Posted on December 1, 2012
Architecture like many other forms of visual arts always refers to a moment of stillness. That moment is usually a moment of accomplishment…the last brush stroke, the last sanding move or the last brick placed. As you might have read in my last post, the “molecule” of architecture gets developed over time and starts to form a fusion of physical and emotional characteristics…at least that’s what I think. However, there are times when that equation doesn’t always yield itself true. Exceptional times.
Let’s take this building as an example:
It is called “Al Amiriyah Shelter” and located in Baghdad. It is one of many high-tech shelters built in the late 80s to protect local residents in dense neighborhoods. It was designed to withstand a chemical, biological and even an atomic attack. From the first sight, it is not the best looking structure and it doesn’t have what it takes to make it a unique building either.
It was on 13.02.1991..4:30 AM when two stealth bombers (F-117) dropped two laser-guided bombs with bunker buster capabilities designed specifically for that war. The US Army falsely thought that this civilians’ shelter was being used as a command center. The first GBU-27 bomb made a hole in the 1.5m thick roof, while the second went right through the hole and made sure that it was not a mere nightmare. It was real.
|Two GBU-27 replace “Time” as place creator|
The 1.5 tons doors were designed to close automatically when a nearby blast/attack is sensed. They did and shut the shelter closed. The peaceful shelter turned –within seconds- to a malicious furnace. While women and kids at the ground floor where being incarnated alive, the people in the basement boiled to death due to the burst of water tanks. The pressurized environment along with a temperature exceeding 1000° C ensured that no one inside will see the dawn light again. Black smoke, burning flesh, tears, fear, instantaneous death and blood running on the floor were some of the elements that made this heroic amalgam. The thick walls and doors made it acoustically impossible for people outside to hear what was happening inside. The Space inside was filled with echoes of horrific screams and within minutes, the relentless fire ended the building function for good. 408 Civilians (mostly kids and mothers) have died. Bodies of many were not find as they turned into ashes during the attack.
After about 10 years from the attack, I made it inside the shelter. The building was turned into a memorial site with a symbolic cemetery outside. The first thing I encountered inside the rather dark place was its latent energy. There is an incredible magnitude of emotions circulating through its black spaces.
|The hole made by the bombs is a main source of daylight today|
Almost every “art piece” in that place wasn’t made intentionally. A Silhouette of a mother hugging her child was imprinted on one of the walls…their actual burning bodies left that time stamp in that space. Remains of a child flesh are still there on the ceiling. A piece of a white cloth is still stuck on one of the walls…it belongs to a wedding dress a young bride was trying it on. But the one scene that made many visitors speechless was a bloody hand print of a child. He/she was probably trying to run away from the fierce fire behind.
Being inside such a place is like living a moment of complete stillness. It is an absolute crystallization of time, emotions and physical attributes. A synthesis in which form, space, function and lives amalgamate to form a spiritual reservoir of emotions. If you ever make it there and listen carefully, you will still be hearing the walls echoing the trapped innocent screams. Why? they ask.