The Alchemic Caravanserai: (Re)Inventing a Silk(ier) Road

Yanhao Liu

‘Canary’ed, Yellow’


Perry Kulper


Seldom within the scope of disciplinary and practiced ideas and boundaries, this thesis projects an architecture that condenses a distance of 7,000 miles, the history of 2,150 years, and cultural references of 40 countries into a singularity. This thesis explores the generative use of the histories of varied memories that belong to the Silk Road, and wonders about a speculative motel that is episodic, surreal and transformational.

The proposal investigates the ancient Silk Road, established in 130BCE, selectively leveraging symbolic meanings linked to it, while structuring stretchable and entangled networks that oscillate across the eastern and western reaches. Rather than submitting to quotational relations to history, it probes the generative use of history, chasing the possibility of reinventing and regenerating deep experience embedded in the Silk Road. It imaginatively constructs and occupies the imaginative space between the familiar and strange.

This proposed motel is situated in the suggestive space of a metaphorical and real archaeological site in Merv, Turkmenistan. It deploys a common understanding of things like typology and programs, with a twist. Related to the experiences of motion, provisional homelessness and the unexpected, the motel trades analogically` on conditions of transience and embedded histories. Spaces are developed formally and materially, taking clues from their geological, cultural and emergent characteristics, establishing an ecology of parts and assemblies known, discovered and lost. Generative history is represented through mannered architectural and landscape components, materiality, ornamentation, artifacts and souvenirs. These catalysts are then reassembled toward a synthetic, but incomplete and strangely familiar whole.

Additionally, imagined experiences would be triggered by the yellow canary’ed theme including exotic gardens, animal territorialization, behavioral traits, and species interrelations.

Ultimately, the thesis positions itself in relation to varied attitudes about the potential uses of history, provoked by conversations about typology, mimetic triggers and reframing split temporalities.