An integral tradition within the annual pilgrimage to Mecca — Hajj — is the acknowledgement that every Muslim is equal no matter their socio-economic status. However, a closer examination of the day-to-day activities of these pilgrims, three million of whom amass in the nearby town of Mina over the course of five days, reveals the extreme range of diversity in activities between these various populations. The generic, standardized empty cube tents designed to support these activities is an over-simplified, “mute”, architectural infrastructure. How could it or should it adapt to the fluctuations of pilgrim’s behavior and activities? Can Mina evolve from its current irresponsive form into a culturally oriented, flexible model that supports heterogeneous activities while maintaining the concept of unity? There is a possibility to foster interactions amongst a population that is in fact extremely diverse (socially, ethnically, linguistically, economically, habitually and in many other ways) by leveraging an innovative architectural method that is defined and shaped by the character of its user rather than the traditional use-centric models.
Circulation Code: a tactical guide for economically vulnerable architecture
Our economy produces a volatile landscape for architecture. In the worst of times businesses go bankrupt, houses get foreclosed, and factories become vacant. In the best of times obsolete buildings get demolished to make room for new economic ventures. When the flow of people is disrupted by economic volatility architecture becomes vulnerable. This vulnerability stems from the fact that buildings rely on the flow of capital, energy, maintenance, and material brought by people when they circulate to and from a building. The moment of interchange between global economic forces and the brick and mortar of a building takes place when a person enters through a door, ascends a stair, or rides an elevator. In this way the codes which govern circulation – door widths, stairs, elevators, and hand rails – are the fundamental way architecture interacts with the economy. These codes were originally developed and amended for safety concerns, but could be adapted to increase, diversify, and strengthen circulation to buildings and through buildings. In an increasingly dematerialized world in which more commerce, interaction, and exchange take place virtually, buildings must strive to remain relevant by being desirable as places for people to visit. There are two tactics, which are not mutually exclusive, that architecture can use to create desirable experiences and engage people in circulation. One is to create codes that facilitate an increase in the volume of transactions which occur inside of buildings. The other tactic is to dampen the influence of the economy by making codes that encourage non-transactional circulation through creation of public access and event programming.