The Third Landscape: Batroun's Abandoned Aquarium

The Third Landscape: Batroun's Abandoned Aquarium

Gioia Sawaya
Batroun, Lebanon | View Map
Wellness Centres
© Gioia Sawaya

The Third Landscape: Batroun’s Abandoned Aquarium

Gioia Sawaya as Architects

If we talk about empty, but in relation to function or use, then the vacuum category won’t compare to streets, parks, or courtyards, but rather to the built environment. In cities such as in Batroun (located in the North of Lebanon), such spaces are where the city takes a breath. They mark a point, a position in space, what Gilles Clément refers to as “Third Landscapes”. Third landscapes are spaces with no fixed nature. They are unstable, uncertain, and give the idea of “waiting”. So they are zones, interstitial spaces, “stand-by landscapes” with a precious opening to identity integration, but they also suggest potential change and movement.


Built since the late 1960’s, Batroun’s abondoned construction is one example. Consisting of two abandoned structures (the first, an unfinished concrete aquarium, vertically dominating; the second, an aquaponics/ fish tanks container, horizontally dominating), they appear to be anchored firmly in the ground, making the impression of being a self-evident part of their surroundings. They seem to be saying: "We are as you see us and we belong here."


Today, the entry to this site is restricted: the condition of the aquarium’s concrete is critical (especially at the Northern side because of the salty sea weather), the steel truss system supporting the fish tanks containers is unmaintained and there is a fear of them falling down. Consequently, a plan for the whole site to be demolished is currently being considered.


Therefore, this abandonment in the city of Batroun marks a gap, a discontinuity in its urban fabric, a discontinuity in time and in space. However, it is as through space, convenient here more than any place else with its inferiority to time, answers it with the only property “time” does possess: “Decay”. The most architectural thing about the site’s nature is the state of “decay” in which it is. 


In the end, structure and architecture, at some point, fail, but what if this failure is adopted and transformed into a potential rejuvenation?


Brief, this thesis was mostly an investigation based on theoretical readings (Deleuze/ “Body Without Organs”, Le Ricolais/ “Beauty of Failure”) as an approach to an architecture where skin, structure, and circulation interact technically and tectonically, and intertwine within each other to work as one system: A Body. Hence, the “Third Landscape" treats “decay” not as a flaw in structural failure, but as a chance for redesign and optimization. It favors reformation/ rehabilitation over demolition and it is best understood as a way of conceptually emphasizing “dimensions of embodiment beyond organization” (as used by Deleuze + Guattari in “A Thousand Plateaus”) where matter, material, construction systems, structural configurations, space, and circulation work as continuous spectrums and functional gradients, rather than isolated domains.


The proposal hence focuses on the regeneration of this decaying abandoned construction in Batroun city throught the anticipation of failure, by reinforcement throught the use of a prosthesis, in other words, "A Body Without Organs".


My investigations draw on the logic of skin and structure mechanics. By digitally studying the characteristics of a prosthesis, possible thoughts in about how to combine skin, structure, and circulation in a novel way were explored. Such hybrid systems originate from a material intelligence, one that has self-organizing properties that respond to various external and internal pressures.


As a structural concept, I began to look at the qualities of steel, then I generated a translation that was later developed as the main prosthetic for the building. This prosthetic maximizes load distribution and flexibility, devises a programmatic relationship, and resists load bearing pressures. By integrating programmatic, spatial, and structural associative modelling, the proposal would act as a remedy for the existing two abandoned structures’ situation.


D’Arcy Thompson once said, “the form of an object is a diagram of its forces”, so if those forces are expressed across systems, from structure to space to program, then if to some, form follows function, and to others, function follows form, in this case, my position would be: form and function-both-follow material. In Batroun’s unfinshed construction, the new materialism is the new expressionism.

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