Breeze 9 – Antwerpen – artist : Róza El-Hassan

The model of a Kubbe, the original  ancient Syrian  adobe dome was built in Antwerp,  MUHKA Muse of Contemporary Art in Belgium. The sundried adobe bricks were produced in Hungary,  Tisza Riverside region in a Romani village.

Since the ceiling the  museums  can  carry only 500 kg /m2 I had to make a light construction.

The floor was painted: hundreds of fragments  depicting   the cosmos and starmaps and crystals.



Hussein Hamen Ahmed , craftsman, bricklayer  interior designer for plaster-reliefs and  home-decoration,   from Antwerpen and Aleppo

Dr. Nawaf El-Hassan, my father, expert  for  cultural heritage, village architecture in Northern Syria and dome-building,  Latakia –  Budapest

Anders Kreuger – curator Stockholm-Vilnius _Antwerp

Concepts, plans, building and research: Róza El-Hassan

see also my post: How to build a Cub :








10983282_10206052425046319_4200686336294882200_n  11073073_10206052425086320_8996964920292040865_n20150528_16135320150528_16072320150528_161615-220150528_160649starmap_153mm

photos Christine Clinckx and Róza El-Hassan copyright with the authors



How to Build a Syrian Cub dome — OFF Biennale Budapest — 2017 —and how to start to build an adobe house – the foundation of a house near the Danube river in Budapest

How to Build an Adobe House – my experience in Budapest in September 2017

The first step is to even the ground and to remove the earth to make space for a foundation.

The walls of the adobe house should stand on a basis of stones, bricks or if nothing else is available on concrete.  The adobe walls should not stand directly on the earth in the wet ground, but on dry stones, because adobe bricks do not “like” water. If you build the adobe house on a rock, which is in the dry desert not much foundation is needed :-).

But if you start to build it at the Danube river you need really a lot! Be prepared for heavy work.

stones: recycled bricks and natural stones in the foundation. They are joined deep in the earth with water-resistant concrete and above the earth – where it is not so wet –  with mud.  SInce the ground-water level is very high near the Danube,  and floods happen often, I dare not use only mud and sones for the basis under the earth, but stones and concrete.

stone for the basis

Stone basis and adobe bricks on the top


I used recycled bricks. for the foundation, the foundation is appr. 60 cm deep in the ground and 50 cm wide.

To glue the adobe bricks together you need a lot of earth.  This we mixed with water and a hand mixer.

This is done in plastic bowls. This type of plastic bowls, which you can buy in OBI or Baumarkst are cheap, but they have after a few days crack if you work intensive.  Try to get special bowls to mix


straw absorbs unnecessary water – so we put it on the top of the wall in the evenings

the entrance is made of terracotta bricks, but it can be also wood.


This is the point where I stopped building and hoped to continue in spring

adobe, stones , air bubble concrete:  heavy and light materials piled as improvisation in form of a dome- there was no mortal or any glue added, a mere play with statics and added and the structure was removed  a few days after the opening

The form was based on my  earlier work  :  “The”Gate”: 2015 – also made of adobe and tong


Tools you need:

Please note: you need also a lot of TIME! Earth is not concrete. Earth needs time to dry, shrink,  sink compress the lower layers and to find the final form.



Syrian Voices Mediation and Art In Vojvodina – Part 1.

Like the Birds,

An exhibition Vojvodina region near the Hungarian border in Serbia in summer 2017.

Introduction text  on the Museum Vojvodina’s website:

article in art-portal


Sukut-  tent with green leaves Like the Birds – from July 14th to Aug 18,  Museum Vojvodina, Serbia –  Between Drawing and Building  – part 1.











photos:  Daniel Ongjerth – photo 1. wall drawing    – installation views –  Marko Ercegovic and Tijana Filipov, Róza El-Hassan


Breeze 2017 – Dome, Sphere and Floating Garden

Breeze /Róza El-Hassan, location: Red Star Line Museum Antwerp, Belgium,   May 9, 2017 – September 17.





earlier drawings and concept for floating gardens, which does not need watering:



design and drawing: Róza El-Hassan, 2017

photos: Róza El-Hassan and Victoriano Moreno

copyright with the authors





H O P E Adobe dome building in Samos based on the manuals and instructions, which were published on this blog

H O P E 🙂

a first adobe dome shelter model is build in Samos at the Greek-Turkish seaside border based on the instructions and drawings on this blog.

Big thanks to all!!!

curator Katerina Gregos

at Art Space Pythagorean – Schwarz Foundation – Samos

the adobe house dome building instructions, wich were published on this blog in the earlier article “how to build a Syrian  adobe dome” and in other articles on the Syrian adobe dome, are free to use,  the drawings can be printed. the guidelines  of creative commons” rules are valid.  So visit the articles and try how to build .


