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Architecture (MA)

Danya Baryshnikov

I am an architectural designer with interest in large-scale projects that explore social structures and values. My undergraduate work at the Bartlett drew alternative structures that subverted traditional monuments and spaces of power in the UK and EU. At the RCA, I wanted to go further and investigate upon what basis new systems and spaces could be built. In my first year with ADS4, I looked at the effects of unpredictability, and what improv can (and can't) teach us about adaptive building. In my second year with ADS6, I focused on material and ecological processes as a basis for architectural identity.

I try to situate my projects in their social and political context, and look at architecture as an expression of a method of living, rather than just the location for it. As designers, we have the difficult task of engaging with, expressing, and addressing social norms and practices without attempting to solve issues that must be tackled by people, not spaces. With my projects at the RCA I tried to understand how a designer fits in a complex system of political, social and ecological change - how to deal with the inherent uncertainty, and how to maintain agency in the face of these strong forces.

Close up photo of salt formations at the Dead Sea.

This year, my investigation focused on the relationship between architecture and national identity, exploring how attitudes to the land and one's place in it are reflected in design.

To grapple with this, I looked into the history of planned settlements in Israel, considering their forms, materiality, and ideological backing. Focusing on the Kibbutz as an identity-building project, I spoke to scholars and residents to understand why the Kibbutz movement declined so far from its prestigious position in the 1970s, and why it still commands respect.

My critique focused on the relationship with the landscape and materiality of settlement in the region. Much of Israel's architecture is modernist and utilises concrete, drawing a line between the constructed and the natural. Looking for alternative architectural visions for Israel's southern, desert region, I began with rethinking the building material, and considering the possibility of salt architecture.

Speaking with Professor Daniel Mandler, a Chemist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I learned about his patented process to make bricks from the massive amounts of salt deposited by the Dead Sea. My project proposes on-site manufacture of and experimental building with these bricks, using the material and direct engagement with the site to develop architectural identity.

My proposal exists as a counterpoint but also response to the existing settlement typologies. It does not draw a line between itself and the landscape and recognises the realities of scarce water, while organising itself around collective labour and locality.

Research Film about the possibility of salt architecture by the Dead Sea




5 Minutes


My brief of reimagining an architectural vision for the area by using salt as a building material led me to the formulation of a program to do precisely that. This technology is not yet used in construction, and after the salt blocks are produced, the first step is to experiment with them architecturally.

I propose a facility for such experimentation located by the Dead Sea, where the salt can be sourced. I specifically locate it in the Northern Basin of the lake, which remains natural, to encourage form-finding to integrate this architecture with the landscape. The facility is thus an experimentation lab partnering with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, bringing together researchers, students and designers through collective labour, and bringing visitors to Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which can provide servicing for functions the facility does not support.

The proposal therefore achieves the triple aims of manufacturing salt bricks, developing an architectural language for them, and becoming an avenue to reach the increasingly distant coastline for eco-tourists. It is explicitly intended as a first step in rolling out salt construction in the Negev desert, but takes the opportunity to reconsider the architectural possibilities of this material and terrain.

Plan of Proposal in First Year
2024Salt manufacture process is situated by Dead Sea coastline. Salt is gathered from evaporation ponds, yielding 1/4 - 1/3 of water volume in salt. It is dried and compressed using hydraulic presses in pre-made moulds, also manufactured on site.
Plan of developed coastline in 2034
2034As water retreats, the evaporation ponds are retained as base for architectural experimentation with the bricks produced on site. The production of material is part of the architecture, as a record of negotiation between the infrastructure and the coastline.
Plan of proposal in 2054, with the Dead Sea water level rising and dissolving salt architecture.
2054Speculating into the future, when water level in the Dead Sea is allowed to rise again by reduced dependence on Jordan River for water, the proposal is consumed by the influx of fresh water. The material lends itself to dangerous or changing circumstances. It can be ground up to form new blocks, and if destroyed, it does not pollute. Indeed, the architecture is an extension of the landscape itself.
Long Section through salt compression functions and architectural experimentation.
Section Shows the stages of brick manufacture on site, as well as the architectural experimentation with it. Looking at masonry precedents, I learned from Roman vaults and perforated brick walls to achieve curved shapes. The project combines material research and architectural experimentation on site, which encourages the development of a unique language responding to the organic forms of the site, rather than using modular bricks in more traditional forms.
Section Fragment
Evaporation ponds, salt gathering, drying, and grinding.
Section Fragment
Architectural experimentation on site, adapting brick to the uncertain terrain and fluid forms. Timber formwork used to create vaults, and perforated walls allow for curved structures.
Section Fragment
Hydraulic presses used to manufacture bricks, housed in structures made from salt.
Section Fragment
Architectural experimentation and visitor centre for students, researchers and tourists.
Section Fragment
Infrastructure used for salt gathered elsewhere on the coastline.


Perspective Section Showing architecture on evaporation ponds.
Render of Evaporation Ponds
Render of Salt Architecture
Render of Salt Architecture
Render of Salt Architecture dissolving as water level rises.

I used AI to imagine details of my scheme and scenes within the proposal by feeding it descriptions and my drawings. The lack of control over the image means it cannot give an accurate sense of the proposal, but can convey ideas about it.

Salt construction
Salt construction
Salt construction
Salt construction


Midjourney AI
Concept Model
Model shows natural stepping landscape and the addition of the evaporation ponds to it as the water retreats.
Concept Model
Sinkholes form around stream on site, creating an often dangerous environment.
Natural Crystallised Salt Forms
Natural Crystallised Salt Forms
Salt Blocks
Compressed Salt Forms


Photograph, Plaster Cast

The proposal is a first step in a development of a new construction material, which I use as a starting point to think about the formation of architectural identity.

My approach does not start with a strong ideological or social vision. Its starting point is the site, its processes and materials, and this allows the architecture to be in direct dialogue with the site and the community that might be building and using it. I treat this activity and community as an architectural identity in itself, one that stems from below, rather than be imposed from above. The proposal is therefore both learning from, and critiquing the design of Kibbutzim, including its close neighbour, Ein Gedi.

Kibbutz Ein Gedi Plan
Kibbutz Ein GediMy mapping of Kibbutz Ein Gedi, reflecting the intensive planting and the integration of public and private space.
Salt Brick Experimentation Ponds
Salt Brick Experimentation PondsMy proposal learns from and subverts that typology.