While We Wait is an immersive installation by Bethlehem-based architects Elias and Yousef Anastas about the cultural claim over nature in Palestine. The towering structure is made out of elements of differently-coloured stones, quarried in various regions of Palestine, fading from earthy red to pale limestone. The stone elements are shaped by both innovative and traditional techniques: designed on a computer, cut by robots and hand-finished by local artisans. The process of ‘stereotomy’, central to the work of the Anastas brothers, is the art of cutting stones so they can be assembled into a larger configuration, enabling the structure to support itself entirely. Lace-like gaps between the stones allow the viewer to look out, while being encouraged to imagine the installation’s eventual, natural surroundings through evocative sound and video components.
After being exhibited, While We Wait will be installed for the final time in the Cremisan Valley: a picturesque natural space near Bethlehem, which was its inspiration from the beginning, and where it is destined to live permanently.
The Cremisan Valley is currently at risk from the ongoing construction of the controversial separation wall, which threatens to segregate the community, isolate land from its owners and sever the historic link between the valley and its eponymous monastery. In stark contrast to the concrete wall, which dominates and divides the Palestinian landscape, While We Wait will venerate the extreme natural beauty of the valley itself. Moreover, the structure will serve to unite the local community in a similar way to their non-denominational Friday gatherings, and it is produced in Palestine using a process that venerates, uses and supports the traditional crafts of the region. By returning to the very earth from which it was made, While We Wait celebrates the visual, symbiotic relationship between nature and architecture and it therefore suggests an alternative claim over nature.
Elias and Yousef Anastas are award-winning architects based between Bethlehem and Paris. They are the co-founders of AAU Anastas, and the ongoing project Stone Matters, which combines traditional building craftsmanship and materials with innovative construction techniques to produce architecture that is sympathetic to both local heritage and natural surroundings.
Commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London for the London Design Festival 2017. In collaboration with Concrete.
Curated by Salma Tuqan
Films by Mikaela Burstow
Sound Commission by Tareq Abboushi
Supported by Ghalia and Omar Al-Qattan, Concrete, Dubai, Nissreen Darawish, Nabil Qaddumi and those who wish to remain anonymous
While We Wait Programme & Schedule
Sunday, 5 November | 7.30PM | Concrete
While We Wait opening reception
The opening reception is open to the public. The designers, Elias and Yousef Anastas, and V&A curator Salma Tuqan, will join us for the evening. There will also be a performance by musician and sound artist Tareq Abboushi.
Dress code: Smart casual
Monday, 6 November to Saturday, 18 November | 10AM - 7PM | Concrete
The While We Wait installation will be open to the public.
Thursday, 16 November | 6.30PM | Concrete (the location has been moved from Nadi Al Quoz to Concrete)
Talk: Modernising the Traditional
How fluid is heritage? Designers Elias and Yousef Anastas will be in conversation with fashion designer Faissal El Malak and typographer Lara Assouad, discussing the distinct ways in which they borrow reference and adapt tradition through their practice. Moderated by Sonia Brewin and programmed in collaboration with 1971 Design Space.
Friday, 17 November | 7PM | The Yard
Film Screening: Zaman Muallaq / Suspended Time
A collection of short films by nine Palestinian filmmakers, Suspended Time was conceived as a way to understand the status quo of image production 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington, D.C. in 1993. In collaboration with Cinema Akil and Reel Palestine.
Saturday, 18 November | 4PM | Concrete
Literaturhaus at Nadi: Performing a book: In Aching Agony and Longing I Wait For You By the Spring of Thieves by Jumana Emil Abboud
Jumana Emil Abboud introduces her new artist book conveyed during a performance, reading from a series of stories and poems inspired by Palestinian folk tales. This will be followed by a discussion on her wider practice, moderated by Kevin Jones.
This programme has been devised in collaboration with the V&A.
About the designers
Elias Anastas is an architect and designer. He studied architecture at l’Ecole d’architecture de Paris Val de Seine where he received a Masters in 2007. In 2009, he won a prize for the design of the Edward Said National Conservatory in Bethlehem and led the construction of the building. In 2011, Elias founded Local Industries -a project born from the desire to put direct collaboration with local artisans at the heart of the industrial design production process and to look for ways to minimise energy consumption for the creation and production of industrial design. He is currently a partner and projects director at AAU ANASTAS. In 2014, he was awarded the 40 under 40 award for young European architects (International Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Urban Centre for Architecture). In 2016, he was awarded the Hassib Sabbagh and Said Khoury Engineering Award.
Yousef Anastas is an architect and civil engineer, who studied at l’Ecole d’architecture de la ville et des territories, from where he received a Masters of Architecture in 2011. He then pursued a Masters of Civil Engineering and graduated from l’ Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in 2014. He is currently a PhD candidate at Geometrie Structure Architecture (GSA) research lab in Paris, working on the resistance optimisation of stone vaults through advanced stereotomy. In 2014, he conducted research at the Form-Finding lab of Princeton University on biomimetic building skins. In 2014, he was awarded the40 under 40 award for young European architects. (International Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Urban Centre for Architecture). He is currently leading AAU ANASTAS’ research department, SCALES -a research laboratory that is consistently enhanced by linking scales that are otherwise opposed.
Image copyright Edmund Sumner.