Sham Spiritual Oasis, Concours d'idées, Deir Mar Musa, Syrie


Mention spéciale du jury

Sham Spiritual Oasis, Competition, Deir Mar Musa, Syria


Topos: latin word meaning “place”

Utopia: absence of topos.


The spiritual oasis is a utopian topos; a clearly defined location organized towards an absence of place. The location of the oasis and its people-gathering effects and wealthy activity has always been a social destination, a “here and now” in the middle of a timeless, placeless desert.

A desert is a u-topos, a location without the common characteristics of a place. Its lack of stability, its mostly nomad inhabitants, and its absence of clear topography make it the least topic of the existing topos on Earth.

Therefore, making a spiritual oasis in the desert seems like an attempt to separate the topos and the utopian fields. The birth of the spiritual oasis will immediately transform the u-topos into a utopian topos. Whereas the form (the topos) and the content (the utopia) are inseparable in the desert, they suddenly become clearly divided in the spiritual oasis.


Pure form without content guides the majority of our actions. Society has recently decided to affix an incorrect label on these actions, as if this would solve everything. This content has been called “entertainment”. However, sometimes we rationalize our actions, at least they find a reason to exist: a goal. And in that case, the gap between the form of our actions and their motive is increased. Guided by reason, we lose coherence while looking for results.

I like to believe that the human mind is not limited to these two types of behaviors, and that art can occur sometimes in order to impose a gathering of the form and the content, the word and its expression, the topos and the utopia…


In such a spiritual context, why should the architect separate motifs and motives once again? Couldn’t the construction itself be a motif-motive - these two words do share the same stem, which means “movement”? Why not reunify the physical movement with its spiritual counterpart?

We could apply a motif through all the deserts of the world to develop a extraterritorial territory in the most suitable utopos one can find on Earth. Using this same scheme, we could form the oasis, thus freeing it from any obligation towards politics, territory or society, therefore allowing it to expand to much wider extents. In this instance, could there be any more ideal topos than this?


Special mention of the jury