Book of Destruction

Forensic Architecture

In the spring of 2009, the Gaza-based and Hamas-run ministry of Public Works and housing compiled an astounding archive containing thousands of entries, each documenting a single building that had been completely or partially destroyed, from cracked walls to houses reduced to rubble. Each entry in the Book of Destruction included a single, frontal-view photograph displaying a catalogue number spray-painted onto the ruin itself. Each file also recorded how the damage to the building was inflicted—“destroyed by armoured D9 bulldozers,” “bombed from the air,” “shelled from the ground,” “directly targeted,” “indirectly struck,” or “controlled demolition by explosives”—and the state of the building—“reduced to rubble,” “partially destroyed,” or “ still standing but dangerous and requiring demolition.” In reconstructing histories of violence from the trash and rubble left behind, this archive is another instance of forensic architecture. Both practical and political, its forensics escapes, however, the limited frame of international law.

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