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ew rchitecture ssembly agazine

NO 2 | Spring 2015 | bilingual student-run architecture and design quarterly in farsi and english



Owned by: Students Architecture Assembly of University of Tehran Editor-in-Chief: Arshia Eghbali Editorial Staff: Baran Tehrani | Kimia Motamedi | Payvand Taheri | Mohammad Mohammadkhani Page Layout: Soroush Kalatian Financial Director: Amirhossein Adelfar Executive Director: Sajjad Mansournia Contributors to This Issue: Nima Tabrizi | Matthew Hoffman | Francesca Giuliani | Ali Ghazi | Seth McDowell | Joel Kerner | MovingCities | Soroush Kalatian | Nima Dabirian| Ali Sanaee Kia | Amirhossein Vafa | Sajjad Mansournia | Amirhossein Adelfar Address: no 2, College of Fine Arts bldg 3, Qods st, Enghelab ave, Tehran, Iran


Special thanks to: Kourosh Asadollahpour, Mehdi Seyedkarimi, Hamidreza Kouchakinejad, Mohammadreza Karfar, Bert de Muynck, Matthew Hoffman and Francesco Giuliani

contents 2 8

On the Edge of Architecture


To the Infinity and Beyond

Into the Blubber of Babylon


Drift City

A Fantasy on the Fringe of the Future


On Contiguity


Soroush Kalatian - Nima Dabirian

Designing the Future

Ali Sanaee Kia

Projects 12 20

Seth McDowell MovingCities

Seth McDowell Joel Kerner

Fantasy, Storytelling, Architecture 28 34 42

A Young Architect Walking on the Edge


The Island

A House for the Man without a Moustache



Chapter Thirteen


Man and Ground


Apocalypse Now

Nima Tabrizi Ali Ghazi

Kevin Wang - Nicholas O’Leary

Arshia Eghbali A Talk with Blank Space Anna Pietrzak

happy ending 52

City Pretty

Sajjad Mansournia

Amirhossein Adelfar



on the edge of architecture Since we are in touch with architecture on a daily basis – or let me put it this way – we breathe in it every day, we are likely to forget it just the same; or maybe we just accept it as a simple everyday fact. But, let’s give it a break; can we conceive an edge for architecture? Something just like the edge of a cliff, where we can stand and enjoy the beautiful scenery running before our eyes, where we cannot proceed the same old path we are used to anymore – by which I mean the conventional approaches toward architecture and architectural writing. At NAAM, we spotted a handful of edges for architecture; most of all we focused on the edge of ‘fantasy and story’, which is exclusively featured in a special section dedicated to this subject. We have other articles and images as well, which explore several different ‘edges’. Moreover, we have received interesting urban projects full of fantasy, which you can view in the ‘Projects’ section. So, here I present you, ladies and gentlemen: NAAM walking on the edge of architecture!

– Editor-in-Chief


Editor-in-chief›s note


Editor-in-chief›s note

to the infinty and beyond... Soroush Kalatian Student of Architecure University of Tehran Nima Dabirian Student of Architecure University of Tehran

The world has lost its fascinating beauty, wars and social media have taken away what we called “society” and our last ray of hope left for communication is through our computers…

I run away from all my troubles towards my desk, the only place to fly away from this world. Now I can go wherever I want, be whomever I desire and do whatever I wish! I can fly above Metropolis, or build my house deep in the oceans; all the irreparable mistakes of ordinary life would be compensable in this world. If I die, all I need to do is just turn things around with a simple click and start all over again. The world of reality is jam-packed with limitations and restrictions and the goal of most human endeavors – including architecture and design – is typically to find a way to go around them. Creativity has always been affected by these boundaries, which do not always restrict it but at times inversely fuel it up and direct


it in better ways, even maiden and unexpected limitations could lead to interesting results. However, our bare creativity can only be reached in an undeterminable condition, which our world of reality can never offer. This is where the importance of the virtual world is emphasized. Video games have made a breakthrough to reach this limitless world. In this article we try to point out the mutual impacts of architecture and video games on each other. Imagine yourself in a 2D world. A world, which only has 4 directions: left, right, up and down. What are the rules of this world? How can we design in such conditions? Since the appearance of video games, the role of architecture has been through lots of ups and

Editor-in-chief›s note

downs. From its fundamental role in arcade consoles like ‘Pacman’ and ‘Supermario’ to its fragile part in many new generation games – which prefer graphics and realistic environment over the challenging gameplay. The task of architecture is more than placing some empty boxes to indicate the boundaries of the game spot. There are games like ‘Bioshock’ – which fascinates almost every player with its rich and beautiful atmosphere and inspires many architects with unlimited design creativity – or some simpler mobile games like ‘Monument Valley’ which with its unique M. C. Escher-esque graphics that made its way from a 4-dollar iPhone game to an incredible piece of art. Trying to categorize the advances of the art of architecture in video games, there could be endless numbers of categories. But here we summarize them into 6 groups: 1. Atmosphere: one of the usual priorities of game designers is to create an atmosphere, which remains in the memory of the player for years. Architecture is one of the important factors for reaching this goal. Even though we cannot deny the role of characterization, music, storyline and etc, various points of view in architecture can create various atmospheres; this is not only limited to the world of video games but just take cinema for instance: we can see two totally different versions of New York city; one is


Editor-in-chief›s note

that of Woody Allen, which portrays unconditional love towards the city, and the other is that of ‘Taxi Driver’ that presents New York as a dark place. 2. Boundaries: this function of architecture is not confined only to video games, ancient games like chess or backgammon had their own distinctive solutions to define boundaries, which has obviously worked out right for centuries. The evolution of this technique continued in first generation games like Pacman and made its way through linear games like the ‘Call of Duty’ series that helped the player never to get lost in the game, in spite of its big world. 3. Circulation: If the story was supposed to happen exactly as the storyline, finishing the game would not take more than 20 minutes. If the plumber of the story were to face his arch-enemy straight forward and save his princess, the legend of ‘Supermario’ would never be a part of our popular culture today! Entertaining the player in the world of the game has many ways including complicating the path. When it is done with proper design, player’s desire for continuing the game would increase. Some examples are: the fascinating and complicated maps of the ‘Quake’ series or the less detailed but popular maps of the ‘Counter Strike’ series. 4. Aesthetics: The aesthetics of a

game are not just limited to realistic special effects or state-of-the-art technology. According to Christopher Alexander, indescribable quality is what makes a game appealing. The quality, which cannot be measured with any of the specific standards

is architecture itself, creating puzzles throughout the game while offering solutions as well. Games like the ‘Tomb Raider’ series or ‘Monument Valley’ – which was mentioned before – are examples of this genre.

but once faced, surrounds your whole being.

6. Creativity: This is a major part of the contribution of computer games to architecture, a revolution in promoting creativity and intellectual level of the society, especially among children. This powerful genre made

5. Challenge: One of the game genres that has its own enthusiasts is the one in which the main challenge



its way from the first models of Lego to one of the first computer games ‘Tetris’ and more recent examples such as “The Sims” series and “Mine Craft”. There is still a major potential for the progress of this genre of games.

As noted before, in order to reach a middle ground between architecture and video games, we need to use each of these elements appropriately otherwise we should sacrifice one for the sake of the other; in this case the

outcome will not be so successful. The reason behind the failure of many recent games is not ignoring these elements but is overusing one; for example the weakness of the “Tomb Raider” series is the overuse of spatial puzzles without applying the circulation principle: the player is led from one puzzle to the other without the spatial variation or mesmerizing environment design that we see in – for example – the “Far Cry” series, resulting in an overly repetitive environment, which makes the player tired after a while. Ever since birth, the computer games have paid their dues to architecture; from nurturing creative children to facilitating 3D imagination for architects. The influence that the game ‘Tetris’ had on training creative children might not be so tangible but having this game erased from the collective memory of our generation, it is possible that we experience a reasonably different world. Picturing Venice with all its channels and backstreets indeed requires a high level of creativity, which the creators of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ have mastered. Some of these creative imaginations cannot be exemplified yet; but with the pass of time and the day-today alteration of our surroundings, these games can prepare us for this changing world one way or the other, architecture being an important part. The infinite potential of computers promises dismantlement



of all boundaries and forms, a quiet revolution in today’s architecture that owes much to video games, while having as much to offer as well. Imagine a world in which man can live in his personal computer all by himself and behave the way he desires; build his own house limitlessly and change it according to his everyday moods; gather with people in more advanced social networks and form a new electronic society. These formidable – or maybe fascinating – notions, are not that improbable regarding today’s conflicts and failures in social relations, due to the replacement with social apps! Eventually this new society needs a new architecture and video games are one of the means to prepare us for the future ahead.

designing the future Ali Sanaee Kia Student of Architecure University of Tehran

Warning! Please try to be more cautious than you would normally be and increase your brain efficiency up to 70 %. ! Although this article is not purposed to disturb but it is not recommended to impatient people either.

