Real Fictions

PennDesign | Arch 702 | Ferda Kolatan | Spring 2017 | In collaboration with Angela Huang

The major question that we as designers ask ourselves and our work, is whether or not we push the boundaries enough. Looking to truly create newness for the sake of innovation by questioning familiarity. Ideas that we are in a post-digital age begin to interest us as we ask what is next in the field of design as we master our technological skills. We have moved passed the technical sublime through which we create complexity for the sake of complexity. We have begun to question what our place is as architects in a world where technology makes every thing more accessible and easier to achieve through design.


This studio began by looking at a given context of Cairo, Egypt as a strange city that continually is placed in a strange dichotomy of ideas. The first project of Real Fictions Cairo, was looking at informal settlements as hotbeds of cultural ingenuity. For the second installation, we look at more banal areas of the city where strange combinations of infrastructural, public, and private spaces are overlapped. The image to the right is a first prototype looking at the uncovering and creation of new fictions through the use of real site specific objects and systems.

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The process of design stems from an interesting discussion of hybrid objects. Studied in previous studios, this idea looks to move past a typical fluid design based on gradient systems but pulls back from the clumsy kit-bashing of current designers. The process of creating formal and detailed moves based on contextual formal studies helps to create an interesting language that borders between familiar and unfamiliar, recognizable and unrecognizable, and real and fiction.


For our proposal, we looked at the way architecture fuses between natural objects and constructed objects. Most of the time we see the two as distinct and separate parts, but in this design we attempted to fuse the two together through hybridization. The use of multiple technologies blurs what is found, existing, new, and fabricated. We also begin to model and detail areas of the site so specifically, they become intrinsic in the design of our bridge landing.


Programmatically the idea of reversing the existing corniche overlooking the Nile River by placing public access above private access to the water edge created a new unfamiliar way to experience the Nile. Our bridge was the southern most bridge over the Nile, the Qasr al Nil bridge.


Our programable spaces become either flexible work space as piers that sit eye-level with the nile, or they become public park spaces littered with small pavilions for cafe’s and botique shops.


The use of hyper detailed design helps to question the real and the ficticious because of the projects specificity and precision that begs for a realistic reading not only through image but through form and detail.

Hybridization occurs through multiple scenarios. The existing and formal spaces are placed in juxtaposition with new more visceral areas of landscape, hardscape, architecture, and infrastructure.


The visceral landscape calls into question the movement to a largely oppressive formal garden technique that is unfriendly and usually becomes pay to enter spaces for public use. Our landscape doesn’t mind to be left alone, in fact, it asks to be left untouched so it can begin to thrive.


Because of the extremely dry climate, infrastructural elements such as water retention tanks and distribution pipes for sprinkler systems become intrinsic entities in the park’s structure. The use of infrastructure to pull water from the Nile to the park is simple, but in this case, it begins to form trellises, fountains, horizontal textures and even railings. This way, the elements that are usually seen as background and receding become primary and intrinsic to the design language, intentionally becoming the entities that hybridize.


The image to the right begins to describe the interesting hybrid spaces being created. The infrastructural elements can be seen linking one side of the image to the other. The far side of the image shows the visceral parkscape that begins to question the reality of the space.


These interesting dualities and hybrid spaces become extremely tangible and tactile areas for the public to occupy. Also we began to program the top by creating areas for cafe’s and boutique shops.

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© A. Tahinos 2009-2017

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