ACADEMIC PORTFOLIO EVA BETAVATZI
RESEARCH WORKSHOPS EXHIBITIONS INSTALLATIONS FILMS PERFORMANCES APPLIED ARTS ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
I have graduated from La Cambre-Archi (Institut SupĂŠrieur de la CommunautĂŠ FranĂ§aise de Belgique) in 2009. During my years of studies I was interested in the relation of architecture, politics and sociology. I was particularly focused on the study of borders: social, spatial and reticular borders in Brussels and Palestine. My theoretical research gave me the opportunity of working in the academic field. I was invited as an instructor at La Cambre-Archi university and I have presented my work in various lectures, articles and installations. More recently, I was invited by the Department of Architecture of the University of Nicosia, as member of the external jury for mid-term presentations of students. This portfolio presents a sample of my work and research.
BORDERS IN BRUSSELS
The creation of the European Union has generated the phenomenon of expanding national borders - an effect of increasing transnational relationships and exchanges. Other types of borders inside countries have consequently undergone numerous morphological and functional transformations, many of which often have a tendency to become crystallised. In some cases, this crystallisation of internal borders is the result of regionalist and separatist demands that have been asserted along with nationalist ideas in recent years. This reveals the link between notions of identity and border. If borders are becoming crystallised today on something other than a national scale, it is because the identity of European populations is no longer defined exclusively in terms of belonging to a nation. However, without simplifying things, the mutations in internal borders are also caused by other phenomena linked to the general trend for globalization in the West, principally for example the development of transport networks and the development of processes of exclusion-integration which have been increasing between cities, as well as within them. Markers of differentiation and identification 4
have therefore emerged within countries and in cities. The case of Brussels offers a particularly revealing example of this. The analysis of border transformations in Brussels is the subject of my thesis at La Cambre Architecture. My interest in this topic stemmed from research into the Bon-Air district, a garden-city in Anderlecht to the west of the Ring, which runs alongside part of the regional border. The border here has appeared as an important tool of territorial differentiation, a potential generator of the phenomena of the inclusion and/or exclusion of populations. It is marked by a watercourse called the “Beek”, which is hard for residents to access or cross. What are the effects of this crystallisation? In the first instance they are physical. There is actually a very clear distinction on this border between the urban Anderlecht part and the more agricultural Dilbeek part. Furthermore, there is practically no space linking the two sides together. The effects of the border are also very evident in how the place is used and the way people perceive it. Studying the regional border at this precise spot involves asking it’s residents questions to understand how they envisage it. One elderly man confided
This article was drafted for the Belgian magazine BRU004 (03>06.2008) untitled Planning a Capital. Photos:(© Eva Betavatzi) Left page: the Dilbeek river is the regional border between Flanders and Brussels. Right page: bridge linking Dilbeek to Bon-Air districts.
in me that he was frightened of the border: “Dealers come here at night. When they see the police, they cross the bridge. And when they’re on the other side of the bridge, the police can’t do anything about it because they’re in Dilbeek.” Other residents said that people being pursued by the police often use this bridge, and all of them emphasised the almost daily presence of the police there. As for establishing wether they often went to Dilbeek, Two young men in the district replied that they did go there just for the pool, but very rarely.“People over there are different. They’re Flemish.” The border is therefore both a place where you can escape from the law, but also an identity marker separating people from Flanders and people from Brussels. The regional border is an administrative one imposed by politicians. Other types of border exist within Brussels. Based on an article written by Groupe Frontière, I have also chosen to analyse reticulated and social borders. It could be said that reticular borders constitute the gates of the city belonging to an area of flux, such as stations and airports. They offer the possibility of entering and leaving the territory and have particular forms as they appear as points of junctions in the area. ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
Social borders take the form of zones that are closed to certain parts of the population. They have generally emerged from property speculation by economic players who are keen to gentrify a piece of land and thus exclude a section of the population from it. They have the characteristic feature of evolving over time, transforming themselves or being displaced. These are the three types of border that I will be attempting to analyse in my research, based on this case study. My intention is to measure the impact these borders have on the landscape by trying to define the architectural, urbanistic and social forms they can assume. These forms suggest the involvement of political intentions, and analysing them will enable me to explain how architecture can contribute to the phenomena of exclusion/inclusion that might be experienced by a section of the population.