[An ordinary text] Is not what this piece is about. [Patient] is what you should be a little. [on] Go with the text till [its rules] you figure out. At first maybe [find it] you will rather hard and annoying but [take] it does not much longer [to get] for you used to it. I accept the annoyance caused by the alteration of rules but I really do think that [understood] once you’ve them, can get [reading] this much easier and [get] you will to the where [part] you can seek its [meanings] potential. Do not worry [introduction] this is just an [say] to what I’m about to and [returning] we will be to our ordinary and routine world soon. [Introduction] in this [wanted] What I to show you is that [no matter] [different] how much something is, [important] It is for it to have rules and [figure out] once you those rules, [lose] it will its complication and mystery; thus [accepted and understood] it will be and [text] just like this. Now you can read this like all the other articles that you have read before. I got to know Notre Dame through the tale of the Hunchback and its sculptures. I experienced life in a wooden

hut out in the woods with Snow White. It was Jerry whom I learnt from how it felt to live in a big house made of cheese. With Princess Jasmin I learnt what it was like to wake up in a castle and it was the Ratatouille that showed me the strange city of mice and their own structures. The world of imagination is the best, where we can reach all we want without any limitations or any rules. We can invent our own rules and have fun! We can rise to the sky by planting a magic bean or even fly. The world of animation is one of the doors to the imaginary world through which we can see how things could have been. Animations are not just about the people they represent and their stories. These people are nothing without the world they are depicted in. The particular world, which was created in a mind and got portrayed in a way for us to see it. Now it is time for architecture to step inside. Sometimes the architecture pictured in animations is based upon a specific existing building, such as the castle in the animated movie ‘Aladdin’ which was inspired by the Taj Mahal.

However sometimes it is just the concept of a building that inspires the animator to design a new building in his imagination, like the frozen castle in Disney’s ‘Frozen’ which was inspired by the Ice hotel. A group of people were sent to the named hotel to observe and study it and then design the castle, which we see in the animation. Sometimes animators create their own world and portray a totally fictional universe like that of the recent ‘Big Hero 6’, which projects a futuristic city (San Faransokyo) which in fact is a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo in 30 years from now. This city is nothing like any of its parents. It is unique. It almost feels like you are looking out from a window to the future. Now it is time for us to get back to our main point. Speaking of conversion of the rules and accepting them. This is what happens in our imagination and could affect what we are designing. So next time that we are trying to design, we can just close our eyes and try to imagine what it would be like in the future and then we can use this standpoint to create. It is the same in the world of 10


architecture and fortunately we get to see some emerging competitions that focus on subjects such as designing the future. This method can come in handy with our designing process too. It might be frightening at first but you should always remember if you change the rules with your logical reasons, sooner or later people will accept them and get used to them. So this time when someone brings you a new assignment for a design, do not be scared, and just design the future for yourself and us!

Projects The projects you are about to see, were submitted to NAAM in response to our international call for submissions. We eagerly envite you to send your interesting projects to NAAM’s editorial.

into the blubber of babylon Seth McDowell Partner of mcdowellespinosa Assistant Professor of Architecture University of Virginia, USA Seth McDowell is an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, and partner of mcdowellespinosa, an architecture and design practice based in Brooklyn, New York and Charlottesville, Virginia. mcdowellespinosa focuses on the transformation of waste, excess and the ordinary into new spatial and material realities across a range of scales. The work has been recognized internationally by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Museum of Modern Art in NYC, Pamphlet Architecture, and the Hong Kong Institute of Architects. McDowell holds a B.S. in Design from Clemson University and an M.Arch. from Columbia University. What you are about to read and view, is Seth’s submission to NAAM in response to this issue’s theme.



“A New Babylona – provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future.” – Henri Lefebvre

Situated upon the rational, modern city of Babylon an anomaly is emerging. A strange urban territory floats above the city’s vertical extrusions of concrete and steel. Neither grid, nor zone, nor avenue organizes this space. This is a new frontier - a formless terrain, a fat, soft, amorphous, visceral monster contrasting the

lingering effects of modernity. It is a mushy mass that engulfs its inhabitants and deforms to the touch. This is the Blubber of Babylon, a parallel world that shrinks and swells atop of the waste plagued metropolis of Babylon. A layer of fatty tissue forms the Blubber of Babylon, creating an urban terrain of fat folds, crevices, and sagging bulges. Just as with mammals, this layer of urban tissue is the resultant of metabolism, waste


storage and thermal regulation. The Blubber of Babylon swells as a resultant of excess and waste. This alternate world began to emerge in the year 2018, when Babylon, a congested metropolis of seven million people, ran out of real estate for trash disposal. The dense city had grown accustomed to generating over 6 million tons of waste each year and had no sustainable plan for reducing or reallocating waste. So Babylon decided to address the issue with an absurd logic. Waste is perceived as a negative, unwanted material. If perception is altered, and the stigma of waste is forgotten, one could imagine waste as a raw, valuable material. With this altered vision, Babylon is a city wealthy in waste as the inhabitants generate excessive amounts of it through

indulgent acts of consumption. This waste material could be exploited for an industrious agenda. The discarded materials littering the streets of Babylon and flooding the landfills could be transformed into a new materiality and become a productive resource for urban metabolism. This was the hypothesis of the eccentric pataphysician, Dr. Faustroll. project

leisure space is obsolete. The growing blubber-scape atop the city provided relief to this programmatic concern. The transformed waste material was positioned as a new ground, a new datum supporting leisure and recreational activities for the city. The Blubber of Babylon allowed the city to take advantage of the waste it produced.

It was within Dr. Faustroll’s laboratory of pataphysical experiments that a solution to Babylon’s waste problem was discovered. Faustroll conducted a series of experiments using biotechnology to process organic matter into a durable, plastic material. After a series of successful material transformations, Babylon’s officials championed this technology. It was the saving grace for the city as the waste stream was heavily saturated with food waste - over half of the food in the city went uneaten. Each day around 3,500 tons of unwanted food was trucked to the landfills. The biotechnological solution proposed by Dr. Faustroll could allow Babylon inhabitants to continue their excessive, wasteful habits without inconvenient consequences.

The Blubber of Babylon is in a constant state of transformation. This transformation results from both internal and external stimuli. Internally, the city’s fluctuating levels and patterns of consumption create a swelling to thinning rhythm for the blubber. Within city zones where food waste is high, the blubberscape above expands dramatically. In city zones where food waste is minimal, the blubber-scape above is thin.

Planning officials developed an industry around a new infrastructural element: the biorefinery. Similar to how oil refineries convert petroleum into fuels and ingredients for hundreds of consumer products, biorefineries would come to convert corn, sugar cane, and other plant-based material into a malleable, plastic material known as blubber. In the massive plan to stabilize Babylon’s waste issue, each block within the city was outfitted with a biorefinery that acts as a garbage disposal for the neighborhood. These biorefineries were located in the center of each block and networked to each floor of surrounding buildings. Within each biorefinery an upstream processing step occurs, in which a mixture of fungus breaks down food waste into simple sugars.

The malleable, fatty membrane is also in constant deformation by external forces of nature. Wind, water and sun continuously cause the mass to shuffle, roll, bubble, and redistribute. The effect is similar to the fluctuating figure of a swing dieter, whose body swells and slims based on an unhealthy pattern of binging and starvation.

The blend then goes into a fermenter, a vat where bacteria convert the sugars into succinic acid. This succinic acid can be used to make everything from laundry detergents to plastics to pharmaceutical agents. In Babylon, the plan called for piping the succinic acid to the top of the city where it emerges as bioplastic blubber.

