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Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp opens Dutch Pavilion
BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions. Photo: Iwan Baan.

VENICE.- Yesterday, the Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp opened the presentation BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions by architect Malkit Shoshan in the Dutch Pavilion. The Dutch entry for the 15th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale emphasizes the need to reform the architecture of the United Nations peacekeeping missions into new spatial solutions that have meaning for the local population.

In his opening speech, Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp, responsible for the deployment of all Dutch troops, stressed the urgency and timeliness of Shoshan’s research, which places great emphasis on the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. Earlier this year, in January, Shoshan already presented her project at the invitation of Foreign Minister Bert Koenders at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp: Mrs. Shoshan, Malkit, You obviously put a lot of effort to find information about the physical footprint of UN peacekeeping operations. And you succeeded in publishing a series of initiatives. Initiatives that can strengthen the relations between the local community and the UN and can lead to the improvement of the city of Gao.

If the UN wants to leave a sustainable legacy, a better built environment, one that Mrs. Shoshan recommends, it needs to properly understand the effects of the things we do. And most importantly it needs everybody’s effort and knowledge. I’m thinking of the participation of military engineers, diplomats, anthropologist, economists, architects, policymakers, activists, and local communities. All different actors that can work together on a case-by-case base in this – what I call – defensive eco-system. Mrs. Shoshan, I consider you to be an important actor in this defensive eco-system.

Also present at the opening was Director General of Culture and Media Marjan Hammersma, who noted in her opening speech, among other things, that: ‘Design thinking’ can very well play the role as game changer. Mrs. Shoshan will show us new roads by presenting fundamental views on the design of field missions.

The legacy of UN peacekeeping missions
BLUE explores the architecture of the peacekeeping base as a component of the United Nations missions and the city. The exhibition in the Dutch Pavilion turns the spotlight on contemporary UN peacekeeping missions as an urban phenomenon and takes the Dutch UN peacekeeping base Camp Castor in Gao, Mali, as a case study. Camp Castor is located in the Sub Saharan region of the Sahel, where the encounter between the ‘blue people’ (the Tuareg) and the ‘blue helmets’ (the UN), the desert and the Dutch approach, the nomads and the settlement bolster the emergence of new spatial forms.

Malkit Shoshan focuses on the specific ways the Netherlands contributes to the UN peacekeeping missions. The UN speaks of an integrated approach, fusing Defence, Diplomacy and Development. Shoshan proposes adding a fourth D for Design. She aims to consider the UN base not as an insular fort but as a catalyst for local development.

BLUE presents a series of new stories and proposals about architecture in conflict areas. The stories have emerged from conversations with military engineers and architects, anthropologists and economists, activists, policy-makers and locals. The colour blue is used as a metaphor for the encounter between the ‘blue men’ and the ‘blue helmets’. This metaphor has also guided designer Irma Boom who, together with Malkit Shoshan, has developed the exhibition's design.

Contributors to the BLUE exhibition: Arnon Grunberg, David Turnbull, Debra Solomon, Erella Grassiani, Joel van der Beek, Laura van Santen, LEVS architecten, Malkit Shoshan, Marcel Rot, Marion de Vos, Moussa Ag Assarid, Peter Chilson, Rob de Vos, Stichting Dogon Educatie, Studio Jonas Staal, Travis Bunt.

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