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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Architecture: AAU Anastas's While We Wait at the V&A and Concrete in Dubai

After debuting at the Victoria and Albert Museum during the London Design Festival, the Palestinian studio's installation will be exhibited at Alserkal Avenue

The latest project from AAU ANASTAS combines the latest digital fabrication techniques with the traditional materials of Elias and Yousef Anastas's native Palestine.

Following the success of their experimental vault, Stone Matters, which was exhibited in Jericho earlier this year and The Stonesourcing Space, which was exhibited in Bethlehem in 2012, While We Wait is the latest pavilion from the Paris and Bethlehem-based architectural team.

The chimney-shaped structure has been commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum for the 2017 London Design Festival and will be exhibited in the museum's Simon Sainsbury Gallery from 16-24 September and after that it will travel to Dubai where it will be exhibited at Alserkal Avenue's OMA-designed exhibition space, Concrete, between November 6-18.

“We are very excited to have commissioned Elias and Yousef Anastas for this edition of the London Design Festival at the V&A. Their ongoing work demonstrates a deep dedication and understanding of local traditions and innovation of technique," said the Middle East Curator in the V&A’s Asian Department, Salma Tuqan, in a statement.

"Their roving intervention stands as an ode to the natural landscape, and will resonate beyond its iterations in London and Dubai, eventually settling in the Cremisan Valley where it will become a space for collective meditation and gathering.”

“The vision behind Concrete has always been to create a multi-dimensional platform that is ideal for museum-grade exhibitions across the spectrum of art, performance and design," added Alserkal Avenue's founder, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, also in a written statement. "While We Wait inhabits the intersection of contemporary art and design while also being relevant to the diverse audiences in Dubai. We hope that this will be the first of many such collaborations."

An artist's impression of the AAU Anastas installation, While We Wait, in the gallery at the V&A in London
An artist's impression of the AAU Anastas installation, While We Wait, in the gallery at the V&A in London

Designed digitally, cut by robots, and finished by hand, While We Wait is composed of a large, lattice-like, self-supporting structure made from stone that has been quarried in various regions of Palestine, the structure is inspired by the traditional landscape and rocky terraces of the Cremisan Valley, near Bethlehem.

The Cremisan Valley in the West Bank, Palestine
The Cremisan Valley in the West Bank, Palestine

A place of ancient olive groves, vineyards and two Salesian Catholic monasteries and a convent school that was also earmarked as the site of a new section of the Israeli West Bank barrier, or separation wall, in 2006.

In a May 2013, in response to Israeli proposals for the erection of the barrier, Bishop Richard Pates, the chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to the then US Secretary of State John Kerry in which he described the Cremisan Valley as a: "microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he added.

"As the wall moves and constricts more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future two-state resolution becomes less likely. Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence."

In 2015, local Christian landowners in the Cremisan Valley told an EU delegation that construction of the wall could ultimately force them to emigrate and "cleanse" the area of its Christian residents and when construction of the wall restarted in August 2015, an EU mission expressed its "deep concern" at the development.

The Cremisan Valley section of the wall is designed to separate the West Bank city of Beit Jala from the settlement of Har Gilo and the village of Walaja but critics claim its real purpose is to allow for the expansion of settlements.

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Read more:

Shifting Ground, Ramallah: art under occupation

If the walls could move - a Concrete setting for art

Architects of hope: rebuilding Gaza and imagining a Palestinian state

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