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Constructing Liminality The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space

STEPHEN M KEAR MASTER’S OF ARCHITECTURE THESIS


Constructing Liminality | The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space Stephen Marc Kear Jr. Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Architecture Wentworth Institute of Technology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Architecture April 2014 Approved by the Committee:

Primary Advisor:

________________________________________ Anne-Catrin Schultz, Ph.D

Director / Graduate Studies: ________________________________________ Jonathan Foote, Ph.D


Constructing Liminality Acknowledgments I would like to give special thanks to my primary thesis advisor Ann-Catrin Schultz for guiding me through the entire thesis process and for always challenging me to explore my own ideas and concepts to their full extent. I would also like to thank Aaron Weinert who through his elective course “Architecture from the Inside Out� and as my secondary thesis advisor has helped me develop my thesis into the final project that it has become today. Thank you.


Constructing Liminality Table of Contents Abstract

9

Research Methodology

13

Project Methodology

23

Project Development

35

Conclusions and Thoughts

53

Appendix and Catalogue

57


Constructing Liminality Abstract “Architects don’t invent anything, they transform reality.” - Alvaro Siza


Thesis Question

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How can cultural anthropology and it’s principles of liminality drive a more site-specific approach to architectural design? How can the articulation of liminal space enhance the contextual understanding of built form?


Where does it come from?

The term liminality comes from the field of cultural anthropology; or the study of the human condition, specifically the factors that influence different societal customs and norms. Cultural anthropology is rooted heavily in the study of cultural space and the public realm.

What does it mean?

The word liminality itself refers to a transformative state during cultural rituals. In this state of liminality the participant takes on a hybrid identity, reflecting both the past (their previous condition, social status and collective knowledge) as well as the future (their personal, societal and cultural potential).

What’s the problem?

It’s a problem of context, a problem of appropriateness and a problem of identity. Current architectural discourse tends to (but not in all cases) ignore the context of it’s specific place and tries to establish a new identity to a site that is divorced from the site’s history and tradition.

The big picture:

The current urban redevelopment (cultural ritual in question) of East Boston is trying to establish the neighborhood as a new cultural center full of life and restore the economic value of the area. The problem is that East Boston was once a very prominent social center in its own right. The current redevelopment does not speak to the rich history of East Boston either in terms of program use or architectural language. The state of liminality is not simply about embracing the past, it is about rearticulating the collective knowledge of the past in a way the allows new potential moving forward. The solution to some of the problems of urban redevelopment is a design methodology that speaks to the history and tectonic of the site but exists in a state of flux that allows new cultural potential to be developed. My thesis deals with the issue of mediation and rearticulation. Elements of the existing site were allowed to be left unaltered, but they become experienced in a new way. The entirety of the project allows new cultural potential and expansion.

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Constructing Liminality Research Methodology “We must regard the period of margin or ‘liminality’ as an inter-structural situation between states. By ‘state’ I mean here a relatively fixed or stable condition. I prefer to regard transition as a process, a becoming or even a transformation.” - Victor Turner


Context

Participant Ritual Threshold Rearticulation

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The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. A person who is involved in an activity or event. Done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol. The starting point of an experience, event or venture. Made clear, distinct and precise in relation to other parts.


Part I: Prologue

De Passage” in 1908. Gennep was a French cultural anthropologist who used the term to describe social rites of passage. It is during these

In recent architectural discourse the argument of space vs. place has

cultural rituals that the user occupies a state of in-between. He defines

become one of the most debated topics in our field. With the emergence

the rituals in a three-part system. The “liminal” is the second phase

of “starchitects” such as Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid

of this three-part system. The phases include the pre-liminal rights (a

and Bjarke Ingles the argument of space vs. place has been called into

metaphorical death of the user), the liminal phase (the clean start and

even greater question. Should architecture speak to its surrounding

act of the ceremony itself), and the post-liminal rights (the metaphorical

context (whether this be physical, cultural or social) or does architectural

rebirthing and reintroduction to society).1 Although these terms are used

design transcend place through created experience? The concept of

in the description of cultural rituals, they can be translated into a means

Constructing Liminality is focused on this very issue and takes the stance

of architectural thinking. Each stage is defined by a clear state of being,

that good architectural design should speak to the contextual information

with the liminal being a negotiation and transformation between the two.

in which it is sited. For this exploration creating a sense of contextualism

By using this logic as a framework of design two unique states of being

goes beyond the typical modes of site analysis and is rooted much more

can be identified and an experience that mediates between them in a

in the cultural and historical tradition of the particular place.

meaningful and contextually informed manner can be developed.

