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World Architecture Magazine- No.358

Practice at the Margins of Architecture

Beirut 001 is the first readily available digital 3D model of Beirut.

Mapping buildings, roads, bridges, and tunnels, and constructed with the humble means available to the architect and his team over the span of three years, it is offered to the public today as a preliminary tool to collectively re-imagine our city.

What will we do with it?

Will environmentalists use it to simulate micro wind patterns in the city and suggest new electricity rationing schedules to reduce air pollution from the informal power grid?

Will activists map the 2000 CCTV cameras illegally installed in the city to find a potent space of protests?

Or will cartographers inscribe into layers long-forbidden urban information?

Is it precise enough? Or should surveyors make it more accurate and share it again?

What will you do with it?

ZAV (Mohammadreza Ghodousi)

In a studio located in Tehran’s overcrowded city center compartmentalized into several operation rooms, projects move from room to room, operation to operation, in a process akin to a fabrication line in a factory. Ghodousi’s unapologetic statement “beauty is in the eye of the stakeholder,” is nothing short of a slogan that crystalises a manifesto for an architectural practice that is intent on assertively engaging a dire socio-economic condition.

The following statements are printed and installed at the entry to each “operation room”:

ZAV is a Typologically Driven Practice

Are the existing typologies capable of meeting all our spatial needs and desires or, should new typologies be invented? The invented types should be the ones that can act resilient in confronting variegated needs and unpredictable future circumstances.

ZAV is Adaptive (and Agile)

Aesthetics are the result of a mentality that is oriented towards production of added value and as such does not have a priori definition. Beauty is to identified by the beholder, either as incomplete, incoherent decors, or that which signals sublimity and perfection.

ZAV is Practical

Architecture can be informed by creating value and even how individual interest can be satisfied along with achieving common good, i.e. national interest(s) … Our criteria for further deliverance of common good, is improvement of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with architecture as an actant in this dynamism.

ZAV Embraces Craftsmanship

Construction technology and craftsmanship is of utmost importance, given the abundance of available human resources in the country that can benefit from such re-evaluation of priorities. As such, GDP is improved and agile, economical technologies of construction, as well as local entrepreneurship gain a central focus in matters pertaining to architecture and production of space.

Presence in Hormuz: The Conflictual, the Colorful, and the Sustainable.

Located in the southern province of Hormuz, this project is conceived, designed, and fabricated through bottom-up processes that empower the island’s local population. The prototype is designed and experiment with Super-adobe, a construction material/process that requires very little acquired knowledge and uses resources of the Island grabbed from dredging.

Farsh Film Studio and Aytam Carpet Weavers

The two projects - one the restoration of an existing house, the other a ground-up project – are in direct dialogue with one another, as they both take their aesthetic clues from their material logic, which is ideologically driven by a desire to advance local economy.

Post Script

Somol argues that in a moment that we allow the role of architecture to be expanded beyond “the legible sign of construction”, the task of architecture becomes that of translating social diagrams. The significance of the emerging practices featured in this paper is that by engaging in practice of architecture as a direct response to socio-political and cultural issues. They task themselves with more than only interpreting and translating social diagram, but rather defining these diagrams. As such, they expand the task of architecture far beyond that of the avant-grades that came before them and occupy a much greater space in shaping the built environment, despite the fact that they do not necessarily always actively partake in the tectonic act of architecture.