Blubber is a surface condition. Accumulation of fat occurs around a skeletal frame and performs to cushion. Similarly, the Blubber of Babylon expands from Babylon’s skeleton of stone and steel. The existing city

Waste became the ingredient for urban expansion in Babylon. In this dangerously dense city of seven million,



acts as a foundation for this soft, urban creature. The city of modernity is the ground from which blubber accumulates upon. Within the accumulation a spatial alien emerges. The Blubber of Babylon is soft. It is resilient to destruction. Cataclysmic events only cause the terrain to ripple, vibrate and roll. The blubber does not break. Brute force may cause the fatty mass to redistribute but

are undefinable as ground, wall, or roof. The Blubber of Babylon is therefore a condition of caverns, stalagmites, stalactites, pools, bubbles, slabs and swells. Without the constant of a ground plane, rules for circulating within the parallel world must be invented. As one navigates through this territory of fat they feel like a child fumbling around a bouncy castle. This terrain of blubber presents an artificial ground. The history of the city is dependent upon the practice of claiming the ground and replicating it as many times as structurally possible toward the sky. In this practice horizontal continuity is disrupted by the figure/ground relationship that prompts extruded enclosure and void corridors. The Blubber of Babylon reestablishes the continuity of ground, yet now hundreds of meters above the sidewalk, on the top of the urban fabric. Here, on this new terrain, thresholds no longer configure property. It is a frontier without static territory. Rules and regulations are reflexive and accommodating. Blubber has a function. For mammals it is a critical element for body temperature regulation. Likewise, the Blubber of Babylon is a thermo regulator. This thick, flabby tissue encompassing the city acts to regulate temperature below the surface. The old city below is now energy independent, due to the efficiency of the blubber. Urban waste becomes productive as insulation rather than unwanted material, demanding removal.

equilibrium is never disrupted. As a cushioned city, it is in an ideal state of comfort. Every surface of the city offers relief to the human body upon touch. With this condition of softness, the conception of ground is in crisis. The distinction between horizontality and verticality is masked by the nebulous nature of the blubber. While formations tend to propagate in a layered fashion, they quickly roll and sag into configurations that

This is the fatty fantasy of the Blubber of Babylon: a visceral scape, atop the towers of modernity. Below the blubber streets are clean and dumpsters are empty, yet the consumption continues. Lifestyles do not change, but waste does. The unwanted material of civilization is transformed into a sublime fabrication of blubbery tissue that squeezes the city of Babylon, keeping it warm during cold nights.



drift city a city that never stops Seth McDowell Partner of mcdowellespinosa Assistant Professor of Architecture University of Virginia, USA The following is another project submitted by Seth to NAAM in response to this issue’s theme.



What if the road became a city?

Then you will see Drift City – the hybridization of city and transportation.

What if a city became a line? What if a city was an earth-scraper?

What if this linear city crashed into existing cities?

What if a city stretched from coast to coast?

What if with this crash existing streets transform into markets, existing blocks transform into production factories and existing school zones transform into educational roundabouts that carve cist-like voids within the dense, layered urban fabric?

What if every morning you woke up, jumped on this road/city/line and relocated? Then, you will see Drift City – a corridor for a transient society.

What if these spiraling voids are the training bowls - civic spaces for job training? What if a city is a network at the continental scale? What if a city combines two American icons for expansion – the highway and the railroad?

What if these are pivotal points in the system that allow for vertical, round-about movement from programs of agriculture to programs of industry?

What if all aspects of society are condensed within one corridor rather than sprawling from a center point?

What if the training bowl becomes the grand, public space of the city?

What if federally funded infrastructural components become public domain, embedded with program?

What if it is the node where everything comes together? Then you will see Drift City – a city of continuous drift, where training bowls allow citizens to continuously train and retrain for the multitude of job experiences that exist.

What if the highway becomes the home, the street becomes the market, and the subway becomes the theater? Then, you will see Drift City – a city of hybrid zoning.

What if this city is a megastructure? What if yellow boxes called habitation cells plug into the framework?

What if three cities where layered upon each other? What if an agrarian city sat on top of a techno city, which sat on top of the industrial city?

What if goods are produced on the ground and flow up to the markets, which run in between the habitation and transportation zones?

What if rather than vastly separating highway from rail, you imagine them as parallel entities?

What if the sector, or the neighborhood is a sectional condition?

What if the drifter is continuously mediating between these two modes of transportation?





What if it is a thickened stair? What if the habitation cells exist in this thicken space between the treads of the highways and the stringer of the technological city? What if as you move from car to bed you transition through the techno city of ebay, facebook, and craigslist, through the local goods market and into the private zone of the habitation cell. Then, you will see Drift City – a city of stairs.

What if as this dense fabric of highways, railways, housing, technology, markets, and agriculture drift above - the ground plane is dedicated to production? What if industry is brought back into the city? What if the production floor is a clean, open grid of power outlets? And what if from above, production becomes a spectacle? Then, you will see Drift City – a theatre of industry.

What if we depart this city by air, in a helicopter? What if we view this place from a distance, where the lines of highways, railways and homes are seen as a streaking landscape? Then we see Drift City - the active city that blurs together forming one striated line.



A Fantasy on the Fringe of the Future a shanghai story MovingCities Shanghai, China MovingCities is a Shanghai-based and flexible entity investigating the role that architecture and urbanism play in shaping the contemporary city. Established in Beijing in 2007 by architects Bert de Muynck (Belgium) and Mónica Carriço (Portugal), MovingCities publishes, collaborates, talks and walks, consults, instigates, organizes and adapts. Since its inception, MovingCities conducted research, lectures, creative and urban consultancy and workshops in China, Israel, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Indonesia, etc. Amongst others, MovingCities has set-up programs in/with China, for the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Dutch Design Fashion and Architecture, the Finnish Association of Architects and the Museum of Finnish Architecture. Part of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2014), prof. Marino Folin & MovingCities curated “ADAPTATION - architecture and change in China”, a collateral event of the biennale, exhibiting new work by 11 Chinese contemporary architecture offices. What you are about to read and view, is MovingCities’ submission to NAAM in response to this issue’s theme.



Introduction During the past three years, an area of about 3,2 square kilometers of traditional lilong houses disappeared from the center of Shanghai, China. Stretching along the North bank of the Suzhou River - and in proximity to its confluence with the Huangpu River – this site saw seasonal cycles of urban change – from the construction of temporal sheds protecting migrant workers against the summer heat, the sale of luxurious penthouses overlooking the city’s radiating skyline, the placement of billboards announcing a bright future. It is on these last elements’ spatial and mental impact we will focus: the announcement of a fantasy of the future - imagined by the architectural poets and artists working in real-estate public relation departments – is and was omnipresent: on fences, billboards and banners, in leaflets and videos. Living in the vicinity of this area, MovingCities documented, since Spring 2012, the disappearance of a 1920s urban tissue and the emergence of a 21st century urban dream. Oftentimes, we believed to live on that special spatial fringe, a foggy confluence of fact and fantasy. As of 2015 we live in an area where “The Central Park is slated to set a precedent in Shanghai” while being promised a “Color lifestyle on the waterfront.” It is correct to think that this communication has all ingredients to be labeled as a fantasy: it is cryptic and common at the same time, there is lack of contradiction and an abundance of imagination. It is straightforward, but also takes liberty, artistic architectural freedom, to play around with the standards of syntax and vocabulary to make, or obscure, its intentions.

future urbanites, a unsettling scenery displaying the dayin-day-out reality of a moving city. All of these ingredients created a building intensity in the center of Shanghai, right in front of our eyes. All of that in preparation for a future where “The green space provide welcome respite for urban dwellers.” If Shanghai is known as the head of the dragon, than the area around the Suzhou River is a primal vein in that head, pulsating with the influx of international capital, local leaders, out-of-town real-estate developer and floating construction workers. While walking through the various stages of urban transformation, a series of unexpected architecture-like activities and behaviors caught our attention, some of these shifting from season to season, other drifting from location to location. Here, we zoom in on a specific detail of a larger portrait of a particular place: the phrasing and positioning of an urban promise. Announcing the annihilation of a traditional Shanghainese district Shanghai’s most important inner-city (re)development project is called the “Suhe Creek Development”. Positioned on a prime location – roughly in-between People’s Square and the Bund, and along the Suzhou (Suhe) River – the area was one of the last large-scale demolition sites Shanghai witnessed in recent years. This removal act went largely unnoticed to the public and professionals. There was no outcry or protest directed at saving a potentially endangered urban typology – the lilong, a series of three story houses, a combination of Western and Chinese early 20th century residential architecture, organized in high-density in narrow lanes. The area’s recent redevelopment is the logical outcome of plans prepared during the pre-2010 Shanghai World Expo times as an article from April 2006 in the New York Times explains: “By the time of the World Expo, in 2010, Mr. Chen [Chen Guang, an architect who belongs to a civic group involved in conservation efforts] estimates, only five percent of the old neighborhoods existing in