In this dialogue I shall discuss the theoretical and conceptual background

While Gennep coined the term liminal, Victor Turner is widely credited

of my thesis on liminality in architecture as well as issues of contextual

with the re-introduction of the concept of liminality. In Turner’s essay

architecture in current practice. The text will be supported by my design

“Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage” he

project located on Clippership Wharf in East Boston. Compared to the

begins to breakdown the qualities of the liminal phase of cultural rituals.

bibliographic essay written as part of my thesis prospectus this essay will

He focuses on how the participant exists in-between states and how the

be formatted as a discussion using the authors, my own knowledge and

in-between is defined by the states in which it is opposing. In his work

my design project as the pieces of support.

Turner states,

Part II: Liminality, what is it?

“We must regard the period of margin or ‘liminality’ as an interstructural situation between states. By ‘state’ I mean here a

The term liminality first appeared in Arnold Van Gennep’s work “Rites

1 Arnold Van Gennep, The Rites De Passage (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1960)

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


relatively fixed or stable condition.”2

and social status that can be challenged and rearticulated into the next state of being. Architecturally this can be seen as taking the collective

Turner’s definition of the liminal period begins to hint at the larger idea

history and tradition of a site and using that information to inform a design

of transformation and movement. Later in his article Turner elucidates,

approach.

“I prefer to regard transition as a process, a becoming or even a transformation.”3 According to Turner’s definition of liminality the liminal

Above all Constructing Liminality is proposing a new design methodology

state represents the transformative state between two fixed conditions.

that leads to a greater connection of architecture to the context in which

This implies that there is a collective knowledge from the first state of

it occupies. This in turn creates a reinvented sense of place that is not

being and a new potential being established moving forward. My thesis

arbitrarily created but based off the contextual information of the place

is an exploration of how Turner and Gennep’s theory of liminality can be

itself. As architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa states:

applied to create a more site-specific design methodology. “In memorable experiences of architecture space, matter and Part III: Space, Place and Identity. Constructing the Liminal

time fuse into one single dimension, into the basic substance of

Experience

being that penetrates the consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space, this place, this moment and these dimensions,

The term space can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Space can

as they become ingredients of our very existence. Architecture

be social, cultural, imagined, civic or communal. How can a space be

is the art of mediation and reconciliation.”4

given a unique identity that allows it to become a place? Can the sense of place be derived from the cultural and historical context of the site or

In this excerpt Pallasmaa argues that the elements of space, matter

must the identity of a place be fabricated through architectural means?

and time are inseparable from architectural experience. It is the goal

My thesis challenges the identity of place and how place can derive a

of my thesis to use these elements in order to create a new design

new identity based off historic cultural and social context. In accordance

methodology that is appropriate for today’s space, today’s place and

with Turner’s definition of liminality the liminal state is always preceded by

today’s dimensions. The challenge is how to not just embrace the past

a fixed state of being. This fixed state of being has a collective knowledge

but how to create an architectural language the reinterprets the past and

2 Victor Turner, Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites De Passage (American Ethnological Society, 1964) 3 Turner

Constructing Liminality 16

allows a new cultural potential moving forward. 4 Pallasmaa, An Architecture of the Seven Senses (San Francisco, CA: William Stout, 2006. Print.)


forces that cause them to remain ambulatory must all be considered. The idea of a liminal experience implies a sense of existing in the in-

Architecture is more often focused on form rather than the space that

between. However the liminal experience of architecture can become

the user travels through.7 Kent Bloomer focuses on how different forms

much more than just a static moment of existing between two conditions.

