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Cylinders of Soap, Mud, and Pottery: On Cultures of Making Beyond Architecture


Nadi Abusaada Wesam Al Asali

This object will be presented at the TACK Conference in the object session SITE, 20 June 2023 between 09:30 – 11:15 (CEST) at ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5).

In this paper, we extend the concept of the site in architecture from being a future space awaiting a built product to an existing space of production. In expanding this concept, we trace spaces of building and environmental crafts that contribute to shaping the built environment beyond the boundaries of the architecture profession in its traditional sense. We focus on three products that are similar in their from as cylinders, but differ in their materials, the purpose of their production, and their cultural and social meaning. From the tanoura in the soap factories in Syria and Palestine, totannour mud ovens for baking bread in northern Syria, to abraj hamam dovecotes in Egypt, this paper presents a framework for understanding cultures of making in the Arab region and their connection to the production of the built environment in rural and urban setting. We aim to understand these formations from their tacit meanings (how they are built, what are their building techniques, and what knowledge is based on) to their spatial-cultural meaning (how the products of these crafts relate to their production sites). Finally, we work to extract the connections of these cultures with architecture and frame a methodology for how design today can dialogue with products outside its professional and educational boundaries.

Nadi Abusaada is an architect and a historian. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at ETH Zürich. Wesam Al Asali is an Assistant Professor at IE University in Spain and the co-founder of IWlab and CERCAA.