Architectures of Hiding

Anwar Jaber

Architecture, the State and the Capital City: Investigating the Muqata’a and Arafat’s memorial site in Ramallah, Palestine

The Palestinian government has been temporarily based in the Palestinian city of Ramallah since 1995. The concentration of political functions in Ramallah, as manifested through government institutions and administrative offices, reshaped the urban characteristics of the city and boosted the status of Ramallah from a mere temporary government base to a largely bustling city under Israeli occupation. For that, the city is often described as the de-facto or undeclared Palestinian capital city.

Between an occupied city and a capital-like city, the concentration of purpose-built government institutions in the city raises questions about its political status and its image as quasi-capital in relation to Jerusalem, the ultimate and only capital that Palestinians yearn to have. While the Palestinians continue to fight to have Jerusalem as their capital, they remain completely cut off from the city, deprived of accessing and of forming any national representation in Jerusalem. Through navigating a collection of governmental projects in the city, this paper focuses on the presidential headquarter (the Muqat’a) and the memorial site of Yasser Arafat to investigate how Ramallah was forced to function as de-facto, yet unwanted and unadmitted Palestinian capital. Methodologically, the research employs archival research, field-based interviews, as well as architectural research methods such as mapping, site observation, and visual analysis to build a multi-layered interpretation of these sites and show how their construction relates to their colonial history as well as their current political and national significances under Israeli occupation. Theoretically, the argument takes the literature on capital cities, nation-states, and state-building as a framework to discuss the nexus between political power, the urban space, and architectural practices in the city in relation to the complex Palestinian context.

Keywords: conflict, architecture and urbanism, Middle East

DR. ANWAR JABER completed her MPhil and PhD in Architecture on Palestine at the University at Cambridge in England. She is interested in exploring the cultural and socio-political aspects of architecture and urbanism, focusing on researching cities that face political transitions and extreme conditions, such as violent political, ethno-national and religious conflicts. Anwar supervised architectural courses at the University of Cambridge and recently joint the school of Architecture at the University of Waterloo, Canada as an adjunct professor. She practiced as an architect in Jerusalem and co-edited Scroope 25 (the Cambridge Architecture Journal) and serves an editor for the Arab Urbanism Magazine.