and spaces promote or discourage movement in his book Body, Memory

In his article “Of Other Spaces” French philosopher Michel Foucault

and Architecture. Bloomer argues that architecture is “an incitement to

introduces the idea of a heterotopia, a space that lives in-between

action, a stage for movement and interaction.”8 The architecture itself,

other spaces. To Foucault a heterotopia is a real, defined space that is

whether it be by convention of form, material, or lighting becomes a

completely different from all the spaces it reflects yet is still connected in

catalyst for movement and transformation. By placing emphasis on the

some way to them. A heterotopia exists as its own defined experience

physical space a participant occupies and the qualities of that space that

thus giving a tangible articulation to the in-between. But how does a

make it a desirable place to inhabit a more powerful sense of place can

heterotopia impact the identity of place? As Foucault states,

be created. An emphasis on the visual form of the architecture often

5

leads to a disconnect of participant experience. “We do not live in homogeneous and empty space … we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are

Utilizing architecture as an enticement for movement can be applied

irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable

on a multitude of scales. Whether at the urban, local, or pedestrian

on one another.”

scale architecture can become the main force that promotes transition

6

and movement.

In his article “Urban Thresholds,” Ross Donaldson

It is these sets of relations that we can use to articulate the identity of a

describes issues of modern urban planning and its shortcomings in

place. We do not live in empty space, rather our space is full of social,

terms of pedestrian movement. It is Donaldson’s belief that architectural

historical and cultural potential that we as architects can use to define a

form is too often generated without an understanding of behavioral and

more site-specific approach to defining place.

circulatory implications.9 Donaldson gives the example of large civic spaces as architecture that discourages public interaction. These large,

In order to understand how architecture can facilitate a contextual liminal experience it is important to understand movement and transition holistically. 5 6

How the participant moves through a space and the

Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces. (John Hopkins University Press, 1986) Foucault

often monolithic spaces can seam daunting when viewed by an individual, 7 Kent Bloomer, Body, Memory and Architecture. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) 8 Bloomer 9 Ross Donaldson, Urban Threshold (The Official Journal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, 1990)

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thus discouraging movement and interaction within the space.10 This

was no pause there would be no in-between condition and the theory of

leads to movement around the space instead of through it and causes a

liminality would no longer exist. As author Yi-Fu Tuan states “If we think of

broken liminal experience. The movement becomes more about passing

space as that which allows movement, then place is pause, each pause in

through rather than a defined experience and being a part of the in-

movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place.�12

between place. The space lacks a unique identity and the sense of place

It is in this place of pause that the true identity of a space can be explored

is never established.

and understood by the user. By creating smaller moments of pause and moments of in-between within the project itself the user is able to truly

The idea of path begins to shift the conversation to a more pedestrian

grasp and understand the sense of place that is created.

scale. The participant’s path of travel, whether defined or impulsive, relates to how that particular individual experiences the liminal qualities

Part IV: The Ritual, Urban Redevelopment

of the given site. Returning to Body, Memory and Architecture Kent Bloomer acknowledges that when having to make conscious decisions

The state of liminality occurs during cultural rituals. A ritual has an

about their path of travel the participant remains more acute to a sense

inherent sense of transformation where the participant reflects a different

of time and place.

By allowing the user to become a participant in the

identity pre and post ritual. The architectural ritual that I have identified

circulation of a space, a much more complete understanding of space

is the current urban redevelopment of the East Boston waterfront. As

can be achieved (and a greater sense of place is understood). In this

construction continues to move along East Boston will be transformed

regard the sense of place becomes a much more articulated condition.

into an entirely new neighborhood within the next 10-15 years. The

By defining characteristics of site and articulating them architecturally a

development began with the 2005 remodel of Piers Park and the

more liminal approach to architectural design can be achieved.

development continues to move north along the waterfront. The problem

11

is that the current redevelopment of East Boston is trying to establish A liminal state of being needs to be a defined and articulated state of

the neighborhood as a new cultural center full of life and restore the

existence. In order to achieve this there must be a sense of pause.

economic value of the area. However, East Boston was once a very

Movement and transformation through space can help define a space but

prominent social center in its own right. The current redevelopment does

it is in the moments of pause that a sense of place can be understood.

