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A Love of Beginnings

I read the city as necessarily narrative-based. Its spaces emerge from the amalgamation of its inhabitants’ stories, congealing into a sense of place inextricably tied to its politics. In this context, I define “politics” not necessarily in terms of a legitimized government, but rather as an informal hierarchy that evolves from the ethics of urbanism. Interactions between inhabitants and the social conditions of a city invariably leave a mark on the physical environment, and the structure of the city expresses its shifting public’s dynamic. When the interactions between occupants and exchanges between people and the built environment are lost, the spaces evaporate. The connection between them dissolves: bits of information pixellate into discrete signs and lose their syntax within the sociocultural landscape. Ambiguity within the semiotics of the city necessitates an active participant, an analyst;

non-places reduce the complexity and subjectivity of language to a set of universal, objective signs to induce a strict functionality. These images do not allow for the space of subjectivity, the place in which people and meaning dwells, gathers, accumulating a plurality of meanings.

A modern ideology of technology and the machine has generated vast networks that consume (constrict) space and time, just as catholicism’s cathedrals lengthen, expand them. As a foil to my idea of the non-place, the cathedral attenuates time, evoking a sense of the

ineffable and divine in its construction of voluminous, lingering space. In each case, the evocation of a destin(-y/-ation) manifests in its physical form. Yet the horizon of catholicism’s divinity differs from the horizon of the destination of the modern non-place of (disembodied) speed. Pavement flows seemingly infinitely into the landscape and the physical footprint of the highway proliferates toward a horizon, an intended, perceived termination. But the passage does not end; it exists as a segment within a continuum of occupation. Inhabitation of a static place by the traveler is , by necessity, momentary, removing the physical landscape from a construction of place.

In these realms, time and space flatten. Signs, signals, and the semiotics of the city really become travel markers, only ways of getting out of here or getting to there. The

things that used to let us know where we are become things only to tell us where we are going or where we are leaving. How do we locate our own experience of a place if we only are able to read it as referenced by geographic and temporal distances? In a sense, then, non-places do not have a present. We are only able to understand non-places as existing in the past or in the future; they are not only transient, they are removed from a concrete sense of space and time.

How does the perception of a horizon shift with perspective? Does it? On what scale must this shift take place? Is the shift physical/geographic, or social/cultural? Can an ambiguous network of signification exist within the realm of a non-place? In places of speed? What are the consequences? How do we find / architecturally articulate a means of locating, in both literal and figural senses?

What is the space between the search for meaning and the recognition of familiarities? Time expands through this space of unknowing: it forces us to linger, to dwell within the image rather than thoughtlessly consuming it.

A site is not singular, but manifold. It exists as an amalgamation of geographic localities: spaces between, borderlands, interstitial mediations between divergent capabilities. The strength of the notion of “site� lies in its ability to present a future, to construct its own possibilities..

Non-visual representations of the site allow for that space of memory, of ambiguity; it does not prescribe, but rather establishes a framework for its construction. It allows a multitude of synthetic, divergent, parallel interpretations, allowing the site to grow out of the cognition of the reader, the interpreter, the inhabitant.

degree project winter session










TACHOCRACY [Sloderdijk] the rule of speed; the switching off of “subject functions” as too slow, too sensitive; negates the possibility of subjectivity within places of speed

What does it then mean to occupy a space of transport? The myth of self-destiny.

Autobahn designed to maximize views: introduces the idea of perspective into the landscape.






FANTASY SPACE empty space, screen for the projection of desires; shadows of what is not. the object fractures, throwing multifaceted, multiplicitous shadows of subjectivity

The perception of the space around the highway shrinks and expands as speeds quicken or slow: curves compound the phenomenon, creating new regions of spatial overlap and disjuncture.

speed: 2x speed: 1x

speed: 1/2 x


perspective OBJECT


the priviledge of speed


speed experience geometric form


lines of movement as vertices of a graph; intersections as lines of connection by inverting the relationship, routes do not end but pass through a series of spaces; the segments of lear movement become spatial

Heidegger’s time: 1. that “in� which events take place 2. as historicality 3. as the space in which narratives unfold

[Paul Ricoeur] chronology of sequence vs. achronology of models (paradigmatic codes)

site as palimpsest vs. site as hypertext

Is place mappable?

CONNECTIVITY AND SCALE shows routes as spaces, as the foreground of the urban structure connectivity of routes then shows the point of view / hierarchy with respect to the inhabitant

Streets evolve from lines to points; their character shifts from that of a linear trajectory to a node of space, connected in turn to the streets around it. Utilizing the streets of my apartment (John Street) and the BEB (South Main Street) I diagrammed how the streets were connected and a clear pattern emerged: the increased connectivity of the grid pattern of the streets around my house are clear in the diagram on the right. In the case of South Main Street, on the other hand, its location at the boundary between the geographies of the East Side and Downtown is clear through bifurcation in its graph.