IMG_5554           IMG_5592-2IMG_0842           building






Floating Gardens inbetween Skyscrapers – ” Semiramis in the Gulf”


Hanging Gardens for Skylines, drawings 1-4, 42×59 cm 2016 April, Copyright Róza El-Hassan



Hanging Gardens for Skylines, drawing 59×42 cm, 2016 April, Copyright Róza El-Hassan







This was came into being, since the skylines of the Arab Gukf were so inspiring and so were the big constructions and utopian buildings.

My futuristic idea is to connect the skyscrapers also on the high level around the 30th or the 50th floor and to add hanging gardens , bicycle roads,  streets to walk to to the upper level. This way we have a skyline, which reminds me of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon., which King Nebuchadnezzar II build for his wife Queen Amytis , who missed the green hills so much, we know these seven wonders of the ancient word also as Semiramis Hanging Gardens.


Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 19th century painting  by anonymous artist.


Hanging Gardens, Singapore.

The question arises, could we build such sustainable gardens floating in the air between the skyscrapers?  And how could we water them? Today we know several technologies to get  water from the air.  So we do not need to build pipelines. These technologies I will introduce later.

There has been  already at the beginning of the 20th century several ideas to connect skyscrapers with  high-road,  but seldom realized. One of these utopian images we can see on Fritz Lang’s film scenery Metropolis.

metro55      metropolis_productionstill_300dpi_15

Fritz Lang, Metropolis film animation beginning of 20th  century


Why Highroads instead of elevators only ,2016 April

When we want to walk from  the 50the floor of a skyscraper to visit the neighbor’s office or home, which is in the other skyscraper, on the 45th floor, we take the elevator, go 50  floors down and the we walk or drive to the other building and we go again 45 floors up with an elevator.



Burj Al Khalifa Metro Station Dubai / Pedestrian highway



Vertical Garden for Berlin

One example for a device, which extracts water from the air: Dew Bank by Kitea Pak — orogially designed for desert situation, but also useful among skyscrapers.




Roza El-Hassan 2016 May All right reserved











Syrian Beehive Dome Building and Plans and basic Instruction how to build an Adobe House

How to build an adobe house – basic instruction.

please scroll down for German abstract/translation

The first step to build any adobe house is the production of the bricks.

It is basically a mixture of stray and mud(earth)  casted into a simple form and  dried in the sun.

In hot weather regions it needs only three or four days to dry . In Hungary it needs a week or two depending on the temperature and sunshine. It can be produces only in the summer!  Several tutorial videos exist on the internet. Still you have to try yourself,  try the local earth, straw and weather.  If you mix also a bit of cement into the earth it dries faster and harder but later while you r work, it is much more difficult to cut the bricks, if you need smaller pieces for the top of the dome or for edges. in the house. Fully organic bricks made of straw and earth can be cut easily with a handsaw and formed as needed.  It is a universal element for architecture and art.

Arabic  video made last summer:



The dome’s is placed on a stone socket, the walls are  very  big on the bottom, and thin on the top. This provides the statics.

The stone  part can consist of one layer only or of several layers, the stone basis is not necessary, if the dome is build on  concrete or pavement.




This basis can carry as well a house, wich has the form of a cube and a house, wich is  a dome.

The doors and windows can be made also of wood, metal or any other material, which is available, not just stone.  If you do not have any wood or metal for the doors, I recommend  to use textile.

Usually the door is not very big, not more then  150 cm high.  If the house is 250  or 270 cm high, the door can be between 120 and 150 cm high.  If bigger, the door is to dominant.

The window is places very low, only. 40 or 50  cm from the  floor.  the size of the window is about 45 cmx 45 cm .  This is better to get cool air into the house from lower levels.



The Beehive is not like an arch, but like a wall with special statics and  character.

See drawing left side.

This drawing shows how to calculate the basic  proportions



Der Dome ist zumeist auf einen steinernere Sockel gebaut, der 15 cm bis zu ein meter hoch sein sein. Die Höhe ist variabel.

Auf dem Steinsockel steht der Erbau.

Es ist unten ganz dick, mindestens  50 cm dick und oben ganz  dünn.

Somit sind die Seitenstützpfeiler, die z.B. bei einem gotischen Dom am Gebäude  an der Seite des Hauptschiffen als Rippen erscheinen, hier  in  die sich nach oben verjüngend Mauerbreiten mit einkalkuliert. Die unten dicken Mauern fangen den schrägen vertikalen Druck der Kuppel auf.