not speak to the rich history of East Boston either in terms of program

The place of pause represents the liminal state of the cultural ritual, if there

12

10 11

Bloomer Bloomer

Constructing Liminality 18

Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perceptive Experience (Minneapolis: U of

Minnesota, 1977. Print.)


use or architectural language. There is a distinct disconnect between

is brought back but in a new way that speaks to the current needs of

past and present.

the city and neighborhood. Located directly next to the blue line stop Maverick the site becomes a prime location for a new ferry terminal due to

Part V: Project Implementation

its proximity to already developed components of Boston’s transportation infrastructure.

When first setting out to create a new liminal experience I began looking for an appropriate site. The site needed to have a rich history and tradition

The design of the buildings themselves speaks to the tectonic language

that I could use to inform my design as well as be undergoing some

of the shipbuilding that once defined the purpose of Clippership Wharf.

sort transformation. Looking around sites in Boston (due to proximity

Similar to the way a Clippership is constructed the buildings are designed

and ease of site visits) I came across Clippership Wharf in East Boston.

as a system of structure and skin. The visual aspect of the curtain wall

Clippership Wharf was one the building site of the world’s fastest battle

panels are horizontal in nature to better control views out from the units

ships. Once the ship manufacturing industry died off it was replaced

as well as recall the paneling that once was the staple of ship design. In

with steal manufacturing facilities and various metal working trades. The

order to rearticulate this with a more modern approach, or as Pallasmaa

long-standing tradition of manufacturing and metalworking provided me

would say “ for this space, this place, this moment and these dimensions.”

with a tectonic guideline to carry out through my design. East Boston is

13

also currently undergoing a large-scale urban redevelopment project that

shifted to a much more modular approach. This translated to a system

is transforming the entire waterfront of the neighborhood. This provided

of modular units that work off a 12-foot unit. The structure becomes a

me with the context of an architectural ritual to support the concept of

continuous system that allows the insertion of future units as East Boston

liminality.

continues to grow as a community.

Clippership Wharf was once an economic capitol for the entire city of

One key factor to the state of liminality is that it is not the final product.

Boston due to its manufacturing capabilities. It was connected to the city

It is a state of flux and transformation. To help allow this new cultural

of Boston as well as the rest of New England through the ships that were

potential to develop the units are left as shell spaces. This allows for

produced onsite. In order to reestablish this sense of connection my

them to be fit out according to how any future tenant best sees fit. The

main program is a new ferry terminal as part of Boston’s already existing

units will be rented out to local artists and merchants to promote the

ferry network. Ships were once the major connection and now the idea

I looked at the current craft of ship construction and found that it has

13

Pallasmaa

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


continued growth of East Boston as a community. As the community

my thesis process. On April 7, 2014 I presented my final product to a

grows, so will the project.

panel of architects, landscape architects and architectural theorists and received tremendous feedback about the depth of conceptual thought

One interesting opportunity with Clippership Wharf in its current state

and design implementation. The biggest praise was for the way the

was the presence of broken pylons that once supported the top of the

design of the building themselves not only speaks to the cultural and

pier. These pylons represented the original intention and shape of the

social knowledge of Clippership Wharf but how they can be adaptive

wharf itself and exposed a layer of history that is simply not present in

and allow for a new cultural potential moving forward. This is something

most architectural sites. In order to bring this sense of history into a new

I had strived to create all semester so it was very gratifying to hear these

light I designed a walking platform that would “repair” the pier back to

types of comments. The biggest criticism was that the project appeared

its original intended form. The platform is sunk 6 feet below the average

to be too much in motion. All of the people in the renderings and the

height of the pier to allow users to interact with the pylons in a way that

sections were walking and there was no place of pause. This brought up

was never before possible. The 6-foot change in elevation was intentional

and issue of scale. The “individual scale” of my project is absent and the

to react to average high tide in the Boston Harbor. During high tide the

addition of benches, seats and possibly trees could add another depth

water will be even with the ground plane of the walking platform and

of scale to the project that is currently missing. I believe that this is very

serve as an extension back to the city of Boston Proper.

