UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fremontworks : an investigation into the space between architecture and urban infrastructure Percy, George Alexander


The thesis has evolved into a search for a spatial construction that lies at the juncture of two types of spatial articulation: architecture and urban infrastructure. In the case of the North American city, built infrastructure has become the accepted background to the urban condition, sublimating itself almost invisibly into the consciousness of our everyday experience. Ed Ruscha, describing the gloss of its homogenizing effect, used the term 'visual noise.' This thesis seeks to understand infrastructure not merely as a by-product of the built city - mere systems of service or as the common language of repeatable structures - but as a productive apparatus that mediates space. Understood in this way, the physical infrastructure of the city has the capacity to both produce new types of space and re-territorialize already "existing conditions of space. These operations work in several ways, and at various scales. First, the making of infrastructure is motivated by a need to establish physical connections within the city. This has a two-fold effect: it both delimits new boundaries and configures radical new contiguities, impressing a new language of difference into the urban landscape, based on a logic of connectivity. Second, the making of infrastructures aggressively alters the physical shape of the city, catalyzing our thinking about the artificial and constructed conditions of 'ground' within the morphology of the city - the conditions of above, beneath, beside, on top and so on that form the physical surfaces of the city. Finally, i f infrastructure can be understood as a language of difference, its syntax becomes the important measure in defining difference - columns, retaining walls, lamp-standards, handrails, bollards, telephone poles, signage all begin to assert territorial allegiances. If infrastructure can be seen to mediate urban space in these ways, the intention of this thesis is to generate a design which employs this thinking at an architectural and site specific level. To make this sort of space tangible means looking at infrastructure not merely as a language but as a perceptual register. In other words, to articulate the visual possibilities of an infrastructure's form, material and finer distinctions of grain, color, and juxtaposition in order to lend the 'language' a more perceptual character from the point of view of the subject. In this way, the spatiality of the project might at once betray the 'dumbness' of infrastructural form while striving for the finer character of architectural form.

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