Recently in his seminar about the visible and invisible, Safran brought up Steven Holl's design for the Knut Hamsen Center in Hamarøy, Norway. Holl's argument is that it is "The building as a body, a battleground of invisible forces." The idea is that these forces are nonexistent because they exist in the mind, and only upon entering this building do they become spatial. The unique magic of this building lies in its capacity to make these forces, which may not actually exist at all, become real to those inside. An excerpt from Erik Fenstrad Langdalen's article in Hamsun Holl Hamarøy :
New, unexpected phenomena occur, impossible anywhere else, than in the real world: the sun is reflected in the elevator shaft, creating shapes on the wall that resemble northern lights; the windows frame unfamiliar fragments of the view, and there are new perspectives through the spaces that one could have imagined. ... A remarkable relationship building and its terrain has occurred. Contrary to what one might have expected, the building has not adjusted to the surrounding elements: the scenery, the view, the sun, the site, and the visitors. In fact, they are all props in the building's grand performance. The tower with its magic powers imbues fragments of the surroundings with new meaning viewed through this telescope, which inscribes them in Hamsun's universe.
I remain seduced by the notion of creating spaces that are imbued with this sort of a poetic narrative. It is one of the fundamental ideas that brought me to graduate school in the first place; my belief that building, as an act, is by its definition an act of optimism. Of course, Holl's narratives are completely self-indulgent, but what is more important is their intent to elevate the soul and cast light upon the invisible components that make us human.
I do not think this is a departure from the issues I am addressing in studio this semester. My reading of Abuja is that it is a visual landscape - an amalgamate of images and visual cues, whose collective endeavor is to project national power, stability, and coherence through a highly choreographed urban sequence. These issues are guiding the project down a road that I had not anticipated, which is forcing the project to evolve into reinterpretation of Nigerian culture, and how it is manifest through sequence, staging, and narrative. Of course these ideas, like Abuja itself, require a neutral territory in which they can be exchanged with others. The true test will be how I develop my process of exploring these ideas. In other words, until I test new modes of representation beyond pencil, paper, chipboard, and so forth, I will have gained very little from this project. In other words, my objective is to discover a project, rather than imagine one.
Unfortunately there is a gulf between concept and reality, which is often commonplace in a situation where the nation still struggles with its own identity. Abuja has fallen off track into a landscape of discontinuity and confusion. Unfortunately the only truly coherent part of Abuja is the terminus of this urban sequence, the Three Arms Zone, or the area that houses the Presidential Villa, The Supreme Court, and the National Assembly Building ( Congress ). The question becomes what to create that is the counterpart to this reality. More on this later.