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Eve Avdoulos and Anwar Jaber
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Sitting in the boardroom at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture in October 2014, the editorial committee of Scroope was faced with the task of brainstorming a theme for the 25th issue of the journal. Various topics were deliberated upon, but the discussion steadily returned to the committee’s interest in the dynamics of architectural and urban forms, thinking about how they contain different stories, viewpoints and ways of being read, with their outward appearances possibly obscuring an inner story and as forms, lending themselves to diverse perspectives. We were hooked on the invisible, the concealed and the hidden.
This issue of Scroope explores the idea of duplicity as it is manifest in bodies, objects, buildings and cities. From the micro to the macro and from the concrete to the abstract, the contributors have begun to explore how space and place reveal and conceal, investigating the various layers that make up our built environment. This issue is curated to highlight a wide variety of responses to this theme and as editors we are pleased to include academic pieces, photo essays, design projects and conversations, among others. Through these various examples of duplicity manifest in space and place, we hope to provide a new lens with which to explore our built environment.
We begin in conversation with Ash Amin who discusses the theme of duplicity by thinking through the ways in which cities, infrastructures and buildings trick, hide and deceit. In narrating an overview of the theme, he highlights various topics, which are present throughout this journal providing a rich introduction. Yet one of his main points of emphasis is the ways in which the city often caters to elites, leaving the less advantaged and poor behind. Yianna Barkouta provides us with a specific example of this phenomenon, exploring how a homeless woman moves through the streets of Athens redefining the city in her own terms. In her eyes, spaces in the city do not manifest in their intended urban forms but are instead conceived as if they were rooms in her home. This notion of the traditional home-space is also interrogated by Alex Bernetich, Jamie Piché Colburn and Maria Sturchio in a design project that defamiliarises everyday domestic objects creating new environments that juxtapose the universally understood with the more obscure. These examples, although on different scales, each question the notion of the familiar, outward representation of places, bringing in new narratives and ways of reading space that reveal alternative realities.
The ways in which spaces can be reinterpreted is also observed on a larger scale as select authors explore the theme of duplicity through case studies of singular buildings. Konstantinos Chatzaras examines the CaixaForum Madrid investigating the dialogue between ever-changing metropolis and architectural object through figure-ground diagrams and architectural processes, highlighting the dialectic of contemporary private and public ground. Pawda Tjoa also reveals glimpses of the relationship between public space and the surrounding city in her photographic essay of the historic clubhouse of Societeit de Harmonie in Jakarta. The reader is then taken through a history of the Vyborg Aalto Library as Laura Berger illustrates how the library’s dual meaning to two different groups helped sustain and enable its restoration.
Duplicitousness is diversely manifest in architectural and urban forms, but it is often only through ways of representations and narrative that it is only revealed. Madalen Claire Benson photographs thirty-one Toronto Rocket subway stations from both the inside and the outside, presenting representations and narratives of the in-between, of permanence and mobility and of the ambiguities of urban life. Similarly, Maria Vidali traces the in-betweeness of the bi-niche chapels on the Greek island of Tinos, using historical and religious narrative to draw out the duality inherent in their architecture. Narrative also becomes important in work of Ahmad Borham, Aya Nassar and Kareem Nems who use the stories of the residents of Bein Al-Sarayat in Egypt to construct a complex concept of boundaries, walls and connections that reveal the spatial and temporal in-betweenness of change. As these three pieces show, the notion of the ‘in-between’, or the moment in which the city or form is questioned as being illegible, contributes greatly to the idea of duplicity.
Legibility is examined in greater detail in Janina Schupp’s account of Jeoffrécourt, a town in northeast France that is in fact not a town at all, but rather a simulated doppelganger town, a fake city, one that exemplifies artificial architectural authenticity. She presents the notion of hyperreality as she takes the reader through how this doppelganger town is used. Alice Bucknell also explores a sense of manipulated reality and hybrid cities in her unique and innovative visual project where she envisions the competing narratives of Detroit.
We then end this issue of Scroope by returning to the notion of the everyday as we hope to provide the reader with an opportunity for a moment of contemplation. We begin our conclusion with a reflection by AbdouMaliq Simone, where he examines the conditions of the urban, the obscurities, the abstractions, and the less visible. He suggests that we can overcome the innate duplicitous nature of the city as described early on by Ash Amin, by re-describing ways in which the urban is organized opening up new horizons of possibility. Finally, we conclude with a vignette by one of our editors, Thomas Aquilina, who provides an account of his barber, Ted.
We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to all of the contributors of Scroope 25 for their generous and thoughtful submissions, as well as their continued patience with perhaps a less traditional editorial process. We would also like to extend our genuine thanks to the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture for providing the financial support for Scroope. Finally we would like to thank the staff, students and our various colleges, both past and present, at the Department of Architecture for their assistance, support and patience as we developed this issue.
We hope you enjoy this issue of Scroope, The Cambridge Architecture Journal and find inspiration and engagement in its pages.