“Build the Urban Foundation.” Is this a call for action or imagination? Did someone make a mistake? Should it have been “Build the Urban Fantasy.”? Mysterious or mundane as this real-estate poetry sometimes might seem, what we witnessed was a lively neighborhood transforming into a temporary habitat for unknown urban migrants, an investment opportunity for



2003 citywide will remain. “Suzhou Creek is a bit special for us, though, because of its special status in Shanghai’s history, and it has many units that are still intact. Suzhou Creek is a complete entity unto itself, in the same way that the Bund is a unit.” The city’s plans call for the leveling of much of the creek’s north bank and building green promenades in place of the old tenements and brick-walled lanes.”1 Today, the ambitions in this area – branded as the “Golden Corridor” - are described by the developers (OCT Land Shanghai, one of the leading developers in China) as “a project of architectural and cultural revivification in the Suzhou Creek Area, and in cooperation with important names of architecture design like Norman Foster, is planning to requalify the one kilometer area along the Suzhou river north shore. Many historical sites will be preserved and renovated here, and new vitality will be injected through the construction of a central park, the Memorial Plaza and an underground museum of 8000 square meters, which will represent the new artistic and cultural landmark of this area.”2 Despite the real-estate developers’ self-fulfilling fantasy of revivification and injection, we did not witness anything remotely close to preservation or renovation projects. We mainly saw rejection, removal and ruins. With each visit to the area the dense urban tissue became more and more transparent with new perspectives being created, brick mountains moving around, small settlements surfacing and alleyways filled with bricks and garbage. The fantasy of an urban requalification could only start by instigating a complete annihilation of the area. During these times of simultaneous destruction and construction, the influx of temporary workers created at certain moments of vitality in this vanishing territory as these worker’s created spontaneous and illegal architectural forms – oftentimes ephemeral and temporary. 1 “Shanghai’s Boom: A Building Frenzy” by HOWARD W. FRENCH, Published: April 13, 2006 in New York Times


Making Sense of Shanghai With a scarcity of information available on the future plans – except for short stories, pitches, advertisements and images scattered online and in the showroom – our investigation is now becoming a composition much alike the way migrant workers construct their habitat: gather the material available around you, select what is suitable and arrange in a structure which is neither loose nor rigid. The words and sentences printed on billboards bordering the construction site – “The waterfront independent mansion are designed to show lofty ambitions” - and leaflets dispersed throughout the showroom are oftentimes written in an absurdo-poetic architectural language thus only emphasizing the puzzling effect this place had/has. Case in point is the “Suhe Creek, Making Sense of Shanghai”-slogan that could be read everywhere: on billboards intended to prepare the masses for a future to come, in brochures to smoothen sales and bring the future in reach. We couldn’t, and still can’t – and hopefully will never – make sense of Shanghai. But what we know now is that is located on the fringe between on-the-ground facts and sky-high fantasies. Promotional Redevelopment Poetry [courtesy of OCT Group Co. Development Project]

Up close to the Bvlgari Hotel, Shanghai, Settling in The extravagant location of city center. Starting point of a one-kilometer Golden shoreline, embracing enchanting scenery Of Suzhou River Surrounded by global luxury Brand shops, overlooking five-star hotel Cluster on the Bund




Conclusion For us, MovingCities, a moving city is a city in-flux, provoking the unsettling feeling that goes along with witnessing a slowly changing scenery, the aspirations to make sense of the city. In the “Suhe Creek” development, the billboards – its poetry and artistry – show the fantasy provoked by a continuously pulsating vein in the head of China’s dragon – so we understood after multiple scans of the Suhe Creek. It is an intricate interweaving of different forms of human and urban influx of people and floating fantasies of a different future, from migrant workers until multi-millionaires, from scrap materials until luxury sofas, from tricycles and pushcarts until cement trucks and construction cranes, from luxury watches till improvised welding tools.



on contiguity Joel Kerner Architect, Designer Chicago, IL, USA

Joel Kerner is a designer whose portfolio of work encompasses disciplines from architecture and urban design to motion graphics and film. He received his Master of Architecture degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture degree from Judson University. He has held positions with firms such as Morphosis Architects and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. He has been a Teaching Assistant at SCI-Arc and a recurring critic and workshop host for Judson University’s School of Art Design and Architecture. He was recently invited to the Harvard Graduate School of Design to help film their ‘Grounded Visionaries’ campaign (With Ryan Tyler Martinez) and he was selected as a 2014 AIA Chicago Bridge Mentee. In addition to being featured online, his work has been published and has been exhibited at the Pompidou center in Paris as part of the ‘Advances in Architectural Geometries’ symposium in 2012. What you are about to read and view, is Joel’s submission to NAAM in response to this issue’s theme.



From its inception, this proposal for a new cultural district in the Bjørvika neighborhood of Oslo, Norway was created in a realm between architecture and fantasy, while exploring the edge between architecture and urban design. The project creates a contiguous urban architecture that ties together several new waterfront projects (Oslo Opera by Snøhetta, the Munch museum by Estudio Herreros, the Barcode by MVRDV, New Central Station by SpaceGroup, Deichman Library, etc.). It takes an in-depth look at the scale of “the white” in figure ground drawings, and the function, articulation, and integration of that space into what is typically considered “architecture.” This continuity between buildings and urban space yields a field of “grey” conditions that cannot be represented with typical figure ground techniques, for they are neither black nor white.

the actualities of the city’s constraints allows for liberated ideation, and in so doing, opens up a domain of procedural enlightenment. This effectively is how fantasy drives innovation, by overwriting a priori notions of “reality.” As it mediates between the city center and the edge of the Oslo Fjord, the proposal lives amidst the dissonance of city and sea, of figure and ground, of black and white, of architecture and urban space, and of reality and fantasy.

Rather than being a feasible plan that could be readily implemented, ‘On Contiguity’ was meant to incite a discussion about contemporary approaches to urban design, particularly for Bjørvika. Through a whimsical process that was absolved from conventional constraints, the design positioned itself in firm opposition to the development plans that the city aims to carry out. In order to invoke a serious discourse, the design avoided drifting wholly into the territory of fantasy and delusion by remaining tethered to the plausibility of architectural production. The stark contrast in scale and spatial contiguity between the interiors of buildings and the spaces outside of buildings has marginalized the domain of human activity and recreation. The degeneration of human-scaled (as opposed to infrastructure-scaled) urban space presents itself as a compelling contemporary challenge for architecture. Architecture must reclaim its primacy in the built environment, not only as buildings, but also the spaces between, around and through them as well. The compact and unyielding complexity of the proposed plan echoes the intricacy of drawings that dwell within our collective architectural memory (Nolli and Piranesi’s drawings of Rome, for example). Sidestepping





fantasy storytelling architecture In this special section, NAAM explores the incredible and sweet bond between architecture and storytelling, from an experimental and global ponit of view.

a young architect walking on the edge Nima Tabrizi Designer, Architect, Co-Founder Atelier MMaN Tehran, Iran

It is not even two years since I stepped out of school, as a young architect. When in the peak of your senior year and among the desks and stools of the studio, filled with memories from all the years that have passed by, you present your final project, you graduate and step in another world, you are a real freshman; a newbie. The time comes when your eyes see matters clearer than before, little by little you get distant from all the dreaming that was done in school, the pleasant truth loses its color and you are thrown back to the real world: Hello reality! Your taste is different; my nature was so used to those pleasant truths.