Removing the hierarchy from the graphs attempts a more universal represenation of the idea of connectivity. Although not completely removed, the geography of the place is blurred, removing the referent in order to emphasize the role of the lines as simply agents to connect the nodes without alluding to the geometry of the street.

the fantasy landscape appears, sketches itself and disappears gradually, according to time and weather. foreground becomes middleground, background. fading proximities and blurring geographic relationships in layers of anticipation and memory

TIME, NARRATIVE AND SYNTACTIC SPACE implications of connectivity, as ways of defining connectivity subjective interpretations of one’s environment becomes its own structure / syntactic space

narrative: story as it (allegedly) took place plot: how the story is revealed

location vs. sense of travel

LOCATION / ANTICPATION how are they constructed and how are they constructed vis a vis city versus sites of speed?

how can a highway be redesigned to encompass / create a hierarchy of importance of these phenomena

highway: surface as foreground, primary tool to locate city: built environment as foreground

syncopation between rhythm of the road and rhythm of the city syncopation: The action of beginning a note on a normally unaccented part of the bar and sustaining it into the normally accented part, so as to produce the effect of shifting back or anticipating the accent; the shifting of accent so produced.

Orientation and location are dependent upon the creation of a continuum of memory, perception and anticipation. Referent geometries form a network of perception of change that tracks one’s movement through a landscape. Within the city, buildings and other artifacts of the built environment serve as those markers of location; their three -dimensional form then roots the occupant in the experience of the space rather then the trajectory.

In the case of the highway, on the other hand, the changing form of the pavement itself becomes the datum: the fluidity of the medium of travel reveals the self-reflexive nature of orientation in spaces of speed, creating a horizon of destination and an anticipation of route.

GEOMETRIES OF ANTICIPATION ecologies of: - movement - speed - vision

Applying the theories I had generated to a design problem, I redesigned the I-95 through Providence. I focussed primarily on mediating between the conditions of the city and the highway, both visually and structurally. I wove the highway through the city, allowing the city grid to flow over its linear form, reconnecting the city with itself. I studied the street pattern of the city, finding regions that maintained regular street geometries in order to integrate the form of the city streets, their facade walls, with the structure of the highway.

route, allowable speeds based on planometric geometry and curvature

city ’s patchwork street grid and major interventions at interchanges, reinforcing street wall visually utlizing highway structure permeating the urban fabric

I went through my sketchbook and distilled the main ideas I have been looking at by finding key phrases I had vigorously capitalized, underlined, etc., particularly those that I think are relevant to my concept as I move on to spring. They are (in chronological order): - tachocracy: rule of speed; implicates the switching off of subject functions as too slow, too sensitive, negating subjectivity and narrative - fantasy space: empty surface, screen for the projection of desires - emergent forms: series of operations (typically the series belongs to a process) to distort an Image - narrative (story as it took place, even allegedly) versus plot (how the narrative is revealed) - post-structualism: necessary incompleteness of the narrative; proliferating a reader-centric structure / creation of meaning (interpretive; in contrast to author-driven and prescriptive) - connectivity and scale: the layering of landscape into fore- middle- and background, then shifting their relationships in time to generate a variable sense of horizon with respect to land scape and time - time, narrative and syntactic space: syntax with respect to events and time, environment and space; the unfolding of subjective interpretations of one’s own environment becoming its own syntactic space? Narrative syntax? I suppose what I am really interested in is creating a space of narrative within a space of speed, questioning the perception / definition of scale (can a narrative exist only on a personal scale? Is the highway totally devoid of the scale of natural human inhabitation?). Then, how can a varied concept of scale as a manifold condition (implicating scales of time, distance, dimension, speed, and occupied space) warp the narrative of the inhabitants of a space and how does the influence of each type of scale differ?

But then the question I have is: does this become a study of physical objects or theoretical constructs? I guess the former requires evidence from the latter and vice versa, but I am unsure of where the priority lies. So, I set up my preliminary go at a curriculum for spring based on a progression from “stuff ” / the physical object to more intangible ideas. The progression will be as follows: 1. SCALE Uncanny scale, intangibility: drawing the uncanny within scales of emptiness and landscape (i.e. Kansas & cinematography of In Cold Blood), size (industrial structures), and repetition / obsessiveness. What is the effect of scale on orientation? On the construction of a network of meaning? 2. SPEED How does scale change as velocity does? What is it about the nature of the mechanics of speed that requires such geometry? 3. SYNTAX How does a change in scale, speed or geometry locate / disorient and in each case, what is the nature of the resultant context (geographic, temporal, memory, anticipatory, etc)?

4. NARRATIVE How do the three aforementioned properties combine to create varied narratives within the landscape? What is consistent across narratives, and how can that be calibrated? I envision each of these four studies taking about a week each: long enough to produce variations / evolve the idea, but short enough that I don’t get too expansive and stay focused. After this initial set of studies, the knowledge generated would contribute to the design of a smaller structure or a series of smaller structures, either private or public, that act on both a personal an urban scale and evoke the relationships set forth in the studies.

Degree Project Wintersession 2009 Booklet