nthetic syncretism

Author: Tobias Klein


The project’s narrative background is based upon the hybrid Cuban religion of Santeria (a mixture between Catholicism and the African Yoruba tribe beliefs). As a result of this unusual syncretism an altered kind of religion evolved which hybridizes Catholic Saints with animals and Sakralraum with sacrifices.

The necropolis Christobal Colon, the main cemetery, does not provide enough burial space hence the proposal for a processional route through the city of Havana for a ceremonial funeral in the sea. Along this processional route the ‘Chapel of Our Lady de Regla’ acts as architectural highlight. Slotted inside an existing cross shaped courtyard, this inverted chapel contains a series of Santerian relics and utensils condensed from the virtual into the actual. Tweaked to the max, skeleteral and visceral at the same time, these ‘cybrid’ objects, 3D modeled and 3D printed in order to perfectly fit animal bones found on the site in Cuba, and 3D scanned into virtuality and re-moulded into actuality in London, provide, on a smaller scale, the formal expression for the larger architectural intervention.

At face value computer-aided architectural design (CAAD) merely performs within the domain of what is best described by the German term Technik (it expresses technology, technic and technique). The truth is that CAAD overcomes the dichotomy between technē (craftsmanship) and poiēsis (art). Although digitally driven, the project does not succumb to the pervasive allurement of ‘Parametric Digital Modernism’—the unspecified whitewash (actually grey) of 3D surfaces, the universal Sachlichkeit of algorithmic design techniques, and the mechanistic vision of input-output interactivity.

The project provides an example of syncretism of contemporary CAD techniques and CAM technologies with site specific design narratives, intuitive non-linear design processes, and historical architectural references. The project shows the architect as the creator-craftsman that finally has the chance to overcome the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century schism of intellectual from manual labour, as well as the nineteenth-century gulf between automatic mechanisation and poetic creation.