Areej Ashhab is an architect and researcher whose work is situated in political ecology and land practices.
Areej holds a postgraduate degree in Research Architecture from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an undergraduate degree in Architecture from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. She is also the co-founder of Al-Block collective, comprised of Jerusalem-based Palestinian artists, that experiments with walking as a research practice to document the transformation of the natural and cultural landscapes under settler-colonialism.
Her current research project TREESCAPES consists of field notes on trees as political beings in Palestine that dismantle colonial conceptions of Palestinian land as a landscape ripe for invasion with constructed imaginaries. In 2022, Areej worked with the Forensic Architecture research agency on their online platform for the “Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem” investigation.
Areej holds a postgraduate degree in Research Architecture from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an undergraduate degree in Architecture from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. After her studies at Bezalel, she taught at the design studio courses in the Architecture Department (2019-2021). She also participated in numerous projects as curator, artist and designer, including The Absent Map: Rural Jerusalem in an Alternative Narrative (2021-2022) with Riwaq Association in Ramallah as part of Al-Block, Souq Stories (2021) exhibitions in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Hebron, and the Jerusalem Show IX: Jerusalem Actual & Possible (2018) with Al-Ma’mal Foundation in Jerusalem.
Areej works with materials and practices from the land and activate local know-how through workshops, collective walks and tactile materials. For example, in her project Mountains reclaiming the stone, she studies both traditional and industrial uses of limestone, one of the most exploited natural resources in the construction industry in Palestine. She thinks of new perspectives for its use by designing mixtures of the slurry, a leftover material daily discarded in tonnes outside the stone factories, for tiling and cladding. In the research project TREESCAPES, she examine the role of trees as political beings in the Palestinian landscape and as agents in the human-land relationship. She revisits traditional recipes and agricultural techniques such as grafting and activate them in her organised walks and workshops. In her walking practice, she creates counter-maps, manuals and guides of areas that have been largely destroyed, transformed and marginalised due to settler-colonial and environmental violence, shares lost techniques and materials and reintroduces them into the contemporary landscape.
In 2021, Areej initiated Al-Block research art collective together with a group of Jerusalem-based architects and artists. Al-Block experiments with walking as a research practice to document land practices in Palestine. They organise collective walks in Jerusalem and its surrounding area to create counter-maps of lost histories and landscapes. They have recently produced a “walker’s log” book documenting their walks in Beit Hanina valley north of Jerusalem. They also presented their research in a public show as part of The Absent Map: Rural Jerusalem in an Alternative Narrative project by the Riwaq Association in May 2022.
In addition, together with a group of Palestinian activists and curators, Areej helped organise Souq Stories, a contemporary photographic exhibition presenting different aspects of daily life within the historical markets of Palestine. The show opened in July 2021 in seven Palestinian cities divided by the Israeli occupation through multiple geopolitical boundaries. She curated the exhibitions in Jerusalem, Hebron and Jaffa, working with local organisations and shop owners in the markets.
Chevening Scholarship (2020)
A full scholarship to enroll in postgraduate studies in the UK for the academic year 2021/2022
The Revital Seri Prize for Excellence (2020)
Awarded to outstanding students at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design