While We Wait
Elias and Yousef Anastas
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.
The project was curated by Salma Tuqan, and included film commissions by Mikaela Burstow, a sound commission by Tareq Abboushi, and publication text by Karim Kattan. Produced by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), in collaboration with Concrete (Dubai), for The London Design Festival 2017, While We Wait was imagined as a three pronged-project. The installation was first assembled at the V&A (London) and then toured to Concrete (Dubai), before being erected in the Cremisan Valley (Palestine): a picturesque natural space near Bethlehem -which served as an inspiration for the project- where it is destined to live permanently.
The Cremisan Valley is at risk from the ongoing construction of the controversial separation wall, imminently threatening 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 that dominates and divides the Palestinian landscape, While We Wait venerates the extreme natural beauty of the valley itself. Moreover, the structure was produced in Palestine using a process that celebrates and supports the traditional crafts in the region, and unites the local community in a similar way to their non-denominational Friday gatherings. By returning to the very earth from which it was made, While We Wait honors the visual, symbiotic relationship between nature and architecture and it therefore suggests an alternative claim over nature.