Difficult Heritage – Summer School

The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and the University of Basel are collaborating in the organization of the international summer program Difficult Heritage. Coordinated by the Decolonizing Architecture Course from Sweden and the Critical Urbanism course from Switzerland, the program takes place at Borgo Rizza (Syracuse, Italy) from 30 August to 7 September 2021, in coordination with Carlentini Municipality, as well as the local university and associations.
The program is constituted by a series of lectures, seminars, workshop, readings and site visits centered around the rural town of Borgo Rizza, build in 1940 by the ‘Ente della colonizzazione’ established by the fascist regime to colonize the south of Italy perceived as backward and underdeveloped.
The town seems a perfect place for participants to analyze, reflect and intervene in the debate regarding the architectural heritage associated to painful and violent memories and more broadly to problematize the colonial relation with the countryside, especially after the renew attention due the pandemic.
The summer program takes place inside the former ‘entity of colonization’ and constitutes the first intensive study period for the Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course 2020/21 participants.

What does it mean “To Decolonize”? 3

2020 – 2021

Under the headline Modernism and Demodernization, this year’s cycle of Decolonizing Architecture has engaged with ways to challenge modern approaches, locating and experimenting with approaches that seek to imagine a form of demodernization in architecture. During the pandemic, we have faced the challenge of not being able to meet in Stockholm – as a group or with guests of the course – for the majority of the year. As a result, the focus was set on matters closer to home, and the theme of isolation connected the course’s initial days in Långholmen Prison to the isolation of the island of Skeppsholmen, where the institution of the Royal Institute of Art itself is situated. The collective site of intervention has therefore engaged with issues raised within our own walls: how we relate to each other; how our institution relates to the rest of the world; belonging; and how to bring decolonial thinking and doing into our own house(s).


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Remembering to forget colonial memory, to learn to live, again

At the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
on November 11th 2020 at 14:00 – 16:00 CET

During these days of empty metaphors and contradictions, I feel compelled to go back to basics. With all that’s going on, one wonders – am I really living? In other words, do I remember what it is to live? Yet isn’t this question what gives way to all else? That is why, by asking these questions, I’ve been little by little striving to align my daily life and privilege to my art and its related practices, so as to give life, and live. This questioning has led my efforts to the containment and deposition of colonial memory, particularly regarding the disproportionate violence and entropy that colonial memory self-inscribes. From my Caribbean perspective, I am exploring that entropy through various traumas that, to me, are sustained and repressed by the geological force that is colonial violence. By treating greenhouse technology as one of the object-relations of the memory of said violence, I give shape to that deposition as an infrastructure of epistemológica … a careful and transitional practice that at once reviews the scientific preparation, the expository prop, and political demonstration, so as to learn to live, again.

Luis Berríos-Negrón (San Juan, 1971*) is a Puerto Rican artist who explores the environmental forms of sculpture, discourse, and display that are shaped by the forces of global warming.

The seminar can be followed online.
Please register here.

Decolonizing Education

At the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
on September 10th 2020 at 15:00 – 17:00

What does decolonization mean in a predominately white institution? How can institutions change to reflect the demographics in society? How can cultural institutions become more inclusive challenging the hegemonic positionings of society, attracting those that are historically marginalised? How can access to education become genuinely public?

These are some of the questions that Nadira Omarjee, Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute on the Africa Scholar Programme at Uppsala University, and Shahram Khosravi, Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University, will use as a point of departure in their conversation hosted with the students of Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course at the Royal Institute of Art, in Stockholm.

Nadira Omarjee is an decolonial feminist scholar, focusing her research on Decolonial Feminist Pedagogy: decoloniation, feminism, education, decolonial curriculum, intersectionality, gender and antiracism.

Shahram Khosravi research interests include anthropology of Iran and the Middle East, migration, human rights, forced displacement. He is the author of ‘Young and Defiant in Tehran’ and ”Illegal’ Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders’.


What does it mean “To Decolonize”? 2

2019 – 2020

This year, course participants have spent time researching experimental sites of knowledge production, understood as physical spaces, as well as communities, experiences and bodies and anchored in personal experiences and collective processes. Based on the assumption that every student is a bearer of knowledge, course participants have intersected individual and collective research trajectories by establishing a common vocabulary as a theoretical framework and reference point for future spatial interventions. Three collective initiatives and fifteen individual research projects have emerged from the interactions between course participants, the city of Stockholm, and sites and communities both close and distant.