I want to stay a dreamer and paint the real world in the color of dreams; will I survive? In those good old days, I would jump to the world of fantasy, my desk and the small table beside my bed were full of read, half read and waiting to be read storybooks. They constantly gave their places to others. ButsSince smartphones, laptops and tablets have brought internet into our access even under the shower, and browsing the web now makes up most of my daily readings, books get a whole lot of dust before getting replaced. News and so-called scientific articles – mostly those top-ten-places-you-should-visit-before-youdie stuff – have replaced stories. Dreams have lost their color; reality is all over the place. Will dreamers survive? Story is my architecture and architecture is my story1. The meaning is simple: reading stories and making them up architected my character, while studying architecture and growing into an architect has become the story of my life. In every writing, in search of a place; in every place in search of a story. Balcony of the house across the street in which the young woman grills Jambon for breakfast in the mornings and at nights the young man secretly smokes cigarettes. The huge pine tree in their yard leaning, because of all the snow that once came and is only shade of a memory today, which kids ride their bicycles around it after school. Tribal tents and the breeze of March in the foot of the mountains at the beginning of spring2, or equatorial banana farms and tropical houses with balconies3. There comes a place with no borders; word streams from place and from place word comes into being. There is a quote, by Wagner, ‘Where the speech of man stops short, then the art of music begins’; yet place is always streaming, not willing to be ceased, it exists; sometimes in the form of architecture, from metal and concrete4, and other times hiding in words. The transformation of time and place, in each other, to each other and with each other. To what point could this go on? How long can the architect in me fly in the sky and swim in the sea of imaginary place? One has to start creating, has to dissolve in life, but what if dreaming and remaining in




the real world becomes just another road that has to be taken? In Borges’ Labyrinths5, where the distance between place and word is delicate, that sometimes throws you out of your bed and into the Constitution Square in Buenos Aires and other times to the Labyrinth that Ibn Hakkan al-Bokhari is lost in, there is also a story less than two pages6: Parable of the Palace. The emperor’s palace, which is the infinity itself, is imprisoned in the poems of a poet; some say the poem is only a hemistich and others say it is only a single word. The poem makes the palace vanish, since no two similar beings can be contained in the world at once and causes the poor poet to be put to the sword. I have seen the sunset framed amid the columns of the west balcony of the palace many times. I have boated on the synovial of its river and have borrowed thousands of books from its library, to let them get dust while sitting on my desk and the small table beside my bed. Thousands, yet even millions have lived in every corner of this doomed palace, is it possible that a hemistich, or maybe only a single word, could house it all in itself? Is there a word to describe all there is? Let us remember that in in the beginning was the Word7.

1. This surely sounds like a worn-out cliché, yet still these verbal games, far from the way they might be judged or how outdated they seem to be, never fail to bring me joy. 2. For instance, if you have ever read these books: My Bukhara My Tribe, Mohammad Bahmanbeigi, 1989 Fire without Smoke, Nader Ebrahimi, 1992 3. For instance, if you have ever read these books: La Jalousie, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1957 One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967 4. Depending on where and when I might have lived in another life, ‘brick and clay’ or ‘wood and stone’ could have been my choice of words! 5. Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges, 1962 6. Are there any connections between less than two years and less than two pages? 7. John 1:1, the first verse in the Gospel of John

The newbie me, takes a glance at the green book laying on the ground next to my bed and turns off the light. The green light in the neighbor’s yard, casts the shadow of the pine on my wall, this is the beginning of a dream…





Arshia Eghbali Editor-in-Chief, NAAM Student of Architecture University of Tehran

Saturday, 2049/09/28 I (if ‘I’ makes any sense) am no one. I have no name… (I have no part in this story) the sole reason for my whole existence, from the very beginning, has been to find this among hundreds of death notices in the countless pages of today’s papers: ‘M. E., the architect of jetties number 6 and 7 of ‘The Island’, died peacefully at the age of 83’. Now, I have a name…



Tuesday, 2051/09/28 – M. E.’s daily notes Today is the fifth in a row that three men tail me day and night. Right now, from the window of my study, I can see one of them down on the street, leaning against a wind turbine, smoking a cigarette. By an hour and twenty five minutes he will be off duty, changing places with the next man. During these five days, each of them has shadowed me with complete precision for exactly 8 hours. Wherever I go they are behind me like ghosts. They don’t even bother hiding themselves from my sight. They want me to know… to feel their presence by all my existence… they want me to be frightened… My time has come. I know that I haven’t got much time on my hands and I am to surrender to a destiny long awaited… I am not frightened of those tailing me, or what they might do to me. I don’t fear death… as I have already felt closest to death … Yet I have breathed through these extra last two years while I shouldn’t have… Ah, if I had died right away two years ago (oh, it was exactly two years ago), when I was given the opportunity – when my chance of survival seemed overly ridiculous – I would have never gone through the agony of this melancholy… but the very thought of god’s punishment sends shivers down my spine and causes me – me, whose best choice is to die – not to have the courage to do so… I am waiting, waiting for them to make me meet my destiny. I don’t understand why they hesitate this much? What are they waiting for? This is the fifth day they are shadowing me, meaning they know it for at least five days… They are right to do anything. As for such an unpardonable sin as mine: I have remembered… Sunday, 2015/02/20 – M. E.’s daily notes From tomorrow on, Tehran will no more be! At midnight, when all the people of the town go to sleep (and I know it will be such a deep sleep), we will move Tehran. Everything is calculated carefully. So many hours have been spent by the best architects of the town to perform everything with complete and utter perfection. Tonight we will lift Tehran – with its bedrock – and place it in the Caspian Sea. After that, the whole thing will take place in a blink of an eye according to the plan; the crater which marks the previous location of Tehran will be filled with water and takes the name of ‘Alborz Lake’. From then on, the dislocated city will be called ‘The Island’, never



ever mentioning ‘Tehran’ again. False documents are made. Books of history and geography are carefully fabricated. School syllabuses are revised. Thousands of false photos are made up; maps, aerial photos and satellite pictures are fabricated. There is no single hole in the entire plan. There is no truth which is more convincing than this master architectural lie. The main source of income for The Island will be fishing and trading. Seven jetties will be constructed around The Island, three of them shaping a trading harbor capable of hosting huge ships while four others are fishing jetties only capable of hosting small and medium-sized fishing boats. The floating system of The Island consists of a labyrinth of underground tunnels that hold all the infrastructures and balance-water channels, allowing the surface of The Island to be leveled by increasing or decreasing the amount of water inside them. The creator of all these and beyond is me! I will give life to The Island, wiping away Tehran and all its teething troubles. I am the savior of Tehran! I am the architect of The Island. But tomorrow, when we all wake up in The Island, we will remember not a single thing. And all the false documents, books, pictures and memories will teach us how our fathers and we have lived in The Island for hundreds of years. No one is able to remember anything. Even I… Tomorrow I will be no more than the architect of jetties number 6 and 7 of The Island… Tuesday, 2051/09/28 – continued from M. E.’s daily notes Now I can see everything as clear as day. I don’t know what time it is… Oh, yes, my tails are changing places, then only less than an hour and a half has passed. But now I understand everything! Though it only adds to my sorrow, but now I can make my decision. Anyway, here is the truth: I am not M. E. … or let me put it this way: we, inhabitants of The Island, are all M. E. … Now I can see. We are all no one until we come across his name by chance and turn into M. E. That is how we acquire a name… We get paralyzed by melancholy and we remember… we remember all of M. E.’s memories and so we suffer from the severe sense of guilt we feel for the service or the betrayal we have done to our city. In this manner, little by little, the whole population of The Island dies out… It takes many years, but it accelerates as time goes by… This is how all of us, so cleverly and perfectly, are heading toward a cruelly programmed extinction. All of us, people of The Island… no… People of Tehran! Now I know that the men who shadow me (despite the fact that they, themselves, know nothing and are only following vague orders – because they are no one yet), don’t want to hurt me… How naïve I have been… in fact, it is the opposite; they want to make sure that I won’t kill myself… they want to make sure that I don’t figure out this cruel and perfect extinction and I don’t surrender to my pre-determined destiny… But it is late already; I am going to kill myself. Meh… I can now hear the rushed footsteps of my tail running up the stairs of my apartment… Wednesday, 2051/09/29 I (if ‘I’ makes any sense) am no one. I have no name… (I have no part in this story) the sole reason for my whole existence, from the very beginning, has been to find this among hundreds of death notices in the countless pages of today’s papers: ‘M. E., the architect of jetties number 6 and 7 of ‘The Island’, committed suicide at the age of 67’.. Now, I have a name…



a house for The man without a moustache Ali Ghazi Student of Architecture University of Tehran

