Massawa: In Fragments

Architecture, Massawa: In Fragments

Design project in cooperation with the Asmara Heritage Project, Eritrea, MA Architecture and Historic Urban Environments, The Bartlett, 2018

Massawa, the “Pearl of the Red Sea“, is a city of ruins. Over 500 years of capricious history have been absorbed by the island’s urban landscape: Turkish colonialism, Egyptian rule, Italian takeover, earthquakes and Eritrea’s war for independence left traces in Massawa’s built enviornment. What remains of the city today can be regarded as an archive of Eritrean history. More occupied than inhabited by only a hand full of people, its empty houses and plazas tell great stories of passed times. It is the aim of this project to complement the historic fabric of Massawa in an unobtrusive way in order to turn it into a place worth living in again. At this, the city’s historical density is understood as an opportunity for raising awareness and pride for the Eritrean identity. All elements introduced by this project are designed as an immanent part of Massawa. Alike its ruins, these elements are generated out of its place and will be transforming back into it over time. Therefore, the half- nished, half-eroded state of the city should not be regarded as an exceptional condition, but much more as what Massawa‘s architecture historically expresses: gradual growth, change and decay.