Amira el Solh and Derek Dellekamp: Contested Bodies in the Living Room

Woman with microphone superimposed in living room setting

photo / provided

The Living Room Event Series

The Living Room is a student organization whose goal is to create a forum for critical discussion and debate about architecture today. Pursuing this semester's focus on bodies, the Living Room introduces Amira el Solh and Visiting Critic Derek Dellekamp for our sixth installment on the wood floor in L. P. Kwee Studios, Milstein Hall, at 4:30 p.m. to consider the role art, architecture, and planning play in cities of conflict where societies on opposing sides are constantly scavenging for contested territorialities.

In postwar cities today, how is rebuilding, replanning, and redesigning approached when there is no reconciliation in sight? What is the impact of the lack of reconciliation on how we conceive and build our cities? Solh finds that between amnesia and memorialization lies the status quo of stagnation and inertia. In that light, how do you build a museum memorializing the city history when history is not agreed upon? Are there considerations at the microscale that have implications at the macro level? At some point, must contemporary models of postwar reconstruction be abandoned in order to forge new models that can revolutionize the way cities are "rebuilt"?

Come and join us as we examine the place of contested bodies in architecture as well as their relevance in the current conditions of conflict in both Lebanon and Mexico.

Amira el Solh is an urban planner based in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied sociology at the American University of Beirut and urban and regional planning at Cornell University. Solh began her career in rural development planning, focusing on natural resource management and poverty alleviation in various Arab countries. She was program assistant at the United Nations Development Program in New York City focusing on south-south cooperation for the World Trade Organization. In 2002, she started working on the urban planning of the Beirut city center at Solidere, the Lebanese company for the development and reconstruction of the Beirut Central District. Her work at Solidere ranged from organizing the international urban design competition of Martyrs' Square to setting up the urban planning department for land use planning, public space planning, and preserving cultural heritage. She is a founding board member of the Arab Center for Architecture in Beirut. She recently was a fellow with the New Museum's IdeasCity program in Arles, France. Solh is now a cultural heritage and urban planning consultant.

Derek Dellekamp is a Mexican architect. He graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City in 1997. In 1999, he founded Dellekamp Arquitectos. He has become increasingly interested in the ways that design can positively address social and environmental issues. This is rooted in a deep passion for both design and building, but it also grows from a belief that the value of design remains essential as he confronts larger and increasingly complex topics. As both a practicing architect and an engaged citizen, his interest in building emerges from the idea that architecture is a medium for thinking about the city, the environment, and society. Dellekamp recognizes his practice as a tool to expand the understanding of the world through a building. At the same time, he deliberately worked across a variety of scales, designing everything from furniture to urban plans, and in several mediums, by combining both research and teaching with practice. He strongly believes that architects must question all aspects of the creative process — representation, lectures, conversations, writing, and exhibitions have all informed his built work and vice versa. It is with this conviction that he believes architects, as both designers and activists, are obligated to build a coherent and cogent response to the many problems facing our society today.

For more information, email thelivingroomaap@cornell.edu, or visit the Living Room on Instagram at @thelivingroomaap.