How Forensic Architecture Reveals War’s Secrets

Recent military conflicts such as the ongoing civil war in Syria have increasingly moved from the battlefield to urban spaces, rendering citizens as well as civilian structures in densely populated areas highly vulnerable to attacks and catastrophic violence. In many cases, urban conflict areas are sealed off and inaccessible for investigators. In other cases, architecture becomes a resource to reconstruct the realities of political violence, a phenomenon observed in separating walls, military barriers and torture prisons. In order to shed light on crimes that otherwise go unobserved, the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman developed the interdisciplinary research field of “forensic architecture” at Goldsmiths, University of London where he is the Professor of Visual Cultures and the director of the Centre of Research Architecture. After carefully reconstructing war-torn spaces with the aid of survivors’ testimonies, satellite images, smartphone recordings and other sources of data, scenes of atrocities can be analysed and investigated in order to hold perpetrators accountable. The evidence produced by his team is being used by international prosecution teams, NGOs and the United Nations in various processes worldwide. At Falling Walls, Eyal demonstrates how an interdisciplinary combination of architecture, art, theory and the law can contribute to preventing civilian casualties and holding national authorities to account.