Bibliography: Patrick Picouet & J.-P. Renard, Les Frontières Mondiales, Origines et Dynamiques, France, 2007− Groupe Frontière, Christiane ArbaretSchultz, Antoine Beyer, J.-L. Piermay, Bernard Reitel, Catherine Selimanovski, Christophe Sohn & Patricia Zander, “La Frontière, un Objet spatial en Mutation”, espacetemps.net, Textuel, 29.10.2004, espacetemps.net/ document842.html− Jacques Lévy & Michel Lussault (Dir.), Frontière, Dictionnaire de la Géographie et de l’Espace des sociétés, 2003, Idem− Malcolm Anderson, “Les Frontières: un Débat Contemporain”, in Cultures et Conflits n°2627, 1997, PP15-34.
This project was realized in December 2007 within the framework of Masarat Festival. Students from Brusselsâ€™s University of La Cambre Architecture were invited to collaborate with Bir Zeit University students (Ramallah Palestine) and the association Riwaq (engaged in the preservation of the Palestinian cultural heritage).
actual town archeological site
Bir Zeit university
Bir Zeit is a Palestinian town situated 7 km north of Ramallah. It is well known for its university, the biggest in the West Bank (7800 students in 2008). Students are in majority residents of Ramallah and other neighbouring villages but many live in Bir Zeit. At the time this workshop was organised, it counted 6843 inhabitants. We were asked to think about a way of attracting new residents in the townâ€™s historic centre in an attempt to save the Palestinian heritage from the risk of being totally abandoned. It was the first time we visited Palestine, we had studied the territory only through maps and photos, and we had almost no idea of how people lived there. We decided to interview the local population, we wanted to know how their lives were like on a daily basis and what were their reasons for living in the historic centre of Bir Zeit. The interviews showed that many of the residents were
Maps: Up: the Palestinian towns are shown in red, the Israeli colonies in yellow. Bir Zeit is at a distance of 7 km from Ramallah. Down: map of Bir Zeit.
attached to the land of their parents, and this was the main reason for them to stay, as no economic activities were really taking place and the conditions of living proved to be quite difficult. They all pointed out problems related to infrastructures (electricity and water), and the lack of public spaces mainly for children to play. We divided our work in teams and tried to deal with one of the problems revealed by our analysis. Our team worked on the possibility of developing the economic activities of the historic centre. We defined an axis of activities and proposed to create a light plan for this area. Our intention was to give emphasis on the public character of the axis and offer the possibility of its use by the local population after sunset.
Maps: Up: axis of activities linking the historic centre to the actual commercial street. Down: existing shops in Bir Zeitâ€™s historic centre. Photos: Up: the mini-market Middle: the interviewed inhabitants Down: the commercial street
ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
‘VOISINS’ EXHIBITION Invitation designed by Celine Mornard
Les Halles de Schaerbeek together with the French Community of Belgium organised a Palestinian cultural season in autumn/winter 2008. The Masarat Festival was set up on this occasion. It is in the framework of this festival that La Cambre and Bir Zeit architecture students collaborated in a workshop realized both in Palestine and Brussels. The results of this workshop were to be exhibited in Les Halles de Schaerbeek in November 2008. Mouhta Hammoude and myself, imagined, organized and set up the exhibition for La Cambre University. Our ambition was to present the Palestinian students’ impressions of Brussels (as the exhibition was to be held there). We asked them to write a text about there views of the city and we exposed a selection of photos that were illustrative of the content of their texts. The exhibition was called ‘A workshop’s retrospective’. On the opening-day we were invited to give a lecture about our experience in Palestine. Here is a small part of the text written by Shatha Saafi: I was impressed by the order of those buildings in Schaerbeek as they stood next to each other united in dimensions and other, though each building has its own different details but they stood as a unit in front of me! I was always wondering whether a form of shortcuts between those private buildings is used for public sake for the neighbourhood, like passing through them to get from one place to another, passing through the inner gardens giving the daily passage a more lively touch going from one side to another, passing through green structures. Well to me, the node of La Cage aux Ours did not seem much trouble as I saw it as a vital communicative node though there was no direct interaction but I saw some people having a little talk while waiting the tram and that was enough for me, as it was a transportation node, and could not take much load of social interaction. Well what was interesting for me also was how Schaerbeek was divided into neighbourhoods of different social considerations. I was really amazed when we reached the Arab neighbourhood when I found all the shops selling cheap stuff and clothes that were placed outside the shops, being sold in the street, as we call it “bastat”, it was so close to the image of our markets!
