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Building Design: Big names urge Israelis to end ‘oppressive’ works

Alsop, Farrell and MacCormac join call to stop work on schemes that oppress Palestinians
by Helen Crump, 25 May 2007

A host of celebrated architects including Will Alsop, Terry Farrell, Richard MacCormac, Rick Mather and Ted Cullinan have waded into the politics of the Middle East with a challenge to fellow professionals in Israel to cease work that “excludes and oppresses” Palestinians.

The architects, who also include RIBA president Jack Pringle and president-elect Sunand Prasad, have signed a petition organised by Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine which accuses construction professionals working on three separate Israeli developments of “social, political and economic oppression.”

“APJP asserts that the actions of our fellow professionals working with these enterprises are clearly unethical, immoral and contravene universally recognised professional codes of conduct,” a spokesman said.

“We ask the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) to meet their professional obligations … to declare their opposition to this inhuman occupation.”

The IAUA was unavailable for comment, but the action was condemned as foolish and damaging by Michael Peters, founder and chairman of the Identica brand agency, who has worked extensively with architects in Israel.

“British architects are going to burn their bridges with a number of developers — Israeli, British and European,” he said.

Last year Richard Rogers faced stinging criticism from US clients after he hosted a meeting of APJP (News March 10, 2006).

The petition, which focuses on the village of Silwan in east Jerusalem, the E1 plan for the expansion of Israeli settlement Ma’ele Adumim, and former Palestinian village Lifta, was strongly defended by Alsop.

“I think the Palestinians are living in a prison and they deserve better than that,” he said. “I’d like fellow colleagues in Israel to feel some responsibility about this shabby treatment. Architects are a fairly humanitarian lot and perhaps they could help.”

He added: “This is not against Israel, it’s for Palestine.”

Petition organiser Abe Hayeem, a London-based architect and APJP chair, called his fellow architect supporters “pretty courageous”, and insisted architects would not be deterred from backing causes they supported.

But Peters said British architects did not understand the situation in Israel.”Getting involved in a lobby group can only do a disservice to the whole architectural profession,” he added. “To accuse [Israeli] architects of being complicit is nonsense.”