Type: Blank Space Fairy tales- When Architecture Tells a story- Competition
Team: Chryso Onisiforou[xo], Charis Petrou [xπ], Thinkwicked-Stella Nicodemou [Graphic Designer], Charalambos Charalambous [MA, PHD in Film Studies by PaR]
Participation in the Fairy Tales – When Architecture Tells a Story. A Blank Space Competition!
…it was the morning walks through the square which helped endure working at the post-office. The smell of fresh bread, sound of pigeons fighting over crumbles, some freshly squeezed orange juice and rays of sun that pierced the rustling leaves to penetrate my eyes, leaving a visual imprint of warmth, shades of deep red colouring my view of the people walking alongside me holding tight onto their heavy coats.
So for the past month that the square remained closed for restoration, my days became utterly miserable. I loved the old square. Even though people filled the square right after work had finished, I mistrusted the dramatic concrete walls and barred metal boxes that appeared suddenly. But it was not long before everyday life claimed these new elements. Birds treated the cubicles as a new kind of metal plantation and kids used the austere boxes as playhouses and bustled in the labyrinthine space which had emerged. Some of them were transformed to odd looking food kiosks where orange juice or bread was sold and others became ideal news-stands. Soon, I too, reclaimed enough details for a pleasurable morning ritual to make life bearable once again.
Never could someone imagine the cruelty incorporated in the design of these devices, for as I was walking to work the morning after the elections, I found myself within a swarming crowd that was trying to fight its way out of the square. Faint smell of tear gas filled the air and immediately the protest spiralled out of control. Riot police appeared and just a few vehicles managed to seal the narrow openings of the concrete barrier circling the square. Using nothing more than their batons they started connecting the expanded sides of each cage, forming a huge prison which kept people inside the square. I heard the whistling of a rubber bullet that pierced through my heavy coat and left an instant blue mark on my arm, my personal imprint of the regime’s brutality. A police man approached, started beating me with a metal glob, fiercely bushing my head. Feeling warmth over the pain I opened my eyes; they were drenched in a deep red bloody shade that covered everything but a few stray rays of sunshine. I was thrown inside one of the boxes, standing upright cramped and restricted, until I was told to put my hands in the small opening of the cage; the cold tight grip of handcuffs meant that I would be spending the next couple of months in a prison, but my mind had already started spiralling outside the box and the square…
The narrative SPIRAL SQUARE[D] is an examination of the innate characteristic of architecture to act both as political instrument and weapon. The development of the project explores the correlation between architecture and military strategy integrating characteristics of their synomosy within a scenario of political resistance during a riot. The story dramatizes through architecture a fantastic regime’s “disobedience” and “entrapment” by the morphology imposed on its public territory.
The transubstantiation of public space into a contained square
The typology of an open square is overturned through the addition of elements which transform it to a labyrinthine space with the power to separate and control, applying a great amount of violence to the bodies that will eventually become prisoners within. This apparatus is exemplary of the physicality of the architectural drawing, since lines traced on a piece of paper create divisive borders and restrictive barriers.
The public square becoming a restrictive space is nothing less than the representation of entrapment -the essence of absolute control- in an urban scale, which is expressed more evidently by the cell-like elements that appear within the square to create individual cages for people. The regime -holding a central position of power- is granted a total vision of space which gives rise to a set of advantageous strategies that direct and suppress civilian bodies subjected to its master plan.
Initially, the newly designed square, along with the fences and cages, appears as an uncontrollable entity because its use depends exclusively on its appropriation by the occupants. An environment colonized by people acquiring a function which implies an adaptation to the new conditions on the square. But the violent vocabulary of the architectural elements -barriers and cubicles – is not innocent, nor is the potential danger that their experience implies. The “true” nature of political architecture appears in a moment of revolt, when the square -like a puppet master- unwinds the threads that control and captivate its victims.
Cells of a regime
The cell-like structures that appear on the square are assimilated into the everyday life of the civilians. The cells acquire various forms; commercial kiosks, news-stands, even improvised play houses. This unassuming appearance is capsized and their true essence is revealed