Gili Merin – Towards Jerusalem: The Architecture of Pilgrimage

First Supervisor: Pier Vittorio Aureli
Second Supervisor: Maria S. Giudici

Gili Merin is an architect, photographer and journalist. Born in Jerusalem, she studied architecture at the UdK Berlin, Waseda University in Tokyo, and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. She worked for OMA in Rotterdam and ArchDaily in Chile before moving to London, where she graduated with distinction from the postgraduate program for History and Critical Thinking at the Architectural Association. She is currently a visiting lecturer in history and theory of architecture at the Royal College of Art and a first-year tutor at the Architectural Association.

This thesis studies the ritual of pilgrimage towards Jerusalem, from the city’s formation to today. It will unfold both chronologically and thematically, as each of the four chapters looks both into a specific era in the history of Jerusalem pilgrimage — early Christianity, Medieval times, the beginning of Modernity and the 21st Century — as well as a particular theme, such as the fabrication of sacred landscapes, the importance of movement in ritual, the politics of heritage and preservation, and the formation of collective memory. While these paradigmatic ideas did not necessarily originate in Jerusalem, the city’s condition allows their examination in a state of acceleration and saturation.
The thesis will study the phenomenon of pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a practice that is not limited to the confines of the city but includes a variety of analogue ‘Jerusalems’ — objects, monuments, and cities found around the world — whose connection to the real Jerusalem is perpetually enacted through the act of pilgrimage. The phenomenon will be examined from a perspective of the pilgrims, as unique subjects who recorded their journeys in travelogues, memoirs, drawings, maps, and reportages. Studying these first-hand impressions as a primary material, the thesis will explore how the mentality of pilgrims and the scenography of pilgrimage has produced particular structures, landscapes, and representations that I refer to as the Architecture of Pilgrimage.
The design component of the thesis is a photographic and cartographic guide of Jerusalem pilgrimage. It will depict archaeological sites of pilgrimage that blurred domestic and sacred use in antiquity; analogical Jerusalems constructed across Premodern Europe; and key sites of formal and spatial transformations by pilgrims-turned-occupiers of Jerusalem itself. As documentation, it will provide primary evidence of the current condition of Jerusalem pilgrimage. As representation, it will join a lineage of past endeavours that has used the medium of photography to frame spaces as a tool of architectural design. As a series, the images will unfold along the itinerary of the thesis and form an analogical cartography of pilgrimage. As a project, it will trace, define, and speculate on a possible new route Towards Jerusalem.

Posts by Gili Merin

The history of virtual travel and immersive experiences extends well into the Middle Ages. Without leaving their room, many Christians undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land using only devotional manuscripts and the affective power of imagination. If done correctly, these imaginative journeys would not only provide the devotee with the benefits of physical pilgrimage, […]