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Medal Winner 2004

Word-robe

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Olivia Gordon
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) London UK
The aim of this dissertation is to use the famous extract from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Lucy enters the cupboard and first discovers Narnia, as an index for a personal storage system. This is used to house my own narrative on the theme of closet space, an individual ‘wardrobe of words’.

My writing then, in inhabiting the ‘fixed’ text of Lewis’ novel, uses the predetermined structure of the story to develop my own investigation of the theme of cupboards. In effect I aim, like Lucy, to enter the mundane space of the wardrobe and discover a “whole country” within. The methodology I use is similar to George Perec’s in his essay “Think/Classify” where he explains, “The alphabet used to ‘number’ the various paragraphs of this text follows the order in which the letters of the alphabet appear in the French translation of the seventh story in Italo Calvino’s "If On One Winter’s Night a Traveller". Rather than letters, I use the words of my chosen extract, as a means of classification. Reading and writing between the confined lines of the text become a way of ‘slotting between’ as one would file objects in a cupboard, generating a spacious place of creative investigation.

The method of classification created through this process of reading and writing questions the opposition of orderly classification versus random spontaneous thought. It is here that the theme of the research develops: an exploration of the nature of the space of the closet, both as a mechanism for control and categorisation but also as a place to explore the freedom of the imagination. And so, following Lucy’s journey from exterior to interior, my dissertation investigates these alternate themes and reflects on the implications that such a duality might have for the architect as designer and definer of space.

Olivia Gordon


Gordon’s dissertation, ‘Word-robe’, leads us on a journey from the humble wardrobe through themes of ordinariness, control, curiosity, intimacy, homeliness and the fold. The research is thorough yet wide ranging; Gordon interrogates and questions texts creatively and brings her insights together in a rich and skillful way. The use of Lucy, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is an incredibly powerful device, adopted at first as a narrative to order an apparently disparate selection of ideas, eventually she emerges as a metaphor for the whole architectural process, from drawing to making to the unpredictability of occupancy.

2004
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