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Student Urban Design Exhibit Features ‘50s, ‘60s Ramallah

March 7, 2015
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Public Relations Office - Birzeit University

On February 28, 2015, Birzeit University Museum opened its fourth student exhibit, showing final projects for the course Advanced Urban Design offered by the Architectural Engineering Department. The exhibit is titled "Here, in ‘66" and was curated by Yazid Anani.


"The exhibit attempts to draw the visitors’ attention to the social life that prevailed in the city of Ramallah during the sixties, i.e. during the Jordanian rule,” Anani says.


The museum’s description of the exhibit states that recently, ethnic and fundamentalist archaeological sites and religious identity have become the only references for forming the concept of the Palestinian nation, such as Roman-era Sebastia or Umayyad and Mamluk Jerusalem. Instead, the description goes on, given the strong relationships between Arab cities during the 1950s and 1960s, the modernity project began in Palestine under Jordanian rule and suggests a social and religious life model that highlighted the ideal urban environment and a place for social networking.


The exhibit’s premise is that Ramallah at that time was an inclusive ideal urban environment, a place of sociability and community that reflected the brilliant modernist logic of aesthetics and dynamism. Cinemas, schools, hotels, boulevards, and cafés were landmarks of the thriving intellectual and social scenery of cities, whereby political salons and coffee shops frequented by intellectuals supported the modernist logic of an ideal city.

Ramallah nowadays has become a site for visual projections of administrative power through architecture. The Palestinian Authority uses the city as a stage for enacting elaborate spectacles of ceremonials and rituals to reaffirm elements of delusional nationhood and unattained sovereignty. The politics of neoliberal “state building” are established by reinventing the history of the city, to glorify the advent of the Authority and the made-up triumph of its liberation project. Accordingly, the history of the city has been subjected to perpetual erasure. The minor modernist edifices that existed in the city from the ‘50s and ‘60s have been demolished and replaced by private commercial buildings and business towers.

Ramallah’s increasingly consumer and uncritical society has been diverted from political and social activism, and lacks appreciation and awareness of the urban heritage of modernity. Henceforth, there is no undertaking to preserve this valuable heritage as a true testimony to the historical moment of the ‘50s and ‘60s, which is featured in the exhibit.

The exhibit was organized in partnership with the Ramallah Municipality and will continue until April 9, open daily from 9 am to 3 pm, except Fridays and Sundays.


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