Update you browser

For the best experience, we recommend you update your browser. Visit our accessibility page for a list of supported browsers. Alternatively, you can continue using your current browser by closing this message.

A green landscape with cattle walking in the foreground besides a waterway, palm trees in middle ground, and hills in the distance

The studio posits heritage sites as sites of urban struggle and those that are weaponised for settler colonialism and occupation. Archaeological sites, and sites of cultural heritage, are generally understood as frozen in a moment of ruination. By highlighting those spaces as living and breathing landscapes today, and questioning the value systems and assumed linear time embedded in the classics and archaeological discourse, the studio embraces a delinear and decolonized methodology in order to contest the prevalent instrumentalisation of archaeological sites. This year, the studio case study is the city of Jericho in the West Bank, Palestine.

“Jericho is, at times, a concatenation of gardens, private and public, where things hide. It is a city of hiding. In a world of enforced transparency and readability, Jericho provides lush and deep gardens where no one can find you. Jericho’s visible tropicality excites me. It challenges my imagination of geography, it gives the entrancing possibility of being elsewhere, even here where the occupation reduces our mobility to nothing.”

Karim Kattan

Jericho has been the secret garden of Palestine for centuries. Its ochre hills hidden in the deepest valleys appear as you drive down towards it. As one enters the city, patches of green, private and public gardens, surprisingly lush agricultural fields, begin to break down the mono-coloured landscape. The history of Jericho is layered, labeled the oldest city in the world by archaeologists, it is also a consistent target of the Israeli Occupation for its historical value and biblical identification.

Sites we will dive into to critically analyse and learn from in Jericho include the agricultural school by Musa Alami, the Oasis casino, a short-lived entertainment centre mostly for Israeli gamblers, the private villas of elite Palestinian families visiting on weekends, and struggling archaeological sites and museums. Students are free to locate their own sites, or multiscalar objects, spatial, physical, digital, human and nonhuman.

The first term will be focused on building a Living Archive of the city of Jericho that is then translated into multiple media including a microsite, a physical book, and a short film. The studio will work together through five themes: Politics today, Environment, Community, Archaeology. Each of these themes will act as entry points to particular research frames in relation to Jericho which is an incredibly layered and complex city. Building the living archive from each of these themes, the collective research will itself become the act of stitching what is a very fragmented history. The groups will investigate the city through one of these lenses and collect evidence to build a foundation for the studio to work from. The translation of the Living Archives into these forms will allow us to find ways to be in service to the Palestinian community in Jericho by sharing the knowledge, but also will give us a point to launch from for the Second Term which will be concerned with design propositions. Although Term I is titled Conditions, it is not simply about collecting and revealing conditions as found, but more about revealing conditions through design decisions we make individually and collectively whether it’s in regards to the film, website, or book.


Conceptual Framing of Time and Maps

Linear time assumes the deeper you dig, the older the strata, and usually the more valuable, especially when the extraction of objects from these sites align with nation-building agendas. Questioning this value system can happen in two ways; by restructuring, reshuffling, and confusing the strata itself by denying access; and by centering silenced voices on the surface in the present while imagining a liberated future.

Maps were a prerequisite for archaeological research, and a settler-colonial extractive entrypoint for colonisation. The studio aims to create new cartographic imaginaries through critical cartography and deep mapping in a bid to shift the politics of cartography.

The critical cartography and deep mapping methods undertaken in the studio will operate in two ways: The first, is through production of content and material that allows openings for intervention. The media used will include sonic, visual, textual, moving image, and object intervention. Workshops for each medium will be provided throughout the first two terms to allow for experimentation with material and process. Two, the content will be presented in physical and digital platforms to allow the collected content to grow with the long-term vision of the studio. The students will define pathways of research and design that engage land rights policies, ecological freedoms, and alternative, as opposed to, religious tourism. The interventions embrace science and spirit simultaneously and are encouraged to harness potential forms of urban resistances and alternative forms of being towards a counter-hegemonic collective repair and liberation from below.

