Born and raised in Algiers, she is a historian, an educator, and an exhibition maker of the built, destroyed, and imagined environments. Her research and teaching address questions of colonization, wars, extraction, deserts, forced displacement, and gender.
Currently, she is working on a commissioned exhibition project, Perfroming Colonial Toxicity (2023), with If I Can't Dance I Dont't Want to be Part of Your Revolution and Framer Framed in Amsterdam; and a book project, Colonial Toxicity: Rehearsing French Radioactive Architecture in the Sahara (2023), which investigates France's nuclear weapons program conducted between 1960 and 1966 in the Algerian desert.
Samia is the author of the multi-award-winning Architecture of Counterrevolution: The French Army in Northern Algeria (EN, gta Verlag, 2017; FR, Edition B42, 2019), in which she examined French colonial territorial transformations and spatial counterinsurgency measures in Algeria under colonial rule, especially during the Algerian Revolution (1954-1962). The book received numerous prestigious awards, including the 2020 Spiro Kostof Book Award by the Society of Architectural Historians, the 2018 Silver Book Award by the Festival International du Livre d'Art et du Film (FILAF), and the 2018 Best Book Award in Theory of Art by the FILAF. The French translation was part of the 2019 Architecture Books Selection by L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui and has received extensive media coverage, including Mediapart and Le Monde.
She is the editor of two manuscripts. Deserts Are Not Empty (Columbia Books in Architecture and the City, 2022) that questions colonial tendencies and remaps the representations, theories, histories, and stories of arid lands. The volume brings together poems in original languages, conversations with collectives, and essays by scholars and professionals from the fields of architecture, architectural history and theory, curatorial studies, comparative literature, film studies, landscape architecture, and photography. These different approaches and diverse voices draw on a framework of decoloniality to unsettle and unlearn the desert, opening up possibilities to see, think, imagine it otherwise. The manuscript includes contributions from Saphiya Abu Al-Maati, Menna Agha, Asaiel Al Saeed, Aseel AlYaqoub, Yousef Awaad Hussein, Ariella Aisha Azoulay, Danika Cooper, Brahim El Guabli, Timothy Hyde, Jill Jarvis, Bongani Kona, Dalal Musaed Alsayer, Observatoire des armements, Francisco E. Robles, Paulo Tavares, Alla Vronskaya, and XqSu.
The second volume that Samia edited is War Zones: gta papers n. 2 (gta Verlag, 2018). The book exposes the design of the militarization of cities since World War II, specifically after the events of September 11, 2001. The volume includes contributions from Nora Akawi, Silvia Berger Ziauddin, Jean-Louis Cohen, Ismae'l Sheikh Hassan, Léopold Lambert, Asja Mandic, Eva Schreiner, Felicity D. Scott, Stanislav von Moos, Alfredo Thiermann, and Daniel Weiss.
Samia participated in the exhibition Traits d'union.s curated by Alya Sebti, Katerina Chuchalina and Stefan Kalmarat at Manifesta 13 in Marseille (August-November 2020) with two installations: Housing Pharmacology at the Museum of Marseille History and Right to Housing at Grobet-Labadié Museum in Marseille. Both installations expose and juxtapose the remedy and/or poison that the presence or absence of dwellings engender in Marseille's neighbourhoods. She has participated in other shows, including at the Twelve Gates Arts in Philadelphia, the Kunsthal Aarhus, the Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade, the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and the Chung-Shan Creative Hub in Taipei.
Her exhibition Discreet Violence: Architecture and the French War in Algeria deconstructed French propaganda audio visual records and displayed how the French army forcibly relocated thousands of Algerians in Algeria's rural areas during the Algerian Revolution. The exhibition was first shown at the gta Exhibitions, ETH Zurich, and then it traveled to the New Institute in Rottedam, the Archive Kabinett in Berlin, The Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg, La Colonie in Paris, the VI PER Gallery in Prague, and AAP Exhibitions at Cornell University, and the Twelve Gates Arts in Philadelphia.
Samia was the inaugural Albert Hirschman Chair (2021-22) for Identity Passions Between Europe and the Mediterranean at the Institute for Advanced Study in Marseille; a Visiting Professor (Fall 2021) at the Institute of Art History at the University of Zurich; and a Geddes Fellow (Spring 2021) at Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh University.
She received her Ph.D. (with distinction, ETH Medal) in the history and theory of architecture from the gta Institute, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She taught at Princeton University's School of Architecture, the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, the Geneva University of Art and Design, and now she teaches history of architecture and urban development at Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She was a Research Associate at Curatorial/Knowledge PhD Program, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London. She received her M.Sc. in Architecture from the Accademia di Archittetura di Mendrisio, Universita della Svizzera Italiana. She also studied at the former Berlage Institute in Rotterdam and at the Ecole polytechnique d'architecture et d'urbanisme in Algiers.
She is the co-organizer of the gta Films at the gta Institute, an exhibition that dissects the production and use of motion picture as a way of documenting, teaching, promoting, and understanding architecture.
In tandem with her writing, teaching, and exhibition practices, she has delivered various lectures in many institutions, including the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, Universita della Svizzera Italiana; Architectural Association (AA) in London; Boston University; Brown University; Buffalo University; College of Design at Iowa State University; College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent State University; Columbia University; Dresden Academy of Fine Arts; Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh; ETH Zurich; Garagem Sul, Fundacao Centro Cultural de Belem in Lisbon; The Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg; Geneva University of Art and Design; Harvard University; Laboratoire InVisu, Institut national d'histoire de l'art in Paris; Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark; Lafayette Anticipations in Paris; Princeton University; The New Institute in Rotterdam; The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris; VI PER Gallery in Prague, and Yale University.