In conversation: Eyal Weizman

By Shawn Adams

“Architecture is a very powerful optic. It is a way of seeing and understanding the world. As architects, we can see things that other disciplines cannot, and we can intervene,” says Eyal Weizman. The Israeli architect, activist and researcher is based in London, but has garnered international recognition for his innovative work, which uses architectural techniques to expose injustices around the world.

Having studied at the Architectural Association in London and completing a PhD at the London Consortium, Weizman later founded the Centre for Research Architecture (CRA) at Goldsmiths in 2005. “When I started the CRA, we were intervening, rather than simulating architectural proposals. It was a refute from traditional architectural education,” he says. Today, the CRA provides a pedagogical approach that merges architecture, climate science, law and media, while challenging spatial designers to think socially and politically about the built environment.

And Weizman didn’t stop there. In 2010, he established multidisciplinary design practice Forensic Architecture (FA), which has since been nominated for the Turner Prize. By cleverly employing architectural methods and technologies, FA uses architectural tools, methods and technologies to investigate issues of violence and oppression worldwide. So far, it has exposed violations of international treaties and human rights, from cases of torture in Cameroon to the bombing of Rafah, Gaza in 2014. FA works on behalf of human rights groups, international prosecutors and environmental justice organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN, providing evidence in courts across the globe.

In 2021, FA worked on an exhibition titled ‘Cloud Studies’ at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, which focused on environmental racism in Mississippi, Louisiana. Plus, a project titled ‘War Inna Babylon’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, presented a new investigation into the killing of Mark Duggan by police in 2011.

Often working alongside architects, designers, lawyers, investigative journalists, scientists, archaeologists and filmmakers, Weizman frequently brings together a wealth of expertise and material to open the avenues of investigation. From sprawling road maps to intricate 3D models, his work uses an array of mediums to ingeniously unpack space. 

When conventional tools aren’t enough, Weizman develops avant-garde techniques – and it’s this approach that marks him out as a clear candidate for the Design Innovation Medal 2021. His innovation can be seen in projects such as 'Torture in Saydnaya Prison', where FA worked with Amnesty International to reconstruct an architectural model and soundscape of the Syrian detention centre, using the memories of survivors living in Turkey as refugees. 

Weizman skilfully combines this level of forensics with architecture and design. His work, findings and investigations give a voice to those most oppressed in society and bring awareness to global atrocities. Through CRA and FA, he challenges a new generation of thinkers to consider design in a political, environmental and social way. His methods and techniques are innovative, refreshing and essential in order to shift the nature of architecture globally.