The studio will work towards collective knowledge building and embrace a collective mode of operating. The studio work will engage collaborations in physical and virtual platforms where the output of those collaborations is to be used towards a long-term plan. This long-term vision sets forth methods for making visible the manipulation of the ground for political gain. And further, the studio vision will put forth collective interventions that create concrete shifts in the understanding, both conceptually and legally, of archaeological space as a space of urban struggle and resistance.


The studio strives for a truly collective methodology where students will partner with specific NGOs and individuals in Palestine by working directly with them to produce work that counteracts the practices of oppression on the ground. The methodology of the studio therefore strives not to replicate the extractive practices inherent to archeaology and approaches the Palestinian community with true partnership through a process that is not transactional but mutually beneficial – centring Palestinian claims for land. In addition to collaborations with constituents in Palestine, the methodology embraces collaborations with multiple experts in their field that are situated at the RCA as well as those that are part of a wider network (listed below). This can include individuals and groups working in film, music, model making, casting, ceramics, glassblowing. A full list of potential and previous partners is listed below.

The entry point for the studio is through the lens of critical cartography and deep mapping that aims to contextualize the history of colonial mapping practices, and approach these new cartographic imaginaries as a form of evidence and decolonizing interventions.

Studio structure

A screenshot that includes a portrait oof an older man in profile and transcript of an interview

Term 1

Building a Living Archive

1 Cultivate web of relationships with constituents, both individual, collective, human and nonhuman;

2 Collect witness accounts and other sonic and visual data as a form of evidence;

3 Challenge the weaponisation of the sites by identifying possible nodes of intervention.

In the first term, the studio is to focus on capturing lines of flight, moments of rupture, and to identify possible sites of intervention that can invent new space-times for the ground. Initially, the studio will cultivate a web of relationships and cross-pollination between disciplines, humans, and nonhuman constituents that will be negotiated through forms of care, kinship, and true collaboration. These will include archaeologists, rocks, farmers, plants, anthropologists, artefacts, musicians, sound artists, sounds, business owners, footballers, and storytellers.

Cultivating Coalitions & Collecting Evidence

The studio will then challenge the weaponization of archaeological sites as battlegrounds for colonisation and occupation in Palestine today in close partnership with those constituents by identifying potential sites for intervention. This evidentiary collection will be harnessed virtually and designed to be in constant progression on a living and breathing website dedicated to the studio. The website will be launched at the end of the first term and will continue to grow through the studio’s progression over the years to uplift the knowledge production over each year.

Possible Evidence

Surface traces of manipulation and dispossession including colonial archives, CCTV footage, iPhone footage, oral histories, physical records, sonic accounts, zoning laws and policies, GIS mapping, cartographic and surveillance data, Geomolg analysis.

Term II

Designing Beyond Urban Prosthetics

In the second term, the studio will organise with constituents by producing interventions that move beyond architectural prosthetics, or quick repairs, bringing together modes of production as a form of political praxis that bypass the prosthetics of the state, and seek to suggest an alternative space of solidarity and other potential imaginary possibilities. The interventions can begin through multiple experiments of media and techniques, with sonic, visual, and textual interventions all being considered as valid forms of production. Examples of deep mapping interventions can include evocative objects, time capsules, revolutionary films, sonic accounts, and speculative textual works. The site-based research studio contributes to urban practice through an earth-based methodology that centres experimental intervention as a powerful tool in imagining a decolonized and liberated urban landscape. This term will help prepare for the IRP.

Term III

Independent Research Project


In the last term of the year, building on the concepts developed in Term II, students will develop further their individual proposals for speculative interventions which bring together innovative social and spatial design and pay particular attention to articulating novel forms of visual representation. The student projects, which can be either individual or group, will respond to the question: what alternative urban futures can we generate through the production of radical interventions, or object, image, sound, and textual works?


Underground Palestine II is led by Dima Srouji.