fair criticism and is something that would tremendously help the overall design of my project. Throughout the semester I dealt with issues of

It was my goal to have every aspect of the final design be reflective of

scale due to the size of my site and the size of the proposed conditions

the history and context of Clippership Wharf, but articulated in a new and

that I had chosen to work within. I was very happy that the size of the

modern way. This allows for the new identity of place to be constructed

units and in-between spaces was not called into question as that had

by the people of East Boston as they transform the site into what they see

been my main focus.

best fit. The architecture is simply the framework for creating a stronger sense of place, it is not the solution.

Architecture itself does not need to be a static moment. It does not need to simply exist on its own as an artifact of design. Architecture can

Part VI: Conclusions and Thoughts

relate to and mediate the contextual conditions in which it is situated. By defining the contrasting conditions in which architecture is sited, and

Overall I could not have been more pleased with the final outcome of

Constructing Liminality 20

using them to inform design decisions, architecture can begin to become


a poetic mediation of these conditions and control the user experience in a meaningful, profound manner. This liminal quality of architecture can only be achieved through this very site-driven approach to design. When thinking of the entire scope of architecture as a liminal experience, design becomes much less about the static existence of spaces, and much more about the living, breathing movement of space and context.

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Constructing Liminality Project Methodology “In memorable experiences of architecture space, matter and time fuse into one single dimension, into the basic substance of being that penetrates the consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space, this place, this moment and these dimensions, as they become ingredients of our very existence. Architecture is the art of mediation and reconciliation.� - Juhani Pallasmaa


Site: East Boston

The state of liminality deals largely with mediation and rearticulation. In order for a liminal state to be achieved there must be a collective knowledge or social status that is able to be rearticulated to allow new potential moving forward. Using this is a guideline I began to look for sites that could foster a liminal site experience. The site had to have a rich history and cultural significance but also needed to be undergoing some sort of transformation. Sites that would be considered discarded or in disrepair became my main focus. For my own personal interests I wanted a site with direct access to the water and views of the surrounding city. I have always been fascinated with the waters edge and how to create architecture that engages the active nature of the rising tides. Using these criteria as a guideline I narrowed down potential sites: Northern Avenue Pedestrian Bridge - Boston, MA Clippership Wharf - East Boston, MA Children’s Wharf Park - Boston, MA Clippership Wharf in East Boston proved to be the best site for me to continue the exploration of my thesis. East Boston was once a major industrial area for all of New England and the worlds most famous battleships were built right on Clippership Wharf. However this once thriving industry has long since disappeared making way for more generic metal fabrication and manufacturing services. This long history of manufacturing provided me with a very specific tectonic to the areas collective knowledge that I could apply the theory of liminality to and rearticulate into an architectural thesis. The site also was somewhat in a broken state as it is being prepared to undergoing construction as part of the East Boston master plan. The broken pylons along the piers edge represent the original shape of the pier that have long been washed away. The pylons serve as a memory of what once was.

Constructing Liminality 24


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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


The Ritual: Urban Redevelopment

The state of liminality occurs during cultural rituals. A ritual has an inherent sense of transformation where the participant reflects different identity pre and post ritual. The architectural ritual that I have identified is the current urban redevelopment of the East Boston waterfront. As construction continues to move along East Boston will be transformed into an entirely new neighborhood within the next 10-15 years. The development began with the 2005 remodel of Piers Park and the development continues to move north along the waterfront.

What’s the problem?

The current redevelopment of East Boston is trying to establish the neighborhood as a new cultural center full of life and restore the economic value of the area. The problem is that East Boston was once a very prominent social center in its own right. The current redevelopment does not speak to the rich history of East Boston either in terms of program use or architectural language.

What’s the solution?

The state of liminality is not simply about embracing the past. It is about rearticulating the collective knowledge of the past in a way the allows new potential moving forward. The solution to some of the problems of urban redevelopment is a design methodology that speaks to the history and tectonic of the site but exists in a state of flux that allows new cultural potential to be developed.

