Embassy of Japan, Damascus, Syria.


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Harmony in systems of form. Equilibrium of the constructed. A wealth of materials. The energy of light. The strength of color. Symmetry and asymmetry. Time. History’s lessons. Traditions... These were the echoes that ran through my head when I began the Syrian project. If we must build – an act that requires effort – then we must first ask questions. Architecture is essentially physical space, and yet it is also a place for thought. It is something immaterial. An idea uses material as a means to become real, concrete. The construct itself is merely a body; the final aim remains an idea free to become reality. Louis Kahn said that every construction should contain a sacred place. He meant an uncontaminated, convivial space in which the spirit is free to expand. Without an idea there can be no architecture, merely an accumulation of inert material. The client is not interested in the sacred, the uncontaminated, the transcendent, the questions, the reflections. The client wishes rather to physically possess the space in which he or she has invested money. The client wants results as quickly as possible. Thus we labor for two patrons: reality and essence.

In Damascus everything is made of white stone. The mountain looming behind the city has been colored half gray by an endless array of illegal building; only near its summit does the soft blond color of calcareous stone reappear. This stone is everywhere, solemn, fissured, alive, ancient. Damascus stretches out for kilometers under that mountain, extending finally into gardens that radiate out towards the steppe.

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