Source: Ambiguous Spaces

Ambiguous Spaces | NaJa & deOstos

Ambiguous Spaces

Notes | Introduction

  • Forces – relationship between individuals and institutions
  • Architectural interests reside in the spatial investigation of individual, state, corporate, or military relationships and how they can abruptly shift individual and communal life stories, seemingly without their consent
  • Architecture as a territory where the absurd and contradictory aspects of the situations themselves can be identified within the resulting projects
  • Explore architecture through literature – Kafka’s The Trial (reveals that what seems a strange depiction of reality is actually a much more sophisticated, darker excursion into the nuances of juxtaposed logics and worlds)
  • Book describes oppressive and alienating institutional forces and also depicts how these same forces manifest themselves:  elusive, absurd, violent
  • Blending of parallel realities
  • Investigating spatial design through opposing elements, cultural nuances presented in ideas and issues usually considered outside the scope of our profession
  • Ambiguous space – resulting architecture in which ambivalence presides and discordant logics are manifested
  • Architecture as an open language – can address issues considered unsuitable to its status quo
  • Exploration of strange elements – the common fissures that exist between oppressed individuals/communities and powerful political forces

Nuclear Breeding

  • Orford Ness – a former nuclear test facility in SE England, a military site used to launch reconnaissance sorties, experiment with aerial photography, develop a radar system, and test ballistics for the Blue Danube (first British atomic bomb in 1950s)
  • Now houses a nature reserve
  • Narrative as a generative tool
  • Generative – having the power to originate design investigations
  • Nuclear Breeding – explores the mechanisms of the nuclear bomb itself
  • Mapped the physical effects of nuclear detonation on land and water
  • Studied each resulting crater to understand extreme “landscape technique”
  • Main goal – to investigate generating a landscape design via fictional computer-simulated explosions
  • Three parts of form-finding method: creating formal 3D diagrams by computer, mapping and inserting design decisions in the process, and investigating spatial arrangements through hand drawing
  • Computer drawings as part of the process, never the final answer
  • Created fictional characters/users that could interact with the space to determine primary/secondary uses of the crater
  • Resulted in different programs to fit each user’s personality
  • Destructive power of atomic bombs to generate an alternative life model – contradictory to nature of military use of technology (creating farmland from the use of atomic power)
  • This project is not a product of science fiction but spatial and programmatic investigations into mysterious field of military nuclear technology
  • Binds a remembrance of past to necessity of progress

The Pregnant Island

  • In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, creates binary extremes in fictional town of Macondo – things that defy science are depicted as matter-of-fact happenings, but also has familiar human practices (exploitation, ruthless violence, brutality of modernity/progress)
  • Magical realism – storytelling mechanism, similarities with surrealism and science fiction
  • Commonplace treatment of the supernatural grounds the narrative in a strange but recognizable reality – foregrounds other issues like social exploitation and political dilemmas
  • Macondo represents historical struggle of South America against postcolonial forces/provincial corruption and ascension of traditions (storytelling, native myths) that help maintain supernatural/mystical in people’s lives
  • Istanbul Architecture Biennale project (look up)
  • Local’s narratives and strong bond to specific natural features (rivers, plants, sounds, etc.) – relationship between this project and magical realism
  • Reality of building a dam – factual/quantitative data (landownership, etc.) must be balanced with magical/qualitative factors (creationist myths, local gods, ritual grounds)
  • Focused on two examples – Three Gorges Dam (Sandouping, China) and Tucuri Dam (Brazil)
  • Large dams – generate power, supply water, control irrigation but also have damaging effects on local ecosystems and displace vast numbers of people
  • Ineffective displacement patterns caused a broken sense of community and loss of livelihood – results in alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.
  • The Pregnant Island:  designed landscape based on two facts that sound fictional
    • 1600 hilltops were transformed into islands by initial flooding of the Tucuri Dam reservoir
    • Water level can vary by 60’ between wet and dry seasons, mutating landscape from valley to lake
  • Inspirations for generating a kinetic island were native fertility tales – their belief that nature is a living entity, with deities impersonating landscape features
  • What if both universes (magical and scientific) could merge?
  • Meeting of 2 parallel worlds would mirror condition of the dam – a colossal piece of engineering placed in archaeological ground among Amazonian rituals
  • Conceptual island evolved with only one generation of characters (unlike Macondo’s 7 generations of family life)
  • Design process in three parts:  the island, a dwelling building, and area between them
  • Derived a series of parameters to define how the building envelope and island’s pregnancy (kinetic aspects) would interact
  • Pregnancy:  gestation of a female animal to the “carrying of” the anthropomorphic island – distended (swollen) parts, fatigue (slow transformations), weight gain, and center of gravity shift
  • Mapped and zoned the island according to areas where swellings might erupt and more stable geological areas would allow for a building footprint
  • Concept of pregnant island as a key design process tool – used amalgamation of rational (building structure) and irrational (island)
  • Maloca (building) – reinvented version of the native Amazonian communal house
  • Vegetation has disappeared, land is eroded due to massive tide changes
  • Building serves as dwelling and includes typical architectural elements arranged around a vertical axis
  • Sinuous curves of building envelope – reference local tribal masks and archaeological remains found in Amazon region
  • Structural fibers made from tree roots create thin suspended bridges that provide access to the island
  • Maloca typically arranged in a circle around a central ceremonial patio – but this dwelling organized vertically
  • Envelope of the pods are constantly under production – dripping latex circles spiral frames and thickens the skin
  • Function of the project based around hybrid logic of fact and fiction
  • Design exposes and works with contradiction and challenges faced by uprooted native communities (to live in an island environment with significant landscape changes from winter to summer due to tide changes)
  • Want to create an architectural counterpart to magical realism or literary irony and humor in order to engage architecture as a reactive discipline
  • Pregnant Island absorbs factual and mixes it with mythical native tales
  • Project merges existing ingredients within a spatial narrative – space that changes with time and is a multidimensional experiment depicting cultural and social ambiguities within context of native communities
  • Resulting island is an ambiguous space that discloses the fragility of human habitat and individual choice

Jackowski, Nannette, and Ricardo DeOstos. Ambiguous Spaces: NaJa & DeOstos. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2008. Print.