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Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip at Mediamatic Amsterdam (Image courtesy of Malkit Shoshan)
Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip at Mediamatic Amsterdam (Image courtesy of Malkit Shoshan)

March 2, 2023, 6:00 pm7:30 pm

MIT Building 7-429
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

As part of MIT Architecture Spring 2023 public program in collaboration with MIT ACT, this lecture will be held in person, at 6 PM ET in Long Lounge (7-429), followed by a discussion with Huma Gupta (AKPIA), Bish Sanyal (DUSP) and Gediminas Urbonas (ACT) as respondents.

In the past decade, the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST), led by Malkit Shoshan, spearheaded several experimental projects at the intersection of design and activism. The lecture will explore if and how design can mobilize social and cultural change by making visible suppressed and hidden realities focusing on two case studies: The Silver Lion-winning presentation of Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which traces the daily struggle of a small community of farmers living along one of the most militarized borders in the world, and the project BLUE: The Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions (Actar, 2023), which examines the impacts of United Nations missions on cities, communities, and the environment. FAST’s projects question the legitimacy and effectiveness of the institutions society put in place to support communities across the world in times of crisis.

FAST’s cross-disciplinary and multiscalar projects deploy various design, research, engagement, and advocacy strategies. As they share insights into the precarity of daily life and the struggle to confront entrenched bureaucracies, they question the goals and effectiveness of powerful institutions and ask, among others, if and how public institutions can be shaped to center social and environmental justice and care.

This lecture is free and open to the public. Registration required to attend in-person. Register here or watch the webcast on YouTube.

Malkit Shoshan

Malkit Shoshan is a designer, author, and educator. She is the founding director of the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST), which initiates and develops projects at the intersection of architecture, urban planning and human rights. In her work, she uses spatial design tools to make visible systemic violence, engage with various publics to co-design alternatives that center social and environmental justice, and advocate for systemic change.

Shoshan is the area head of Art, Design, and the Public Domain Master in Design Studies, a design critic in Urban Planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. She is the author and mapmaker of the award-winning book Atlas of the Conflict, Israel-Palestine (010 Publishers, 2011), the co-author of Village. One Land Two Systems and Platform Paradise (Damiani Editore, 2014), and the author and illustrator of BLUE: The Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions (Actar, 2023). Her additional publications include Zoo, or the letter Z, just after Zionism (NAiM, 2012), Drone (DPR-Barcelona, 2016), Spaces of Conflict (JapSam books, 2016), Greening Peacekeeping: The Environmental Impact of UN Peace Operations (IPI, 2018), and Retreat (DPR-Barcelona, 2020). Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. In 2021, she was awarded, together with FAST, the Silver Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale for their collaborative presentation Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Architecture at MIT.


Huma Gupta

Huma Gupta is Assistant Professor in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. Gupta holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture and a Master’s in City Planning from MIT. Currently, she is writing her first book The Architecture of Dispossession, which is based on her doctoral thesis on state-building and the architectural transformation of migrant reed-mat and mudbrick settlements in mid-century Iraq. Previously, Gupta was the Neubauer Junior Research Fellow at Brandeis University, Humanities Research Fellow at New York University-Abu Dhabi, and International Dissertation Research Fellow at the Social Science Research Council. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Journal of Contemporary Iraq and the Arab World, and Thresholds. As a practitioner, she has worked on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, municipal planning in Syria, eviction prevention and homelessness in the greater Boston area, and UN agencies’ humanitarian response to housing needs for persons displaced due to climate, conflict, and development projects around the world.

Bish Sanyal

Bish Sanyal is the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning and Director of the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS)/Hubert Humphrey Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He served as Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT from 1994 to 2002, and was Chair of the MIT faculty from 2007 to 2009. Sanyal’s research, teaching, and academic leadership reflect his multidisciplinary education in architecture (BA) from IIT (Kharagpur), urban planning (MUP) from the University of Kansas, and international development planning (PhD) from the University of California in Los Angeles.

Sanyal has published extensively on urban development, particularly on the topic of spatial and economic integration of informal housing areas. He has also advised several bilateral and multilateral development agencies, along with governments in South Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. He serves on the editorial board of six leading professional journals.

Sanyal is the recipient of: MIT’s prestigious MacVicar Award for exemplary contributions to the education of undergraduates at MIT; the Gill-Chin Lim Global Award for research on international development; the inaugural award for leadership on international development planning by ACSP’s Global Planning Educator’s Interest Group. In 2022, Sanyal received the highest professional honor – the Distinguished Educator Award, by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

Gediminas Urbonas

Gediminas Urbonas is artist, educator, and co-founder of the Urbonas Studio (with Nomeda Urbonas), a transdisciplinary research practice that facilitates exchange amongst diverse nodes of knowledge production and artistic practice in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. Urbonas have exhibited internationally at the São Paulo (twice), Berlin, Moscow (twice), Lyon, Gwangju, Busan, Taipei Biennales, Folkestone Triennial, Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions, including prize winning solo show at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their writing on artistic research as form of intervention into social and political crisis was published in the books Devices for Action (MACBA Press, 2008), Villa Lituania (Sternberg Press, 2008), and Public Space? Lost and Found (MIT Press, 2017). Urbonas 5 year-long research project on Zooetics exploring the potential to connect with the noetics and poetics of non-human life in the context of the planetary ecological imbalance, concluded in 2018 with the symposium at MIT and opened Climate Visions a new research lab. Urbonases curated the Swamp School – future learning environment at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. The book Swamps and the New Imagination: On the Future of Cohabitation in Art, Architecture and Philosophy is forthcoming in 2023 with Sternberg Press.