Floating In-Between

Areej Alchalabi/ USA 

What happens if we witnessed the destruction of what defines our identity.

Floating In-Between is a project that explores the process of identity reorientation in the case of immigration and the changes of the common lived- environments. In which the practice of forming the new identity is not restricted in space or in time it becomes a continuous practice understood both in its presence and its endlessness.

The project takes an example of a study-experiment of the transformation of usage, perception, new memory and the in-between shifted new identity formation of immigrants. A comparison study in the perception of public-spaces (Kennedy plaza-USA) analyzing the elements of defining new emerged behaviors and identities (sounds-architectural elements…-scale), how their identity would evolve rather than fit and dissolve in the new community, which role they can play in the future of the cities they inhabit despite their participation in the future of Syria.

cover poster

Two different worlds/ re-orientation (the emerged behavior in the in-between)

 “Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.” Hermann Hesse

In our case, the study took a place in Kennedy plaza’s surrounding avenues, which can be described as separate monofunctional zones. As a result, the circulation of people, hardware and software become the main activity.

“caution, the bus is turning”

“the sound of a small group of people having conversations in Spanish or English at the bus station”

“Signs and lots of traffic signs that indicates the exact directions, street names, flashing dynamic signs indicating the precise timing of the next transportation method” “I have to notice every sign and to do lots of reading before making any road decision, of course, I can’t move without my smartphone, the GPS system and Sirri leading me through the way”

“The smell of humidity coming from the nearby shore”

 “this way only for buses, do not enter”

“the define noticeable separation between two types of pedestrians, people  who passes the street in a quick motion between their working areas in the surrounding buildings, and other working people who cannot afford a car waiting for the public transportation, in addition to a notable amount of homeless ” another immigrant says

Krier mentions on designer hypocrisy that “If we speak of public space, we speak of its quality, of its type, of its measurements, of its proportions. If order and measure are proper to every divine creation, it must therefore also be true for every human creation. Without measure and without form, terrestrial things cannot exist; they exist only as sickness, disorder, uproar. A body either too big or too small is a monster or a dwarf”

The immigrant keeps recalling flashes of memory, his eyes provoke the space in an attempt to find elements that he is familiar with, uses them as a base to compare every aspect of his new environment, and sometimes he implants them in the scene even if they do not exist.

the scale of the surrounding towers and high-rise buildings separated by the narrow avenues aggravates a sense of negative enclosure, creating a threatening space for the newly immigrant, while he is used to narrower streets of old Damascus even the dead-end alleys, however the scale of the surrounding and the nature of houses creates a positive sense of intimacy and excitement in the process of discovery.

On the other hand, the detachment from the home town city where the map has long been useless in this city “whose streets are continually reshaped by their walkers, sellers, sponsors and hobby street-artists where the only and most flexible orientation software can direct the city’s inhabitants through its countless of unstable, twisted streets” Can form a challenge for the immigrant who now needs to use his smartphone or a map in every road decision, he has to pay attention to the signs along the road.


Decrypting the in-between senses:

“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” Italo CalvinoInvisible Cities.

the Perceptual Process of spaces that relies on Sensation, Perception, and Cognition which is formed by learning, memory, expectation, and attention. subsequently affects the way we percept the environment around us and leads inevitably to the formation of identity that theorists and architects have discussed, reaches a milestone in an immigrant’s mind. Where the group of the common sensations that forms the first step taken in the interaction process with spaces determining how it is perceived, have evolved somewhere along the way. Of course, consciousness did change. Partially because of the radical shift in the pattern of the living environment. In addition to the major sensory systems that had been so firmly rooted in thought, (Visual perception, Olfactory perception, Tactile perception, Auditory perception, Thermal perception), some additionally known subsystems the immigrant depends on moreover could be highlighted in the perceptual process. Like the vomeronasal system that helps him to indicate intraspecific messages such as fear and identification or nociception that leads to the perception of pain, the pain of the unknown, the foreign. parallel but separate sensory system for experiencing tactile sensations, parallel systems for detecting the visual contour/ contrast/ form/ scale, a sub-auditory system makes him pay attention to the different accents in the endeavor for meeting other foreigners.

The reason of depending on these sub sensory systems is the swirl of comparisons between the new and the familiar, the seeking for the common and the striving need for constructing a sense of belonging.

“But afterwards many experiences little by little destroyed all the faith which I had rested in my senses; for I from time to time observed that those towers which from afar appeared to me to be round, more closely observed seemed square, and that colossal statues raised on the summit of these towers, appeared as quite tiny statues when viewed from the bottom; and so in an infinitude of other cases I found error in judgments founded on the external senses. And not only in those founded on the external senses but even in those founded on the internal as well; for is there anything more intimate or more internal than pain? And yet I have learned from some persons whose arms or legs have been cut off, that they sometimes seemed to feel pain in the part which had been amputated, which made me think that I could not be quite certain that it was a certain member which pained me, even although I felt pain in it.” Meditations On First Philosophy René Descartes

You can get used to anything, especially when you have no option. If you have to pay, you pay; it’s just a question of attitude. At a particular moment in your life, you adopt a certain position, whether mistaken or not. You decide to be like this or that. You burn your boats, and then all you can do is defend that position, come what may.” Arturo Pérez-ReverteThe Fencing Master.


The In-Between: The nature of the change (the immigrant’s in-between identity as a part of the future of the cities he inhabits)

If we follow the steps of “LEBBEUS WOODS” in the context of his “PROBABLE FORM” we can understand the nature of the change that appears in the immigrant’s mind and the formation of both the new in-between identity And the future of the cities he inhabits.

In which the change occurs concurrently in many directions at once rather than happening in a serial linear way, however, in different rates. It happens in a matrix of frames that each inhabits the same space and moment impulsively within a field of probabilities. instead of a stable arrangement of subsequent frames. “Transformation. Transmutation. Transfiguration. Terms that dignify the fate of architecture. Change provokes variations of an ideal form, or, orders of its probability”.

the forming of the new identity is not restricted in space or in time it becomes a continuous practice understood both in its presence and its endlessness in which as soon as the transformation ends the identity begins to decay and it will be considered as the first frame of descent to destruction.

 “Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” Leonard Shelby, Memento

The in-between identity of the immigrant who has suffered from changes of the common lived- environment because of socio-cultural and infrastructural issues breaking out in the space of war or immigration to the new city can offer hopeful interventions to the future of the cities they inhabit, can evolve in organic way it could create revolutionary experiences within the shattered leftovers of the old identity. The new identity was meant to be involved in a new style of living clearly organized from the habitual structures of everyday life. However, “it needs a practice that does not shy away from the disaster, but embraces its best impulses; a practice that builds not against the ruin, but with it; a practice that rekindles the embers of enlightenment and freedom in the ashes” While he can benefit from the invention, innovation, and discovery processes he gained and developed from his traditional culture in which they are a means to improve handed-down and time-honored systems of thinking, planning, building, representation, communication, Fundamental aesthetic and ethical principles which are considered to be of universal value in the constantly changing socio-economic and political conditions that needs to revolutionize all concepts.


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