Background

Trauma can be defined as a wound, caused by a supposedly “external” action. Yet in the era of the « Anthropocene », human’s action over earth has triggered a shift in the eco-systemic balance of the planet. With the human-made mass exceeding the overall living biomass on earth, our world has been facing a multi-faceted crisis - environmental, economic, social - topped by a sanitary crisis whose causes could be correlated to the “systems” of making and inhabiting our environment. These events have affected and continue to transform our daily life. They transform our perception and understanding of spaces. We are brought to question the role of public spaces, the quality of our private habitat and the way these interrelate to our “milieu” … while spaces of interactions have been put under high restriction, uncontrollable events have changed our scale of time and our relation to permanence … leaving many of us with a profound need to find refuge in nature.

As we look for a strategy to deal with the void that this landscape generates, we wonder how we, among other living beings, will we be able to live together in the near future? How can we compose with uncertainty and devise new strategies of making? What are our resources when we have consumed the ones at hand? what role can we, as future architects of matter in this world, play and what are our tools?

Context

The explosion that devastated half of the Lebanese capital on the 4th of August last year had exponentially intensified these subjects in one geography of our planet. At the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, in an area dedicated to commerce and at the heart of a city that lacks much green grounds, grain silos, warehouses and whole living quarters had instantaneously been transformed into rubble. Grains had filled Beirut’s port’s ground with fish brutally tossed off the sea. Few seconds after the blast, no material other than earth seem to have existed and the contours of the sea had taken a new shape. With these smoky images, one could think of the world’s largest wastelands or of Piranesi’s persistent etchings …

There again lied a traumatized landscape.

While invoking a potent void, such landscapes solicit notions of time, memory and material. They hold a potential for change. They also bring with them new questions and invite us to think of other substantial ways of making and inhabiting our environment.

More specifically in the port area of Beirut, the disaster and the absence of governance had generated a tactical approach to “repair”. Young architects, students, citizens had appropriated the streets adjacent to the explosion site. They cleaned the roads as if cleaning their own verandas, gathered waste to transform them into resources. Most of shattered glass was melted and transformed into household items… A collapsing economy and a fraught system became an opening, as modest as this might be, to an alternative way of owning and making the city.

The Studio

Drawing on these events, our Studio will explore post-traumatic landscapes as “voids of potential”. We will attempt to understand these, dissecting them as bodies that had been injured and had been subject to specific physical acts: exploded, fragmented, decayed, consumed, wasted, invaded, unbuilt, rebuilt, contained, voided, layered…. We will then reflect on these grounds through processes of making, of casting, and of transforming matter. We will question and weigh our resources at every step. We will critically confront Individual understandings and methods attempting to constitute a collection of cohesive techniques. This is when they will encounter the site of the devastated port of Beirut. We will endeavor into understanding the larger spatial construct of this Mediterranean city to uncover its layers. We will extrapolate “potentials” within that context, draw rich spatial conditions from its contradictions.

We will hear from professionals, students, urbanists, architects on ground and establish contact. We will try to confront our personal, collective and objective understanding of the site, dig into its history, analyze its mere physical characteristics and analyze it through these characteristics in order to define micro grounds. These grounds will bare our architectural strategies to become “playgrounds”. We will work with no other material than the sea, the land and the “ruins” left in place. We will start shaping spaces of encounter, implementing both of our personal understanding throughout the studio and the characteristics of each of the dissected section of this site. What we aim for: a reinvented Campo Marzio emerging from and belonging to Beirut.

Stages of Work

1: My post-traumatic landscape (week 1)
Define a personal traumatic or post-traumatic landscape. This could be a physical or virtual space.
An A4 descriptive text, a black and white charcoal drawing translating a spatial pattern.

2: Build your understanding (week 2-3)
Cast these spaces, transform them, act upon them, rebuild them, plant them, give them life, define their scale.
Model making through casting, Earth work, transformation. Sections. An A4 text of descriptive technique.

3: Beirut Port, Encounter (week 3-4)
Understanding urban history, social, physical grounds. Hearing and Interacting with locals.
Collages, transformed Models, Multimedia works. Book of techniques

4: Dissecting the land. Identifying Resources. (week 4-5)
Choosing a ground. Earth work. Material work. Repurposing.
Map of the port. Dividing through characteristics. Abacus book of resources. Model of the Port area.

Study Trip. New Orleans (week 5)
In view of travel restrictions and the impossibility to travel to Beirut. This trip will be carried to New Orleans (tbc). The idea is to be able to confront our thoughts to a terrain that has gone through a disaster, this time a natural one. Trying to understand the place and how locals were able to transform the place.

5: Precise Land work. (week 6-7)
Encounters with the ground. Public Spaces. Playgrounds.
On site sections, plans, model. Space of encounter space definition. Model making.

Midterm Review (Week 8)

6: Developing, Documenting (week 9-11)
Assembling. Developing. Narrating. Documenting. finalizing
Photography, Models, final presentation materials of the works. Studio Book.

Final Review (Week 12)


All Semesters

1107a
Fall 2020
Advanced Design Studio: Troubled Waters
Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Andrew Benner
1107a
Fall 2019
Advanced Design Studio: Next Generation Tourism—Touching the Ground Lightly
Patrick Bellew, John Spence, Henry Squire, Timothy Newton