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Field Trip to Asmara and Addis Ababa

28 January – 8 February, 2019

Course participants traveled to Addis Ababa and Asmara to learn from the ways in which the local residents reused colonial fascist buildings. In Addis Ababa the course collaborated with Rahel Shawl her team at RAAS architecture that has mapped out architecture built during the Italian occupation. In a series of workshops, course participants joined local students, experts, architects and local associations in rethinking the possibility of reuseing one of these building for a center of knowledge production — a space that the RAAS team and Rahel envisioned especially for newly graduated architects. The exhibition organized by the RAAS team at the Urban Center featured a series of architecture built during the Italian occupation, generating an interesting debate around the use of the term decolonization, since Ethiopian was never colonized. In contrast, architectures build in the same period in Asmara were recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017 under the title of “Asmara: A Modernist African City”. The course participants had a possibility to meet and discuss with the team of architects and conservationists of the Asmara Heritage Project, who prepared the nomination dossier.

Video of the field trip

End of the year Discursive Exhibition: What does it mean “To Decolonize”?

28 May – 29 May, 2019, Stockholm

The struggle of decolonization, once primarily located outside of Europe, has today moved within its borders. What the media continue to call the “refugee crisis”, “environmental crisis” “economic crisis” are, in reality, the incapacity of Europe to come to terms to the condition of five hundred years of colonialism. This public event is divided into three parts: a public seminar that introduces decolonial options and their relevance in the European context, followed by a public lecture by the renowned philosopher Walter D. Mignolo who has spent the last 40 years researching and teaching the historical foundation of the modern/colonial world system and imaginary, concluding with an open discussion on decolonial artistic practices by using as a starting point, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti´s latest book Permanent Temporariness, a collection of research projects developed in over a decade of work within the artistic collective DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency).

Download full event program

Public lecture by Walter Mignolo

Book launch



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Decolonizing North

7 December – 8 December, 2017, Stockholm

This conference was organized by Konsthall C, the Advanced Course in Decolonizing Architecture at Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and CEMFOR (Center for Multidisciplinary Research on Racism) at Uppsala University. The north is not only a geographical expression — it often also indicates a power relation based on a presumption of superiority. Despite violent border regimes and colonial processes on indigenous populations, northern European countries have scarcely dealt with their own self-image of colonial powers. Is decolonization today a possible political project of liberation against this historical prejudice? What is at stake and how should we position ourselves within an imperative process of decolonization in relation to land and knowledge? In particular, how can we de-align from the reproduction of oppressive structures and look instead to new alliances between native and migrant populations — towards solidarity practices within art, discourse and the situated locality.



Internal Colonialism and Colonial Heritage

17 April, 2018, Stockholm

This conference is organized by the Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course and the Research Lab at the Royal Institute of Art (RIA), the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Konsthall C and Tensta Konsthall.

The conference presents a series of comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial architecture, expanding the notion of colonial space into present realities. It explores the internal colonization of Sámi land in Sweden, remittance urbanisms and new struggles of knowledge production within Europe, poses disruptive questions around the heritage of Palestinian refugee camps — the oldest refugee camps in the world — as well as confronting the colonial heritage of European museums and institutions. A second day is dedicated to guided exhibition visits to Konsthall C and Tensta Konsthall and an evening lecture by Forensic Architecture that will call for the mobilisation of architecture as both a form of research and activism.

Manifesta 12

21 June – 23 June, 2018, Palermo

As part of the 5x5x5 program of Manifesta 12 in Palermo, the Decolonizing Architecture Advanced Course presented a project for the critical re-use of the Casa del Mutilato — a fascist building designed by Giuseppe Spatrisano and inaugurated by Benito Mussolini in 1936. The project took the form of an architectural intervention; a prosthesis to the Casa del Mutilato which acted as a tool to reorient the future uses of the building and pragmatically started a much needed restoration process.


Seminar on the Cities of Asmara and Addis Ababa

30 August, 2018 – Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
David Rifkind, Mekonnen Tesfahuney and Peter Lang

Experimental Preservation

6 November – 9 November, 2018 – Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm
Jorge Otero-Pailos, Erik Langdalen, Torun Hammar and Carlos Minguez Carrasco