Student Award of Excellence – The (no-) Wall: Hostile space vs. Neutral place

West Bank/Israeli border

Vered Aviram-Gindi, University of Toronto

The purpose of this thesis was to explore the concept of border as threshold or transitional space, and to ask some critical questions about the definitions of boundary and its relationships with political and cultural identity: how a boundary is occupied, how movement through the boundary’s transitional space is manipulated, and the role of boundary in defining difference, national identity and identity of self.

The site resides within stage A of the controversial separation wall that was built between Israel and the West Bank, completed in July 2003. The main challenge was to change the psychological experience of crossing the border by arming and disarming the wall simultaneously while maintaining “safety rules” in an atmosphere of fear and hostility. The checkpoint master plan allows the co-existence of two separate experiences: one Israeli and the other Palestinian. For Israelis crossing the border, the wall protecting them would be fortified. For Palestinians, that same wall that violently cuts across their land would be disarmed.

The thesis suggests that the question of whether architecture can influence a psychological condition of border crossing is actually embedded within the temporality of borders. Over time, borders change, shift, are manipulated, and disappear. Here, the timeline reveals the slow disappearance of the border’s infrastructure. The wall will vanish first, followed by the roads becoming equal, with two checkpoints for two nations. Eventually, the glass building will disappear entirely, leaving only the aqueduct and the reservoir, symbolic of water, and ultimately, life.

Monteyne: The desire to give an architectural treatment to the charged human experience of crossing this border, on this land, in this time, is profoundly humane. Asking the question has produced a range of possible optimistic answers that in turn, ask “can architecture feed the hungry and heal the lame?”

Yarinsky: The critical stance of this project is that an architectural response to this condition must engage the temporal dimension. Grounding the design in experience, particularly one that changes over time, as well as through movement in space, is the strongest aspect of the design. By proposing a set of elements that establish relationships that evolve over time, this project has greater resonance than if it had approached the site as a kind of installation art or heavy-handed critical statement. In the end, it took an unusual level of restraint on the part of the designer to achieve this.