Manifesto on Ruins
The following is an attempt at gathering our design stories under one umbrella. Rather than a total and impossible theory, the notes below illuminate four aspects of what we can call a posture, attitude, or approach towards design. If it is here intentionally presented as an ideal, every client will challenge those dreams and invite compromise. From this contradiction, experienced as a day-to-day combat, a shared architecture will be born.
Building upon Nature
The role of the architect is to systematically fall in love with the initial conditions of the project. However uninspiring they may be, at the human, urban or a depleted natural level, we need to see those initial constraints as potential rather than obstacle. At the embryonic level of any concept, we like to say that every line (limit) is a possibility. Rather than some foreign idea projected on the site, the concept needs to be a celebration and expansion of what was already there.
In our approach to landscape, we always seek to recognize the natural ecology of the place. The reconstitution of the local fauna and flora is sought after as a purpose in itself that becomes the foundation of any project. Eventually, this natural environment becomes the basis upon which the architectural concept is developed.
Søren Kierkegaard defines 'reprise' (gjentagelsen) as a remembrance brought forward. Looking at the ruins of the past, there's a strange emanation of energy that puts us back to work every time something is broken, lost or ruined.
Every project is a reprise. It is always this attitude of the joyful going back to work whatever may be, that makes design this phenomenal act of repair. All sites of intervention, particularly in Beirut and Lebanon at large, are scarred. An observation of their initial conditions, not only at the physical level, but also at the human lived level, reveals inspiring traces of intentionality that in their turn become initiating lines for a project to be.
In this context, acts of renovation become perfect opportunities to express intervention onto the old as a process that is beyond restoration. Renovation is the literal nostalgia of a lost past, and its expectations are always within the domain of mere repetition. On the other hand, intervention properly expressed as reprise makes sure to propel the space frankly into the present, making it breathe a new life, beyond its ruined past.
By extension, even if the site is nature in an ideal state, all design concepts will be in need for reprise, as we are in need to move forward, because forward is the way of life.
In the Labyrinth
In our devastated globalized context, visibility, visuality and market value of square meters have become aggressive and dominant. However, human perception and embodied experience are actually most central to the mission of the architect and those are most enhanced paradoxically at sites of blindness and invisibility. In this context, designing for the labyrinthine experience of space remains central to our day-to-day agenda, even if it is against capitalist expectations, the same combat again.
Our residential projects have always emphasized homeliness in contrast to total experience of space. We want you to enter, not see the view, then turn and discover. We praise shadows and ninety degree turns, we enhance texture and the mystical shades of foliage or incense. Our public projects have always emphasized the cinematic experience of space, architecture as sequence, lived in space but also mostly in time and through the changing perspective of a moving sensual body.
We know that those spatial procedures of the labyrinth enhance awareness. At every step of the maze, indeed, we need to stay awake not to hit the next wall. As we proceed further, consciousness builds up, until we can see the labyrinth from above, metaphorically.
For a novel Architecture
Every project writes its own story. Stories of sites extended in time and space, but essentially the story of its observers. We call this architecture novel but innovation is not a choice, it is simply that architecture should always be novel in order to remain alive. We also call it novel because it is, like a novel, story-telling and fictive in nature, as it happens in our own minds.
My perception is enhanced by the qualities of the lived poem of space. This architecture-became-novel contributes to my own growth, awareness and well-being. I really wish it to continue producing beauty despite momentarily and unavoidable unpleasantness.