Throughout this project, my main focus has been on developing architecture and spaces through narrative, and how the architectural outcome can inform the story you are about to be told.
I will tell you about the metaphors that have been a key driver for the development of my project, and the outcome that follows.
These metaphors and situations have all been turned into stories. Stories that represent the different stages of migration, that has to be completed in order to gain access into the European union.
In effect, it’s a commentary on the European politics on integration of migrants and the obstacles they have to pass
It’s essentially a commentary on the existing inhumane system, using fake facades that
are uni-directional. Only pointing towards what is experienced by the migrants passing through. Creating a series of scenographies spatializing the struggles of immigration and narrating the story of the migrants from their perspective.
But firstly I would like to take you all the way to the beginning of this story, as it began
in the beginning of 2015 very far south of the Mediterranean sea, the southern border of Europe.
Continuous unease, civil war and hunger in Africa have led to a mass emigration from the region towards Europe.
In 2015 the influx of migrants to Europe was so high that it was declared a migration crisis by the European Union. The European Union has since April 2015 struggled with handling the high influx of migrants and has attempted to reduce it by several means.
Some member states within the Schengen Area have been re-introducing border controls, halting the free movement of people within the European Union and discouraging asylum seekers and directing them towards neighboring countries, temporarily avoiding the problem themselves, pushing the migration elsewhere.
As the American Tennis player, Arthur Ashe once said;
“Success is a journey, not a destination.The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
The European union has with the trust fund for Africa externalized it’s borders, moving them into the Sahara region, keeping the so called problem at a distance, outsourcing the migration management to the northern African countries putting the responsibility of the humanitarian disaster into the hands of non-functioning governments and failed states with corrupt leadership.
With 158 million€ of the 300 allocated to the trust fund going towards migration management in the northern region, more than half of the humanitarian relief, intended to be used towards preventing migration in the first place, has been allocated towards denying entry to the people seeking a better life in Europe instead of enhancing the living conditions of the regions, thus preventing the mass migratory movement at its core.
Since Spain has become the new landing point for the majority of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, it has also become the landing point of my commentary.
By intercepting the migrants before they make it past the Iberian Peninsula and further into mainland Europe, the migrants can be integrated into society before they become landless illegal immigrants wandering from closed border to closed border, taking advantage of the free movement within the Schengen area.
Toledo is strategically placed in the center of Spain, just 30 minutes south of Madrid, where trains connect to the rest of Europe.Therefore it became a natural stopping point on the journey northwards.
With it’s multi cultural and religious history, the city itself exemplifies the connected multicultural Europe, while it’s fortress like cityscape can be seen as a personification of Europe’s current anti-immigration movement, as a fortress north of the Mediterranean sea.
Located across the riverTagus surrounding mediaevalToledo, the site essentially a metaphor for the crossing of the Mediterranean into Europe, condensing the journey into a graspable size, while maintaining the importance of crossing the sea.
Just 8 minutes of walking away from the train station, the site is located on the natural walking path, leading tourist and others alike from the train into the city. It can be seen from the Puente de Alcantara Bridge that functioned as the gateway intoToledo from the south for centuries.
The ruins that are now on the site have a rich history, as they were first the base for the Artifice of Juanelo. A mechanical wonder carrying water from the river to the 16th century military edifice situated on the highest point within the city walls.
In the late 19th century a series of hydro-electric plants were constructed along the river, providing clean electricity to the city towering above.
The ruins that was once the base of Juanelo’s Artifice is now also the derelict ruins of one of those hydro-plants, with a semi circular damn crossing the river connecting the two sides of the power plant.
When first encountering the migration complex, the migrants will see a long curved façade, following the curvature of the existing damn.
This façade is representing the economic wealth that a lot of migrants seek, when deciding to leave their home countries and families behind, in order to provide them with money
the money they earn in Europe, as the façade is an interpretation of the motives of the Euro Bank Notes, the currency connecting most of Europe.
On the front of the euro banknotes, windows and doorways are shown.They symbolize the European spirit of openness and cooperation.
The bridges on the back symbolize communication between the people of Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world.
Not what the externalization of the EU borders is exemplifying.