Da der Sockel quadratisch ist, und die Kuppel rund, entsteht eine kleine Konkave in den vier Ecken.

Die Zeichnungen und Photos  zeigen den Innenraum der Kuppel , der rote kreis den Übergang vom Quadrat zur Kuppel, Kugelform.


the red circle show the very ancient problem  of builders to change from  a cube to a sphere:-)

and this photo shows how beautiful it is inside.

But to achieve this natural architectural  beauty it is better to ask a Syrian craftsmen or woman.





upper photo: House: Breeze 9  , Antwerpen ,build by Róza El-Hassan, Hussine Ahmed Hamed, Dr. Nawaf El-Hassan,  in May  2015 organization, curatorial work: Anders Kreuger and the MUHKA team.  The adobe bricks were produced in Hungary at Tisza riverside.

to be continued….



Why Adobe- Earth Bricks instead of Cement or burned Bricks? An urgent environmental Question.

Adobe – earth blocks or concrete ? And why are there so many exciting questions around it?
and why so many problems?
The basis of concrete is cement:
Nearly 60% of the 68.9 x 1000000 tonnes of CO2 produced annually in the United States from non- combustion industrial sources (chemical reactions) originate from cement manufacturing.
The United States has 118 cement manufacturing facilities operating 192 kilns. These plants manufactured over 88,900,000 tonnes of cement in the year 2001. On average, they required 4,982,000 Btu ( 1 but = 1066 Joule) to produce one metric ton (tonne) of cement, not including the energy required for quarrying raw materials.
It is produce mainly by burning fossile energy.
(This text is based on a study in the USA, but the numbers are worldwide similar.)
Cement and building industry creates the same time it is a very important part of the GDP and taxes.
Homemade earth blocks dried in the sun, They do not need fossile energy.
Very often, they do not create any profit and are not part of the GDP, since they are not part of the market-based economical system. They can be produced and used on the spot.
The reason: adobe blocks are very labour-intensive, but no machines and factories are needed, neither fossile energy.
German sociologist call it Hauswirtschaft: Home-economy: those commodities and labour, which does not enter the market. ( e.g. women-work or home gardening, cleaning, cooking)
Rearranging the construction and building industry and replacing only 10 percent of concrete by adobe-earth block would create already deep change in the economical and political system. Earth-buildings do very often produce neither profit, nor tax. (and this can be indeed a problem).


sun dried earth and straw


fired bricks                                                                      cement – concrete






The Pioneers: Adobe Architecture since the Modernist Movement in 20th Century – Hassan Fathy – Cairo, Nader Khalili – Teheran , Anonymous Architects from Mexiko, black and white documentarist photo movement in Hungary – some of the most charismatic architects who worked with adobe , earth and sun-dried materials

Here follows some important links about the modernisation of adobe architecture in 20th century. The list is not alphabetic,  but ordered by the year of birth of the architects and archivists . They are all very important. This short list  includes  those  charismatic architects who were born and worked in the 20th century,  therefore those who followed  after 2010 are missing.

I did not add too much explanations and text  since I would like to show the beauty and the significant style of great architects like Hassan Fathy and  Nader Khalili.

Hassan Fathy – حسن فتحي 1900–1989


Fathy is called the pioneer of sustainable architecture – he designed earth-brick houses in Egypt for poor people – he was a great and elegant modernist thinker and architect


DCF 1.0





Hassan Fathy – drawing of natural air- condition methods and wind-fluctuation in traditional Arab windcatchers


Nader Khalili  –   نادر خلیلی 1936-2008

Born in Teheran,  departed in Los Angeles, California

Architect,  poet  and translator of Rumi literature.

Here are some of his  great buildings – light, spirituality and  important scientific inventions

hqdefault  RumiDomeInt1  adobe_on_moon

Khalili’s famous super-adobe idea  for astronauts, who could not carry bricks to the moon. The idea was to take empty sandbags up to the moon, fill them with moon-dust  and build a dome from sandbags.









Mexico and New Mexiko

renovation works –  an new reconstructed buildings – often be anonymous architects. I did not find their names  on the internet, only the locations. San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo by Karol M. “This is the church at Taos Pueblo, the northernmost of the New Mexico pueblo’s and the most original and beautiful….the churh is the NEWEST building in the pueblo….having been built in 1850 and is a National Historic Landmark…it replaced the original pueblo church which was destroyed by the US army in 1847 after a revolt by the natives…” Source:



earlier church, archives Taos Pueblo

1024px-Taos_Pueblo2 Taos Pueble, Mexiko

Tibor Sabján 1952  – 2009 born in Szekszárd, Hungary.

