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Gili is the interim head of History and Theory at the School of Architecture.

Gili is an architect and photographer based between London, Vienna and Tel Aviv. She holds a PhD from the Architectural Association, and had previously studied architecture in Wasda University in Tokyo, UdK Berlin and Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem.

Thematically, Gili’s research explores the ritual of sacred travel, the fabrication of sacred landscapes, the commodification of heritage and the use (and abuse) of collective memory in the city. Methodologically, she uses photography and writing as a tool for architectural research and design, often in the form of photo-essays that have been published in MIT’s journal, the AA Files, the Economist, and more.

Alongside her work at the RCA, Gili was a diploma unit master at the AA with filmmakers Beka & Lemoine. Entitled “Homo Urbanus: Laboratory for Sensitive Observers,” the unit was film-based, creating projects that combined ethnography, visual cultures, and urbanism. Gili also led a series of photography workshops in Syracuse University, is a part of the research teams of TU Vienna, and is currently establishing the new Negev School of Architecture in Be’er Sheva.

She was trained as an architect and researcher at OMA in Rotterdam and Kuehn Malvezzi in Berlin. Her photographs have been exhibited in a number of exhibitions and publications worldwide, including in the Venice Architecture Biennale, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, HKW in Berlin and the Seoul Biennale for urbanism.

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Gili’s PhD dissertation Towards Jerusalem: The Architecture of Pilgrimage studies the ritual of sacred travel to the Holy Land. Studying this phenomenon reveals that, despite its temporal character, pilgrimage is a powerful vector that often destabilises the civic, economic, and political conditions of the places that cross its path. This means that while pilgrims move with a clear sense of religious orientation, their mental-ity is often hijacked by institutions of power that wish to exploit their subjectivity for their own gain. The manipulation of spiritual will into spatial form results in the production of structures, landscapes, and representations that are referred to as the Architecture of Pilgrimage.

As a practice of actual movement through space, pilgrimage could not be understood merely as the intermittent fulfilment of the monument, but rather as the continuous sensation of topography. Topography, a concept that is implicit throughout this thesis, is understood here as the three-dimensional formation of the terrain, including both natural and artificial elements. This thesis demonstrates that topography is manipulated not only by designation, enclosure, urbanisation, and agricultural improvement, but also through the carving of religious beliefs. Pilgrims do not simply cross landscapes; they fabricate topographies through peripatetic rituals that redefine the surface of the earth. The pilgrim’s journey is thus directed by a topographic perception of architecture, landscapes, and representations, resisting the contained spaces that are delineated by organised structures of power.

Once this legacy of corruption that is embedded within pilgrimage is confronted, the thesis proposes ways in which to reclaim the enchantment initially found in pilgrimage by proposing alternative methods of devotion that could be enacted in flexible topographies through the combination of text, image, memory, and imagination. Be they physical or mental, still or peripatetic, speaking or silent, this thesis attempts to untangle the rituals of pilgrimage from its ties to power in order to reclaim it as an act of liberty, of movement through space and time, progressing towards a destination that may never fully arrive, but nevertheless declares an intention and orientation to life itself.

In addition to the written component of this PhD, a photographic travelogue, entitled “Stations of the Cross” is proposed as the projective outcome of the thesis. It documents sites of alternative “Jerusalem” erected across the west as sites of local pilgrimage for those who could not make it to the real city in the east. As an alternative to the Via Crucis, this travelogue unfolds across a non-linear journey, without a clear geographical path, a historical lineage, or even a typological logic, but rather through nuanced associations. This mode of traveling requires no means; it costs nothing, and is not subjected to political or economic exploitation. Thus, these Stations of the Cross have the power to reclaim not only travel, but also travel writing, as a genre tainted with cultural bias and bound with colonial violence. This virtual travel guide offers an alternative experience: an exercise of attention, setting off from within one’s room and meandering between images and text of travellers’ past, and thus constructing a topography that merges movement, sentiment, and space into a mode of analogical travel—one that does not fix the course of movement, but simply provides an orientation: towards Jerusalem.

Journal articles

Merin, G. (2021) ‘The Image and the Caption: Photographic Consumption and Production under Advanced Capitalism” Plat Journal No. 10. Houston: Rice University.

Merin. G (2021) ‘The Medieval Nuns’ Guide to Virtual Travel,’ The Economist.

Merin. G (2021) ‘The Photos Exposing What Israel Is Trying to Hide,’ Ha’aretz.

Merin, G. (2019) Merin, G. (2019) ‘Eretz,’ AA Files No. 76. London: AA Publications.

Merin, G. (2017) ‘Odyssea Palestina: A Travelogue of Travelogues to the Holy Land in Modernity’,Thresholds No. 46: Scatter. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Merin, G. (2016) ‘Garden of the Forking Paths: Speculating on the Israel-Lebanon Border Anomaly’, This Site Magazine.

Merin, G. (2014) ‘Tegart Forts in Palestine: Adopted and Adapted Monuments of Supervision’ Quaderns.

Photography commissions

Koolhaas, R. (2018). Elements of Architecture. Taschen.

Finkelman, Y. (2018). In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation (2018). Berlin:Hatje Cantz.

Efrat, Z. (2018). The Object of Zionism: The Architecture of Israel. Leipzig: Spector Books.

Elser, O. (2017). SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey. Zürich: Park Books.

Schuldenfrei, R. (2017). Luxury and Modernism: Architecture and the Object in Germany 1900-1933. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


2020 - The Invisible Biennale

2018 - A Fine Line, Scenarios for Bordering Conditions, International Architecture Biennial, San Sebastián.

2017 - Far Away-So Close at MAO Ljubljana.

2016 - Wohnungsfrage at HKW Berlin.

2015 - Fire and Forget at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.

2014 - The Israeli Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice.

Gili has worked as an architect and researcher at AMO*OMA in Rotterdam and Kuehn Malvezzi in Berlin. She worked as an editor and journalist for ArchDaily in Chile and Mark Magazine in Amsterdam, authored the Wallpaper City Guide for Tel Aviv (Phaidon, 2016) and conducted research and editorial work for OMAs Elements of Architecture (Taschen, 2018) and The Object of Zionism by Zvi Efrat (Spector Books, 2018).

Her articles and photographs have been published in a range of magazines and peer-reviewed journals, amongst them the MIT Press, The Guardian, Mark Magazine, Frame, Domus, Surface, Quaderns, Artsy, Ha'aretz, Uncube, Metropolis, StylePark, Business Insider, The Huffington Post and Detail.