“Without a moustache, a man isn’t really dressed” – Salvador Dali

“A House for the Man without a Moustache” is located in the central area of Tehran, in the second district. A house which for its modest façade might not catch the eyes of inquiries at first glance; yet it could be considered the first true example of surreal architecture in Iran (the world?). Surrealism was a result of the changes following the First World War and the extinction of Dadaism, first coming into recognition in 1921. Surrealism emerged when theories of Austrian psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, about the unconscious, dreams and suppression had already amused European scholars. Both Andre Breton and Louis Aragon, psychiatrists, were inspired by Freud’s researches and based their new doctrine upon the



“unconscious.” Surrealism of the Third World, on the other hand, is a breach found in liberty. It, which under the influence of Freud’s theories based upon the release of repressed desires of the unconscious, is a gate through which the “Contemporary Iranian Artist”, as a Third-Worlder, buries the freedom he can’t find through other aspects. A method to release oneself from the “Must and Mustn’ts” of political and social conditions.

in it. There is no exact information about its depth at hand. The vampire squid is a small cuttlefish (squad), which lives in the depths of the sea. Its Latin name is:” Vampyroteuthis infernalis;” meaning:” a vampire Cuttlefish from hell.” This ciliated creature is from the Cephalopod category and the Caleoidea subcategory. The Vampire squid lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world.

There has been a big misunderstanding: through years of World War II, Surrealism was not only an artistic movement but also a political power. Walter Benjamin used to praise Surrealism as a revolutionary act, a necessitous stroke to bourgeois and traditional society, which broke all the connections.

The Taningia Persica is a type of squid. This creature belongs to Octopoteuthudae family.

It seems like the only reason behind the inattention of the media and official architectural tribunes to “The house for the man without a moustache,” as noted before, is its ordinary façade, totally in accord with its surrounding urban fabric.

The latest experiments show that the cuttlefish are one of the most intelligent creatures from the Invertebrate species. They are nocturnal creatures and spend the nights hunting crabs and shrimps. Cuttlefish normally have eight arms with two tentacles in between. These tentacles are only visible at the time of hunting.

From Outside The only sign of Surrealism seen in the façade of this artwork is manifested at its entrance doors; most specifically the doorknobs, which their use can only be understood once exploring the inside. Entrance As we see in the elevation and the section, the entrance door is directly connected to the swimming pool; thus the only access to the rest of the house is through crossing this pool. The Pool There are lots of tales about this pool; about how it’s connected to open waters and how rare species like Vampire Squid, Taningia Persica and cuttlefish are found

The cuttlefish (which has ten arms and is usually mistaken for a squid) is a mollusk and marine creature from Seppida and Cephalopod family.

The cuttlefish fetus is able to see its surroundings before birth. The more crabs the cuttlefish fetus witnesses, the more they hunt at puberty. Special pigments in the cuttlefish anatomy give them the ability to change their body color and conform to their environment as a method of camouflage. Their color changes rapidly through mating and becomes white once irritated. Their life length is one to two years long. The researches have shown that the male cuttlefish splits its coloring down the middle to show male patterns on the side facing the female cuttlefish and female patterns on the other. This way, when another male cuttlefish is nearby, would be misguided and gets the idea that there are two female cuttlefish so it won’t disturb the process of mating.



Pillar of the Dead A pillar of black granite two stories high, in which all the ancestors of the current inhabitant have been buried; according to his will, he himself would be buried there too after his death.

The Television and the Sofa This time architectural furniture has been used as a sculptural element to define a new function: This sofa is not for watching television; it’s for sleeping. Let’s hear the architect’s point of view: “Media literacy can teach the audience of the mass media to avoid passive and consuming state and pick up an interactive dynamic habit. This helps us to use media in a purposeful and brilliant way. We are surrounded by a mass of information. From mobile phones to the Internet, different television channels, news agencies and the press that publish various information each second; yet the question is what the audience would choose amongst this abundance of information… Television as a dictator medium feeds the spectators by force”.

Home Theater It is a totally dark room, which only has a hole towards the neighbor’s bathroom. The pinhole camera or camera obscura is the simplest camera that does not have a lens and light enters through a small hole on the surface. In this type of camera, depth of field is infinite and all the images are in focus. The pinhole camera originally is a box or a room that has a small hole on one surface and the process of light crossing this hole creates a clear upside down image on the parallel surface.

The Petroleum Tub Oil is extracted from the pool and then gets processed and poured into this bathtub located in the living room. This method, which is called “spa”, has thousands of benefits and cures lots of diseases like arthritis, helps blood circulation and the function of the nervous system. Users should lie in this 40-degree warm oil pond. However doctors have announced that excessive use of these tubs can cause cancroid.



Son’s Room A room which has a secret pass to the confectioner adjacent; so if the house owner starts a family and have children and if he has a son who likes sweats, this room can be used. The width of the secret tunnel is suitable for a little boy.

Vertical Connection A coil like shown in the diagram.

The Nail-Trimmer Wall This creative idea has removed the boundaries between architecture and furniture. By pulling the lever and putting your hand in the specified place, it will move and trim the hand’s fingernails; the nails will be stored by a fully automatic system. Hair and Nail Facilities and Storage “Both hair and nails are body parts; so why throw them away?” Says the architect. The facilities are for mechanical support of the Nail-Trimmer Wall.

Heating and Cooling System A concept, which consists of a wind-catcher and two fans for both heating and cooling of the house (as a sign of essence). The designer has an interesting idea about wind-catchers: “Wind-Catchers are devices for catching the wind”. It is essential to note that in warm seasons the device works clockwise and in cool seasons it works anti-clockwise.




a talk with blank Space Matthew Hoffman and Francesca Giuliani are founders and directors of Blank Space, a foundation that conducts a unique competition named ‘Fairy Tales’, as well as publishing a book from its outcome. So we found this a great opportunity for a talk with them to seek out their views on fantasy and its role in architecture and some of the related experiences they have gone through. What you are about to read, is the complete record of the interview that was performed via email. Finally, NAAM wishes to sincerely thank Matthew and Francesca for their time and effort. – Editor-in-Chief



Arshia: First off, please tell me more about Blank Space, What is the core idea behind it? Where was the beginning? Matthew: Blank Space was born when two people from completely different backgrounds started having conversations. My background is in architecture, and Francesca’s is in journalism. Architecture is the slowest form of media in the world, and the world we all live in communicates at the speed of light. At the intersection between the two are meaningful conversations about where architecture is headed and how it wants to engage the general public in its concerns and objectives. We planted a stake for Blank Space at this crossroad by inviting the public to enter the architectural discourse, while encouraging architects to communicate better and be more inclusive. We’re building a bridge between both sides. Arshia: As I’ve learned, both of you are interested in communicating architecture. Do you believe that architecture – if considered as a language itself – is, alone, incapable of fully communicating itself to people? And is that one of the reasons for what you do? Also, what is the role of a communicator here? Francesca: No language communicates itself, but in the words of Paul Watzlawick, “One cannot not communicate.” We can’t avoid being communicators, it is a role we can’t escape, and one that we need to understand to play at our best. Not many architects fully comprehend the very nature of the language they are operating with. Alison Lurie said it very well in her book The Language of Houses: architecture is ‘spoken’ by “most designers, [...] sometimes fluently, sometimes clumsily”. While the design process can be likened to writing a message by organizing elements of the architectural language, the non-verbal architectural message then exists in the world in the shape of inanimate objects distributed in space. Architecture speaks to those who receive it and it becomes interpreted in ways that may or may not

conform to the intention of the architect. Architecture in this sense exists at the crossroad between “communication” and “signification”. We all understand architecture, however, as it uses three-dimensional shapes, colors and textures, which speak to us more clearly and universally than verbal languages: “We may be at a loss to understand what is said in most foreign languages, but every building conveys information, though we may not understand all of it”, Lurie says. Making architects cognizant of the underlying communicative nature of architecture is important, that’s why we decided to start hosting competitions such as “Fairy Tales”. Arshia: The ‘Fairy Tale Competition’ is more of a competition for a creative media regarding architecture rather than a simple architecture competition. Do you agree? Francesca: It is a competition that focuses on highlighting



the inherent communicative qualities of architecture, an aspect that can be internalized by designers unknowingly, but that if practiced with cognition helps make architecture accessible.

like the idea of tracing back to the very roots of why we design, why we communicate. We set out to experiment with formats that inspire people to go beyond the surface and forge deep connections.

