Helidon Gjergji


As a person who has lived half of his life under a communist dictatorship and the other half under the market economy, at the moment I started working on the Facades Project I couldn’t help but think of the Berlin Wall. It was a real structure that stood exactly at the frontier between two ideological systems and therefore was both an architectural paradox and emblem. It was an architectural paradox, for it had not one but two facades and one side’s facade was the other side’s interior. Thus this Janus-faced nature of the structure most brutally illustrated the bigger systemic significance of institutional space, be it during the Cold War or today for that matter.

Although most structures are mono-faced, like the Berlin Wall they too do more than to reflect a system—indeed, they are a part of a system, as they are both icons and integral units of the society that produced them. As a result, when a system changes so too do its buildings, be it because of the new tastes that overlay the resilience of the old, or because of the economies of scale and/or the forms of sociability that reinvest the same.

Consequently, there is something uncanny about a landscape of structures that memorialize the old, while containing the seeds and, indeed, systemic ways of the new. In this landscape, the building is more than a societal unit: it figures as a Janus-faced sign. Akin to the paradox of the Berlin Wall, the building possesses an exterior facade that is the interior of another reality. For this reason, with the facade project I thought about ways to reverse this semiotic bipolarity.

For my design of the facade of building number 10, I decided to take the building inside out—that is, to make the private public and to encase the unreal as lived in signs of itself. Thus, I have taken icons from the computerized world of social commerce from the private interiors of the buildings where they now reside and have emblazoned them on the concrete skin of the public exterior of the building – its facades. At the same time, I have sought to respect the extant architectural forms and rhythms of the building, outlining not only its changes but also poignant continuities. Are these icons the ones that translate the matter of the old dichotomy of ideology/reality into a new, if less acknowledged, form? The answer to this question rightfully will be the prerogative of its inhabitants and passersby.

Here is what the signs technically mean:

@ is an abbreviation of the word 'at' which evolved from the phrase "at the rate of" in accounting and commercial invoices;
the arrow is a mouse pointer;
the pinwheel is a wait curser;
the “com” signifies “commercial,” and
“org” means organization.