East and West

The West Bank is getting its first contemporary design school

The West Bank is getting its first contemporary design school. (Raed Hamouri/Disarming Design From Palestine)

For aspiring designers in the Palestinian Territories, educational opportunities are relatively few and far between. Some universities in the area offer traditional design courses for students, but the region’s continuing state of conflict has limited available resources for designers, including access to global markets and networks. The founders of the Palestine-based collective Disarming Design From Palestine are establishing a school to fill the void.

Located in the town of Birzeit in the West Bank, the Disarming Design School is the first contemporary design school in the Palestinian Territories. It offers peer-to-peer learning programs for Palestinian students, as well as residencies for foreign students looking to acquire knowledge of local design and craft techniques. The school is also meant to serve as an important resource for local artisans and designers. Professional workshops, movie screenings, and lectures will be supplemented by a design library and a creative lab. As cofounder Annelys De Vet told Dezeen, the long-term goal is to form an academy that cultivates a critical design curriculum that is “inclusive, community-based and focused on resilience, emancipation, and self-empowerment through acts of design.”

A group of people on a low-slung wall

Disarming Design School students posing (Courtesy Raed Hamouri, Disarming Design From Palestine)

De Vet and her co-founders, Raed Hamouri and Ghaleed Dajani, are already well-established in the Palestinian design world. In 2012, they set up a label to sell Palestinian-designed items on international platforms. Through the sale of useful goods, Disarming Design From Palestine aims to present “alternative narratives about contemporary Palestine” and, more broadly, to explore the role of creative practices under conditions of conflict. Members of the label’s team will serve as tutors for students participating in this summer’s workshops, teaching alongside curators from the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit and academics from the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, the Lucerne School of Art and Design, and Sint Lucas School of the Arts in Antwerp.

In a part of the world where international travel can be difficult, Disarming Design is fostering a program that is decidedly global. The next step for the young institution is to collaborate with the Sandberg Instituut to set up a temporary masters program in Amsterdam focusing primarily on design in conflict zones. A predetermined portion of the master’s students will be Palestinian and will be expected to return to the school in Birzeit as instructors. Similar to the specialized lecturers and tutors leading the Disarming Design School’s first workshops in the West Bank, they will bring global and local design perspectives to a region of the world in need of both.

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