thickening the edge

Download Thickening the Edge

Post on 10-Mar-2016




0 download

Embed Size (px)


Jeffrey Bedard B.Arch Final Project Thesis at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Architecture


  • 1Thickening the EdgeJeffrey M Bedard

  • Jeffrey M Bedard

    Spring 2011

    Mark Mistur - studio headThomas Mical - committee member


    IN>Form | PER

  • Prcis


    Ecological Systems

    Design Investigations

    Of the Edge

    Creating Duality

    Thickened Experience



    . . . . 02

    . . . . 10

    . . . . 22

    . . . . 36

    . . . . 46

    . . . . 60

    . . . . 70

    . . . . 86

    . . . . 94

    Table of Contents

  • 2Figure 1: an aspen forest at sunrise

  • 3Prcis

  • 4

  • 5Abstract

    At the threshold of boundary, mul-tiple systems collide and ecologies transform allowing the adjacent log-ics to connect or to separate, creating an inevitable space to explore and ex-perience. The edge is typically seen as a flat condition, portrayed as an occur-rence only within a plane, the division acts as a line, separating or connect-ing one another at a barrier or joint. Perceived in the two-dimensional, the experience can be enhanced through the thickening of the plane into a volumetric spatial condition where the affected area of the coincided are stretched out of the planar as an expanded ecology at certain scales. As such, the condition that acts as a conjoined logic is expanded three-di-mensionally to provide an enhanced experience of the exterior and interior conditions of an edge. This condition, or dealing with the thickening of a boundary condition, has long been a studied phenomenon within the phil-osophical, scientific, and architectural worlds. Merleau-Ponty1 identified the

    experience of space as an extension of the body, where the flesh acts as a connective tissue between the mind and the world, creating a thickening of oneself through the experience of the surrounding environment. As such, a space can be developed as a both-and condition as opposed to an either-or where inhabitants ex-perience and understand the dual-ity without perceiving a disjunction. Within natural and built ecologies there has been an increased study of the edge effect, a juxtaposition of contrasting environments, where the division of two ecosystems acts as a gradient of qualities between and within the two. The rethinking of an edge condition will allow for a trans-formation from a two-sided state to a thickened condition of the boundary between both. As a synthesized logic, inhabiting the thickened space will establish a relationship of connectiv-ity and separation via the experiential understanding of ones immediate and projected surroundings.

    1Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher

    Thickening the Edge

    Jeffrey Bedard

  • 6Description

    At the base of Mt. Royal in Montreal, Quebec, the parks forest abuts the cityscape where the two exist sepa-rately, as an either-or condition. The city itself can be seen as a vertically thickened city where the under-ground network of businesses and transportation allow residents to in-habit the ground, as well as the urban or ground plane and the sky via the mountain top. The connection of the city to the mountain present a case of vertical growth in a way that is sepa-rate from the buildings because of the lack of connectivity to the ground and sky as one inhabits the buildings. Through the implementation of stu-dent living and public-use space as an expanded program of social and cultural relationships, an architectural intervention will provide a thickened experience of the space through the site and the city. By joining the cul-tural side of Montreal (represented

    by public use) and the educational (signified by the student living), the interaction that happens within will allow for holistic integration of the long term public and the short term students. The multiplicity of temporal and programmatic use of the building will improve upon the citys internal relationships as the users inhabit one space and thicken their understand-ing of Montreal as a dynamic metrop-olis.


    By thickening the edge between dif-fering adjacent conditions, an inte-grated system will exist within both as a conjoined ecologic where the spatial experience is understood as belonging to both conditions simul-taneously, enhancing an expanded experience of the program, building, site, and ecologics.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2: Habitat 67 is a hous-ing complex located on the Saint Lawrence River in Mon-treal, Quebec, Canada. It was designed by architect Moshe Safdie based on his masters thesis at McGill University and built as part of Expo 67.

    2Iain Borden is an architec-tural historian and urban commentator

  • 7Boundaries present themselves to us as the edge of things, as the limit between the here and there, present and future. The boundary in all its manifest forms wall, faade, gate, fence,

    river, shore, windows appears to be a descrete separation between alternate sides of a magical divide; things are dis-

    persed and ordered in space. Yet for postmodern urbanism, in which architects investigate the wrapping and layering

    of space and urban managers review its representation and control, nothing could be further from the truth.

    - Iain Borden2

  • 8UR



  • 9N AT U R E

    Figure 3: the space between urban and nature is seem-ingly undefined; however expanding each based of their own logics can produce a unique space between/within both

  • 10

    Figure 4: The Glass Pavilion in Toledo, designed by SANAA; the building is comprised of curved glass walls where the thickness between some panes becomes inhabitable space while others become merely wall thickness.

  • 11


  • 12

  • 13

    The Philosophical Realm

    People have always been interested in the relationship between human and nature and as such, the connec-tions or separations between the two. In the 19th and 20th century, philoso-phers began to question and write about the existence of the individual person and their relationship to the world around them. Some important minds within the existentialist belief included Friedrich Nietzsche and Mar-tin Heidegger who questioned the everyday norms of society and what it meant to be as a person who can ex-perience and interact with the world. Both men inspired the next genera-tion of philosophers including Georg Simmel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Christian Norberg-Schulz. While Sim-mel questioned society and culture through the lens of a sociologist, Merleau-Ponty and Norberg-Schulz became key roles in the development of phenomenology.

    In Rethinking Architecture, Georg Simmel writes about the examination of the bridge and the door as well as what they mean juxtaposed to one another. In and of itself, separation can only be realized after acknowl-edging the distancing between the two objects, thus providing a connec-tion between the objects and/or their meanings. Three objects that were examined within this article were the bridge, the door, and the window. Each object plays an important part in distinguishing connectivity and sepa-

    ration: the door as a built threshold of choice between the two, the bridge as an iconic extension of nature sig-nifying the separateness through the connection, and the window as some-thing that is not passed through, but looked upon, primarily outward. It is here that I would recommend an-other important boundary condition: the wall. This can signify separateness but a desirable act is performed when constructing a wall in relation to its height and boundaries. The juxtapo-sition of connection and separation play an integral part to an under-standing of space and as such need to be more heavily examined.

    Whereas Simmel was talking about connection via space and location, Merleau-Ponty explored space as the extension of oneself where the whole can only be understood through the understanding of connectedness of the individuals body. As he explained it in The Visible and the Invisible, the intertwining, or the chiasm, of mind and body, body and space form a thickened communication between one another and as such the visual becomes the tactile as the space and body change through inward and outward movement. The two con-sciousnesses of the mind are con-ceived through the comprehension of touch and sight where one sole touch or one sole vision become a small part of what makes up the experience of both past and present in both the

    My body model of the things and the things model of my body: the body bound to the world through all its parts, up

    against it; all this means: the world, the esh not as fact or sum of facts, but as the locus of an inscription of truth.

    - Maurice Merleau-Ponty

  • 14

    It is absolutely essential for humanity that it set itself a boundary, but with freedom, that is, in such a way that it can also remove this boundary again, that it can place itself outside it.

    "Man dwells when he can orientate himself within and identify himself with an environment, or in short, when he experiences the environment as meaningful."

    Now more than ever, nature cannot be separated from culture; in order to comprehend the interactions between ecosystems, the mechanosphere and the social and the individual Universes of reference, we must learn to think transversally.

    Edmund Husserl

    Martin Heidegger Jacques Derrida

    Friedrich Nietzsche

    Karl Marx Georg Simmel

    Jacques Lacan Peter Zumthor Christian Norberg-Schulz Maurice Merleau-Ponty

    Steven HollFelix Guattari

    known for his existential and pheno