Khalid Al-Tamimi and Nasser Ghannam: Almost Natural
Khalid Al-Tamimi and Nasser Ghannam
First Prize Winning Project of the Omrania CSBE award - 9th Cycle Project
Team: - Khalid Al-Tamimi - Nasser Ghannam
Instructor - Prof. Faysal Tabbarah
Semester – Spring 2016
Almost Natural attempts to explore the production of space and aesthetics in the Anthropocene through blurring between the natural and the synthetic. The Anthropocene is the new geological era that has emerged out of the unprecedented influence the human race continues to have on the planet’s ecology. The emergence of the Anthropocene has forced the industries within the built environment to confront a fundamental ethical responsibility. Examples of this include the establishing of U.S Green Building Council in 1993 with a mission to raise awareness about sustainable practices in the construction industry, followed by the establishing of LEED in 2000. In response to these global changes, Almost Natural consciously stands in contrast to mainstream architectural practice’s response to the Anthropocene. The aim of this agenda is to present an attitude that utilizes advanced digital design ideas and non-linear fabrication to define what Almost Natural can mean. The studio asks for an alternative and nebulous relationship between natural and synthetic things that can be just as relevant to the conversation surrounding architecture in the Anthropocene. The blurring between the synthetic and the natural is also evident in the manufacturing processes in the studio where a juxtaposition of slow and precise manufacturing techniques such as cutting and welding with messy and fast operations such as melting and spraying coexist to amplify textural space conceptions that are almost natural.
Our client’s interest in Paleontology inspired an architecture that extends earth. More specifically, we amplify the massiveness of earth into becoming inhabitable conditions. This also works in response to the studio brief in creating an almost natural condition. This is further explored through establishing a relationship between a tectonic shell and stereotomic earth that is similar to the relationship between the skeleton and the skin. As a paleontologist on a mission to collect and study unique animal remains, our architecture aims to poetically embody of our client’s interest and architecturally bring it to life.
The design of our formal language started with our concept drawing that exhibited unique conditions of linearity contrasted with spatial and volumetric readings. At the same time, we constructed a series of physical models that had similar qualities as the drawing such as the linear ridges while also adding ideas of monolith and mass, much like the earth. Other formal explorations revolved around ideas of overall geometry, and porosity in an attempt at understanding it as an inhabitable object. This amount of work allowed us to develop an internal evaluation criteria that helped us with the final proposal.
In trying to design the proposal within the Mleiha site, we conceived it as being situated within an existing archaeological excavation. We also introduced a separation between a thin tectonic enclosure that also controls natural light and the extended earth which in reality is a concrete monolith. As you approach the project in a vehicle, you are taken below grade into a reception hall before traveling upwards to the first of four cabinets of curiosities: the air cabinet. You then descend towards the land cabinet, the water cabinet ending with the earth cabinet. Below these cabinets, within the earth that supports them, the residence, lab and workspace are housed.
This results in a spatial experience that begins with mass (traveling under the ground), transforming into a synthetic surface and ending with natural voids where visitors can observe archaeological activities, processes and an architecture of preservation.