He is one of the important researchers of  the Hungarian anthropologist movement  of the 20th century.   He was architect,  photographer and ethnography capturing rural tradition and its details. Following his studies of architecture he  spend decades with  taking black and white photos  of rural architecture and design in  Central Europe and Hungary.    hagyomanyosfalak_STBM one of  his most important  books: Hagyományos falak (-Traditional Walls)   authors :Sabján Tíbor – Buzás Miklós ISBN: 9638630353 Oldalak száma: 140 Nyelv: magyar Formátum: 166 x 188 mm Kiadás éve: 2003 Kiadó: TERC Kft.  , László Kúnkovács’s   architecture  photos of preripherical buildings  and objects belongs also to his school

Kibbutz Lotan, Israel  since 1983

combines various structures of closed and open form, heavy and light structures, walls and windows


Sturcture from recycled material, Lotan


to be continued with architects from Asia, Europe and Africa.

New – new – new :-) heat censors and leds

Adobe-dome house – new  experimental design with heat censors and leds please zoom in for details Biheeve1_terv-2 new plan:  heat censors  and leds  showing the temperature  idea by Andrea Stojanovits and inner ornamentics by Éva Köves   Beehive_house_syria__thermaoplan   Róza El-Hassan drawing from  2012  Thermo plan for  adobe dome house  –   The house was in the hot summer inside 25 degrees,  while it was outdoors 50 degrees  celsius – it is a natural air-condition machine –  The warm air is collected in the top of the building.  copyright with the author copyright with Breeze projects.

Selection of Articles on 3D Printer and Mud

These are just some link to 3D plotters, which work with mud and clay. It could be interesting while rebuilding Syria, although  it is built  in China and in Haiti or Peru  in the earth-quake regions.  So why not in Syria?

One of the reasons, why the research of mud- technologies and adobe is important is:   cement, the classical portland cement, as used in concrete needs to be burned at 1400 °C   during the production to receive the Portland cement granulates, its  basic material.  1400 °C , this means using a lot of fossile energy. 3D printers work not only with clay, but also with recycled material.  The biggest 3D plotted houses are build in China.


in the labor  — small scale adobe domes build by robots  – image source:

some links and recommendation :

on Aljazeera you find also in arabic

development of 3D printed objects and houses in California in cooperation with Chinese researchers::



An interesting article on 3D printer and mud presented in Italy last week by  the company WASP an earlier examples of 3 d printed houses made of waste material in China


NEW: Big dome 3d printed

Have a good time while  reading and watching !





The Breeze- Houa no 2 – Complex Design at Syrian Voices – Future’s Dialect

Future‘s Dialect – Complex Design and Syrian Voices

‘Al Houa – The Breeze 2.‘   for Breeze 1 click on the link

exhibition  and research concept


It is not easy to describe what the exhibition is about, as we stand in the middle of events, pretending to have a privileged point of view though a shift of perspective in time or space. Events appear like a huge whirling crowd – or a field, or a rubbish heap – and we try not only to describe the outcome, but we want to predict it – to create it. To create what? The future.

We have some historical roots, but the none of the models fit exactly, and all the utopian ideologies are rooted in history, mirrors of historical imagination. We are tempted to return to prehistory.




1. What is Social Design?


One of the roots of the phenomenon, which I would like to describe with the exhibition is the notion of Social Design. It is rooted in the very first design events, Josiah Wedgewood’s (1730-1795) simple ceramics, which aimed to express our desire and the necessity to return to something that is perceived as natural, human and simple.

Today we connect the notion of Social Design to one of its great pioneers, Victor Papanek, and his book, Design for a Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971). He designed useful things for the poor, one of the better known examples being the “Third World Radio” (Victor Papanek and George Seeger, 1962-1971), which was produced for less than 9 cents.

This was a functioning radio made of tin, with energy provided by wax. There was no decoration: the inventors’ philosophy was to let the users decorate it according to their own taste and local culture.

world_radio world_radio



Another example in Design for the Real World are Paulo Soleri’s first simple domes made in the desert close to the West coast of the United States.


Paulos Soleri’s earth-concrete dome – photo from the book Design for a Real World by Viktor Papanek


A third example was refrigerators for India, which did not need electric power. The goal was recently adapted, re-invented and developed by inventors and designers from India. Today we can find the Mitticool (mitti = mud) on the internet for sale in India, alongside other popular products, in which the special cooling and filtering qualities of mud are employed. The Mitticool functions in a similar way to the cooling system of ancient clay and ceramic pots and bulbous jugs, but this is a functioning refrigerator for vegetables.