EXHIBITION / WORKSHOP
‘ASSEOIR L’ESPOIR’ WORKSHOP
In October 2008, Patrice Neyrinck and Emilio Lopez Menchero, both professors at La Cambre Architecture, invited me to organize a workshop. The purpose was for the 4th and 5th year students to imagine and customize chairs taking into consideration the theme of military occupation. The chairs were to be sold and the money collected would be used to finance the construction of a circus school in Ramallah. The school is actually under construction.
ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
CHECKPOINT FGTB CONGRESS
The Palestinian territory, divided and highly controlled by the Israeli military forces, is filled with checkpoints. Temporary or permanent, they are obligatory crossing points. Beyond the security aspect that is usually given as an argument to justify their presence, the Israeli checkpoints, in the Palestinian territory, are obstacles to the mobility of people, and to the well-being of the Palestinian society. The entire Palestinian social organisation is highly affected by these crossing points and this for three main reasons. First of all, the checkpoints put a distance between the Palestinian people and their own territory. To pass from one point to the other, sometimes, they have to wait for hours and it makes their journey long and difficult. This is how the Palestinian people are not free to move in their own land. Secondly, the checkpoints are unpredictable 10
frontiers, it is not always possible to predict how hard it will be to cross them, or even if it will be possible. This is how the entire Palestinian social organisation is affected by their implantation. Finally, the checkpoints are clear signs of the Israeli occupation, and of the fact that Palestinian sovereignty is not fully recognised. This means that these obstacles to mobility, these checkpoints, are also obstacles for the Palestinian people to occupy its own territory. The FGTB takes the initiative for this Congress to reproduce an Israeli checkpoint. These obstacles to mobility are elements of control and manifest signs of an abnormal situation established on relations of power and domination. These are the aspects of the checkpoint staged by the FGTB.
In December 2008, the FGTB trade union organized an International Congress dedicated to the IsraeloPalestinian conflict. Patrice Neyrinck and I realized an analysis and proposed a design for the staging of a checkpoint at the entrance of the Congress. The text presented here was written for the press pack of the conference.
Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister, gave an interview to the french press in 2005 and said that the remaining common things left between the French and the Flemmish speaking communities of Belgium were: the King, some beers, and the national football team. In reaction to this statement, I imagined a football field placed on the regional borders of Belgium. The field announces the confrontation between two teams but never allocates them a permanent territory. In fact, after the half-time break, the two teams exchange their territory. The regional border,
ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
being integrated in a football field becomes a line of exchange. A performance was organised in the field by a theatre group. The performers were dressed in the colours of Belgium.
