It all started with a question, a will, an intuition, and one word. In an academic and professional context, architects use play constantly to associate it with architectural elements. The perplexity and complexity of play triggered many questions not only concerning the relationship between play and architecture but also by understanding how does play intervene with architectural elements. I am often told to play more with the plans, openings, ceiling heights, light, shadow, circulation, landscape etc… But what do they really mean by play?
Architects and artists talk and write about the play with architectural forms, that we usually confuse with numerical proportions (the golden number) or simple and pure symmetry. Play with forms is a concept that should be explicitly studied and revealed through drawings. How do theses “things” that are separated by a space play together? How can we create order between shapes?
The concept of play questions the conception of the architectural project and the process of the project; how can we draw this mysterious communication between several elements that can make us exclaim what LeCorbusier wrote: “this is a correct, ingenious and magnificent play of forms!” Play is directly linked to creativity and psychoanalysis and is related to playfulness, entertainment and games. Thus, play is applied at the beginning and at the end of the project.
I wanted to study the notion of play seriously and thoroughly, to take the time to reveal it in hand drawings and to construct a concept and an idea through drawings. It is an idea that is revealed through the process of drawing.
The question of public space added another layer to our understanding of social play. I chose Beirut who lacks well-thought and socially inclusive public spaces as a territory to study. Public spaces, more specifically squares, are the space where differences play and evolve into a co-presence and co-existence to a territory. Nevertheless, public space lacks certain attractiveness. It is not enough to create a void where the public can interact, architects need to provide hospitality to the space. That is why a proper play with forms that generates rhythm and ”fun” programs, can help with appropriation.
The territorial intervention where I chose to implement this method contributed with its own set of rules and problematic. These rules are essential to comprehend the social play in the Lebanese society. It is crucial to be attentive to the specificity of the Lebanese society by conducing research on social spaces like public squares and the entertainment aspect of social and anthropological play. Where do Lebanese play and interact?
The hill of Deir el Qalaa, in Beit Mery, Mount Lebanon is the perfect territory that retraces the ancient history, communal divisions, religious and contemporary aspects of Beirut as a city. Deir el Qalaa is an example of the territorial influence that Beirut imposed on the mountains and coast that surrounds it. While keeping the universal approach of play, I started questioning the construct of the Lebanese identity from an anthropological approach. The project in Deir el Qalaa is meant to play with the notion of society in a unique setting. The players can appropriate the space and social play is revealed!
*The project is part of the open call for ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY’ by the Collective for Architecture Lebanon in occasion of Omran’19.