New design from India: Mitticool


The Cub

The First Earthdomes


In a state of transition, we try to find anchor points and closed primary forms. One of these forms is the cub, as they call it in the village where my ancestors live in Northern Syria. It is called in fusha, the official Arabic أدوبي قبة (adobeea cubba). But village people use simple the ancient name, cub ( which in English means dome) which is still present in English (also spelled cob, cobb: a round form, from mud as building material), in Welsh as clom, and in Hungarian as kúp (which in English means cone or taper). Nearly all languages have preserved the word in some form.

The anchor point for the exhibition concept was the ancient and perfectly minimalised form of the cub, and my childhood memories of Syria, detecting the turn from an archaic lifestyle in the 1970s to a modernist lifestyle through the architecture of Northern Syrian villages.

The harmony and specificity of these archaic domes is one of my main aesthetic statements. I investigate the current aesthetic and scientific interpretations of the archaic form though my drawings and though the research of contemporary applications of earth architecture.

A primary question I ask is whether the revival of these archaic forms might help reduce or ease the suffering of the Syrian refugees who have to bear the summer heat and the winter frost in UNCHR tents, and if the natural protective air-conditioning qualities of the cub could be employed to keep them warm in the winter and cooler in the summer.

I have written on the topic and created a series of drawings on the spatial experience within these domes (R. El-Hassan, “Beehive: on natural air-conditioning methods from Northern Syria”, 2012, on in menupoint texts, downloadable pdf).



Building from earth means building from nearly nothing. Building from the air, the sun and what we find under our feet (cement and brick are burned, wood is cut, while earth is just present). This philosophy has also served hi-tech construction, as when Nader Khalili iranian architect and pioneer developed super-adobe from the adobe and brick domes of poor people in Iran, and replaced the adobe bricks or burned bricks with sandbags.

Why did he do that? To make life easier for astronauts on the moon. They couldn’t carry cement bags or burned bricks to the moon. Khalili suggested taking some light empty bags up to the sky, to fill them with moondust and to build from these earthbags the first buildings on the moon. The round form of my dear grandmother’s house was the first edifice on the moon.

(Thousands of images appeared: the camel carrying a solar cell to provide electricity for a mobile medical station, an inventor in the United States sitting on top of his house with a weird post-Tesla device, in order to change the direction of a hurricane. Later, however, weather modification experiments would be banned by law.) Knowledge and know-how became accessible even to the self-educated genius sitting on his roof in the most hidden American desert village, to the Touareg doctor in Africa building his practice, and to the Hungarian engineer constructing a lab in his garage. It is incredible what individuals managed to invent over the last three decades.




postcard from our family album, with cubs used to store heating material (dark round dry cubs mixed with the dried organic excrement of sheep)







Super-adobe plan for the moon by Nader Khalili






Super-adobe under construction:





2. Decentralised Aesthetics – Architectural Slang – Design Dialect

– alongside mainstream – if something goes wrong

In aesthetic terms, even alongside all the achievements, things can still go wrong.

What happens when the aesthetic canon of architecture and design is radically decentralised by countless self-publishing platforms on the internet? The amateur and the genius come ever closer, and in literature we also refer to the new genre maliciously as “vanity publishing”, since everybody can be a proud publisher and artist, writer, poet, architect and inventor. Meanwhile, the TED elite of thousands say: Spread your ideas! Spread them in a twenty-minute talk, and let the people know how you can change the world. Where has the reductive turn gone, the simplicity of style?

Theoretically, you can download a recipe to build a nuclear power plant in a shoebox and dig a well in your garden. You never need to pay another electricity bill. You can build your small house in an allotment garden (Schrebergarten), or transitional shelters as a refugee. Please download our freeware for this. We are part of Creative Commons.

Do you want to follow the eco-movement? Do you live in Germany? Then just google “Waldorf School homemade” to discover how to knit your house, your toys, your pullover. Have you liked Smurfs since you were a child? And you do not like or know Moholy-Nagy? Then build your eco-earth house in “Smurf style”.

Are you from Hungary? Google Hungarian slang, like buhera or ciki, awkward aesthetics, aesthetics of the weird, embarrassment par excellence, or in German: hausgemachte Möbel, homeliness, tinkerer-DIY aesthetic, cringe-worthy aesthetics, cooking-show architecture.

It is nearly impossible to translate the slang, while we know exactly how these things look, and even find the cringe-worthy endearing, since we all have a neighbour, uncle or aunt who is a famous tinkerer. Our family often bans her from the allotment garden, garage or weekend house. I have seen one of the most heartbreaking examples of radical urban eclecticism in Prishtina, Kosovo, after the siege, in 2004. I cannot describe the way the urban environment revealed the people’s stories, but made a series of photos, and based on the photos and discussions, a sculpture, Hagar drinks Coca-Cola (2004). Of course, there is a radical avant-garde and social attitude, which might justify a lack of elegance and design from time to time: as the radical avant-garde says: “Not Nice – but True”. This is present in Papanek’s work, in the movement Hanemszép / IFNOTNICE, by my dear friend, Toma Sik (Hungarian-Israeli vegan, pacifist), the movement’s founder.

