On behalf of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, especially the students who now present the culmination of their M. Arch education through their thesis, we extend our gratitude to the guest critics who have generously joined us on Thursday, December 22, 2022:

Erin Besler, Garnette Cadogan, Sean Canty, Beatriz Colomina, Natalia Dopazo, Jenny French, Antonio Furgiuele, Caroline Jones, Ang Li, Diana Martinez, Lauren Pacheco, Julian Rose, John Todd, Ivonne Santoyo Orozco, Hans Tursack, Matthew Okazaki, Mark Wigley, and Alpha Yacob Arsano.

MIT Master’s
of Architecture

Fall 2022

Fibers and Fragments: weaving local resources into the Arabian Gulf’s modern material culture.

Latifa Alkhayat

Thesis Committee

Caitlin Mueller
Skylar Tibbits

Huma Gupta

Considering the constraints of using solely local materials of the Arabian Gulf, this thesis explores two components that constitute the Crown Jewels of future construction practices: concrete for compression (freshly cast or mined from demolition sites) and carbon fibers for tensile reinforcement.

The discovery of oil in 1932 accelerated the use of reinforced concrete in the Gulf, which was first spurred by British officials and economic agents in Bahrain. Ninety years later, the construction industry has yet to find a replacement for François Coignet’s steel reinforcement bar. Steel’s corrosive nature, which is exacerbated in harsh climates, weakens reinforced concrete structures. This exploration responds to this challenge by drawing lessons from practices of craftworkers before the era of oil extraction in the 1970s.

The Crown Jewels feature a construction system of post-tensioned concrete rubble. Piercing, stringing, threading, weaving and splicing lead to a combination of carbon fibers and concrete fragments. These processes tie the two contrasting materials together: concrete derived from demolition of modernist blocks, which are frequently a devalued ‘waste’ material destined for landfills, and Carbon fiber, which is a highly valued and energy-intensive counterpart.

Although a technical endeavor, this thesis operates in a geography where Gulf states are trying to reinvent their economies and building practices. Yet, these states still maintain an affinity and adherence to British regulations and standards set during its time as a protectorate. To that end, these proposed systems and materials can also be perceived as in alignment with a nationalist, developmental narrative, which is untethered from foreign norms and rather are rooted in prior material practices and cultures of building of the land.