Museum of Self-Archaeology

Exploring the Potentials of Narrative in Architecture

Antwerp, Belgium

Based off the novel Austerlitz, by W.G. Sebald, this thesis explored the potentials of narrative in architecture. Through analysis of Sebald's provocative writing style and taste for melancholy and mystery, a project revealing the forgotten tunnels of Antwerp's 1970's metro project was the perfect chance to explore the role of narrative in architecture.

The project begins with the arrival of a traveler into Antwerp's Centraal Station - one of the greatest and darkest stations in the World - with a concourse delving three levels into the ground, the sense of unease and wonderment is already at the hand of any visitor. Upon leaving the station, the traveler is graced with the tranquility of a flooded plaza, where the flemish locals gather at the edge of the glistening water. Though the serenity of the moment comforted the weary traveler, a curious number of splits in the water engaged his curiosity. Only glimpses of a crevice to a dark chasm below the surface set his comfort at bay.

From the chasm led a slender path, hovering just above the waters face. Walking slowly across the path, the hue of the water changed from the sublime reflection of the sky to a dark and colorless pitch. Nearing the end of the plank, his stomach became light with angst. What was this enormous void in the earth with edges that fade into darkness? The feeling of descent into an unknown world overwhelmed his imagination to the point of forgetting where he was or why he was there. At the edges of the darkness, he could make out the movement of others and eagerly descended the considerable staircase.

At the bottom of the chasm, a sharp contrast to the walls around him revealed what appeared to be the hind side of some large container. He followed a small slant in the ground that took him under the mysterious box. A faint light glowing in the distance made it just bright enough to see as he walked through the narrow dark tunnel. As he walked, a trembling in the walls sent unnerving chills down his spine, and he quickly made his way to the opening at the other side. Another slant led him up into a tall room flanked with enormous walls and an extensive hallway. A muddle of structure and strange forms seemed to flow the length of the room with little conrformity or order. Walking along the great hall felt like stepping back in time or into a forgotten world. The walls were dirty and old, like the relics of an ancient city. Only occassionally did I spot something strikingly out of place. First it was a sculpture, like the giant hand at the bottom of the stairs, I began to realize I was perhaps in some archaeological site. Were these things that have been uncovered and left in their place?

I spent a little time when crossing these oddities, then kept moving, curious of what else might be found in this seemingly endless tunnel. The skeletal-like forms overhead began to descend to the ground and run into each other. Where they made a sharp twist to the left, the ground dropped to an even greater cavern of a room.

to be continued...


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