Arshia: Please explain a bit about the relations between fantasy, fiction and design. For instance, do you think that Blank Space’s ‘Fairy Tale Competition’ has a practical outcome for architectural design? And how?

The practical outcome of the competition is whatever each designer makes of it: whether the experience opens their eyes to these underlying structures of meaning and motivation, or it inspires them to be more daring in their designs, or it encourages them to be more cognizant of their messages and how to deliver them. Hopefully it’s all of the above.

Francesca: These relations may not seem apparent, but they hide in plain sight in the very roots of the words we use to define all of these concepts: if we analyze them from an etymological perspective we can discover some interesting connections in meaning.

Arshia: The format of the submissions to ‘Fairy Tale Competition’ is a set of images and a narrative text (story). Reviewing the winning submissions, the images are really fascinating, but I think the stories are even more fascinating (and the most fascinating is surely both of them together). Anyway, I want to say that the styles of the writings are indeed creative. What do you think?

The word “Fantasy” comes from the Ancient Greek verb “Phainomai,” meaning to show, to make visible, to illustrate, to make something apparent. Design comes from the Latin “Designare,” or to mark out, to represent with a sign -- and what is that if not “making something apparent”? Design is considered a creative act. “Fantasy” is a synonym for creativity, even though the concept of creativity developed much later, based on the Latin verb “creare,” which means to generate, to give birth to, from the sanskrit root “KAR” which has the same meaning: to make. Fiction is a kind of making in itself (or “making up”, if you will). The word comes from the Latin “Fingere” which means to shape, to mold. Practical comes from the Greek “Praxis,” or action, doing (the verbal form is ‘Prassein’): writing and illustrating something are prime examples of actions we put into practice to make ideas apparent, to shape our thoughts and mold them in ways that are visible to others, shareable. These very actions embody all of the concepts we covered so far: phainomai, designare, creare, prassein. So even when an exercise in creative writing and illustration around architecture may seem detached from the ways modern architecture has come to define itself, we

Matthew: I think that there is a movement within the design profession to attach simplistic, linear stories to projects. I’ll call it the “BIG” syndrome. It goes something like this, “The initial challenge of this project was this, so we did that, and then this other thing happened, so we improved our project by doing this.” The reality is that the creative process is hardly linear. There is a network of forces that influence any project, and it is the designer’s job to make sense of the mess and produce something that is better than the sum of its parts. Being able to communicate this process in the form of a story is at the core of the Fairy Tales competition. Each year we are completely blown away by the ways in which designers innovate through stories. We receive everything from comics, to love stories, suicide letters, manifestos, and email threads. There is a great willingness amongst the design community to tell new stories and we hope that our competitions continue to draw them out and give them the attention they deserve.



Arshia: What else is Blank Space aiming to do? What’s coming next?

Arshia: Do you believe that this could start a new way to consider for writing about ‘much more serious’ matters of architecture?

Matthew: Well - we have a few top secret projects that we are working on at the moment. I can say that we are planning on launching 2 all-new competitions later this year. We’re also working on a new book with our super talented friends at Bruce Mau Design, which will be the second edition of “Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells A Story”.

Francesca: We sure hope so! It also all depends on what we consider “serious” versus what we consider “frivolous.” What defines seriousness? Does it mean important? Does it mean realistic? Does it mean business appropriate? An act of communication works if it delivers its message in comprehensible ways. That’s its mission, a very serious one. Not all that’s written about architecture, or in the business of architecture, is serious in this sense. One can communicate an architectural message in a style that is realistic and business appropriate and convey an illusion of importance by just being rhetorical, mimicking a style that means business, but without delivering any information. That’s frivolous. We root for an architecture communication that checks rhetoric and empty buzzwords at the door and focuses on conveying its messages in the most open, most understandable fashion possible. Whether that happens using fiction or prose, haikus or diagrams on a PowerPoint presentation, we don’t differentiate. We take it all very seriously. Arshia: Please also tell me more about the book, and the reception it got. Matthew: We received so many amazing stories that we wanted to share them all - and we certainly wanted to package them in a way that would be more “permanent” than simply posting them online. Our goal is to go far beyond simply hosting competitions to craft conversations and debates that reach the core of the design profession. We’ve been amazed to see how far the book has gone. Professors have used it for their classes, book clubs have studied it, and we’ve had students say it inspired their thesis. We’re deeply honored and proud of the results.



chapter thirteen Kevin Wang Nicholas O’Leary First Place Winners Fairy Tale Competition, 2014 “Chapter Thirteen” is the title of the 2014 winning entry of the story-telling architecture competition ‘‘Fairy Tales’’ and is also published in the book ‘‘Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells a Story’’, by Blank Space. Matthew and Francesca, directors of Blank Space, have provided NAAM with this narrative and its accompanying images. This narrative is in-fact a 13th chapter penned to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.



Tonight, I will end this life. This is not the world I grew up in. A chess piece pinned on a two hundred square foot white box. Bounded. Absolute. Unrelenting walls inexorable after the hours I stare. Whispering a language without articulation, its only response the occasional pounding from the other side. A glimpse of life beyond these walls in the briefest of moments returns stoic as the door slams shut. Severed from desire, yearning of what is beyond reach. A barrier exists unseen and unnoticed. Few inches of air that separate its surface to me. I clean, I polish, I scrutinise over these encapsulating shells. They surround my life, yet recede into the background. There is no reason for contact. There is no reason to exist. Accompanying I am tired of these blank walls confining me. These lines are static. They are unforgiving. My English Ivy at the corner never made her reach to the window, she would not last the winter. Her shrivelled yellow leaves scattered on the floor mixed in with strands of my fallen hair, barely a foot away from salvation. Her remains will slowly decay along with the carcasses of the rats that rule this city; the shadows that inhabit a world between ours. Inside. Outside. They are no longer any different. Oversized openings show me another interior enclosing my own prison. The world out there. Another cage with more restrictions. More rules. More limits. More of the cold steel, and hard concrete walls. Endless, and anonymous. They grow taller every year; perhaps reaching for fresher air, perhaps searching for a spot further away from the rest. I see open windows beyond my own, they show me adjacent bodies remaining completely unaware of the next, longing for signs of life. I am no different from them. No more free. No more wiser. Each compartment dressed for escape. Paintings, photographs, elaborate sculptures, all reminders of places far from here. I was once an eagle, the Queen of

my world. Now a battery chicken, a body without organs. Feeding this city. Don’t follow me. The unyielding pavement pounds against the bottom of my soles, vibrating the city up my spine. Don’t follow me. The cold pierces through my skin and pricks at my bones. Don’t follow me. The smell is nauseating, it lingers and reappears in my sleep. Don’t follow me. The stench of rot and fading life penetrates the city, disguised by chemicals of ocean fresh, lavender blossoms, white linen. I am pursued by those I cannot see. Constant noise wherever I go. Sharp sirens and low horns. Bangs of the steam pipes. Creaks of the floorboards. Stilettos against marble lobbies, and rattling of trains. A living corpse, this is the machine. This is the city. I am disengaged with all that surrounds me. The footpath leads me to places I do not wish to go. This alienating city is bitter. Day after day I wake, I walk, I stand, and I sit. I am incarcerated within the flesh that has betrayed me. It takes me to spaces swarming with other lifeless forms, smashed inside a moving sardine can, transfixed to the sickly warm glow of the screen in their fat sticky fingers. Longing for connections in a virtual world. There is a thin film of slime on every surface. The metal bars smeared with fingerprints leave suggestions of previous life. Life, that is promised behind the posters. Life, that exists elsewhere. Vacant glances down to the ground, out of the darkened portholes partly obscured by the humid interior steaming up against the glass. Moist and stale. Suffocating. Occasional glimpses of flickering lights, and scribbles on surfaces defiant of the city. Still, there is no escape. Where can I go? The city rejects me. Pounding lights and deafening sound, mixed in with smells of alcohol, smoke, and sweat, find me no refuse. Flocks of a new religion, looking for machines of freedom. Dripping bodies grinding against the next faceless form provide no more connection than my lifeless walls. It numbs whatever was left at the end of the day. Accepted obscenity in a neat



box, with a cherry on top. My body aches, movements prescribed. The city is the architect of my body, the puppeteer with invisible strings. It tells me where to walk, where to stand, and where to sit. I am judged wherever I go. Eyes from behind the curtains, above the newspapers and dirty magazines. They see me, they judge me, and they haunt my every move. See what good little girls and boys are made of. We stand in coloured lines, moving one step at a time motioned by flashing numbers overhead. The factory floor of the human farm. Order inscribed into our psyche is not without constant reminders. Signs and lights burn into my eyes wherever I look. They say, No Standing Anytime. No Climbing. No Sitting. Keep Off, Private. Green. Orange. Red. Stop. Every inch of this city screams at me. No more. No more attachments with this city, nothing would remain. I will not be missed, a headline soon forgotten. They called me crazy when I was younger. Last time I fell



there was more. A world that moved me. A world with life. A wonderland created for the girl I was then. Now stuck in this moment that I’ve been told as truth, constructed with glittering gold. No more wandering blind. I have to get back. I will fall. I will succumb to the city. Return to the blank slate, and we will be bound together in flesh and mind.

