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Commendation

[here be monsters]

Part 2 Dissertation 2009
Jamie Williamson
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK
Spatial boundaries divide more than just space. The lines that mark supposedly isolated islands of space often represent the invisible lines that separate purely mental entities from one another, and crossing them serves to articulate passages of psychological entropy. As such great symbolic significance is given to acts such as trespassing or crossing picket lines. It’s also why the Berlin Wall represented the mental separation of democracy from communism and why opening the border between Austria and Hungary heralded a symbolic display of the spirit of glasnost.

The simplicity of going through a door, can often be wrongly translated into a benign and un-monumentus experience. The thin slice of void that separates us from what is and what can be must have a profound effect on the way architecture is interpreted and understood. The line determines difference, its weight defines the depth of transition, of space between, and without it the world would fall into a meaningless chasm of complete nothingness.

The study delves into the ethical and moral obligations of boundaries, ponders our desire to trespass beyond the psychological fence of set parameters, addresses humanity’s fear and curiosity of the unknown and culminates with the everyday, yet devalued ritual of moving through a door. The study is set up as a triptych of work to be read simultaneously as separate chapters on distinct entities and collectively as collaborations. Between the chapters resides a collection of investigations called 'Hermes Cave- Archway: Taxonomy of liminal typography'. The series of drawings and narrative examine selected spaces of 'in-between' around the North London district of Archway, under the guise of the Greek god Hermes. By surveying the in-between state of liminality sourced from the work of cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, the study proposes that boundaries serve to protect and contain, yet inherently and irrevocably provoke battles upon the frontiers of individuality, continually rearranging the social edifice, forming spatial-temporal No-Man’s-Land. How we have come to orientate and navigate ourselves around these every changing conflict lines is built upon the experiences of the past, of Rites of Passage.

Jamie Williamson


This exemplary dissertation challenges us to read architecture through the unconscious moments of transition, the gaps, the pauses, the accidental spaces in between everything else that architecture appears to claim as certainty. As a piece of original writing, this study brings to the foreground the consideration of transitory journeys which, in terms of the definition of ‘liminality’, are generally unconscious, yet are experienced every time a threshold is crossed, i.e. every day.
Through readings of Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner, the dissertation places cultural memory at the heart of our understanding of spatial experience, and allows us to comprehend the exquisite complexity of movement through and between spaces, both planned and unplanned. The author’s drawings and narrative of these apparently left-over or neglected interstitial spaces in the city, remind us of the pitfalls of abstract representation, the assumption that the ‘line’ defines spatial identity.
The tripartite structure of the dissertation provides for a multiple and interconnected reading, ranging from a cultural and anthropological investigation of liminal space, to an investigation of the accidental and untidy spaces of the city, interwoven with personal reminiscences of crossing boundaries and territorial transgressions. The drawings and narrative examine selected in-between spaces in Archway, North London, a carefully chosen ‘site’ which is irrevocably connected with the direction of the study.
Through this study, the author challenges conventional means of representation, and questions how the borderlines on maps and the section lines on architectural drawings can anticipate and accommodate the complexities of inhabitation. Ultimately the dissertation invites us to consider architecture as a process of rites, in which the ‘line’ takes on multi-dimensional meanings transforming the way we comprehend architectural space.
The dissertation is well referenced to a wide range of sources: cultural anthropology, philosophy, poetry and film, and personal experience and childhood memory, and provides an optimistic engagement with the subject. The structure of the presentation is highly imaginative, and the synthesis of the research is conveyed graphically to good effect.

Tutor(s)
Mr John Stevenson
Ms Helena Webster
2009
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