The Euro-facades are effectively shielding off the complexity of European migration, with the promise of a strong economy to outsiders looking in, as with the city of Toledo, you always look towards it, never from it, you only meet these facades as you look towards crossing the river.
The immigration of outsiders comes at a high price, which they migrants are yet to find out. But it’s not a high price for Europe, but for the people about to pass through the system
Passing through the existing
To enter the complex, the migrants have to pass through the old turbine building on the eastern bank of the river, funneling them through derelict buildings as an exemplification of the set out from the coast of Africa towards Europe, where unseen and unnoticed is preferred, as the coast guard would otherwise send you back.
As the migrants exit the building, stepping out onto the platform spanning the width across the raging river, they are now able to see the obstacles that lie ahead.
The labyrinth Queue
Before entering the bed of roses, the migrants are led into a queue, inspired by the Greek myth ofTheseus killing the Minotaur captured in King Minos’ labyrinth at Knossos.
The labyrinth, not to be confused with a maze, has an unambiguous path through it, where walking it presents a tranquil state of mind, from following a pre-determined route. In this case, the labyrinth is the first representation of the mindset, the European Union expects the migrants to adhere to, accepting the long path towards a visa.
The Bed of Roses
After waiting in line passing through the labyrinth the migrants are filled with ecstatic joy of making the journey across the Mediterranean. Now they have been saved and a life of prosperity awaits them.
They dance across the ballroom floor seemingly held up by the roses growing below the elevated entrance. Whilst dancing across the big ballroom floor, some migrants notice the curtains on either side of the room. Filled with curiosity, some migrants pass through the curtain, where they find a stair leading down, into the roses below.
The migrants descending find themselves surrounded by both the beauty of the roses growing there, but also the sharp thorns connected to the vines of the roses. It’s a struggle to leave the system, and some turn back and continue the path laid out for them to follow. Others simply dance across the floor, towards the door at the opposite end of the entrance, seeking advance in the immigration process.
The bed of roses is inspired by the idiom of the same name, or the Danish “en dans på roser” symbolizing the carefree and peaceful existence, the migrants hope to obtain
after entering the European union.The curtains hiding the stairs, and the small alcoves, symbolize the dreamers or those who reflect and do not try to get through the system as fast as possible.The roses supporting the ballroom from below, though beautiful are full of thorns, representing the work of people making the carefree existence for the migrants above possible, by working in fields of spikes and thorns, so that a few can benefit from it.
The migrants enter the cathedral from the bed of roses via a bridge, connecting the dance floor and the chandelier.The chandelier symbolizing the continued enlightened feeling of finally entering Europe.The migrants look down upon the people filing immigration papers below, believing that they are above such tasks. Walking the length of the cathedral raised above the rest, the migrants find themselves at a window, looking ahead, but alas a dead end.
Lowering themselves to filing immigration papers like the people they looked down upon, the migrants now have to start over in the cathedral; there are no shortcuts in the system. After they have descended into the main body of the church, they receive the visa application for the Schengen area.These are filled out in the church benches before being handed in, below the center point of the cross in the chandelier above.
The matter is now removed from their hands, and put into hands of the “gods” of immigration. All that is left now, is to pray for approval of the Visa
The cathedral symbolizes the removal of free will and choice and the transfer of choice from the individual to an unknown “divine” figure, represented here by the Legislators of the European Union.
After the approval of a temporary visa, the migrants are now allowed to enter the Schengen area, in effect crossing the border into the European Union.
Here they are met with the benefits of the free market and choices that the union offers its citizens.
The circular plaza is surrounded by a loggia, offering shade from the harsh Spanish midday sun. Protruding from this loggia lie the stalls of vendors, offering goods from all over Europe, enticing the migrants to taste the life of economic prowess.
However, with no money or no job, the migrants are forced to seek work to afford the alluring offers of the marketplace.
Working for the vendors is the only choice they have, but with only a temporary visa, and no working permit, the migrants are forced to work in the shadows.They work behind the fake plaster facades of the enclosed marketplace, effectively within the actual wall behind closed secret doors.
Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
The marketplace symbolize the situation migrants find themselves in, when entering Europe. As an example, when applying for a residence permit in Spain, you have to have lived there for 3 years, before you can obtain the permit. But in these three years, you are effectively an illegal immigrant and cannot get a regular job or address; instead you work in the shadows and live in the walls.
In Denmark you have to have been living legally in Denmark for 8 years and have proof of residency and work or other income covering your needs, this requires a continuous circle of applications for a working permit that have a 6 month waiting time to be accepted or denied.
Whereas in France you will need a family connection or have been granted the refugee status by the French government.
The marketplace is inspired by theTempietto di San Pietro in Montorio by Donato Bramante, as a prime example of Renaissance architecture.The temple pays homage to the martyrdom of St. Peter and in this case the illegal workers extended suffering behind the facades of the European economy.
The oculus in the middle of the circular market mark the point of which the border into Europe is crossed. As the damn protruding out of the water, giving firm ground to stand on.
After hiding behind facades the migrants go further into the system. As the last step in the migration process they are asked to perform in front of everyone, showcasing why they are worth being accepted into the union.
Before performing for the admittance committee, the migrants are allowed to see their peers attempt to pass the test before trying themselves.
On the stage, the migrants are asked to show everything they’ve learned through the long immigration process, in effect performing their own immigration as it has happened. Here everything else, everything that came before, does not matter, for this performance is the one and only factor in gaining entry into the union.
Performing to their Asses off, some migrants are still denied entry, even after crossing 90% of the river.
But here on this stage, in front of this audience, between fake clouds, behind fake walls, in front of fake people, they are rejected. Sent back, either to their discouragement or to try again, do it all again with no guarantee
The theatre symbolizes the final test and show it is getting a residence permit in a European country. Even though some migrants have done nothing but what they were asked, they are denied on the final stage of their journey. On this stage, the migrants are behind the facades, seeing the inner workings of the system, and how its moving parts are nothing but a theatrical show, not portraying the real situation.The frames holding the arches indicating an archway that isn’t real, the facades that are leaning on the framework, the roles have been reversed, and the stage is the only real place in this building.
After gaining a permanent residence in the union, the migrants are now no longer migrants, they leave the back of the theatre, ascending the stairs, taking them away from the migration process.
The river has been crossed completely.
In front of them stands a small tower; open towards the rest of Europe should they just walk through it, but ascending the winding stairs could give them a glimpse of what is to come. Instead, the tower is only open towards the past, overlooking the struggles the migrants went though, open for reflection and yearning towards the past, but looking ahead and towards what’s to come next.
The tower symbolizes the disconnectedness between immigration and actually functioning as an individual in the society. As a part a part of the European union, all the former migrants can do, is to look down and out upon the rest of the world.They are now above the problems of migration, above the problems of civil unease and hunger in other parts of the world
From this point of view the backside of the entire complex is visible, the facades are empty and flat on the outside, and the stages are seemingly disconnected in their language. None of this was visible from the inside.
Architecturally, the style is a commentary on modern architecture, where buildings grow taller and taller, and the façade is the only thing that matters. Which is why the building is empty on the inside and the roof is faux flat, with the gable hidden to seem contemporary.
All of these different parts of the narrative are as described set up as stages, strengthening the mental state of the migrant passing through. Elevating the highs and lowering the lows. The scenographic nature of the project exists as a one-sided architecture, addressing only the core user of the space, while neglecting the bystander.
In-between spaces are intentionally left confusing and “ugly” as the main focus for the union is to glorify the process they have led out for people to follow, not acknowledging the fact that the system has holes and flaws.
As the passing through is a one-way experience the architecture can reserve its traces and scenes towards leading the migrants through this one-way spatial sequence, effectively shielding of the outside, maintaining the migrant in his oneiric-like state of gratitude of passing through the system.
A lot relies on the migrants feeling thankful, as they would question the nature of the experience itself, were they not, as thankfulness removes a lot of criticism from the mind of the user.
In developing this project, I’ve simultaneously worked on a sort of Meta-narrative within the spatial sequencing of migrants passing through.
As I’ve been migrating through the system of architectural education, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of being pushed through a system.
The project is therefore also an introspective commentary on my experience with the architecture school.