Bayer, Sara Andrea
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Statement of issue/problem. "the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic. Here this history (of walking) begins to become part of the history of the imagination and culture, of what kind of pleasure, freedom, and meaning are pursued at different times by different kinds of walks and walkers." (Wanderlust: A History of Walking, R. Solnit) Scale, space and the form of architecture relate to the dimensions and proportions of human beings. We engage with our environment on innumerable levels related to the rhythm, measure, and aesthetics of these proportions. Focusing on bipedal movement through the built environment, this thesis will explore how the position of the body might may be influential in the creation of architecture. How can the position of the body be developed into architectural space? How can a space created for a certain scale of the body be translated into other larger programs that involve walking and movement? What level of detail, mental effects, aesthetic and architectural design decisions does walking uniquely generate, compared to other forms of travel through the built environment? What kind of architectural system and process can be developed to explore these ideas? Statement of significance of issue. Our contemporary dependence on the automobile and the biological hardships our bodies suffer based on our lack of exercise are well documented. Walking gives one time and oxygen with which to think and "digest" thoughts. Our world is eliminating this "down time" because it is considered to be unproductive. (Solnit, R.) Today, over 50% of Americans live in suburbs. In large part due to these arrangements, walking throughout the suburbs is a quite rarely shared activity. However, at other moments in history, walking has played an important role. The design explorations of Constant Nieuwenhuis's New Babylon, and the philosophy of the Situationists International are entangled with concept of experiencing space on foot, or wandering. The Situationists focus on the importance of "the derive" and the chance meetings, social interactions and infinite possibilities that are possible through this process. In 1992, Sadie Plant wrote in "The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post Modern Age": "to dérive was to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and de sires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed." Within this concept individuals collaborate with those they meet to modify their environment. In Constant's New Babylon, creativity is therefore a social act, as people take charge of their environment. While Constant's vision is not exactly plausible today, it does relate to our reality, in the sense that we constantly create our environment and experiences in collaboration with others and the elements around us, perhaps not with the same freedom Constant envisioned, yet with the same expression of purpose. To derive through a built environment means to discover psychogeography, which is defined by the Situationists as centers of gravity, contours, and "unities of atmosphere". (Debord 1956 "Theory of the Derive") Movement through architecture as a way to experience it has become a relevant topic in many circles, from the Situationists to the urban planner Kevin Lynch, whose research focused on the study of human awareness in the urban environment. In particular he defines certain characteristics that form one's "mental map" of a city. He emphasizes the term "sequence design" to describe how we could think about architecture and the experience of the urban environment. Method of inquiry. After a period of study into the Situationists International, Constant's New Babylon, and the subject of walking and positions of the body in architecture, this thesis will focus on the design, construction and presentation of a material installation. The scale will be of a small space for the human occupation of walking. As a material driven study, this project will construct a micro-environment in which studies of space can be interpreted by the viewer. An investigation into process and production will form the components of the installation. Expected outcome. The work will be presented formally at thesis reviews and will be documented in digital format.