by Charlotte Truwant and Dries Rodet
If we consider displacement as being removed from our sense of place, one could say that thinking about displacement cannot happen without reflecting on the notion of place and as a consequence of space. To better understand this relationship, it helps to reinterpret the definition of space and place. The origin of space, the latin spatium and extensio, could be translated as a distance between points, a stretch of time, an extent, or a room1. It reveals the relationship of space to void. Space is a reflection of an architectural idea, without answering functional or technical constraints. Space is abstract, homogeneous, regular, uniform and universal. Those conditions have been reproduced in a generic process of modern urbanization, dissolving the historic city in an endless open and universal space. This bred a resistance against the predicament of displacement, and argued for the importance of place2.
The origin of place comes from the Greek topos and chora. Chora is the idea of an abstract place as a locus of meaning, memory and identity. In this sense place as opposed to space has a character, a nature and is therefor qualitative3. Topos can be defined in relation to a limit or a surface. It is associated to a space/location.
The idea of the limit or the boundary is especially relevant in architecture, because it mediates the relationship between inside and outside, space and place, ascribing a meaning to the elements that define the threshold4.
Confronted with the issue of displacement, the threshold could become the pre-condition of dwelling giving form to the relationship between the abstract and the specific, where space and place are considered together.
This workshop will focus on thresholds, a topography of our contemporary condition. Topography as the detailed description of a place.
The proposed workshop emerges from the 2 concepts: space & place, and will try to describe by design diverse forms of thresholds. The starting point of the workshop will be a list of spatial ideas, for example: covering, center, proportion, view, oasis, vastness, fissure, machine. This given will be the underlying theme of their topography. The student will pick one of these spatial ideas and confront it with a context, for example: a slope, suburban, infrastructure, no man’s land, dense fabric, city outskirt, bridge...
The students will have to experiment through the use of models with the juxtaposition, overlay, superimposition, ... of concepts and conditions to create a topography. The result of the workshop will be a set of triptychs, illustrating the different possible ideas around the threshold.
1 space. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/space (accessed: October 20, 2016).
2 Kenneth Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six points for an architecture of resistance”, in “Anti-Aesthetic. Essays on Postmodern Culture.” Seattle: Bay Press, 1983
3 Jeff Malpas, “Thinking Topographically: Place, Space, and Geography”
4 Building Dwelling Thinking by Martin Heidegger from Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971.