Excavated Sanctuaries (Subtracting Ground By Program)
Kamal, Rasem M
Master of Architecture
This thesis focuses on subtraction not addition, subtracting voids and spatial volumes according to users’ need of functions, circulation and natural light. These voids will be excavated in the natural ground in order to create a concealed and non-distracting architectural presence above ground, along with an unlimited flexibility to subtract underground. The motivation behind this subject in particular was based on a debate related to the relationship between external form and internal space. Lately, a great many of prominent architectural practices have been focusing on developing dynamic forms, new building materials, sophisticated details and tectonics as well, while only the minority of these contributes to their internal spaces. Consequently, this thesis aims to flip the relationship between the explicit and implicit, by diminishing the power of external form along with exploiting all the previous efforts that were used for it to subtract spaces where we will live, experience and enjoy. Rum Valley in south Jordan is a vast empty desert, surrounded by series of fascinating colorful mountains, the selection of this site was for two key reasons; it is an ideal location to excavate natural ground with a high flexibility of horizontal expansion. Furthermore, this site needs a very minimal and sensitive intervention -since it was declared a world heritage site by UNISCO in 2011 without adding new structure above ground that might compete with the existing mountains and distract visitors visually. Throughout natural and architectural history, there were various precedents ranging from the scale of ants colony nest to underground museums. However, the challenge of thesis was to experiment excavation in more complex programs - (train sub-station, museum and hotel) as a response for Rum Valley needs-in order to exploit all the opportunities provided by building underground, unrestricted vertical or horizontal expansion along with a new definition for building slabs, walls, and maneuvering between spaces by convenient ramps. The design concept was based on excavating a series of fragmented yet interconnected courtyards which remained exposed to the sky despite being under the sand‘s datum line. These courtyards control all the hotel rooms and museum halls around them in addition to the underground circulation network of ramps, but with variations in volumetric experience and lighting quality in each one, because every courtyard was subtracted according to its surrounding functions, circulation’s requirements with distances being set according to a network of convenient ramps, topography, orientations towards site views and intensity of natural light. This “Excavated Sanctuaries” announce themselves from their interior not exterior, in other words, this it is a new redefinition of the modernists’ phrase “form follows function” into “subtraction follows function”.