Constructing Liminality 26


Maverick Landing • • • •

426 DUs waterfront views photovoltaics + cogeneration rental townhouses + duplexes, midmid-rise apartments, + 77story condominium

Reconnecting East Boston to its Waterfront 10 May 2006

Clippership Wharf

Reconnecting East Boston to its Waterfront 10 May 2006

Piers Park

East Boston Master Plan Proposal (CBT Architects)

Reconnecting East Boston to its Waterfront 10 May 2006

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Site Analysis

Understanding the history and culture of the site is at the core of creating a liminal experience in architecture. The social and cultural aspects become as important to the overall design as the physical context itself. However there is a harmony that needs to be achieved. Architecture must always speak to its physical context and be rooted in its site. Before begin the design process it was important for me to understand the area of work I would be undertaking, the affect of future proposed conditions and the sites relation to the rest of the urban fabric. Clippership Wharf is unique in it’s urban relationship in that it is somewhat isolated from the context of East Boston even with its very prominent waterfront location. The blue line stop Maverick is located directly next to the site which gives a great transitory connection back to the rest of the city. The connection also makes the ferry terminal a much more appropriate program use. The idea of an alternative form of transportation for commuters provides a new life and new sense of connection for the neighborhood of East Boston.

Constructing Liminality 28


Area of Work

Vehicular and Pedestrian Paths

Urban Relationship

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Proposed VS Existing Conditions

Constructing Liminality 30


Study Model - Site Massing

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Study Model Showing Inhabitable Thresholds

Constructing Liminality 32


Study Mode Showing Structural Potential

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Constructing Liminality Project Development “If we think of space as that which allows movement, then place is pause, each pause in movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place.� - Yi-Fu Tuan


The Result: Constructing Liminality

After a full year of exploration and design the resulting project proposes a new ferry terminal and cultural center that embraces the design principles of liminality. The ferry terminal speaks to the connection East Boston once had to the city of Boston Proper trough ship building and manufacturing. While the ship building has disappeared the idea of connection through water rearticulates the sites history in a new way. A secondary program ensures that the site will not be empty when the ferry is not in use. Local artists and merchants are able to rent out the additional buildings and use the provided structure to fit out their space however they best see fit. By allowing these buildings to exist as “unfinished� it allows a new cultural potential moving forward. Instead of being in a fixed stage they are adaptive and can change with the changing needs of the community. The units themselves use a structure and skin system that recalls the way Clipperships were once built but rearticulated with modern materials and construction language. The units are modular and act on a 12 foot unit. Units are either 24,36, or 48 feet in length. This sense of modular construction speaks much more to the modern discourse of ship building and provides a sense of current contextual information rather than relying purely on the outdated construction method of Clipperships. The broken pylons of the pier were an opportunity to embrace part of the sites history in a new way. By building a new platform around the piers the users of the site can move around and experience the structure in a way that has never been possible before. The platform sits at a level of 6ft below the standard pier height which is even with the water level of average high tide. During high tide the water acts as an extension of the ground plane and creates a stronger connect back to Boston Proper.

Constructing Liminality 36


Site Plan Showing Proposed Conditions and Project

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Section Through Unit Pier

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Section Through Typical Unit

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Section Through Main Building

Constructing Liminality 40


Rising Tide Axonometric Diagrams

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Exploded Axonometric of Typical Unit

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Exploded Axonometric of Ferry Landing

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


In-Between Space and Unit Pier

Constructing Liminality 44


Inside Typical Unit

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Unit Pier ... Main Building (Left) and Typical Unit (Right)

Constructing Liminality 46


Ferry Landing

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Main Community Approach

Constructing Liminality 48


Ariel View from Boston Harbor

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Final Sectional Model at 1/4” = 1’-0”

Constructing Liminality 50


Final Sectional Model at 1/4” = 1’-0”

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The Cultural Identity of Architectural Space


Constructing Liminality Conclusions and Thoughts “People tend not to use this word “beauty” because it is not intellectual ... but there has to be an overlap between beauty and intellect.” - Tadeo Ando


