The House of Desert: An Architecture of Collective Living for the Extended Families
The desert is the ultimate place of illusion, it is not only – as commonly envisaged – a permanent expanse of hot sand but it is a space of silence, mystery and solitude, it is both a setting and a vehicle for myths, a place where the horizon seems to evaporate and where all visual landmarks are absent. The House of the Desert explores the many characteristics of the desert and translates them into design questions and abstractions of spatial qualities in which people can settle.
Learning how nature shapes certain moments and the particular ambiance that it produces in the desert, these particular moments are being extracted and abstracted to create spatial qualities for the settlement. The house is a 48,000sqm space in the heart of Doha, Qatar, for 15 extended Qatari families related by kinship in order for them to collectively construct their own life through settling, living and labour.
Doha was once a small fishing and pearl diving village before developing into a highly modern urbanised city. As a result, fewer extended Qatari families are able to live together than used to. The project studied other forms of desert settlements which experiment with collective dwelling and rejection of ownership to introduce a new kind of settlement plan. The house is conceived as a single plot of collectively owned space with dispersed living spaces within it – a spatial layout that reflects a new organisation of daily life: children are raised collectively and meals are eaten communally in the dining halls and every adult only had a single room dwelling without any other facilities attached to it which they called 'home'. Every other daily activity happened outside of the dwelling.
The proposal includes five main desert characteristics, namely the silence of the desert, the continuous horizon that emerges between the building perimeter and the ceiling, the fluidity of sandscape which in the building represents the collective areas, the vastness of the desert which forms the main 24,000sqm hall and the strata shaped landscape in some cases which represents the different geological layers of the sunken living areas and the roof. These abstractions enable certain activities in the space but also have a reciprocal relationship in forming and being formed by the families.
The proposal stabilises a social structure and defines a relationship between private family life and collective life. Lines do not demarcate the conventional public-private binary that divides ‘mine’ from ‘theirs'. Rather, the design configures a spatial organisation as a gradient of private family space to shared space between all extended families. Therefore, the House of the Desert talks about degrees of collectiveness and varying spaces of engagement and participation. Through a sequence of movements, the space forms a physical framework that balances shared collective space with individual space.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2019
- BA (Hons) Architecture, Oxford Brookes University, 2015
- Architectural assistant, Atkins, Oxford, 2014,; Architectural assistant, Farrells, London, 2015,; Architectural assistant, Bjarke Ingels Group, Copenhagen, 2017