“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 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, conceived as void of all life 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 dominates 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.
However, the desert is not truly a void, nor has it been so in the past. It is a realm of ample history and presence of natural and human life. Desertification processes are affecting a fifth of the world population, and further regions are developing increased vulnerability to aridity. In Israel, the Negev desert, accounts for 2/3 of the land area. It is a site of continuous environmental and social experimentation, situated in the southern blind spot of Israel. Existing practices of settlement and resource management, particularly water and energy infrastructures may reach an inevitable end in the wake of an escalating global energy crisis, and trends of climate weirding. Nevertheless, there exists an innate and often disregarded capacity in the desert for solar energy generation, water collection and livelihood. This thesis aims to unveil these embedded potentials through developing an understanding of the ecological, cultural & political dimensions of the systems in question, and their interactions.
Under the conviction that aggression towards the environment and towards other human beings is rooted in a similar affliction, this work aspires for a relationship of empathy between the land and its inhabitants. It wishes to highlight the often neglected qualities of the desert via a proposal for a hybrid of solar, water, greenhousing & urban infrastructural system 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.