Agonistic Frontiers advocate for the slow production of architecture to oppose the generic environments produced by discipline of architecture. The production of fast architecture, which is the result of an attempt from the discipline to keep up with the forces of capitalism, is a condition occurring cross-continentally. It creates tensions between imports of architecture and their host territories, enabled by the weakness of the Nations State. This condition which is exacerbated in the expanding port capital cities of the Fertile Crescent, has resulted in the erasure of its local urban typologies, and the implosion of these cities. This territory which has now been robbed from the urban typology that defined the morphology of its cities, the souk, and was the spatial apparatus that enabled the production of culture, is being consumed by foreign imports of cultural institutions, and consequently suffers from a decline of its micro economies of locally produced goods, which sustained the majority of the population.
As the capitalist driven expansion cannot be slowed down, Agonistic Frontiers produce an alternative strand for the production of a slow architecture that can coexist along it. It proposes a strategy that inhabits the coastal front of the territory beyond the Nation State’s geographical frontiers. By decentralizing the port capital cities through the redistribution of cultural platforms and public services around a slow and fragmented infrastructural spine weaved along the coastal extensions of these port capital cities. The method through which these cultural platforms are generated is an attempt to infiltrate the imports of cultural institutions with the principles of local typologies in order to regenerate the spatial apparatus that enabled these territories to produce and distribute culture. The Agonistic Frontiers acknowledge that the only way to produce a slow architecture is by simultaneously producing the conceptual historical framework and the contextual project in an agonistic environment.
*The project is part of the open call for ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY’ by the Collective for Architecture Lebanon in occasion of Omran’19.
What prompted the project?
The need to understand and retrace the events that led to the erasure of the local urban typologies that Mediterranean Port Cities in the Fertile Crescent have experienced. The project focuses on the Lebanese territory where this condition has been exacerbated by the dysfunctioning Nation State.
What questions does the project raise?
The main relationship between the structure of the Nation State and the import of architecture creating tensions in the territory. As well as the relationship between the historical contextual architectural project and the disciplinary project, which was driving the way the proposal was designed and produced and responded directly to the question of how does an architecture take form in a foreign ground.
Agonistic Frontiers, can you explain the title further?
The title defines the various lines of questioning in the project, that involves a paradoxical relationship between two elements and affirms that this relationship is one of conflicts but acknowledgement of these conflicts. The word Agonistic comes from Chantal Mouffe’s theory, Mouffe’s agonistic political theory mentions a reappraisal of the region as a
Counter-hegemonic entity capable of countering to an equal degree both the faltering nation state and the overarching force of an indifferent globalised economy. And I believe architects have a role to play in that.
In the brief you talk about slow VS fast Architecture, could you explain this dichotomy? How did you tackle this problematic?
The discipline of architecture is very slow at producing its outcome, it is surpassed everyday by the majority of other disciplines and it is having a hard time keeping up. This is resulting in the proliferation of generic architecture which has erased the local typologies. The project proposes to extract the principles of the local typologies in order to create a system along the coast that will reintegrate them within the territory.
What tools did you use throughout the project, from research through to design?
In the research phase I had developed a filing system around a set of cards which categorised different archetypes. These were represented in three ways, through a diagram, an image and a word. They allowed me two understand various conditions of relationship between a territory and the architecture that had been imported to it.
The project is articulated through a selection of line drawings and collages, how did you use these different media to explore different aspects of the proposal?
The dichotomy between a disciplinary project and a historical/contextual project is reflected in the use of the media. Where the former is represented by conceptual line drawings that are void of a context, whereas the latter is always built up on real images that I have taken on site.
What is for you the architect's most important tool?
The ability to strategize beyond the context of a project. To be able to extract a method of operating that can be applied to a different context with a similar problematic. And to be able to communicate this strategy that is at the core of every project.