LAB—OR is a self-incriminating design practice that works as an ongoing record of the teaching and scholarly work of Jessica Garcia Fritz and Federico Garcia Lammers. Jessica and Federico are faculty members in the School of Architecture (SoA) at the University of Minnesota. They are active members of The Architecture Lobby, and they align with other action-based programs. More details about their work are shared in news and events. Please say hello, contact us.
Island Escape: Temporary Cinema in Dakar, Senegal
I have never seen this before and It won’t be here forever.
It is impossible to know everything about a place or the conditions that shape a design project before you begin. It is essential to simply start. To remove self imposed design paralysis and learn through the act of exploring unknown terrain is always possible when this process is driven by iterative acts of making. Strangely we did none of our customary aforementioned iterative work. Without meeting, without talking, without drawing, without modeling, we began to construct a script or narrative with no intention of making an architecture presentation board. We simply started writing about what we imagined could happen. We wanted to know more about Dakar, its history, its politics, and its relationship to West African cinema. Before we could stop to reflect and analyze what we had written, we started making images that accompanied our writing. In less than two weeks Island Escape turned into an unexpected work of fiction.
Island Escape began as a response to a ACCA international competition to design a temporary cinema in Dakar, Senegal. The submission requirements for this type of architecture competition call for a single presentation board. This board should synthesize and represent the most compelling conceptual aspects of the proposed design project. Less than two days after beginning our work it became apparent that the history of Dakar and the complexities of current socio-political circumstances of this place should not be reduced into a single presentation board…
(out of breath)
This is my only chance to leave.
We do not know much about Dakar, but the only way we can learn is by prompting our imagination through speculative research. We imagine this project to be permanently under construction with no set schedule for its completion or potential outcome. We may continue to write, make more images, make models, or make a film. We simply do not know.
(thinking about stopping)
Tell me when it’s over.
Our interest in this competition is framed by our ongoing fascination with cinema, and our interest in the urbanism resulting from the intersection between colonialism and coastal cities.
I’m never leaving this place.
Cinemas are islands. Sitting in darkness around strangers, held captive by projecting light and its corresponding moving images, cinemas condition visual perception and deeply inhabit popular culture. They thrive on the discomfort produced from a type of collective isolation. It is this necessary discomfort that allows cinemas to occupy the imagination of entire cities.
Why are you going in there? It’s too Dark.
Cinemas are a form of colonialism. It is a setting in which the landscapes and built environment of one place invade another place within 2 hours.
800 miles north of Dakar.
Dakar is the western most point in the African continent. Situated on the Cap Vert peninsula the city has been and continues to be shaped by its relationship to the Atlantic Ocean. The peninsula reaches into the sea breaking from the mainland and scattering into a small collection of islands. Islands such as the Ile de Goree facilitated the extraction of people and precipitated their unwilling journey across the sea. The violent legacy of colonialism and slavery is manifested in the edge formed between land and water. This legacy is inescapable.
As recently as the beginning of the 21st century Senegalese citizens have exercised a form of escapism through clandestine boat migrations to the Canary Islands. Following independence from France in 1960, Senegalese cinema emerged as an important form of social and political dialogue. Through the growth of the film industry, Senegal sought to address uncertainty and express historical and cultural conditions. The film industry reached its highest levels of influence in the 60s and 70s. The staggering economy that has contributed to the decline of Senegalese cinema, has also re-set the edge between land and water as a port of self exile. A temporary Cinema in Dakar should engage the ever present need for escapism.
How did the ocean become the largest mass grave in the world?
Island Escape engages the perceived benign nature of the coast and its beaches through proposing a traveling cinema that will move along the Dakar coast line and its islands. Starting at the Ile de Goree island terminal, Island Escape will operate as a place for cinema to travel around the edge of the city engaging its past and projecting into its uncertain future. A temporary method of escape.
Stop struggling...keep swimming
I have never been alone.
Water is not blue, it’s black.
Lets swim west until the darkness grows around us.
If the coast was a line it could be erased.
I need more time and less memory of this place.
Our future is uncertain.
Our futures is unknown.
Our future is important, my future is not.
Lets swim west until the darkness grows around us.