American Univesity of Beirut

Noble Absurdity: A Selfie Booth

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Noble absurdity: A Selfie Booth is in an interactive installation that traces layers of history through geometric investigation, while posing as a critique of our obsession with our image; the ubiquitous selfie.  The installation was a collaborative effort at MSFEA that engaged several students across ArD and various engineering departments. It was supported by MSFEA and hosted by the European Cultural Center* during the 2018 Venice Biennale

Borrowing from Ruskin, who talks of the 'noble grotesque,' this installation traces the many arches that exist between a hyperbolic parabola and a Venetian arch, Ruskin's 'model of perfection.' Each layer is then a combination or a transition between two fundamentally different arches, two fundamentally different ideologies, and two fundamentally different methods of construction. The geometry challenges and mediates the two arches it stems from; the funicular hyperbola whose very form represents its structural properties, and the Venetian arch whose academicized perfection seemingly defies all structural laws.  If Venetian architecture is an 'effigy of an ideal society,' each arch has within it a trace of a past that is as present today as it ever was; hence connecting two historical moments.

The Selfie Booth

Far from an ideal society, today we are obsessed with our reflection and its reflection on the web. The installation consists of many golden mirrors: this is a 'selfie booth.' Cameras are triggered upon one's entry to the booth. As such, the act of visiting the installation is one and the same as the act of taking a selfie, as this is a space for self-reflection. The selfie is automatically posted, geo-tagged, and tracked on social media.

Much of our discipline's digital culture is stalled in a stale state of flirtation with computation. It is stalled by its inability to overcome its vanity and get into a real relationship with the rather provocative stranger.  The 40 gold mirrors reflect this state; simultaneously conforming to it and criticizing it by the absurdity of its golden reflective layers. The ability of mirrors to be at once material /immaterial – defying both fabrication method and perception – render the apparatus to be pure affect.


*The European Cultural Center has been active since 2002, and hosts dozens of exhibitions worldwide. In Venice they have been part of the Venice Bienalle since 2011 and have hosted artists and architects like Maya Lin, Tada Aando, Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman, and many others. The exhibitions will take place in one of their Palazzos, both located on the Grand Canal, which will have great visibility. 300,000 people visited the exhibition during the last Biennale.


  • Lead Designer: Ghazal Abbasy, Ar​D, MSFEA and hom.o.nym Studio 
  • Collaborator: Natacha Bou Akl, ArD student, MSFEA
  • App Developer: Mohammad Awwad supported by Rami Awar, Computer Engineering​, MSFEA
    and the Robotics Club of AUB
  • Consultant: Hans de Klerk, AIP 

Team Bios // Project Website // Exhibition Website

Photog​​​​raphers: Natacha Bou Akl, Ghazal Abbasy, Selfie Cameras 


  • RENREN Shop, Shenzhen, China
  • Bay Qui
  • Mr. Huang​

Completion Year: 2018

Built Area: 3 m2​

Built for the occasion of 'Time, Space, Existence' Architecture Biennale at the European Cultural Center in Venice

Project Location​: European Cultural Centre - Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy

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