Architectural Thesis- Spring 2013
This thesis is in consideration for the Master of Architecture degree
The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the role that emotions play in the formation of memories and their application to architecture. The question posed was, ‘how is it that some moments of our lives are more vivid than the others?’ For example, most people remember the details of their lives when they heard of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, but how many people can remember, in vivid detail, the events of September 10th, 2001?
Every minute of every day we receive hundreds of experiential information through our senses, but only the information that is exaggerated stands out and moves to our short term memory. From that set the information that evokes our emotions moves to our long term memory. For example, let’s say you’re driving on a high way, hundreds of cars pass by and you observe them, but shortly thereafter you will have no memory of those cars. However, if someone honks at you, that car’s information will move to your short term memory, and if the driver does something to upset you or make you angry that information will move to your long term memory.
Architecture certainly can impact what and how we remember. Because what remains in our memories is how we physically sensed the space and what emotions were elicited within that space.
When designing, architects should consider how the people feel inside the buildings and how they are going to experience the space, not only in terms of how the space looks but also how it touches, how it smells, how it sounds.
Our surrounding environment communicates with our bodies as we move through it, feel the texture of the materials, hear the sound echoing through the space, feel the warmth on our skin or walk towards the light. As we experience scenes like these, it is not only the eye that contributes to the experience; it is the combined perception of all the senses that gives us our total experience of a space and creates the whole atmosphere in our mental map. It is the aim of this thesis to create an atmosphere that requires the use of all the senses in order to evoke different emotions so the space and the message of that space will be more memorable.
Humans have five main senses and four of them are directly related to architecture. Those senses are visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory. Out of these four senses two are mostly ignored by the majority of architects. As Juhani Pallasmaa said, “The eye is the organ of distance, whereas touch is the sense to nearness, intimacy and affection. The eye observes and investigates, whereas the touch approaches and feels.”
Emotions are hard to define because emotions are a state of mind and a reaction to a situation. However, there are seven primary emotions confusion, fear, anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, and happiness. Additionally, there are some emotions that are a product of a primary emotion; such as nostalgia, which is associated with sadness.
For the purpose of this thesis only four emotions were explored; confusion, fear, sadness, and happiness. These are the four primary emotions experienced during a war. Within this thesis the Iran-Iraq war will be the primary topic.
The war between Iran and Iraq was a convoluted conflict that lasted eight years and claimed the lives of more than two million people from both countries. Although Saddam’s intention was to capture two main boarder cities of Iran there were three supporting reasons.
1-Persian- Arab animosity is 1300 years old.
2- Geopolitical forces of the late 1970’s.
3- Influence of foreign powers.
Ultimately, the war brought about no changes to the borders and effectively this was a meaningless war.
To explore the concept of memory a memorial for the iran-iraq war would serve as the program. This memorial honors those whom lost their lives and more importantly brings two cultures together to embrace their similarities despite their differences.
The parti was generated by the gesture of two hands embracing one another in unity. The void that is created in the center forms the memorial. In plan, the circular nature of this metaphor evolves into an Islamic geometric pattern. This is significant as it is one of the many similarities of the two countries. To foster more cultural interaction to the site auditorium, market, and mosque serve as additional programs.
As far as the location is concerned the site is on the border of the two countries near the cities of Abu Al khasib and Khorramshahr. Khorramshahr was the first city that got attacked by Saddam.
The memorial is located at the center of the site. There is an open market that lacks built-in features so that vendors could arrange themselves however they see fit. North of the memorial is the auditorium. There is a restaurant on the top level that is accessible by both a ramp from the plaza and an elevator from inside the auditorium. The mosque faces towards the Mecca. The mosque like most scared spaces is elevated, therefore creating shade underneath and a plaza in front of it that faces the memorial that people could use to sit and enjoying the view.
Confusion was attained through the visual sense. A lack of way-finding and identification was used to disorient visitors. Without clear entrances to any of the spaces visitors are left in a quandary.
Fear was created through the sense of vision and touch. Heavy stone and glass are used throughout the site, sometimes creating spaces that unsettling from a safety standpoint. Almost as if one of the many massive columns was to give way from its glass restraints. Or the many glass bridges visitors have to traverse within the site might fail under stress. The act of occupying some of the spaces brings concern to the visitor’s own safety.
Sadness was manifested through the sense of vision, hearing, touch and smell. Within the memorial proper the names of all the people lost to the Iran-Iraq war are displayed. Their names are carved in frosted glass panels so they can be seen from both sides. Metaphorically, both sides of the war can witness the sheer number of people lost. Additionally, an infinity pool was created at the center. The sound of running water aids in creating silence, but it also mimics the tears that are continually shed for the lost lives. Moreover, in order to address the sense of smell rose water was added to the pool that creates also nostalgia.
Happiness was achieved through the sense of vision and touch. Throughout the site trees and vegetation were specifically choosen to achieve happiness. In many cultures the olive tree and palm tree symbolize hope and peace. Within all of the spaces there are vantage points that open to the sky. Light streaming into a space indicates hope. The plaza within the site is intended to support vendors in an open market. By both Iranians and Iraqis coming together to share in food, drink, culture, confusion, fear, sadness, and happiness they can become stronger together.
When visiting the memorial, you will hear the sound of the water, you will smell the rose water, you will feel the texture of the concrete, you can touch the names of your loved ones or see the names, you see the reflection of the sky in the pool reminding you where your loved ones are, it is the combination of all your senses that make you fully experience the space. As Pallasmaa Juhani said, “the importance lies in the interaction of the senses to create sensory architecture in opposition to the prevailing visual understanding of architecture.”