The Story of the Hands: On Earth and Community

Alireza Taghipoor

The phenomenon that the universalization of the urban (and rural) form has disadvantaged many Iranian cities and villages of a sense of place, culture, and identity, is not a very recent one. Neither is it a novel understanding among architects and urbanists that the quality of locality in our living spaces is in need of improvement. The connection between people and their buildings has been forgotten and so in our settlements we have given in to the more accessible, mass-producible ways of building. In doing so, we have deprived ourselves of the intimacy that was once the blood in the veins of our alleys. In search of this lost meaning, I have read the words of visionaries, pondered their words, and have gotten my hands to experience. I learned that a true sense of meaning is given to a building when it tells a story, and to me, the story is that of the hands that raised its walls. What would give a neighbourhood a greater sense of community than for the neighbours to have helped build each other’s home? Participation of the community in the building process, however, faces many limitations. Our contemporary ways of building are too complex for the inexperienced and our customary materials are not local to most places. I have therefore explored building methods that would be simple enough for the community to easily involve themselves. And earth, this abundant and generous substance that lies beneath our feet, is the most accessible and affordable building material of all. I have worked on a set of strategies and policies through which my ideal building project can be accomplished, and have chosen my paternal village to be the site for it to happen in. In a village that is rapidly losing its vernacular architecture, I envision a building that could be planted as a seed by its people to grow out a new fabric of local, meaningful, and intimate architecture.

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