One of the most influential German artists of the 20th century, Joseph Beuys, also suggests the handmade aesthetic, less as functional design, but much more as metaphor for an alternative social formation, including his Soziale Plastik (social sculpture). Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler – Everybody is an artist.

The autodidact inventor’s situation or fate has changed a lot over the past thirty years. In the 1970-80s, none of Papanek’s ideas could enjoy a broad following.

All of his suggestions of how to use the bicycle in creative ways were pushed away by the auto industry as a status and life-style symbol.

Prior to the internet, the centre and the periphery, the Developed and the Developing World, the scientific laboratory and the suburban garage workshops, were light-years apart in terms of information and knowledge. By now, it is all accessable.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari spoke of the rhizome instead of trees or pyramids to depict social and knowledge structure. They return to metaphors of the pre-cultural, or rather to the pre-human. Since the publication of their A Thousand Plateaus (1980), many of their models have become quite fashionable. We tend to depict human society and the new collective knowledge of the third industrial revolution caused by the computer as an anthill, or honeycomb, while the internet is meanwhile obviously imagined as a spiderweb, but also as a bird’s nest, or wickerwork. And since the 1990s, there are also trendy, hi-tech aplications in contemporary architecture, with fluid forms, of new desktop design (e.g., P_Wall by Matsys Design) algorithms and fluid buildings (Zaha Haddid), no matter if fluid walls make sense or not. One of the greatest interdisciplinary suggestions is a field of research using the name of a bacteria: Bacillus pasteurii, to build a wall to halt the expansion of the Sahara. The inventor is Magnus Larsson


also to repair cracks in concrete or stone façades

Such solutions are in high demand, with 419,000 views of the TED talks.)

Deleuze und Guattari speak of striated and smooth space, instead of the traditional geometric spatial constructions, perspective or mechanically produced space. It is clear that all the network, anthill and rhizome constructions – all the organic metaphors for a digital electronic creation or phenomenon – derive on the one hand, from the realm of data-mapping and computing, and on the other, from their interdisciplinary character. In my project, QRcodes for Syria, I made an interdisciplinary attempt to combine human rights activism and social transformation with data-mapping. This was motivated by the urgent need for social design, charity and system change. I tried to open windows for access, and hoped people would find the numerous human rights and social initiatives of Syrian civilians, activists and artists, who began an incredibly dynamic process of self-organisation during the first weeks of the Syrian revolution. You can read more about this on: and on “For a Better Future”.

Civil society’s self-organisation would work very well, if there were no barriers or weapons. QRcodesforsyria has not yet succeeded, but I hope that success will come.

Despite all our efforts of data-mapping, computing often goes beyond the limits of human perception, considering the quantity of spatial narrative and audio-visual information. Herbert A. Simon, Nobel Prize-winning economist, who wrote the renowned The Sciences of the Artificial (1969), and later Models of Bounded Rationality, suggested to use the notion and methodology of intuitive design: to listen to our own intuition, in the midst of the world of overloaded data transfer. While an economist, Simon’s notion of intuitive design became in the following decades a keyword for architects, urban planners and system designers.






3. The Refugee

The starting point for my research was the question of whether the old cubs could be useful for Syrian refugees as shelter during the hot summer in the camps, or while rebuilding the country.

Millions of people have suffered displacement during the last three years in Syria. Many of them live in transitional shelters. Zaatari Refugee Camp in northern Jordan is a tent city with up to half a million inhabitants, depending on the situation in Syria; it is now the fifth largest city in Jordan, but still not the only tent city created provisionally by UNHCR for the stream of refugees fleeing Syria.

Nomadism, a trend in philosophy, social science and media theory during the nineties, has become a horrific, harsh reality.

Displacements on a monumental scale, caused by the terror of a regime, as in Syria, have displaced masses on an unprecedented scale, through war and natural disaster. These masses are often from the middle class, with the human disaster hitting urban and rural people in the same way. They have never before lived in nature or in tents.

Architecture is always close to reality. I began research on transitional shelter and mobility, and have found incredible architecture and design material, developed over the last ten years.

