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Women Building Society

by Hala Rabi

 Year 2022 - 2023

This project received an honorable mention in the Tectura Awards 2023.

The project creates women's network through the architectural opportunities in the Balata refugee camp and Nablus's old city, breaking the strict division between them.

In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians turned into refugees, causing a demographic upheaval in the cities of Palestine and creating many refugee camps. Refugees and refugee camps stand at one pole of the political and urban spectrum, with citizens and towns at the other, both organized under the logic of occupation and the patriarchal order. Palestinian refugees and urban citizens live within a broader settler colonial context, affecting Palestinians' social and economic relations, cultural practices, and power dynamics. The project studies the division between refugee camps and Palestinian cities through Palestinian women living in a refugee camp and Palestinian women living in the city by studying their roles in the everyday lives of these spaces. Because of the significant role they played in society's resistance through the years by conserving the Palestinian culture, passing it to their children, their faith in God, and being part of the family's economic development.

In this aspect, the project inspects two different spaces, the Balata refugee camp, and the old city of Nablus, affecting women's lives and their families differently.
The project question is: How can the opportunities in the local architecture of the Balata refugee camp and the old city of Nablus break the strict analytical dichotomy between them by creating an economic, multicultural, and social network by women? Moreover, how can it produce an independent life framework for them?

Balata Refugee Camp: Due to the unplanned buildings and structures in the camp, negative spaces (Holes) between the houses were developed. Each hole is characterized differently concerning the construction of the camp and its location. There for, they are expressed in various typologies. On the way, they interface with the camp's women-dwelling life.
The hole system is identified as a place where the house can spread out inside it, making a more robust society—identifying it according to the women's character and how they can develop and strengthen from the hole.

The Old City of Nablus:
The old city of Nablus was built as an Islamic – Arabic city, and its planning principles and buildings shaped the city's patriarchal system. It reflected various society's values, especially the Islamic values concerning women's privacy, which were applied formally, including providing for women's specific needs. The Islamic habitat in Nablus's old city is known by the courtyard houses and the inner courtyard Hawsh. The intervention breaks and dismantles the patriarchy within the existing typology in the Old City by turning the ground floor of the hawsh into a public, cultural, and occupational floor managed by the women. Through planning, a new circulation transforms the places that were planned to conceal women into essential and public places to develop economic and social standing.

Thus, the project gives the woman two separate places to express herself individually within the space of the hole concerning her home and develops personal empowerment. And on the other hand, it allows her to express herself collectively, strengthening the connection between groups of women. and it builds a connection and a circulation between the women's society in the camp and the city through the opportunities in each one by giving the possibility for women to express and develop independently and accompanied.

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