The Embassy of Mantenhas - Eclectic Atlases
Graduate School of Architecture - University of Johannesburg - South Africa/Cape Verde
Drawings, plans, elevations
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Language and territory are mutually interdependent and irrevocably bound to one another. Language is instrumental in the formation of territory (home); identity (literature) and shared understanding (communication). Language plays a vital role in the ‘reading’ of landscape, and is a crucial tool in the articulation of national identity. In complex sites such as Cape Verde, where history, language, race, class, diaspora and migration play such important roles, the term ‘lost in translation’ takes on new meaning. It is the intention of the Major Design Project to create a piece of architecture that enables a créole identity to be ‘found in translation’, becoming both a root and a route for the transmission of new stories, new words, new spaces and forms that more accurately describe contemporary Cape Verde. The origins of the word ‘allegory’ are Greek, from the word ‘allos’, meaning ‘other’, and ‘agoria’, meaning ‘speaking’. An allegory is therefore another way of speaking. In the same way, my project is both another way of speaking about architecture and another architecture of speech. This play between language and architecture runs throughout, and has been heavily influenced by one language in particular, ‘créole’, or Cape Verdean Kriolu. The relationship between the spoken, colloquial language of créole and the official, written language of Portuguese is a deeply historical and contested one. We speak of a Portuguese ‘disturbed’, ‘challenged’ or ‘completed’ by créole, and of créole ‘haunted’ or ‘moderated’ by Portuguese. Architecture is often seen as the art of a thinking mind that arranges, organizes and establishes relationships between the parts and the whole. Conceptual ordering, spatial and social narrative are fundamental to the ways in which buildings are shaped, used and perceived. A strategy that has been used throughout the project is the Derridean notion of binary opposites. According to Barthes, the impulse in human communication towards allegory is a mode linked to the origins of language and representation that coincides with the appearance of the ‘other.’ All allegories comprise two key patterns: the battle (opposition between two forces) and the progress (the journey, or sequence of events). This project proposes an opposition between traditional modes and means of architecture, an exploration of the inbetween of the categories of process and product, past and present, explore and explain, thought and perception, essence and accident, mind and body, theory and practice, speech and writing, building and non-building, exterior and interior. Welcome to the Embassy of the Mantenhas. A love letter, an event, a kit of parts, a set of instructions, directions, a map, a description and a question. An embassy of journey and homecoming; departure and arrival. A place of ghosts and hauntings, made of rock, paper, scissor, stone, and bone. A challenge to hegemony, a celebration of the dispossessed. The only place where the recollection of reality, the composition of the parts and the fragments of life can happen…
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