Terrain Vague- a desert survival kit
“When architecture and urban design project their desire onto a vacant space, a terrain vague, they seem incapable of doing anything other than introducing violent transformations, changing estrangements into citizenship, and striving at all costs to dissolve the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete in the efficacy.” -Ignasi Moralés Rubio
“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Than we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism.” -Walter Benjamin/ Illuminations
The term ‘Terrain Vague’, commonly interpreted as ‘Wasteland’, is most often used when referring to reclamation of abandoned or non developed sites within a dense urban fabric. The desert’s genius Loci embodies this dual quality of the ‘Terrain Vague’; it is an ambiguous territory, both void of all life and hope while at the same time impregnated with sublime qualities and the imminent potential for a genuine, even cosmic existence.
Unlike the city condition, where the ‘Terrain Vague’ lifts its head underneath a carpet of urbanity, in localized and isolated exceptions, the vastness of the terrain rules the desert and patches of urbanity are an anomaly. Nevertheless, in a similar manner we aim to conquer the wilderness, establish boundaries, order mechanisms and control devices enabling the annihilation of the void. In fact, this act is in the very essence of architectural utopianism.
Despite an abundance of constructed memories, the desert, as other colonized territories is not truly a void, nor has it been so in the past. It is a world of ample history and presence of natural and human life. At present, the Negev desert, comprising 60% of the land area is a site of continuous experimentation, situated in the southern blind spot of Israel. In the wake of an escalating global energy crisis, and trends of climate weirding, numerous other regions are developing vulnerability to aridity. Nevertheless, there exists an innate and often disregarded capacity in the desert for solar energy, water collection and livelihood. In order to survive and prosper under these harsh circumstances, we ought to become increasingly more educated on the inner workings of this ecosystem while reconsidering our previous value systems.
Under the conviction that aggression towards the environment and towards other human beings is rooted in a similar affliction (Shezaf), this thesis aspires for a relationship of empathy with the land and its inhabitants. It wishes to highlight the often neglected qualities of the desert. The thesis proposes a hybrid of infrastructural systems with the natural system of Wadi Pharan. The system proposed is intended to capitalize on the qualities of this unique territory, while resisting its violent abuse.