Israeli situation, the military system shifted into a kind of postmodern networked way of production, of fighting, while a modern idea on settlements, the big housing block changed into a pattern of suburban gated community. Israel has become since the occupation, since 1967, a laboratory where you can see that all the conditions of urbanity are being played against themselves in a smaller space, in unprecedented proximity. This has to do with the claims on the territory, how contested it is. So everything becomes political. Every architectural act becomes political.

How do you operate as an architect in such condition?

EW: I am now working with Sandi Hillal and Alessandro Petti, architects, writers, based in Bethlehem and the office of Senan Abdelqader, on the idea of transforming the suburban communities of the settlements in to Palestinian cities, to turn the architecture of occupation against itself. Our question is how a suburb can become a place of new communal life, a collective place. Suburbs do not need to be solely residential. How do you actually take the suburb seriously and completely turn it against itself?

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Eyal Weizman interviewed by Bert de Muynck
Ordos, China |  January 27, 2008

The Wall and the Eye | Cabinet Magazine | 2002
Israel’s oppressive architecture of occupation | Socialist Worker | 2007
Beyond colonialism: Israeli/Palestinian space | Re-Public | 2007
Roundtable: Research Architecture | A Laboratory for Critical Spatial Practices | ongoing
Mapping the Complicity of Israeli Architecture: Eyal Weizman’s Hollow Land | IndyBay | 2008

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