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  • Blurring Boundaries: Strategies for the Creation of Ambiguity in Architecture

Beals, Alejandro, 2012, Thesis, Blurring Boundaries: Strategies for the Creation of Ambiguity in Architecture MPhil thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

While ambiguity is often associated with lack of clarity, confusion or vagueness, it is, more precisely, an attribute that indicates the presence of two or more possible meanings. This research argues that ambiguity can be used as a powerful tool in architectural design, its most important benefit being its “ability to suggest issues and perspectives for consideration without imposing solutions”, encouraging close personal engagement with systems (Gaver et al, 2003). A strategy that does not produce autonomous objects, but instead, blurs the boundaries between a building and its context.
The blurring or obscuring of boundaries is a method that has been used for centuries to create ambiguity in art. From the ‘sfumato’ of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s blurred photographs of iconic buildings, these vague borders create an ambiguous relationship between the work of art and the observer, a space for personal interpretation based on perception and experience. But how can architecture build this blurred, cloud-like space, by means of its own intrinsically static and solid material components? Can we design for ambiguity, as opposed to just recognize it?
In an era that still praises clarity and definition, ‘Blurring Boundaries’ strives for ‘unsharpness’ and ambiguity, a return to perception and experience. It is a manual for that which creates a space and time ‘in-between’, challenging the traditional understanding of ambiguity in architecture based solely upon visual perception.
This is a research by practice, and in order understand how ambiguity can become effective in architecture, it refers to previous works of art and architecture, such as Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau, the environmental constructions of the Situationists and the work of Yona Friedman. From this analysis, three broad types of ambiguity are defined: ‘Ambiguity of Meaning’, ‘Ambiguity of Programme’ and ‘Ambiguity of Context’. Later on, through a series of architectural experiments, it explores and defines a set of ‘Blurring Strategies’: processes by which a boundary can become many, blurred or less distinct, building a new environment defined by its diffuse limits and loose programming, in which blurriness is considered a state of full potential. Lastly, this research examines the impact of such strategies in an urban context through two case studies: the first, larger in scale and more speculative, operates in London as a testing ground; the second, smaller and built in a park in Chile, allows us to physically test the ideas of this research and draw conclusions from it.

Qualification Name: MPhil
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
School or Centre: School of Architecture
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2014 14:41
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2014 14:41
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1641

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