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Imprisoned By I (dis)connection Through The Membrane & (dis)membered Connections

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Aissa Sabbagh
University of Greenwich London UK
"The Prison of Caravanchel" is the nickname by which residents of Madrid know the council-housing complex which was built by Sáenz de Oiza to relocate around three hundred families from a shantytown in Madrid comprising mostly rural immigrants and Gypsies into organized communal living. Problematic cultural differences between Gypsies and Payos (non-Gypsies) set the scheme on the fine line between challenging and utopian. Oiza’s building takes the form of a spiral block; he visualized what his son described as "a fortress on the banks of what was once a river and now a torrent of cars".

Whether prison or fortress, Oiza’s impenetrable walls, questioned the concept of ‘protective environment’ and the nature of margins, borders, lines and limits.

The following pages tell the story of how a human pattern was defined, how it found humans that did not conformed to that pattern and hence found itself on a dilemma of whether to change the pattern or to change the humans. When the question of ‘how’ was asked, the project was set in a mission with a clear aim, but incontrollable consequences.

This is the story of a wall, from the point of view of I, the planner, who visualizes a certain order in society and translates it into a pattern limits; I, the master architect, who conjures the borders and details the dialogue between the lines. I, the Payo body beyond the wall that acts as an incision to my personal space. And I, the Gypsy body trapped inside the wall.
And it is I, Aissa Sabbagh, RIBA Part I Architecture Student who then, wonders how relevant the I (the human subject) has been to planners, theoreticians, architects... when they play at spatialising society & socialising space. In the search for an answer, throughout my work I have aimed at testing and studying the role of the body in the delineation of the space it occupies. I have envisioned the I as the critical point that acts as the main generator device for the conception, creation and perception (with the consequent alteration) of its surroundings.

University of Greenwich, 2001.

Aissa Sabbagh

Aissa Sabbagh is one of the students that would continuously push the boundaries of knowledge and search for different ideas to the limit. She is extremely committed in the explorations of her ideas both in an academic as well as creative way.

Aissa has understood this year the fundamental connection between theory and practice in architecture. She has demonstrated it through her dissertation not only in academic way but also in the way that research like she has done could also be a source for ideas in a different way. She has re-invented the format of dissertation by exploring theoretical issues both through academic text as we well as film, which laterally connects her critical explorations. In her dissertation work she has become very intrigued with fundamental questions of architectural space carefully considering the relevant issue of the 'I' and the 'human subject'. Through well considered critical analysis she has negotiated the problematic of social housing of the past bringing forward the problematic of architectural production of today.

Aissa is an extremely mature and serious student for her age with already carefully thought and thoroughly understood positions about architecture. Her independence is commendable but equally her argument is well considered. She is the student that always considers advice carefully and responds to it with excellent and sometimes very surprising outcomes. It was a pleasure to teach Aissa this year where together we have worked on a production of knowledge in regards of some fundamental questions about architecture.

Ivana Wingham
University of Greenwich, 2001

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