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An Other Architecture: Toys For Older Children

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Andrew Puncher
University of Nottingham
Responding to the psychologist Douglas Rushkoff, this dissertation looks to the child’s natural adaptive skills for “answers to some of our problems with adapting to postmodernity” - specifically the inhabitation of the “sprawl” of the poststructural multicultural City.

Through a progression of relation theories from Sigmund Freud’s “pleasure principle”, with reference to Jacques Lacan’s “narcissistic paranoiac instinct”, Melanie Klein’s “paranoid schizoid position” and D.W. Winnicott’s “transitional object” and “potential space”, it considers the child’s psychological connection to the initial 'object-other' of the toy. This investigation allows us to understand the role that identification with the “other” plays in developing the sense of self and an understanding of culture in general. It parallels the child’s use of the imagination and subsequent use of the toy to relate to external reality, with architecture’s role in helping us to inhabit the postmodern city. The city tends to be perceived superficially and objectively, without the necessary subjective connection required to fully engage with or inhabit the other of the built environment.

As in the opening passage, this subjective engagement produces a blurring of inner and external realities, suggesting mechanisms for designing an “Other” architecture which, as a “beacon of coherence in the world we inhabit”, will allow us to construct and access the “Looking Glass House.” Responding to the social philosophies of Walter Benjamin, Douglas Rushkoff, Michel de Certeau and Michel Foucault, it considers architecture as a heterotopian 'object-other', disrupting the familiar “sprawl” of the city with unfamiliar, unconventional, 'transitional' objects. This would instigate common playgrounds for evolving poststructural cultures, independent of traditional racial or gendered institutions and signs. Like the disruption of this text, through dislocated passages and images, it constructs landmarks for interpretation, connection and inhabitation, plotting the metaphoric map of the conceptual multicultural city. Applying the psychoanalytic theories investigated, it analyses the work of Gehry, Tschumi, Eisenman and Libeskind, who attempt to create an Other architecture for childlike recapitulated connections, in order to inform and develop a methodology for designing toys for older children - A manifesto for constructing potential space.

Andrew Puncher

This dissertation contains an impressive amount of research at a level far above the normal expectations for Diploma. From first principles a background is built up describing the psychoanalytical implications of the child's relationship with objects. This is measured against observed reality based on primary research with infant school children. From this base a number of speculations are made - backed up by the work of more recent psychoanalytic thinkers - linking these observations with our perceptions of objects in the grown-up context of architectural theory. The concluding case-studies try to assess the limitations of the current trend towards 'new forms' in architecture, particularly the enigmatic organic language that is producing what seems like 'unclassifiable' objects.

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