Kerem Cengiz is the managing director – MENA at LWK + PARTNERS. With a strong design-led background and technical and commercial aptitude, he has had over 25 years of international experience across all aspects of design and real estate development.
About Red Envelope
Red Envelope is a series of journals published by LWK + PARTNERS and is a collaborative project between the practice and Round City co-founder Rima Alsammarae.
For LWK + PARTNERS’ second installment of the Red Envelope journals, themed ‘In Between’, the company’s MENA managing director, Kerem Cengiz, offers an opening word on the meaning and intention of the topic.
‘In between’: Situated somewhere between two extremes or categories; intermediate.
I am delighted that the substance of this edition is the exploration of the notion of ‘in between’; a conceptual paradigm that has always interested me. In the craft of animation, ‘inbetweening’ refers to the addition of frames between two images allowing movement to appear smoother, more fluid. These ‘in betweens’ are key in creating the sense of motion; they are the blending of one state and another.
The gaps that exist between things are to me curious places or ideas. There’s something about the tension, friction or duality of being neither here nor there.
This could mean a bi-cultural existence, as my whole life has been, but generally I mean it to be in that space, or state of mind, where things blend and coalesce together and cease to be individually distinct, at once ‘neither’ and ‘both’. Perhaps it can also be a way of describing how architects appear to be able to adapt seamlessly between cinema and architecture, graphic design, filmmaking, art, animation or theatre, ‘in between’ is a place many of us know well, find familiar and even comfortable.
In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino’s historical travelogue to places that do not exist, he brushes aside traditional conventions of form and narrative to contemplate ideas of memory and place, touching on everything from the rise and fall of civilisations to the limits around communication.
Calvino’s story loosely revolves around discussions between the old Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and a young Marco Polo. Polo tells the great Khan about cities of delight and desire, cities tinged with regrets, vibrant cities, failing cities, seemingly improbable cities that defy logic and time.
Eventually, the young merchant reveals through delightfully whimsical and intensely melancholic narratives, that each of his fantastical descriptions may really be reflections of his home, the city of Venice…Polo’s own ‘in between’, or perhaps Calvino’s.
In many ways, ‘in between’ talks of the dichotomy of how we can know the existence and nature of the world external to our minds. It remains one of the oldest and most difficult of notions in philosophy, and for architects and designers, offers a complex and rich canvas upon which we weave our design narratives, be they philosophically, linguistically or ideologically framed.
In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, English philosopher John Locke adopts a representative theory of perception. According to Locke, the only things we perceive, at least immediately, are ideas not spaces.
Locke did however emphasise that knowledge of the external world is neither based on inference or reasoning, nor is it based on reflecting on ideas already in the mind; instead, it is achieved through our sensory experiences.
In Japan, the concept of ‘Ma’ can help us understand the significance of the space in between. Ma can be described as ‘empty’ space, or a gap between one thing and another, or as a simple pause within movement or flow.
And yet it’s much more than just empty space, a gap or a pause. The concept of Ma does not actually describe a physical space created by objects, boundaries or structures; instead, Ma describes the essence of the pulse or intention that is felt or experienced in that space.
Ma is empty space that can be filled with any possibility. What you decide to place into that space, be it an object, an awareness, an intention or an understanding, sculpts the experience of anyone who enters into or engages with that space. As a contributor, this resonates with me and frames my interpretation of in between.
This latest edition of the journal series seeks to explore the possibilities of interpretation of the diversity that ‘in between’ represents globally. It strives to challenge the conventions around this often disregarded and neglected space, and it invites us all to re-evaluate our own perceptions. The essays laid out ahead operate within a multifarious subject matter spanning across contrasting horizons, disciplines, environments, ideologies, technologies and cultures.
LWK + PARTNERS’s Hong Kong-based director, Andrew Reid, addresses very prescient challenges around the possible evolution of making the built environment. In his essay Between Sapiens & Technology, Reid explores the paradigm shift that might be possible through the use of technology in the establishment of an inclusive and empathetic design and delivery platform aligned with the needs of our biosphere.
While the Tirana-based author Ermal Bega, founder of the Centre for Albanian Orientalism, examines the dichotomy between Albania’s Soviet-era secularism and its Islamic heritage. In his piece, Bega explores how a country’s people have responded to the tension of being between different types of states since Albania’s independence.
Dongsei Kim, architect, urbanist and educator at the New York Institute of Technology, questions how the propaganda villages of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea respond to being between the extremes of two diametrically opposed political ideologies.
Our editor, Rima Alsammarae, explores the dynamic between reality and fantasy embodied in Istanbul’s Museum of Innocence, a manifestation of the eponymous literary masterpiece by acclaimed Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Sat in a renovated apartment building in one of the city’s quiet neighbourhoods, the museum is a portal to old Istanbul, complete with semi-fictional tokens that date back to the city’s historically diverse periods.
Lastly with Jumana Abdelrazzaq, we discover the dynamism of the architectural scene in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and the changing face of its contextual architecture. Somewhere between the soaring glass towers and traditional Najdi palaces, contextual architecture by regional and international architects is evolving into a new contemporary architecture of the sprawling metropolis.
We hope our evocative take on the notion of ‘in between’ will strike a chord with readers looking for fresh glimpses and inspirations for their own view of these much misunderstood and undervalued concepts and spaces. In a world where change, disruption and transformation is almost constantly establishing new paradigms of being, and challenging perceptions of traditional thinking about space, urbanism and architecture, it may indeed be able to carry unique value, conveying meaning through narrative metaphor and embodying cultural understandings by creating dreams, ideas, objects and places for all to cherish.
This article was originally published in the Red Envelope series, as part of the second journal themed ‘In Between’. The Red Envelope journals are published by LWK + PARTNERS, and edited by Round City co-founder Rima Alsammarae. They aim to provide knowledge and insight on global urban design for readers interested in architecture, design, development and the built environment.