Ikea creates flat-pack transitional shelters, and countless individual architects and artist collectives create strong interventions in the field of transitional shelter. Krzysztof Wodiczko has designed mobile shelters and homeless vehicles, while Shigeru Ban has made paper-tube homes. The archive is enormous and too visual to describe though narrative and text. Mobility is, of course, different in the developed countries, which are not affected by violent conflict, where top managers, employees and financial refugees share the fate of mobility imperatives (see: Be mobile, be flexible, “Be Creative”, an exhibition by Marion von Osten and Peter Spillmann, Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, 2002). In natural disaster areas and in war and terror zones, as in Syria, large portions of the poorest population flee on foot, walking for their lives, women carrying their children in their arms, often starving to be able to feed their children.

Yet mobility is mobility, with human populations forced into permanent motion.

Humanity needs transitional shelters to survive.

My friends and colleagues Marion von Osten and Peter Spillmann depicted in 2002 a society, where attributes of creativity and flexibility, which used to be the domain of artists and freelancers, are consciously employed to adapt to the new situation to increase profit and effectivity during the economic boom of the nineties. Geert Lovink (tactical media theorist and founder of nettime and the Institute of Network Cultures) also picked up the notion and created a symposium and a comprehensive reader, entitled: MyCreativity – A Critique of Creative Industries.

In 2008, the global economic crisis also hit the art market hard, as well as nearly all members of society. States and large foundations began to employ the creative worker (who in the 90s, had been rather a servant of branding) for social structural issues; in other words, they became willing to support at least a number of model initiatives as pilot projects, including, e.g.,, or an umbrella for several smaller initiatives, Economadic School (urban gardening, education niches, architecture and sociology), or my initiative, as well as urban gentrification artists (e.g., Apolonia Šušteršič in London).


I have seen the second – and deepest – turn in 2011 in Syria and its neighbouring countries: the artist has taken on the role of activist, catalyst, re-organising society. Actors, musicians, filmmakers and painters chant and lead the demonstrations, and later, in 2012, artists and activists play a very important role in re-organising an entire society through civil collective and private initiatives, schools in refugee camps, newspapers and hospitals. At the same time, artists and non-violent human rights activists became the first target group of the regime to be detained, tortured or killed. The luckier ones escaped with a horribly bad conscience for surviving in exile. I wrote about the state of things in 2012 (with Shadi Alshhadeh) in Syrian Voices (CIMAM 2012 Annual Conference: Museums Beyond the Crises, Cambridge

Scholars Publishing, CIMAM, 2014). Most of the initiatives, schools, workshops and community spaces were displaced, operating after 2012 in the neighbouring countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and in June 2013, a second exile of Syrians occurred in Egypt, when much of the social structure was destroyed. The leaders of several organisations fled to Turkey, or on boats to Europe.





Ikea – flat-pack transitional shelter ( source: Ikea foundation)




Krzysztof Wodiczko: Homeless Vehicle, see also:




UNHCR – Refugee tent from inside



4. Syria Disaster Relief


How long will people have to live in transitional shelters? When and how can they return to their destroyed home towns and villages? To the country? How can disaster-hit cities like Homs be repaired or re-built? Should they be demolished, and completely new districts built?

In 2009, a large architecture foundation announced a competition for creative transitional shelters for Kosovo.

The award-winning project suggested placing living-space-capsules, modules and units for sleeping and for showering in the demolished houses, so that people could return immediately to their homes, even to those which suffered shelling and fire during the war. The project is visually brilliant: it reminds me of squatted houses in abandoned districts, where very fine sophisticated design elements are placed in old houses. In actual fact, residents were aided in squatting the ruins of their own houses. Small cages, or shelter cubes, to protect them while sleeping, were placed in the damaged rooms.

The war in Kosovo took place in small towns and villages. I was there in 2004: the houses in the countryside were burned, their roofs missing.

There are also villages and small towns to be re-constructed in Syria, like Binnish, Kafranbel, Daraa, and there are also historical sites, like Deir Al Zor Bridge.

Meanwhile, Homs had been a large city of one million inhabitants, and Aleppo had about 2.5 million. The shelled ruins of tall housing blocks might collapse at any time; they are too dangerous to be squatted, and the plumbing system is leaking, becoming poisoned and epidemic. It is an apocalyptic scenario. Soft Steinerian methods alone are not enough.

Each location needs locally specific solutions. Could or should Syrian reconstruction look like the huge Finnish social housing projects in the late 1990s, when large portions of the population in the north had to be moved within weeks to the south (when Finland joined the EU, and agriculture around the Arctic Circle was no longer viable). Complex apartment blocks to house 60,000 residents were built near Helsinki in Vuosaari. Beyond rational apartment block construction and production, people need hope.







