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BOOK

REVIEW

Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation By Eyal Weizman. Verso, 2007. £19.99

Architecture kills. Battle plans?

How quaint. With new inverse urban geometry, you can get fractal on your opponent's ass.

And as you do so, you can recall the words of Shimon Naveh, ex-director of Israel's Operational Theory Research Institute: 'The Israeli Defence Force started understanding fighting as a spatial problem.

Some of the top brass are not afraid to talk about Deleuze or the deconstructivist Tschumi.'

Eyal Weizman's Hollow Land is an important coda to Edward Said's explique of Israel's cartographic-cumtopographic control of Palestinian enclaves (London Review of Books, 14.12.00). He surpasses Said's essentially twodimensional vision with a 3D Sensurround revelation of a land in which architecture, infrastructure and town planning have become strategic military apparatus as important as tanks and special troops.

It seems luridly ironic that, in the 1920s, town-planner Patrick Geddes supplied urban expansion schemes for Tel Aviv and Haifa. He spoke of 'neotechnic order, characterised by electricity, hygiene, and art, by efficient and beautiful town planning and associated rural development'. In 1978, Thomas Leitersdorf, trained at the AA, was appointed to create a new city east of Jerusalem, high on the slopes of the Judean desert.

He described this covert bastion as a garden city.

Weizman's terminology might be found in philosophy, third-year musings at the Bartlett, or in Cecil Balmond's disquisitions: formless rival entities; the dialectics of structuring and structure; fractal manoeuvre; velocity versus rhythms. There are shadows of these phrases in Gerry Judah's recent artworks, derived from the imagery of shattered West Bank towns, and they haunt the dismantled 'anarchitecture' houses of Gordon Matta-Clark that so intrigued Israeli military thinkers in the 1960s and '70s.

By 2002 General Aviv Kochavi was referring to the attack on Nablus as 'the reorganisation of urban syntax by means of a series of microtactical actions'. It was not the given order of space that governed patterns of aggressive movement, notes Weizman, but movement itself that produced space around it. He quotes the urban theorist, Simon Marvin, who claims the militaryarchitectural 'shadow-world' is generating more intense and better-funded urban research programmes than all universities put together.

Does Terry Farrell know this?

Weizman's Hollow Land stops short of polemical stridency. Yet we read of 'barrier archipelagos' and hallucinate Dubai; we encounter Ariel Sharon's description of the wall in the West Bank as being a 'seam-line obstacle' and see a crazed needle and thread. This is an engrossing, debatable and suitably disorientating treatise.

Two criticisms cannot, however, be shirked: the index contains fewer than 250 entries, which is absurd; absurder still is Weizman's use of an infuriatingly specious quote about walls, supposedly by Georges Perec. I'm thinking Homer Simpson, myself.

Jay Merrick is architecture correspondent for the Independent

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