CUBETTO

Project

Lebanon is currently facing the issue of the over privatisation of land, which has resulted in a lack of public space. This intervention seeks to address this need by situating itself in the neutral territory of the Mediterranean. The pavilion is meant to be a recreational amenity that is accessible to everyone. Cubetto’s frame is constructed from renewable and recycled materials to inspire local architecture that is both socially and environmentally sustainable. Within this frame is a parabolic form that is constructed from hung strips of fabric. The transparent quality of the fabric creates a complex layering of space, while its lightness allows Cubetto to become animated by surrounding winds and attract interest of passersby.

Interview

What prompted the project?

The project started by acknowledging the lack of public spaces throughout the country of Lebanon. In fact, due to a variety of economic and political factors, almost all land has been both highly urbanized and privatized from the mountains to the coast. To address this concern, we found the sea as a last frontier of non-privatized space that can serve as a truly common resource.

How important were the drawings both for the development of the project as well as then for the construction?

The whole design process was initiated with discussions where we communicated our ideas with the medium of pen and paper. We used a variety of techniques in representing our thoughts at different stages of the process, and continued to draw until the last moments of the construction. We have imagined the pavilion as a simple room that creates an ambiguous duality of interior and exterior to play with accepted notions of public and private. Moreover, we sought to project a neutral appearance of the cube, which hides a more complex interior with a strong immersive experience.

How does the final outcome sit in relation to the initial 'montages'?

The end product closely resembles the original visualizations with minor modifications. We continually adapted the design according to the materials provided by the MEDS workshop team and the challenges they faced in securing resources. We found material constraints as opportunities to optimize the structural design by working as a team to be resourceful and find solutions.

Who were these presented to?

Cubetto is one of 14 projects curated by the MEDS workshop organization. The municipality of Byblos, in addition to other private sponsors, has financed the project. Therefore, the work is now property of the city.

What were the biggest challenges when constructing the cubetto?

The biggest challenge was coordinating with designers from all parts of the world and finding ways to utilize the knowledge of their different backgrounds. Learning how to identify their skills and unique qualities and giving them suiting responsibilities was a truly fascinating process to

participate in. The project was a mutually educational experience for everyone, and we are pleased to see that they flourished throughout the collaborative effort.

What were the greatest surprises in terms of how people used the space? Do you envision a second reiteration of the project?

It was fulfilling to observe the enthusiasm people from the local community had of the project directly after the complete installation. Citizens immediately engaged with the pavilion and started playing and climbing on it, as was originally intended. We believe that part of this success is owed to a universal instinct all human beings have of finding excitement in reaching a new and unseen territory in the sea. This is evident in literature, such as the books of Thomas Moore, as well as various films that have been produced.

Has it been dismantled? What is its function now?

Despite the projects success, bureaucratic difficulties have lead to the removal of cubetto from the sea just one week after its conception. Afterwards, the project was dismantled and relocated in a lake in the Laklouk region of Lebanon. It will be reinstalled in this area the following summer.

Are you interested in exploring new typologies of public spaces further?

There is nothing more exciting for us as designers than interacting with the topic of public space. Over the upcoming years, we want to explore further the potentials that new technological tools, such as parametric design, can offer us to design new types of public space to inhabit.

What is your take not the sea as a topography on which we can construct?

Operating in the sea was not a random choice for us. In fact, we have chosen the sea as a place to explore the capacities that architectural installations can have in response to this new context. It may be seen as a radical approach to question the location of a site, however, we wanted to work in a context that best fit our aspirations of addressing these concerns of territory, while inscribing a proposal that contributes to the continuity of a place’s heritage.

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