The project was realized for Belgicaneum, a contemporary art exhibition curated by Paul Gonze. The exhibition took place in 2007 in Brussels. Various artists collaborated in an attempt to react to the Belgian political crisis. www.belgicaneum.com
BORDER AUTHORITY SYMBOL This film was realized in 2007. It was created and presented, for academic purposes only, to the Palestinian film director Michel Khleifi. Film’s second part: extract from the documentary “Palestine, Palestine”by Dominique Dubosc
This film outlines the way we define our ownership of land. We delimit it, we create laws that determine our relationship towards it, and finally, we provide it with a sense and a symbolic identity. The first part illustrates a border line materialized by a wall. The visual field opens progressively revealing slowly the continuity of the wall and its materiality. The second part of the film is an offvoice which brings up the laws that define the relationship, imposed by an authority, between men/women and their land. The image vanishes here in order to allow the audience to concentrate on the sound. The landscape can also be mental. In the third part, the sound disappears again leaving only the image. A flag of the size of a hill is glittering in the night. The artificial and symbolic landscape imposes itself where the natural landscape fades out in the night.
It is prohibited to import or use tractors or other agricultural equipment without authorization. It is prohibited to plant fruit trees and certain sorts of vegetables without authorization. It is allowed to export everything except most fruits and vegetables some sorts of industrial products stone, stamps and antiquities. Military authority can decide to prohibit books in the occupied territories. Military authority can buckle all sectors or block the circulation without any notice or explanation. Each land for which the owner is absent or can not prove his rights is under state property. Each land which has been confiscated for public interest or for security reasons is under state property. All state properties can be let to settlers. And so on... \2
FILM, / PERFORMANCE / ART
This performance was presented during the time of project presentations in La Cambre Architecture in December 2004. The aim was to invest both the space and time of project presentations with elements which characterize private spaces as a way to evacuate stress.
WALKER’S KIT RUE DE LA LOI The walker’s kit was created in April 2006. It is a box, similar to a box of medicine containing sunglasses and earplugs.
This project is a reaction against the excessive traffic and urban lighting of the Law Street (rue de la Loi) in the heart of the European district in Brussels. The absence of public space and the increasing security measures (cameras, lighting) transform the elevations of the European Institutions’ buildings into a frontline.
ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
WIELS Performed in October 2006 with Celine Mornard and Vera Manouilov.
We were concerned about the probable gentrification that would occur as a result of the rehabilitation of the Wiels brewery and its transformation into a centre for contemporary art. Most residents were low income immigrant families. We decided to use and transform an element which already separated the Wiels from its neighbourhood : the building’s cover. We used this element of separation to create a meeting place that we called ‘oriental carpet’ in reference to the Arabic origins of the local population. We placed it on the street, just in front of the contemporary art centre and drank mint tea on it. Some residents came to drink with us and a woman offered some home-made biscuits to us. This is how we created the first place of interaction between the local residents and the Wiels centre.
A film about the appropriation of wild life realized in 2005.
OPEN SPACE? CLOSED SPACE?
ARCHITECTURE / SOCIOLOGY
ZOO La Cambre-archi University - Final Project - Fifth Year Architecture Studio - 2008
We were asked to choose a site on Brussels’s Green Belt and to design a zoo. I chose to work on the Sonian Forest, the only forest of Brussels, and the only territory in Belgium that unites it’s three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Surprisingly, I realized through my research, that although the forest was to unite these regions, politically, the regions were tending to divide the forest into different entities through various development plans. In parallel, I analysed the work of the french anthropologist Philippe Descola, that illustrates the relationship between humans in various societies and nature. In our modern societies, man tend to be more and more interested in it’s physicality, and less and less sure of the superiority of it’s intelligence. This is why our relationship to nature is fundamentally different nowadays and we therefore can not accept two things: nor to construct zoos, nor to divide natural sites. I refused to design a zoo, and I criticized the development plans for the Sonian Forest. I proposed a common development scheme for the entire forest.
SOCIAL HOUSING IN CALAIS (FRANCE) La Cambre-archi University - Third Year Architecture Studio - 2006
ARCHITECTURE / POLITICS
RELAIS PICARDIE La Cambre-archi University - Second Year Architecture Studio - 2005
DESIGNING AN ICONIC VILLA IN CAPRI La Cambre-archi University - Second Year Architecture Studio - 2005
ARCHITECTURE / SOCIOLOGY
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