Antophrenia: Cities in paradoxes - Anjar and Majdel Anjar

Madona Salameh
USEK - Holy spirit University of Kaslik

Project idea

Anjar and Majdel Anjar are two schizophrenic cities located in the Beqaa valley, near the Syrian borders. Even though they seem to share many similarities at first sight, but they tend to be more divergent in terms of spatial configuration, social fabric, cultural aspects, economical conditions as well as attractions.
In consequence, the aim of this project is to treat the schizophrenia present by redefining the concept of the interface and eliminating the existing paradoxes in order to create a new community of interacting entities with a variety of public spaces to merge different cultures and insure their well-being.

Project description

The project is located at the interface of Anjar and Majdel Anjar, two adjacent villages located in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon near the Syrian borders. For this reason,” Anthophrenia” is a term used to refer to the schizophrenia present in these two villages. Even though, they seem to share many similarities at first sight, but they tend to be more divergent in terms of spatial configuration, social fabric, cultural aspects, economical conditions as well as touristic attractions.

The intervention:

The aim of this project is to treat the schizophrenia present by conceiving several strategies to redefine the concept of the interface on the first hand and to eliminate the existing paradoxes on the second hand, in order to create a new community of interacting entities with a variety of public spaces in favor of mingling two different cultures together and insuring their well-being. Therefore, my intervention responds to the needs of the two villages while creating a common neighborhood with a large green park surface. In consequence, it is based on four main poles: economical, cultural, social and environmental. The project includes a variety of markets “Souq” (indoor and outdoor), craft and local food workshops, restaurants, regional Bank, medical center and an “archeo-terra” museum. The program creates a relationship between nature, the past and the present in a sustainable manner while combining two different cultures: Arab and Armenian culture.

Strategies Adopted:

The project is characterized by two different fabrics combined together to create one single entity. This is demonstrated as follow: Firstly, a rectangular shaped volume with an organized planning grid representing Anjar’s spatial configuration. Secondly, white cubic structures, similar to the organic configuration of Majdel Anjar and inspired by the Arab culture present, spread all over the project

Form Strategy:

A form strategy is adopted to eliminate the level difference between the chosen site and the highway to establish a physical link between these two villages. A balance is established between these two fabrics in a way that Anjar takes place in Majdel anjar and vice versa. Concerning the two different fabrics, they will coexist in the project in a way that: in the slightly existing slope of 3%, the rectangular shaped volume representing Anjar seems to arise from the ground of Anjar gradually, spreading horizontally towards Majdel Anjar and finish as a cantilever. As for the white cubic structures, deriving from Majdel Anjar, they seem to invade Anjar by going under the rectangular cantilevered shaped volume, breach it at the interface between these two villages, keep on spreading till they settle in Anjar. In parallel, along with this propagation, the rectangular volume sit atop of the white cubic structures in Majdel Anjar with a condensed, apparent grid which disappears in a gradual way towards Anjar. The link seems to take three directions in order to overcome all the present limits and emphasis on the weaving between these two antagonistic villages. The first two connections seem to link Anjar and Majdel Anjar by going above the road networks in two perpendicular directions. As for the third connection, it is established by going under the highway to link the two museums with each others.

Program Strategy:

Referring to the " program strategy " plan represented in the attached photos, the concavity represents the introvert, a closed space towards the interior, where interaction takes place inside the borders. The convexity represents the extrovert, an open space towards the exterior, where interaction takes place with its surroundings. The alternation of this movement can create a project in which occur several interactions in the inside and with the outside in a way it preserves the intimacy of the habitant and the users while socializing and mingling with each other.
The program division is made by combining both Anjar and Majdel Anjar into two entities and in a complementary way. The union is made. By applying the convergence and divergence concept, the two fabrics create several spaces through the project. The aim is to convert the empty spaces developed into public spaces, meeting points, interaction platforms. Therefore, this program strategy will treat the social and spatial schizophrenia present and favorize the social interaction while preserving each society’s autonomy

Program Application:

The program strategy consists of organizing the space in the project to overcome the social differences and to generate an adequate atmosphere that promotes interaction. It is also visible in the plan organization.

Technical information

Ecological Design:

The project comprises a combination of ecological elements such as courtyards, retractable roofs, mashrabiya. A roof garden is designed, forming a new public park and creating a new meeting point for the habitant and the tourists. It integrates several internal courtyards, similar to the traditional arab architecture, which promote a natural ventilation and passive cooling system. The roof market is designed with two kinds of retractable roofs: to regulate the passage of light or to maximize the potential for natural ventilation. The roof also includes embedded photovoltaic panels to produce energy.

The material used in this project is “Wood Mashrabiya”, a traditional Islamic shading screen. It is used as a sustainable technique for energy saving. It will mainly protect the rectangular shaped building facades from the hot arid climate present in the Bekaa valley and control the passage of light as well as the air flow. Plus, it is known to ensure privacy by separating the private and the public space visually. It blocks the vision of the passerby from a far distance from looking through what beyond the Mashrabiya Screen. At the same time, it didn’t deprive the occupant of the building from having an exterior view. It helps to create an introverted environment which is also extroverted in response to the applied strategy. The pattern adopted is inspired from the Armenian culture to enhance the merge of two different cultures in architecture elements as well. The target of the material choice is to create a unified language that would generate a strong identity for the project in contrast with the white cubic structures.

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