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ADS12: Melee

Abdulrahman Hassan

Abdul Hassan is a designer from London interested in alternative readings of space using a range of media, across a variety of disciplines. During his time at the RCA, Abdul’s work has been driven by exploring how new technologies and traditional tools can re-connect individuals within our increasingly fragmented urban landscape. His second-year project at RCA was centred around the role of material culture in migration and, temporal, intercultural dynamics of the objects.

Prior to the RCA, Abdul completed his undergraduate degree in Architecture at University of Westminster in 2017. Following this, he has worked as a designer at Klein Dytham in Tokyo before returning to London as an architectural assistant in BDP. While there, Abdul worked on various medium and large scale projects including the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme.

School of Architecture Prizes 2021 Winner, Spatial Justice Prize

The vitrine is the parergon that differentiates the cultural objects from human life and social reality. A glass case was never the origin of ethnographic object’s display things from the world. In the vitrinized relationship between cosmopolitan and primitive, there is an alienation of cognition from identification and embodiment. Beyond the Vitrine engages with questions around plundered objects and their relationship to human rights, as well as the legacy of colonial institutions in contemporary culture. In parallel to the ongoing conversation on the layered entanglements around the concepts of objecthood, not only does it propose the restitution of the objects but incites that their long-term residence in westernised institutions should constitute rights for migrants to live near their objects.

 Adopting an object-centred approach, the project explores how objects mediate between conceptual societies in diverse cultural and temporal contexts, and how they embody such migration in their form. The architecture manifests as inhabitable cultural spaces with an objective to unsettle the sanctioned readings of the objects by engaging with performativity and digitisation as alternative tools to challenge vitrine as a mode of display.

Sowei Mask prototype
Mayan Gourd prototype
Family of object- Sowei Mask — Moving beyond the conventional imaging techniques that simulate the look of an object to evoke an indigenous’ cultural space of valuing cultural possessions, the artefactual assemblage of scanning can be recognised as a genre of hybridization within material culture.
Family of object- Hinemihi — The digital images are in many instances crafted from the knowledge of the rightful claimants from within scanning to generate visual authority through the production of a photographic aura that evokes rather than denotes direct contact with the object itself.

Digital Surrogates enables the exploration of whether a digital image is engaged with a more corporeal way than was permissible with an original object. This medium serves as geometries and perceptual qualities of objects. They highlight the visual as the means to generate knowledge about objects by capturing data generated by scanning and photogrammetry. 

Overview of diasporic objects — Hinemihi, Apa'apai, Sowei mask, Crescentia Cujete
Hinemihi reconfigured — The reconfiguration of Hinemihi explores what greater accountability towards cultural objects might look like, outlining the value of objects as symbolic placeholders for subject positions, for cultures, and their historical context.
A 'Living being' within a host
Inhabitable 'living being' — The ‘living being’ is an assemblage of curational authority, Māori people are renowned for the ways in which they are able to use Indigenous epistemologies to encircle those brought in through the process of settler.
Unclaimed Passage — The passage allows users to engage in a single point perspective view of the migration. The trail would include encounters to a variety of spaces which is designed through time and the building can be seen as a path in which its patina is formed by changing occupation.
Ground Plan
Inhabitable Crescentia Cujete — Stemmed by the notion of the object's biography, the spatial layout illustrates the processes and cycles of production ranging from the growth of the gourd vessel to becoming carved to serve as a commodity.
Crescentia Cujete- Object Biography film

Defining ‘inbetweeness’ from histories of borrowing and displacement, the project explores the entanglements of ongoing social and spatial trajectories, dislocations and relocations. Rejecting the Western classificatory traditions which tend to place objects using bounded notions of period and place, the project is interested in the spatial and temporal dynamics of material culture, including the intersecting journeys and value of assets in the present for different stakeholders.


Refigured archive — The Sowei mask was refracted through multiple epistemological lenses such as the ethnographic, the performative, and in relation to the context of colonial collecting and exchange.
The ndoli jowei- The ‘dancing’ Sowei — The performative cultural space sought to give the mask the voice and to challenge the material histories of entanglement and multidirectional exchange.
The aftermath — The phenomena of the space create an experiential language of archiving performance and the circulation of the space is orchestrated where the object is the primary subject and the inhabitant’s body is defined and shaped by the context of the Sowei mask.

Today, the Sowei mask is seen as an aestheticized object in the western tradition, very different to the way this would be understood in its original context. In collaboration with the Sierra Leonne diaspora community, the performative stage model is constructed using imported rammed earth. During the enclosed rehearsals, the rafia costume, attendants and musicians will activate the ritual of the women only masquerade tradition. 

The Aftermath — The tool has the capacity to empower communities to manage, share exchange their epistemologies in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways.
Archiving the unknown — The incomplete value system of an object will offer contemporary source communities to re-imagine protocols of knowledge management and circulation.

A motion capture stage provides a custom-built space facilitating experimental platform to unlock the object’s latent value’s system. It will also establish the stances, generating new convention for the usage of the object. Utilizing the process of curation and object biographies, the project aims to address how borrowed institutions can nurture the cultural objects with the influence of the indigenous narrative.