The design of this exhibit required a creative response in the form of an architectural installation, to the psychological joys, traumas, and disruptions experienced by the people within the flows of global migration. Specifically, the project aims to give expression to the fact that the destination for the world’s 45-million migrants is the city. But, despite the magnitude of these human numbers, they do not alter urban space in immediately apparent ways, but instead trigger transformations over longer time frames and initially from within the confines of their new, temporary, domestic spaces. In these interim domestic spaces, these "way stations," people establish homes that are between the memories of the homelands from which they recently fled, or voluntarily left behind, and the imaginings and desires of the places to which they aspire. For some these homes - a hotel room, a refugee center, a residence of a friend or family member -- is a point of transition before either a return to their homeland, or a point of transition along a path of adaptation and assimilation in the new city. The (a)way station intends to give architectural expression to the physical and psychological realm of these interim homes.
(a)way station is created in response to the understanding that, like the migrant, it is itself predicated upon movement and the ability to configure itself differently in the different spaces to which it travels. In some ways utopian, it is constructed for no exact place. (a)way station transforms itself as it is unpacked according to the conditions of the space in which it is installed (due to spatial limitations there may be parts of the installation that cannot always be unpacked and reconstructed.) This condition of indeterminacy is akin to that of the migrant who cannot move fluidly in his/her new context and whose ability to adapt is arrested by unfamiliar social, political, and cultural conditions that provide limited choices.
The migrant does not live in a space that is compartmentalized according to the normative spaces of "bathroom," "bedroom," "kitchen," or "living room." Hence, the design takes these iconic spaces of "home" and collapses these spaces into a dense amalgam, constituted by objects seemingly brought in transition (antique furniture, clothing, sentimental objects, etc.) as well as newly acquired objects of consumer culture (telephones, appliances, etc.).
To understand the construction logic of the installation, imagine a 14’ x 8’ room or loading truck packed with the objects described above and including such building materials as plywood, linoleum, carpet, wallpaper, doors and windows. Imagine then that this dense amalgam is cut apart into fifteen neat "towers" to reveal the odd juxtapositions of elements, whereby some remain recognizable, and others less so since they have now been sectioned and are uncannily suspended in light (some objects were cast in clear resin before being sectioned). These 15 towers are packed/unpacked according to the space that they inhabit, and hence adapt to the unpredictable circumstances of site. The project keeps a travel-log of its journeys through "slides" -- drawings of itself in each new setting -- that are imbedded in its frame work. Also, recorded narratives of migration narratives describing processes of transition of interviewed migrants who have settled in each of the cities where the (a)way station travels, are heard coming from within the towers. For example, when the project was exhibited in its New York City venues, visitors to the installation could hear the words of an Irish domestic worker, a Hungarian Jew who wisely left Vienna with her husband in the mid 30's, two Haitians who fled the wrath of the Duvalier regime, an illegal Philipino nanny, and an African American man who fled the segregated south in search of opportunities for him and his family.
The (a)way station reflects the fact that home for most is not a question of choices and self-determined negotiation. We reject the assumption of the sort so often still made by the architects of urban homes and spaces that the paradigmatic urban subject, as for example imagined by Le Corbusier in his Radiant city or Frank Lloyd Wright in his Broadacre city proposal, is a self-directed bourgeois traveler/cultural agent. The project is a response instead to the person who moves due to unpredictable circumstances to places that are not modern utopias, but that are contingent urban landscapes.
Paul duBellet Kariouk (Principal)
Mabel O. Wilson (Principal)
Yusuke Obuchi (Job Captain)