'The House of Houses' by Marylynn Antaki, Thesis project at AUB, 2015
The project presents a methodology-based and process-oriented approach. It is an ongoing investigation of the Spaces that Remain in our mind and an attempt to connect them to the Space that remains physically around us. With this initiates an exploration within the themes of home, identity, belonging and longing, in the context of a globalized condition. It is a response to the existential question “to Stay or to Leave?” that we Lebanese are often faced with. A House of Houses engages with the design of architecture through the act of storytelling and remembrance.
Physically, the project is located in Gemmeyzeh. It is the continuation of a first investigation where I deconstructed my grandmother’s family house in Cairo, which she had to leave and come back to Lebanon but that nonetheless still remains in her mind.
Deconstructing the Houses of a House
Investigating the spaces that remain
The deconstruction happened through several transcriptions. After collecting memories through a redefined Exquisite Cadaver* six narratives resulted offering a different reading and representation of the same space.
Each transcription followed a set of pre-defined rules, and took the narratives from words to mappings, to grids, to folded grids and finally into a set of extruded grids. The last construction phase ended with a series of six models.
As the deconstruction was taking place, a move was happening from the personal subjective attachment to the house, towards a more objective treatment of the elements, which symbolized not only the spaces that remain from this house, but the House that everyone who left his home could relate and come back to.
These smallest entities will be the starting point of the construction of a House of Houses. In an attempt to reassemble the deconstructed entities into a new set of spatial relations, a structure was pre-determined.
Reconstructing the House of Houses
Investigating the Space that remains
Remains of houses were found alongside a 17m excavation that resulted from the destruction of several houses, ready to cater for a new development project. Located in Gemmeyzeh, iand surrounded by three streets (Pasteur, Gouraud, Sainte Famille), the plot offered the opportunity to work with three aspects of the site: the presence of the absence of the former houses, the ruins physically present on-site and the future projections of what the site could offer.
The footprints of the old houses were mapped and former domestic and interior spaces were inverted, building on the negative of the former footprints. The rest of the plot is kept as an urban void acting as a public corridor connected to the ruins. A public staircase linking the two volumes together and the two main streets Pasteur and Gouraud also originates from the void.
Again, several readings of the site were made from its physical aspect, its historical evolution and its surrounding. Grids were extracted then overlaid and treated. Hierarchies were formed, a folding process occurred again dictating the location of the main elements extracted from the former analysis: pivots, anchor points, primary stations, links …
Each of the anchor points were then linked to an action that you do in a house, blown up to an urban public scale. To sleep, to Eat, to Work and to Greet were translated into housings, market and restaurant quarters, a library and office spaces.
These functions, strategically located on the site, take part in several journeys open to the public:
- The “belong/long journey” takes you on a sensorial journey through a market offering Lebanese dishes and products from places you belong or long to get back to.
- The “remember/ forget journey” links the wine cellar where one forgets to the library where one remembers again, and finally to the void.
- The “stay/leave journey” crosses the different levels and types of residences, from the most anchored stays (permanent residences linked to the sunken garden in the void) to the least anchored (the short stay housings).
Folding, an action undertaken in the first phase, reappears architecturally. Folds are interpreted as spaces of connection, shifts in circulation happening along paths. The architecture allows each visitor to shape its own journey in the house, made possible through the pivots connecting the several functions.
This is the house of houses, the house of the present, and the future, built through and from the house of the past. It is a One and Only space that houses different identities, people, and spaces.
Marylynn's advisors for this project were Sinan Hassan (FYP 1) and Carla Aramouny (FYP 2).