At a meeting of a group of avant-garde artists in the Italian city of Alba in 1956, Constant Nieuwenhuis (1920-2005) gave a lecture entitled "Tomorrow, poetry will be the home of life" that announced the launch of his most important project, "The New Babylon." The meeting was instrumental to forming the Situationist International and its intellectual stronghold, the theorist Guy Debord. The cooperation between Constant and Debord will then be the basis for developing the concepts of Urban Unity that constitute a critique of the totality of capitalist society, modernity, and its urban planning. The group repudiated modern architectural and planning practices through these concepts, as they serve the capitalist ideology and serve its purposes. The New Babylon project is the most ambitious in this regard, although it remains a dead letter. Through this 20-year project, Constant imagined the meaning of a just space as a workspace designed for wandering and nomadism. These attempts came among many other different philosophical and radical groups to indirectly dismantle the dilemma of housing as a philosophical concept and its impossibility as an inevitable result of the westernization that modernity and architecture established. The principle of Transience versus the linearity of capitalist time to which these groups were committed is used as a framework for reading another radical temporal concept: Permanent Temporariness.
How do we view Palestine as a knowledge construct through the permanent temporary as a site that questions the future and reveals absences, and to "modernity and its critique" from the same site, as an intense colonial moment that constantly generates the absence of the former? What remains of housing and construction when we inhabit the temporary? or in asylum or exile? What happens to the temporary in its constant transformation into permanence?
Saba Innab (born 1980) is an architect, artist, and urban researcher. She studied Architecture at Jordan University of Science and Technology, 2004. In 2014, she received the visiting research fellowship initiated by Studio X Amman (Columbia GSAPP), and in 2018 she was long-listed for the Royal Academy Dorfman Award for Architecture. In 2019, Innab co-founded OPPA, an architecture and research collective.
Through research, design, mapping, model making, and sculpture, Innab’s work explores the suspended states between temporality and permanence. She is concerned with variable notions of dwelling and building and their political, spatial, and poetic implications in language and architecture. Her recent exhibitions include the 57th edition of Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, 2018; Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, Frac Centre-Val de Loire, Orléans, 2017; Marrakech Biennial, Marrakech, 2016. Her solo exhibitions include Station Point, ifa-Galerie, Berlin, 2019; Al Rahhalah, Marfa’, Beirut, 2016; No- Sheep’s Land, Darat al Funun, Amman, 2011. Innab lives and works between Amman and Beirut.
Image: Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp razed after the rubble removal, 2009. courtesy of the author.