Syria, Aleppo  2013 –  photo Fabio Bucharila




5. Positive Utopia – and attempts to construct a point of view


Despite all the problems, I try to envision a positive utopia. We learn from rhizome theory in A Thousand Plateaus, that there is no longer one privileged point of view, no top of the pyramid or tree, from where we can construct one authoritarian mainstream reality or design solution.

We can still try to experience, touching and scanning its borders, its fringes in time and space: returning to the prehistoric sources, to biological models, as did Deleuze & Guattari, or to the archaic, the pure appearance of the logos through basic forms, gestures and iconic difference (as with the research of Gottfied Böhm). The dense and basic beauty of the Cub, deriving from the beginning of history, is one of the anchor-points.

I am convinced that creating aesthetic structures, or even through exhibitions, lectures or patterns of thinking in books, also creates pragmatic and rational solutions. I can see one example in the Modernist and simple beauty of Hassan Fathy’s clay building. (I see an inner relation to the space-creations and humanity of Paul Klee.) Another example is the beauty and simplicity of geometrically shaped dammed earth buildings, made today in the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright.

All this is not just about one more revival or adaptation of the notion of nature in architecture, but much more an investigation of the question:

How can we (still) navigate in the realm of building, planning, invention, and the complexity of overlapping (eco, social, scientific knowledge and even mental, spiritual) systems, as suggested by Simon’s intuitive design? The exhibition maps what is today still “gestaltlos”, amorphous or formless, to make it less threatening, more transparent, and even holding the promise of a positive outcome.


Syria, Homs – in spite of all: urban gardening on the roofs – source:   —-




Paris, urban gardening project by AAA group, source: AAAA group




Food boxes programme by AAA architects, Paris


Beyond the philosophical and aesthetic aspects, the exhibition has a very concrete aim.

This is the introduction of the necessity of intuitive and complex design principles during the reconstruction of Syria.

Complex design means simplified, that we do not design pots and pans which are bigger than the oven, though the pots and oven and kitchen are all made in different factories. It is an interdisciplinary process. All the objects and plans are connected and carefully embedded into a broader reality.

This is also a social, cultural and environmental reality. The region’s ecological problems are, among others, a hot climate, a lack of water, and social tensions.

Let’s consider the heat:

The façades of the houses in the city centres are rather disintegrated by the vast number of scattered air-conditioners. Dirty water drops on the streets, and the city’s electricity system collapses at noon, when all the air-conditioners run on high. (The municipality simply turns off the electricity for the whole city at noon to avoid collapse.) Besides the methods of the Beehive, there is a wide range of building methods, hi-tech solutions (solar-powered cooling), and urban planning solutions, which could make the cities more liveable.

Besides natural air-conditioning methods, urban gardening and water recycling, the ancient atriums also held imporant and local traditions, once growing lemon trees, grapes and herbs.

Envisioning a positive, beautiful future is superficially pleasant, operating on tourism adverstising, focusing on spas, hammams and Damascene teahouses with cooling water basins, but the Japanese case shows that it very important to use all the tools available to build up a lobby for architects, biologists, researchers, educators, activists, inventors, tinkerers, and civilians, to recreate a sustainable society on new ground. Or to put it in a nicer way: to render the idea of complex design and bright future plans popular, and to convince politicians and inhabitants that they can re-build a great model, following the human disaster of the past three years.


Air-well: water from air.

——————————– text by Roza El-Hassan, 2014, copyright the author and Syrian Voices. —-  read also the earlier text: Breeze 1 on Beehive Houses.

With many thanks to Isabel Halene, Architect and Advisor and to Hubertus Adam , dierector of SAM, Basel


An exhibition related to the concept is is planned for 2016, SAM Swiss Architecture Museum,  Basel  – further locations are planned  in 2015

English proofreading and editing of the text: Adele Eisenstein

Free Luggage Storage for the Homeless in Budapest



In these days we face a crisis of the homeless in Budapest. It was prohibited to stay in public space. Also winter is coming and this is a very hard time for them.

Beyond the big solutions I have a small suggestion.

A luggage storage in the homeless shelters or in  publish  place  or   would make life for many of them easier.

There are some charity shelters  in the city where homeless can spend a night – (suportedsuby by NGO s, church or the state) .

They have to leave the house with all their belongings in the early  morning. The rest of the day they spend walking through the city with all their plastic bags and belongings.

This means, that everyone can see immediately that one is homeless.

It might be helpful to have some small save  storage plaves for the bags with lockers.

It can be also a used locker from an old  swimming pool. Or the railway station.

This is in no way a long  term solution.  The idea is to increase the mobility of the population, so that those who have temporary no safe home in a city can at least please their basic belongings somewhere and be free to look for a job or a home