Sound loOp (2016)
So, you pay like, what?, 90 bucks just to have the opportunity to work for free. They call that stuff competition. I would testify with my hand lain on the original ten commandments that architects are the dumbest people.
We got super excited about this one. (Sabina and me. Sabina just completed her PhD at TU Delft. She is now officially the smartest person I know) Like, that excited when you are running around the house complimenting yourself how genius you are. Sure as shit we didn’t win.
It was about a design for Charlie Hebdo portable pavilion organized by something called beebreeders. They organize competitions like that. Funny name.
So yeah, about the actual design. We had the best idea ever.
It all started with the idea of constructing a space that responds to the visitors, taking input from their actions and readjusting itself in an attempt to be the space that simultaneously gives total freedom of speech and on the other end of the spectrum totally thwarts it.
In the beginning it looked like a cone, probably vaguely symbolizing the sound wave, the voice, the ear or something like that
It quickly morphed into a circular design
That concept remained to the very end as seen on the plan
Through the design process we toyed with the concept of free speech a lot. If every art is a form of communication (and it is) then every art is susceptible to censorship. So, we proposed a challenge to the organizers.
Here’s the pavillion on the St. Peter’s square in Rome.
Here it is on the Capitol Hill
S.T: The pavilion, easily dismounted and transported, stands in a public space as a large object that communicates with passers-by through sound and form. Since pavilionʼs circular shape and appearance invite for interaction (and are at the same time acting as a border), the pavilion can be placed on any given location. Nevertheless, for such a structure to reach its purpose conceptually, we believe that it should be installed on a place where freedom of speech is repressed, severely endangered or even non-existent. In fact, the competition organizer should propose a location that is most guarded or controversial in this context. Architecture as a form of expression is a medium of communication and we can, therefore, interpret the denial to build as a form of censorship. Having this in mind, unfortunately there are numerous places where this pavilion could be installed. Let us suggest several locations: In front of the St. Peter in Vatican in the capital of Europe -Bruxelles, or, perhaps, in Ar-Raqqah the capital of IS.
However, In most cases the organizer, whoever that might be, will most likely fail to secure the location.
And that is OK. The denial of the location and possible alternative location tells us about freedom of speech in that particular part of the world. The question of THE location is, in fact, an experiment to test how far one can perform individual freedoms. In that sense, there’s no definitive answer, there is no ‘right’ location. If we use architecture as a tool for a transformative process as Lebbeus Woods did with ‘Wall gameʼ, we can arrive to a conclusion that building Charlie Hebdo pavilion in Mecca for example, would be a sign of maturity of the Islamic world. However, the same question can be posed in our democratic western societies: are we mature and capable enough to understand Charlie Hebdoʼs satire? Even if we install the pavilion in Paris we can still tackle the notion of freedom of speech in relation to understanding the ‘othernessʼ and therefore its own limits? Our argument resonates with Joe Saccoʼs proposal that ‘perhaps when we tire of holding up our middle finger we can try to think about why the world is the way it is…ʼ
Damn, that was good.
Basically it links with the idea that architecture, like any other art is a tool for communication and that like any other form of communication it can be censored.
But what happens when you enter the pavillion? First you are faced with a choice which entrance you take.
S.T: With architectural means on our disposal, we seek to offer a possibility for visitors to make a personal choice and, at the same time, enable them to realize the consequences of their choices. Since freedom of speech is closely linked to freedom of the press that includes both the right to speak and the right to be heard, our choice was to distract the element of sound as a design component. The aim is to create a structure that will balance between the suppressing and liberating conditions contained in the notion of freedom of speech.
In order to this, we propose a circular structure – a tunnel, designed as a kinesthetic tool. The tunnel consists of two main spaces: the anechoic space and the reverberation space (both spaces serve as galleries for exhibition about the CHB massacre. Accordingly, there are two mirrored entrances, each leading to a different interior.
On a symbolical level, the anechoic space represents a form of censorship. Visitors are able to experience this as their voice disappears in the space that is already stripped from any additional sounds.
The interior of anechoic room is constructed of absorber wedges that grow in height as visitor moves further from the entrance. These wedges are used in professional anechoic chambers for acoustic measurements. Their function is to absorb any sound, thus creating very quiet space. Despite the highly technical use they are quite easy and cheap to produce.
Visually, the corridor gets more and more narrow and the wedges get bigger and bigger while the effect of sound dampening intensifies. Also, the room gets darker further from the entrance which, combined with growing silence and larger wedges creates oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere. (visitors of professional anechoic chambers describe the effect as being contained in a very small space because of the lack of sound dispersion.
Conversely, the reverberation room symbolizes the freedom of speech that knows no limits. Here the cacophony of voices already produced by the exhibition becomes only augmented through sounds produced by visitors and in that way develops into a discordant mix of sounds.
The effects of the reverberation room are digitally controlled with software. The software tracks the movements of visitors and adjusts the levels of noise and visual stimuli in waves. At moments, the visitors would hear only a echoing whisper while seconds later they would be assaulted by a torrent of sounds and images.
In the middle of the circular tunnel, where the two spaces meet,is a memorial
The memorial room is a culmination for visitors that come from anechoic (censored) side. Here, the silence is total. Only one single faint light illuminates twelve irregularly shaped graphite circles connected with twelve lines that go outside the room. For the visitors of reverberation (uncensored) space there’s a sharp cutoff. A sudden transition from the maddening noise to the dead calm of the memorial room.
Surrounded by the gallery spaces there’s a another space. A circular multipurpose space with walls constructed of newspapers.
This space can assume the role of a cafe, performance area or conference room as suggested in competition brief.
In every city this space would be constructed anew with local discarded newspapers.
So there’s that.
I’m totally not satisfied with visuals for the interior. The main spaces (anechoic and reverberation) came up like shit but as for everything else, (especially the main idea itself) I can’t say I’m not a little bit proud.