Ensemble (book)

Shervin Sheikh Rezaei

PART 1. Architecture as a dialectic
A building made out of plexiglass. Drawings of columns trying to visualise the invisible presence of their lost negative space during the ages. Sheikh Rezaei structures a transparent surrounding, almost completely translucent. Only the shimmering of a structural framework is kept visible, signalling an openness in the work. The same framework of the architectural surroundings imprinted on a mirror asks quite explicitly to project oneself within the constructed framework.

The works has an openness and has no boundaries, so that everything can be projected and found within it, merged into one whole. Through the translucency of the architecture, Sheikh Rezaei renders the framework inclusive and proposes an architecture of openness. Architecture, as the provider of a living environment, must be a socio-cultural activity.

This proposed architectural framework works like a kind of Hegelian dialectic. It contemplates the current architecture as an Object: the duality between two cultural settings, the embodied structure architecture proposes and the historic and current value. This Object needs to be overcome. The whole cultural background becomes internalized in service of a necessary shift in perspective. There is an automatic drift to mediate, through which the Object is contemplated, and subsequently overcome as the desired Object. Along with this internalisation of the Object, i.e. the analysis of the cultural paradigms in architecture, comes an externalisation that completes the process as a dialectic whole: the lost, negative space filled with its translucent counterpart. This shift in the theoretical perspective causes a change in the visual parameters of architecture. In the process of proposing this new, dynamic, translucent, open framework, Sheikh Rezaei incorporates the internalized framework in a new form with new standards. It’s an autonomous dialectic process that brings a new socio-cultural framework into existence.

PART 2. The ideology of architecture.
As a socio-cultural process, architecture is forced to position itself as an ideological structure. By being the social embodied environment for people, the intent of a surrounding architectural view integrally affects those living in it. Even though one can just hold an architectural view, there is inevitably ideology. The only question remaining is the one about how this ideology is portrayed.

By structuring a translucent open frame, the dialectic process asks for an inclusive ideology. As Sheikh Rezaei holds translucency as an open place for one to project oneself in, the framework is designed to adjust itself according to the subject standing in relation to it. This ideologic view is one of blurring the boundaries of what one or something must be. Translucent openness yields no fixed meaning, no boundaries on what can be, no restrictions on adapting and (re-)forming one’s surrounding towards one’s own being. By rejecting ideologically formed architecture, Sheikh Rezaei creates space for a new one. Its translucent framework provides an inclusive ideology. One that is not fixed by a set of standards, but shifts according to the needs of those who project themselves into it. It tackles the censorship of the current architectural framework imposed upon one. It’s the shift in focus that results in the translucency of the materials. Brought up in two different cultures, Sheikh Rezaei experienced forced standards in both cultural settings. The necessity of adjusting oneself to their surrounding is rejected to bring forth an architecture that folds to those within.

Beholding this architectural work of Sheikh Rezaei is, after all, beholding a statement. To adopt a belief about what the socio-cultural embodiment of our living environment should be: open, inclusive and dynamics. An architectural framework that works in itself as a search to find the in-between medium for those reflecting themselves in their surroundings.

PART 3. Praxis.
Richly registered in the book ENSEMBLE, is the diverse practice of the architecture that Sheikh Rezaei creates. Once your eyes are set on the diverse works, the blurriness of the dividing line of what architecture as a praxis should be becomes undecided. Ensemble as a crossover between media – architecture, drawing, sculpturing, textile, etc. –, demonstrates the architectural view of Sheikh Rezaei. It is an inclusive space to be actively worked on. The book offers an overview of the openness that a surrounding should embody.

It is of importance not to look upon this framework as a fixed or closed dialogue. Only by its openness and its dynamic discourse, is the architecture enabled to work as a transparent looking glass, as a new perspective on the world that is highly required by the current historical setting of our raised interconnectivity. It is impossible to make a definitive statement about this work. Only that the work is, at least, making a statement on its own.

ENSEMBLE. Architecture in between.
Unity in difference.

Looking back at the memories of a journey, the smallest share of discovered identity found in the landscape of Iran becomes an open place to create. Starting from a journey journal, Sheikh Rezaei created a visually rich set of drawings and photographs that has been, by an accompanied text, transformed into an architectural dialogue of inbetweenness. Sheikh Rezaei collects experiences, striking visuals and every sense of feeling from the country that marks her roots. Looking upon it from her current setting (Belgium) she is fascinated as well as stuck on a field of common ground and differences, experiencing two identities as well as a shared one.

The idea of dual identities as one shared form is visualized in an extensive architectural search. The merging of Eastern and Western architectures brings along a new visual picturality that plays with their differences and similarities. As a result, the similarities of those two cultures are highlighted. This connection of two identities creates a new pictoriality. An in betweenness that brings everything together into one is sketched out. A transcultural architecture. Not meant as a private architecture of Sheikh Rezaei herself, the presented socio-cultural embodiment is an open space to reflect on one’s own structural surrounding which functions as one’s own personal field for identification. Supplemented with reflective texts of various female artists, all with a dual cultural identity themselves. Owing to this epilogue, the book remains open for the reader to correspond.

Date of the event: 06 - 10.01.2021 (reservation required) ︎

Written by Jonathan Meersman