Process Evaluation

By the end of thesis prep I felt as though my project had reached a very good point in conceptual development. After a definite struggle in the beginning of the semester I felt I had a very good grasp on what it was I was doing and what my final project could turn into ... I was wrong. After a few weeks of working on the project and the first real critique is when I knew that something had to change either in the way I represent/explain the idea or within the idea itself. Explaining my project as a series of continuous thresholds simply wasn’t being understood and the design to that point did not match with what the idea was. I immediately decided to take a step back and analyze the idea itself and if there was more richness or depth of thought that I could pull from it. Returning to the idea of liminality and all my research from thesis prep I looked for a way to better articulate what the concept was all about. Yes it was about thresholds but what kind of threshold? A threshold between what? This is where I realized my thesis prep semester fell short. I had completely ignored the idea of a cultural ritual and the transformitive aspect that is associated to a ritual. This is where the world liminality comes from, it is the threshold existence during ritual. I was using the term simply as a way of sounding more impressive then saying “my idea is an occupiable threshold.” After rethinking the concept of liminality the semester took a turn for the better in my opinion. I start to develop a design that was much more site specific both in its theoretical approach and its physical approach. Once the basic design was established the detailing of the structure, facades and overall spaces really tied the project together. It is fair to say that I started the semester off much slower than I finished it. Getting stuck in the “threshold” component of liminality definitely had an impact on my process but once that was worked out everything else fell into place. I was very happy with the amount of work and the quality of work that I was able to achieve over the course of the semester.

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Project Evaluation

Overall I could not be more thrilled with the outcome of the final design. I feel as though I was able to achieve a much deeper level of conceptual thinking than what I left off thesis prep with and that constant push of the conceptual rigor shows in the final design. Rather than being a project about a series of occupiable thresholds my project took on a much larger conceptual depth to the term “liminality� that extends past the dictionary definition of the term. For the most part I was also very pleased with the representation of my project. I feel as though I was able to create a graphic style that was consistent throughout all the drawings and worked well to showcase the actual design of the project without over-complicating the drawings with unnecessary graphics. The sections may be where this falls apart a bit. Although they read well and fit with the style of the overall presentation I feel as though they are still lacking a sense of context. Adding in the backdrop of the Boston Skyline may have helped them look much more complete. The amount of white space at the top of the sections was a bit overwhelming and made the drawing larger than it needed to be. I feel my most successful drawings were the perspectives. They showed the quality of the space very well and did not have that very generic Revit look that becomes divorced from the real experience. During critique it was mentioned that the people in the drawings were very generic and could have been shown in a way that highlighted with the space would more likely be used for. It was also said that for a public place it seemed very empty and more people would help to liven the drawings up. This is all very fair criticism that I completely agree with. In the end I am very proud of my final design. The conceptual thinking evolved so much over the course of the semester and the design evolved along with it. From the design itself to the final representation I could not be more satisfied with the end result.

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Constructing Liminality Appendix and Catalogue “I tried so hard and got so far.� - Linkin Park


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Work Cited Bloomer, Kent, and Charles Moore. Body, Memory and Architecture.

Turner, Victor. Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites De Passage. Ithaca: American Ethnological Society, 1964. Print.

New Haven: Yale UP, 1977. Print. Donaldson, Ross. “Urban Thresholds.” The Official Journal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects 30.1 (1990): 33-35. Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Diacritics. 1st ed. Vol. 16. N.p.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986. 22-27. JSTOR. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/464648>. Franck, Karen, and Quentin Stevens. “Betwixt and Between.” Loose Space: Possibility and Diversity in Urban Life. London: Routledge, 2007. 73-90. Print. Gennep, Arnold Van. The Rites De Passage. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1960. Print. Hall, Edward. “Space Speaks.” The Silent Language. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959. 187-209. Print. Holl, Steven, and Juhani Pallasmaa. Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture. San Francisco, CA: William Stout, 2006. Print. Tuan, Yi-fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1977. Print. 59

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Thesis Prep: Site Frame (Take One)

