35.9176° N, 5.3670° W
by He.Lo Architects
Multiple territories are affected by transits, whether materially or formally, referencing two extremes of a spectrum that have been historically constitutive: arrival and departure.
This in between is a transformative context for people, the stranded and drifted, the uprooted and hopeful, who also share among these spaces a means to have their voices heard but, too often, not loudly enough.
Places such as Ceuta, adjacent to Morocco in North Africa, and other temporary settlements, refugee camps, and ports of exit, are witnessing migration on an unprecedented scale and are questioning notions of belonging and longing. Fears of the unknown and uncertainty, coupled with the global circulation of people, are not new phenomena, but sadly have reached new, record levels. Open and parallel structures converge along individuals’ paths for moments in time, often initiating an identity for remote places that are defined by temporality and unpredictability. How do we define these places? Connecting the realities of arrival and departure, of rejection and absorption, those structures that overcome geographical and political frontiers may be drawn in by typically unwanted and concealed spaces, while at the same time enhancing their accessibility.
One way, perhaps, to describe these catalytic yet desperate events is through the making of notational scores. Not only an interpretation, the score may be read as an initiation of a singular event in the spirit of John Cage and his contemporaries, who encourage that all are equally involved and implicated in the enactment of the score but without a fixed conductor. Systems of notation, whether seen through information or art production, encourage the formation of collectives. Such systems are also generators of participation, challenging authorship inasmuch as they signify that both the interpreter and the observer question the dialectics of origin and result. Notational systems offer moments of pure transmission, anticipating a future enactment and calls for improvisation, interpretation, and enactment of a spatial and social performance.
When translated into the multiple languages of architecture and urbanism, notation also avoids redundancy and instigates momentum. Drawings and models function within a constant change of direction. The in-between allows room for chance, memories, and significations, prompting modes of enactment that are akin to notational scores. Similarly, in such cases diagrams might be seen as cognitive breakthroughs, but diagrams also make any activity analytical, if not predictable. Events such as mass migration and displacement cannot be simply represented with sterile diagrams, circuits, and predictability. The spatial mutability allows for unknown outcomes, synonymous with the situations of refugees and asylum seekers.
Methods of analogue architectural representation (paper drawing and physical modelling) bear the material traces of thought and temporality. Architectural drawings may be read as notational scores envisioning a happening of adaptable length and intensity, including repetition or sudden changes of direction, while also encouraging collective efforts. Similarly, as Rita Kersting describes in Spatial Murmuring (Papadakis, London 2013), “It is a good example of what they [He.Lo] consider architecture should be, a discipline that listens, pulls down borders and boundaries, and initiates close adjacencies for a dialogue — a different form of building.”
How are people, spaces, and ideas moving across and through heterotopic places of otherness? How do they migrate from one state of being into another and what does that mean for the creation of what Richard Sennett has described as “porous cities”? When states of matter migrate into different forms a suggestion that there is a new temporality emerges — a process perhaps best described by physics, when the condition of matter changes into another aggregate. Along with correlations of fluidity and geographic solidness, movement and stillness, architecture today should explore such changes of matter, to observe and question interfaces and immediate coexistences and the migration in between. Yet, similarly, adjacencies, be they social and spatial, are more present in times of reduced margins and distances, when segregation causes friction. Natural habitats and resources are inevitably threatened by the exponential growth of population and urbanization.
The proposed intervention is a mesh of landscape narrative, history, and a redefined typology of urban settlement. Initiating calmness and collective optimism, the intervention avoids adding instability and unnecessary provocation through a symbol of power. The height and alignments of the proposed scheme relate architecturally to its context. This project began while we were studying the rezoning of the settlement of Ceuta, aiming to free up land and remodelling substandard shelters, but it soon developed into an alternative model that investigates expansion, adjacencies, intersection, projection, rapport, and convergence. Just as bridges evolve to link separations, border crossings overcome political barriers and should become spaces of the shortest possible sojourn. Our project, CEUTA, is not solely about Mediterranean crossings; it is also about joining and empowering the helpless, and helping to ensure that their voices are heard loudly enough.