Architecture Design Option Studio — Thresholds: West Meets East (Daniels)

Required of: 

The studio will explore "thresholds” and a range of threshold conditions found in architecture and daily life. A threshold is on the verge of, the opening to, the locus of, and, point of departure, it is also multi-scalar, spatial and manifested materially.

The Threshold is a “point of entry” – a line and a “tread.” It is a literal material element that demarcates the approach to and crossing of a boundary. The Threshold is a space of transition that demarcates a shift in the built environment and psyche—a gate, street, porch, vestibule, lobby, a wall or roof, etc. The Threshold is the pause that allows for recognition of the magnitude or intensity of a phenomenon or condition, and, the limit beyond which something changes unalterably—it is the space before crisis is intelligible and the moment of crisis that ushers in change.

The studio will explore both formal and cultural approaches to thresholds in a collection of sites of varying scale and location. The studio approaches the threshold as an open ended spatial moment of varying scales, depths and material relations. Students will develop a series of interrelated architectural design projects to tease out the thresholds of daily life to design for the rituals—sacred, profane, mundane--that demarcate change through the stages of a life: Birth, Aging, Marriage, Divorce, Passing away.

As potent architectural tropes and physical demarcations of boundaries, thresholds reveal cultural approaches to space and construction.

During spring break, the studio will travel to Japan to examine thresholds in traditional Japanese architecture: temple interiors and grounds, zen gardens and castles. We will study the metaphorical and literal space of gates; the mechanics of sliding doors in temples, houses, and shops versus hinged doors in gates and military battlements; and the specificity of entries, for

example: the elongated pause of entry in the genkan, where material changes and a step up demarcate the shift from exterior to interior at temples and domestic spaces.

The studio will engage architectural design through a series of architectural problems or challenges. Each challenge is delivered without advance notice at the completion of the preceding challenge. Each brief shares the studio theme and is structured by a context or site, a rule set, resources, deliverables and a deadline. The program, scale, and length of time spent on the challenges vary. The semester begins with a series of short threshold explorations before two longer inter-related building challenges are introduced at sites that we will visit in Japan. Studio research will be pooled as a joint endeavor to generate a catalog of existing conditions and support individual design projects.

The intent is to simulate the potential varying demands of an applied theoretical architectural practice. The pace and independent directives of the challenges necessitate that each student develop and commit to a specific design interest within the parameters and studio theme. Commitment to conception and follow through are critical components of success.

By the end of the semester, each student will have a body of architectural designs united by the studio theme, design research and architectural design projects.  It is intended that this body of work reflects individual interests and may serve as a springboard for your future independent work.