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Field & Ground

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Justin Chapman
RIBA Studio Oxford UK
The landscape occupies a dual role in architecture; it is the material context and foundation on which buildings are constructed and it is the subject and field of view the building's inhabitants looks upon. Therefore, whilst there is a specific and recordable relationship between the construction of a building in the landscape, this is observed through the filter of inhabitation and the gaze of the inhabitant. This dissertation looks at examples of buildings which self-consciously privilege the gaze of the viewer as an isolated observer of the landscape. The dissertation discusses the framing effect of field boundaries, the simplest of man-made building structures within the landscape formed from pragmatic, agricultural use. The focus shifts to discuss the role of the self-conscious observer inhabiting "the hut", where the passive aesthetic gaze reverses the figure ground relationship of viewer and subject. The dissertation concludes by presenting "the barn" as a building set within the man-made and natural processes of the landscape, positively recognising it's self-conscious architecture whilst offering a less aloof and aestheticising impact on the landscape.

This dissertation uses the process of recording and documenting an area of rural Somerset in order to illustrate the argument. The effort of researching and observing the landscape and it’s inhabitant buildings must inevitably force a self-reflective view on the role of the viewer within the landscape. The default, and often academically privileged position is for the viewer to occupy a distanced, aloof and aestheticising eye. This paper will demonstrate how the sensibility of the self-consciously privileged view, where the observer simultaneously submerges themselves within the landscape, also maintains an authoritative commentary on it’s contents.

By recognising processes in the landscape and in buildings which happen by default and without the intention of it's users, the opportunity is presented to look at the landscape in two directions. Whilst seeking a practical understanding of the processes of conscious construction active in occupation of the countryside, the reader is also invited to experience a more intuitive, pragmatic and topographically hugging route which ignores the sensibility of the self-consciously aesthetic viewer.

Justin Chapman

Alan Thomas
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