M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentFatina Abreek-Zubiedat
SubjectThe Architecture of the Palestinian "Refugee Camps" in the
West Bank, Dheisheh Refugee Camp as a Case Study
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors Dr. Pliouchtch Marina
Dr. Ariella Azoulay
Professor Nitzan-Shiftan Alona
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


The research examines the processes underlining the formation of the Palestinian refugee camps and their development from an architectural point of view, in the years 1948-1967. The research focuses on two crucial concepts, "refugee" and "camp", and analyses the characteristics of the "camp" and the question of "public space" in it, according to political philosopher Hannah Arendt's definition. The work is based on various disciplines: architecture, history and political philosophy.

Examination of this time period enables us to point to the ways in which these camps were established, to the mechanisms that were formed to organize and manage the refugee camps, the power alignment and power struggles that affected the management of, and life in, the refugee camps, while at the same time contributing to their construction, destruction or elimination. Based on the sources, a spatial history of the formation of the camps is described, with special attention to the tension between the architectural object and the architectural discourse, both belonging to the same spatial history.

In order to examine the findings from the spatial history analysis in those two early decades, the research turns to a case study of one Palestinian refugee camp: Dheisheh in the West Bank. The camp is examined, on the one hand, as part of global phenomena of the developments of camps, particularly after the two World Wars and the crumbling of the empires. On the other hand, the camp is also analyzed as a local or regional phenomenon, where "ruin" is a characteristic of both phenomena. The research analyses the "ruin" as an act constructing new spaces such as the "camp", and as a process that ensures the establishment of the camp while preventing a "public space" within it.

According to the findings of this research, the Dheisheh refugee camp, like the rest of the Palestinian camps, not only develops as a result of these processes, but these processes also lead to dichotomy situations which position the camp on the borderline between the "private" and the "public", the "universal" and the "local", and define it - and the refugee - in binary terms.