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Knowlton Hall to host ‘Justice Centered Design’ event Thursday, highlight international architecture

The Lantern
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“Justice Centered Design,” a two-part series, features a documentary on the architecture of Israel and Palestine and a panel discussion. The event begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in Knowlton Hall’s Gui Auditorium. | Credit: Alison Kim

An upcoming documentary screening and panel discussion offered by Ohio State’s Knowlton School of Architecture will examine international conflict through an architectural lens.

Ohio State’s chapter of the National Association of Minority Landscape Architects will host the event, called “Justice Centered Design,” Thursday at 6 p.m. in Knowlton Hall’s Gui Auditorium. Abdul-Azeez Ahmad, a third-year in landscape architecture and the chapter’s treasurer, said Justice Centered Design will feature a screening of Eyal Weizman’s 2014 documentary — “The Architecture of Violence” — as well as a panel discussion about how its content relates to local architects and designers.

“This event is happening because of the illegal Israeli occupation and everything happening in Palestine,” Ahmad, who also serves on the executive board for the Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, said. “But it goes deeper than that. We’re talking about intersectionality and how that affects how walls are built in America as well.”

Ahmad said the documentary is meant to educate viewers about architecture’s overall look and purpose throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“Weizman takes you through the eyes of hostile architecture that was designed by the Israeli occupation to subjugate and to keep the Palestinians living in an apartheid state,” Ahmad said. “Weizman is an Israeli architect, and his documentary is pretty unique because he captures both sides of the story.”

Sarah AbuDakar, an event panelist and board member of Ohio State’s Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects — also known as SCASLA — said the panel’s purpose is to lead a discussion about how divisive architecture is not only used in the Palestinian territories and Israel but also the United States.

“There are several issues about the architecture in [the United States],” AbuDakar said. “This conversation is in light of everything happening in the world, but this topic should always be talked about.”

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“Justice Centered Design” brings designers and the architecture community together for a two-part series Thursday at Knowlton Hall’s Gui Auditorium. | Credit: Ismael Gad

AbuDakar said she will be accompanied by three additional panelists: Ohio State professor Pranav Jani, Syrian-Mexican-American landscape designer Sarah Abed and Palestinian-American architect Rania Qawasma.

“We spent about four weeks researching different qualified individuals that have experience in design and activism,” AbuDakar said. “Raina is located in one of the most heavily militarized zones in the West Bank, so she’s going to give us this firsthand experience on how it is on a day-to-day basis.”

This event follows a recent incident that occurred in Knowlton, wherein students painted the walls of the building’s stairwells with messages related to the Israel-Hamas war, according to an email sent Friday by Knowlton director Dorothée Imbert. Though this stairwell has been routinely regarded by students as “an outlet for expression,” the email stated the “graffiti” will be removed and cameras monitoring the stairwell will be installed over winter break.

The Knowlton Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access Committee is “looking for alternative ways” to ensure students still have expressive outlets at their disposal, the email stated.

AbuDakar said in light of recent events, it is important to encourage constructive conversation between students and the university, and she believes the panel discussion will prioritize that goal.

“I don’t condone the graffiti, but I do think there should be a space where we can implement our creative voices and express them,” AbuDakar said. “This goes back to intersectionality and this is just another opportunity to bridge the gap in this.”

Ultimately, Ahmad said Justice Centered Design can help encourage empathetic and inclusive attitudes among attendees, whether they have an active interest in architecture or not.

“It is important to put an emphasis on a more equitable world,” Ahmad said. “I hope the goal for many designers in architecture and landscape architecture is to take the people who have been ignored throughout history, whether it’s people with physical disabilities, different races or ethnicities, into account.”

AbuDakar said she hopes educators and designers outside of Ohio State’s bubble will consider hosting events similar to Justice Centered Design in the future.

“We want to make people not only at Ohio State know that we can have these hard conversations,” AbuDakar said. “This is a way to educate those who may not know what is happening around the world.”

Justice Centered Design is open to the public but requires registration. More information about the event, including a registration form and biographies of the panelists, can be found on the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ website .

This story was updated Dec. 6 at 10:44 p.m. to address a photo caption error.

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