The work is part of a broader reacher program lead by the Urbicide Hub at Università Iuav di Venezia that is currently working on sustainable post-war reconstruction of Syrian small outlying villages.
The scenario for Al Jalaa, on of these settlements on the Euphrates river, envisages an urban redesign that dialogues with the rehabilitation of the surrounding agricultural fields. Analyzing the types of urban settlements along this waterway, it was noticed that the oldest of them developed between the limits of the cultivated lands and the one of the mountainous desert.
The project’s strategy is to enter into an apparently hostile territory characterized by a fragmented and widespread housing, with the aim of generating a dense city, more in line with the climatic and energetic needs of a desert area. The first step of the project is to define the size of the new properties, which we chose observing the dimensions of the ground floor of local houses.
This unit, adapting itself to the enclosures of the existing properties, despite maintaining always the same dimension, manages to generate a very complex urban fabric. The only restriction imposed inside it, in fact, is an infrastructural wall, placed at its end facing the road, to which the rooms of the house must grab to be able to connect to the electricity and water network.
Therefore, the city that is obtained will have a dense but not rigid fabric, as the aggregation modalities to this wall are almost completely free.
The proposal includes two standard models, both courtyard houses and the use of dry construction techniques. The materials used, raw earth and straw bricks, are mostly local; they derive from industries introduced in the planning of the new surrounding agricultural area.
Who influences you graphically?
In our opinion this aspect really depends on the kind of project you are dealing with. In this case we had in mind a representation which would emphasize the decisive role of the materials used and which could suggest a tangible image of this new city. Light, dust and colors also have had a relevant presence in our drawings in reference to some cities located in desert environmentswe had to occasion to visit or study. More specifically our references have been the works of some Italian under 30 architecture offices and in particular the graphic works of Pier Vittorio Aureli’s students at the AA University in London.
Who defined the language of representation of the project?
The nature of the project itself defined the language we used. The two main aspects to highlight were the strategy behind the process of densification in order for it to be reproducible and the atmosphere and materiality of the new city. The illustrationsand all the less technical drawings followed specific colors palettes and involved all the small details of the refinements. The more technical drawings instead, have a more suitable language for their purpose, but they still follow the same graphic line keeping the workhomogeneous.
What dictated the way you choose to frame the various instances?
The illustrations we produced jump from the urban scale of the city to the small details of the house, emphasizingthe complexity of the all project. Specially when looking at the architectural scale, each individual image explains a part of the project in an autonomous way, highlighting the small elements that give character to the design.
What story do these individual fragments attempt to reveal?
The frames we have chosen want to be a sort of promenade inside the house itself, from the entrance through the carpets hall, to the detail of the glazed tiles that cover the roof. We decided to illustrate these images intentionally without people, but colonized by objects that suggest the life inside the house itself, adding to its design an atmosphere of home.
What role did the drawing play within the project?
Representation is absolutely essential and decisive to any project, it is like telling a story, but drawings in this case replace words, giving shape to the ideas behind the scenario. For us this has been crucial, starting from the first sketches, and right from the beginning we have tried to identify and build, drawing by drawing, the DNA of our representation in order to suggest this atmospherewe tried to explainanswering the previous questions, very differentfrom the existing scattered environment.
If you where to reveal the project as one image, what would this be?
Probably the drawing of the plans because it holds together a technical aspect, showing exactly what the structure is made of, and a very informal one that are precisely the furnishings intentionally designed by hand, avoiding the rigidity of the computer blocks. Technical aspects and informality are both foundations of the project and this aspect is clearly emerging through this representation.
How does your project position itself in relation to the brief and the work of other students?
Our project is in a condition of absolute equality with respect to the other works present in the thesis atelier we have attended. All the fourteen works were aimed at investigating and proposing new strategies for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of rural villages of Syria, in different areas of the country.
Our site of investigation has been that of the Euphrates river; we worked together with another group startingfrom the general issue of war for water with the will to return fertility to these lands which are slowly shrinking. The other two people that collaborated with us dealt with the replanning of the agricultural lands, while we focused on the image of the new urban environment.
Working with this big group has been stimulating and collaborative especially regarding all the general analysis we have done together at the beginning. It has also been useful during the individualinvestigations for a constant comparison between all of us.
In particular, our project compared to the others, deals with the image of the city and the question of dwelling not much as a functioningspace to live in, but as the aggregation of individual personalized houses generating the new city. A city that is both informal and open to the unexpected, to any kind of contamination, but that comes from a rigorous design upstream.