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Architecture and Fragment – Towards Material and Metaphor

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Thomas Morgan
De Montfort University, UK
Alteration of existing buildings has become increasingly popular throughout the last decade. I have always had a deep rooted interest in historic buildings and have seen examples of architectural alterations that have resulted in both wonderful, engaging restorations and facile pastiche. Initial research found a limited range of literature, much of which summarised outdated policies and the pragmatics of alteration. Although appropriate, none of it touched on what seemed most important when it came to the pleasures and sense of being that a good restoration can produce.

The journey to realise this dissertation has ventured through a complex world of Philosophy, Art, Architectural Theory and Buildings. Early research made it apparent that the rigid set of rules that governed modernism where hugely damaging to the layers of history and culture articulated by our buildings and cities. With the input of contributors such as Rowe (1978), Scott (2008) and Vesely (2004), the initial stages of research came to the conclusion that the post-modern taste for history and restoration was driven not by practical needs, but by a fundamental emptiness of the spectator.

Perhaps the most challenging but rewarding section of the dissertation builds a complex theoretical discourse to demonstrate the use of the fragment to create what Dalibor Vesely (1996; 2004) calls communicative space. To develop this aim the work examines the role of fragmentation in the fine arts, particularly the Post-Impressionists and Cubists. The activation of old fragments and contextual reference brought with it a powerful and welcome revitalisation of lived experience. In an age of dislocation, material metaphor provides us with the opportunity to re-instate space which communicates its historic and contextual conditions, it can help root us in a place, and provide us with an identity.

This dissertation seeks to inspire a new generation of architects to see beyond the superficial assumption that fragmentation equals chaos and instead see a glimmer of potential in the ability of fragment to create metaphor, meaning and a sense of being through a connection to our cultural context.

Thomas Morgan.

Thomas Morgan

David Dernie
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