Desert(ed) hotel | Student Project by Anam Hasan
This project that won the Serjeant Award at the RIBA President Medals Students Awards plays with the idea of fiction as architecture and with the moto “War is replaced by play, but not forgotten.” Hasan makes a kind of Cedric Pice’s Fun Palace reinterpretation of an hotel in the Nazi times. The task was to design a hotel on the site of a series of concrete bunkers tilting in the sand dunes outside Dunkirk, built during World War 2.
The student statement was written in a fictional-novel way, and the text is an important part of the project [in the same way as our friend from Como Crear Historias always present their projects with a narrative text as important as the project itself], so we want to respect Anam’s description:
Chapter 1: The Nightmare
Dunkirk saw the evacuation of 340,000 British troops in three weeks in 1941, the last pocket of unoccupied territory as the Nazis advanced. I tried to imagine the previous occupants of these spaces, French officers amidst chestnut horses burning fires at night, British footsoldiers waiting for boats to bring them home, or Germans parachuting in from the sky or arriving in a panzer tank. Hours spent looking out to sea from a bunker, a vast expanse of landscape regulated by a crosshair target on the horizon, revealing the next chapter of your life.
The site evokes a multiplicity of occupants, signs written in a cacophony of languages and architectures, violent but beautiful, impersonal yet intimate: not unlike the program for a hotel – absence follows bustling presence follows absence again.
War is replaced by play, but not forgotten.
The deserted hotel is a place to erase the past and create alternative futures, the replication of a game but with different rules. New sounds intrude upon the silence, a progressive shift from one reality to the other.
Chapter 2: The Dream
30 shiny metal aircraft are recycled to construct the deserted hotel, salvaged from Arizona. The hotel is a stage onto which the lure of the desert is projected, extending boundaries of event, communication, operation and visibility. Necessity gives way to luxury. The hotel speaks the language of machines, visible yet invisible.
The hotel is a baroque tapestry of fictions in search of an author.
As time passes, the occupants move on and are replaced by new occupants. Year upon year, the list of guests who stay at the hotel will get longer, one day the register will be lost, and with it the memory of the original occupants.
The relationship between war and architecture has been widely studied, as Tom Vanderbilt wrote: “Apart from the obvious architectural connotations of war — the need for defensive shelter, the status of architecture as a target — there is a breadth of associative meaning between the two enterprises: both are about the exercise of control over a territory; both involve strategic considerations of the most apt site-specific solutions; both involve the use of symbol, rhetoric, and cultural context.”
Can we say in this context that Anam Hasan is reinventing the use of the symbol?
What do you think?