For my first attempt at the site frame I studied the Northern Avenue pedestrian bridge that connects downtown Boston with the Innovation District. The idea of liminality deals heavily with the connection and union of spaces. I chose to study the bridge as a study of a broken liminal experience. The bridge connects two very prevalent and important districts of Boston yet it does little to facilitate the actual transition. When considering this site I was looking at how to repair all the broken connections that make the bridge an unsuccessful navigation of space. The bridge itself was originally an operable swing bridge that allowed larger vessels to enter Fort Point Channel. Today the bridge no longer functions and this brings the first broken aspect of the liminal experience. The bridge has a disconnect from itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own history, currently failing to acknowledge the once key role it played in the industrial industry of Boston. The bridge also has very direct views back to the city. These views are often blocked by the wire cage fencing that has been placed to prevent pedestrians from climbing it. The cage fencing poses another problem, it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t allow a participant to experience the edge of the water, as the cage starts approximately three feet from the railings. The main issue with using the bridge as my thesis site is that a bridge already sets parameters to how a participant moves through and experiences space. The experience becomes very linear and a new sense of discovery and transition is rendered almost impossible. The following series of sections define key moments of transition as the bridge transitions from the Rose Kennedy Greenway, to the Boston harbor walk, and to the Innovation District.

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Thesis Prep: Site Frame (Take Two)

In the study of a contextually informed architectural method the site obviously becomes a critical piece of investigation. While all architectural sites have a sense of movement there are some sites that can inhabit extremely different relations from one edge to another. These sites begin explore the liminal space of architecture. How architecture moves the participant through space and how they discover new elements along their journey can all be informed by the contextual conditions in which a particular project is sited. I have always strived for my thesis to be a project that is informed by my own personal experience and places I have visited, so when investigating precedents it was critical for me to have been to the actual projects so I can have a more informed and person connection to how each site explores the idea of liminal space and movement.

Site Frame Reflection

Although the sections are graphically appealing I would like for them to be more analytical. If key moments of the background started to be given hierarchy instead of the same neutral language, not only would we be able to understand the physical threshold but the visual threshold that is helping draw people through space. Even after the analysis I am still not convinced that this will be my final site for my thesis. Although it fits many of the criteria I was looking for in my potential sites, it lacks the social context I was hoping to take advantage of. The area seams unused and isolated. However, this may provide a challenge for me moving forward that could make my project much stronger. To bring a sense of importance and connection to this neighborhood would bring more meaning to my architecture.

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Thesis Prep: Program Frame

When approaching the second frame I had a very difficult time being able to determine one specific program that would work to support my concept of discovering liminal space. I quickly realized that the power of the liminal experience is that it can be applied across any site and to any particular program. The liminal space acts to facility discovery and movement which is a key component to many architectural programs. I decided to use a technique presented to me during special topics studio this semester, a program narrative. A program narrative is written from the perspective of a participant moving through and experiencing an architectural context. When writing the narrative I describe what I deem as important moments of threshold and transition in the liminal experience. For each key moment I then create a perspective that abstracts the idea of that particular moment. Together these perspectives and narrative create the liminal experience of architecture, a cohesive language that carries the participant throughout the project. Although the concept of liminal space can be applied across any program typology I feel it is best suited to a program that is transitory in nature, in other words the program is not static. It is not about one particular grand moment but rather about the sequence of space and their relation to one another.

Program Frame Reflection

The idea of the program narrative has been a very important development in my thesis process so far. The combination of the written narrative and a series of matching perspectives is a very effective way for me to convey the liminal experience of architecture. The first pass of the narrative was fairly weak, rewriting it to match the generated perspectives allowed me to explore a much more social aspect in the experience of my space. The perspectives still appear lacking in my opinion. Although they correspond to moments in the narrative they are still fairly abstract and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hint at different qualities of space. Although the walls and form create different experiences, the lighting, texture, and common graphic styles all make the spaces seam neutral and similar.


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Constructing Liminality Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s All Folks

Constructing Liminality | Masters of Architecture Thesis Exploration  

Final thesis book completed as part of Master's of Architecture degree at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA.

Constructing Liminality | Masters of Architecture Thesis Exploration  

Final thesis book completed as part of Master's of Architecture degree at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA.

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