Laura Ondrich

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2010

Capstone Advisor

Lori Brown

Honors Reader

Victor Tzen

Capstone Major


Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Architectural History and Criticism | Architecture | Other Architecture


Undermining Impasse: The Role of Architecture in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Laura Ondrich

Architecture is political, in that it can be used to further an authority’s agenda, and the relationship between peoples under that authority can be affected by it. As the political tool of a ruling power, architecture in a place of ongoing conflict may propel the conflict and submit to its perpetuity at the detriment of participating peoples. Though politics are often considered intangible, certain conflicts exist in real space, thus there is an opportunity for architecture to create an influence. In this case where architecture - concrete facts on the ground - aggravates the situation, a new interpretation of the space of conflict can allow for architecture to be used in order to subvert its own existing effects.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, international society has been completely transformed from a world divided along ideological and political lines to one of unprecedented physical and electronic mobility. Nevertheless, since 1990, over 21 barriers have been built across the globe, dividing people, cultures, and territories. One of the most controversial separation barriers is being built between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The building strategies in the West Bank, culminating in the construction of the separation barrier, are politically aimed at temporary separation, but their built reality is resulting in a continuing and unbalanced coexistence. This research investigation sought to understand the social implications and hostile perceptions arising from these patterns of government-imposed political architecture with the ambition of responding through critical intervention.

The implications of building in this area of conflict, which generates hatred and hostility, require study of a new type of building that exists in the political realm and yet addresses the civilian populations in a state of perpetuating coexistence and need for mutual understanding. Therefore the proposal was to address the Israeli and Palestinian civilian populations in a state of perpetuating coexistence through a reinterpretation of the space of the separation barrier, such that it could become a space of interaction and cooperation between the two peoples. The intent is to thereby undermine the inherent function of the divisive qualities of the structure to emphasize the importance of “seeing the other” over the importance of “surveillance.”

In generating interventions for the barrier, it was important to take into account that, while at certain points this barrier looks to be almost sacred in its impermeability, there are in fact numerous and frequent occasions where the concrete condition disintegrates into materials much more permeable, This justified the move to co-opt these more permeable conditions for the purposes of intervention, to further disintegrate the continuous concrete line, confuse the hierarchy of power, and encourage visual, auditory, and tactile permeability between the two sides of the barrier.

Ultimately this design project tests the integration of permeable conditions and physical connections between the two sides of the barrier to raise awareness of the current situation through a push beyond the standard tools of one-way surveillance and into the realm of mutual awareness. The goal is to call into question the effectiveness of the barrier as a move toward permanent resolution and instead propose a more interactive system of acknowledgement between the two groups which trends toward a different resolution process.

The intervention manifests as five prototypical installations that in some way disintegrate the opacity of the concrete wall. These five pieces can be organized and combined to address specific issues at any site that meets the specifications of being divided by the existing separation barrier. These prototypes include a seating-and-sunshading system, a parking area, a community garden space, market stalls, and the surveillance tower redesigned and redefined in order to serve either side of the barrier through various programs.

As the concrete line is repeatedly broken, the impasse that it represents becomes affected by architecture in an entirely new way.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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