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The Nomads' Emporium : Ghadames, Libya // Forging An Architecture Of Extremes

Part 1 Project 2010
Luke Royffe
London Metropolitan University | UK
The enjoyably peculiar internal spaces created by Sir John Soane at his house on Lincolns Inn Fields are in part defined by the effects of an array of skylights strew across the roof - each unique in both design and orientation. This simple observation was the starting point for my third year of studies.

Through spatial mapping, modelling and via the construction of a detailed section of the museum I have endeavoured to describe certain qualities of the museum's interior landscape.

Second, in seeking to develop and deepen my understanding, I focused on producing a design tool (in a literal sense) that is able both to manipulate and record the effects of light at specific locations.

Our studio trip took us to Ghadames, Libya. A place where light (and therefore heat) play an excoriating role in the lives of the towns inhabitants.

On location, I began by studying the traditional building typologies in Ghadames and to analyse the movement of light across the settlement in relation to the function and use of each building. I created a photographic record, documenting the alternating planes of light as they penetrate the city's buildings and public spaces.

Through drawing and modelling in a variety of materials, I have experimented with a number of building systems which, just like Soane's skylights, permit the controlled entry of light into interior spaces.

The Sahara is one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

My proposed building, the Nomads' Emporium, attempts to embody both the findings resulting from my prior investigations and an understanding of the specific environmental and social implications of designing for such extreme and marginal locations.

In it's simplest terms the proposal comprises a succession of spaces each intended to frame moments if specific use or activity taking place within the building during the course of the day.

The Nomads' Emporium aims to reinvigorate Ghadames' historic core and seeks explicitly to reintroduce done elements of the trans-Saharan trading culture which formerly sustained the city as a vital and dynamic settlement.

Luke Royffe

Due to material and technological developments, environmental agendas, as well as political will, what would previously have been considered to be uninhabitable places on earth are now being considered for
development. These extreme environments test the very nature of architecture.

The year began with a workshop capturing a specific moment, or series of moments, of sunlight or daylight which were then constructed as 1:1 ‘Light Clouds’. Following this students were asked to design and
construct a device that could control sunlight or daylight, which were then taken to Ghadames, a desert Oasis town in Libya, to be tested in context.

Projects were then developed around a tourism Masterplan for the town and sought to re-examine the successes and failures of the passive design of the now abandoned old town, using the device as a starting point for the projects.

The aim was to explore ways to control these extreme environments and develop architecture that responds to these conditions by correctly applying both science and invention, driven by the organic qualities of these natural forces.

Luke’s analysis of Soane’s top lit house (instead of the studio spaces of the school), and the building of the light clouds within it, formed to develop an understanding of the light entering and moving through the spaces, was a conscious decision based on very early research into the top lit housing of the old town of Ghadames.

His subsequent device took elements from Soane’s house and transported the idea of the control of light into a model of a typical house, but managed to feed light into the most unlikely spaces, proving once again that a constraint becomes an opportunity.

By testing the device on site in Ghadames, and carefully understanding that environmental context through this process, Luke’s research into the nomadic ways and needs of the Tuareg, as well as their overdeveloped consciousness and understanding of the climate of the desert, brought all the layers of the research into one- cultural, constructional, material, and programmatic, all grew out of the initial research into the control of light.

Luke’s extraordinarily sophisticated layering of an understanding of the climate, culture and context, interwoven with a highly technological and experimental skill, produced a project rooted in its place, with invention the only import.

Denis Balent
Gianni Botsford
Sabine Storp
• Page Hits: 15449         • Entry Date: 10 September 2010         • Last Update: 13 September 2010