Eternally, Alice L. Dodgson



man and ground Anna Pietrzak Second Place Winners Fairy Tale Competition, 2014 “Man and Ground” is the title of the 2014 second winning entry of the story-telling architecture competition ‘‘Fairy Tales’’ and is also published in the book ‘‘Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells a Story’’, by Blank Space. Matthew and Francesca, directors of Blank Space, have provided NAAM with this narrative and its accompanying images. There is a constant presence in man’s life The presence of ground

Ground receives man’s shadow Ground receives man’s body.

Ground is curved Ground is fluid Ground is surface

Man knows ground through building Building is dialogue; a story that lives in work Ground asks questions to building



Building demands answers from ground Architecture is language.

I Ground as Curve

The ground is curved. The man is a vertical being who lives on this curve. He stands perpendicular to its surface. As he walks along the curve, his movement traces concentric rings. No matter how far his body travels, it shares one angle with the ground. He is a spoke rotated each day by the curve.

If man and home are to unite on the line, they must meet at the fulcrum. Yet, to rest at the fulcrum, both man and home would once more lie perpendicular to ground. He must sacrifice. To walk the tangent, he must leave his home. The weight of the home counters the weight of the man. Both rest apart from one another upon the line. They suspend in equilibrium. They suspend in tension.

II Fluid Ground

Man builds a tower. He escapes the ground. The horizon surrounds him. But it deceives. It wants him to perceive its edge as the end of the world. But he knows from walking that this edge moves as he moves... and thus the ground has no end. The horizon mocks and the curve promises sameness, but the man seeks new experience with ground. He builds his own curve; it mirrors the shape of the ground. Upon this inverted curve he places a line. The line is unique; it is tangent. To live on this line would be his wish. And thus, upon the line he builds his home. But the dream has a dilemma...

He climbs the tower. He feels tired. He experiences weight. As he moves upward, something pulls; An invisible force begging him down. The pull comes from the great mass of the ground. He ascends, balanced at the peak of the tower... Suspended in delicate equilibrium. He exists between the climb and the fall. He exists between past and future. He is present... frozen in a moment of anticipation. Then, he jumps. His body weightless, falling, falling, falling free... Parallel with gravity.



Splash. The undisturbed plane is broken, he dives through the liquid surface. He has fallen into the ground.

...not around the plane, but through it? The ground is flat. The ground is surface. To pierce the surface, is to see the other side; is to free the other side.

He climbs again. But soon he tires... He rotates the vertical tower. It forms a ramp. Making his movement now gradual and slow. He does not leap but glides into the depths of the ground. He lies on the ramp as if it were a shore, allowing the ground to wash itself upon him. He lies passive. The ground submerges him at its will, not his. Life happens as a single unbroken day.

III Ground as Surface

The ground is flat. The ground is surface. But how can he know? He could chase the horizon; run to its edge... But the surface of the ground is long and wide; longer and wider than the length of his life. Could there be a shorter path?

He builds a tool; a pendulum. Pushing and releasing, he draws a line to dig a path. The line is drawn on top of itself again and again and again... The series of lines yield a great cavernous space.



As onlookers peer high above at the pivot, They measure his efforts, counting each cycle of the swinging plow.

IV Ground Receives Man’s Shadow

It begins... protocol is rule, protocol is order. The man builds a grid; the spatial manifestation of order. The work is monotonous; alas, a field of sameness. Can’t he be free? What would it mean to be free... to break convention? In his daily patterns, he observes the directions of the grid; His body vertical by day, horizontal by night. But he rises one morning with the sun and finds a new direction. He sees the line of his shadow. It breaks the grid, free and changing throughout the day. He is fascinated by the line; it becomes his obsession. He studies the line of his shadow. Exploring its many angles, given to him each day by the sun. He must capture this line. It should persist long after the sun has set. It should persist after he no longer exists to cast the shadow. Work, worker, and place never separate. He deposits himself into the place, through the work. He shapes the space. He finds purpose...

This line will be a diagonal. It will be positioned within the grid, but will oppose its framework. He will build a triangle... a diagonal enclosure. He will build a void... a mass of shadow.



V Ground Receives Man’s Body

Man builds his final building. A place for repose, To rest in the belly of the ground.

Time decays the form; its dust fills the void. The hourglass buries its maker. Ground receives man’s body. Man and ground are one.

He displaces ground. It yields equal and opposite form; Positive and negative ground. Man carves an empty space; a mirrored form results.



Happy Ending

city pretty “Pretty is the romantic conception of forms” – Sohrab Sepehri This image is made up of combining nearly 150 separate photos taken from the buildings along Valiasr Street, from Rahahan to Tajrish (more than 17 km), in Tehran. – Sajjad Mansournia

Apocalyps now Amirhossein Adelfar Secretary-General, Architecture Assembly Student of Architecture University of Tehran

These images are visualizations that picture Tehran in apocalyptic and nature-dominated conditions. The images respectively show these places: College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran Sadr Layered Highway Saman Residential Towers, Keshavarz blvd.


happy ending

CONTACT NAAM naam.aa.ut@gmail.com


image acknowledgements [cover illustration] designed by Arshia Eghbali [pp 2,3]illustration by Arshia Eghbali [p 4] Assassins Creed® Unity, courtesy of Ubisoft [p 5] Monument Valley®, courtesy of Ustwo studio [pp 6,7] Halo 4, courtesy of Microsoft Games [pp 8,9] Big Hero 6, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures [pp 12-15] Into the Blubber of Babylon, Seth McDowell, submitted to NAAM by Seth McDowell [pp 16-19] Into the Blubber of Babylon, Seth McDowell, submitted to NAAM by Seth McDowell [pp 20, 23] MovingCities, submitted to NAAM by Bert de Muynck [pp 24-26] On Contiguity, Joel Kerner, submitted to NAAM by Joel Kerner [pp 30,31,33] The Island, images made by Arshia Eghbali, submitted to NAAM by Arshia Eghbali [pp 34,36,37] A House for the Man without a Moustache, illustrated by Ali Ghazi, submitted to NAAM by Ali Ghazi [pp 38,39,41] courtesy of Blank Space, submitted to NAAM by Matthew Hoffman [pp 42,44,45] Chapter Thirteen, illustrations by Kevin (Pang-Hsin) Wang and Nicholas O’Leary, submitted to NAAM by Matthew Hoffman [pp 46,48-50] Man and Ground, illustrations by Anna Pietrzak, submitted to NAAM by Matthew Hoffman


[p 51] illustration by Arshia Eghbali [pp 52,53] City Pretty by Sajjad Mansournia, submitted to NAAM by Sajjad Mansournia [pp 54-57] Apocalypse Now, visualizations by Amirhossein Adelfar, submitted to NAAM by Amirhossein Adelfar

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NAAM #2 [On the Edge of Architecture]  

NAAM is a student-run quarterly of Architecture and Design based in University of Tehran, Iran. In this issue - 'On the Edge of Architecture...

NAAM #2 [On the Edge of Architecture]  

NAAM is a student-run quarterly of Architecture and Design based in University of Tehran, Iran. In this issue - 'On the Edge of Architecture...