Fractured Narrative

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Document of my thesis for my Master of Architecture. Design theory in architecture has lost sight of the occupant, choosing instead to aggrandize formal gestures which pushes architecture further from the realm of the public at large. Given this phenomena, I searched for a hybrid which would allow the formal and visual innovations sought after in architecture to keep the habitation of the occupant foremost in the design process. Fractured Narrative uses the process of storytelling, the plot arch and the methods of narration, to communicate the use and purpose of a space in an intuitive, psychological way.

Text of Fractured Narrative

  • by Daniel Alderman a candidate for Master of Architecture from the School of Architecture and Community Design at the University of South Florida May 2013Committee chaired by Professor Steve Cooke

    Deconstructed storytelling in architecture through an investigation of optical physiology

  • Alderman

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    TABLE OF CONTENTSAcknowledgements IV

    Foreword IV

    Abstract VII

    The Spark 6

    The Atheneum 14

    The Script 46

    The Story 54

    The Fracture 68

    Afterword 82

    Bibliography 84

    Index of Figures 86

    Appendix 90

  • Alderman

    Everything I have accomplished and produced in this book is the result of the Grace of Christ, who gave me the calling to build, and the family, friends, and colleagues who have supported me through my graduate studies, and showed tenacious loyalty during my days of isolation. I owe everything to you.

    I was almost an English major before I resolved to pursue an education in architecture; and as much as I would say I moved beyond a study of language, it seems that this idea continued to manifest itself throughout my studies. Poetry, narrative, and language offers a unique method of manipulation which seems to burrow its ideas deep into the psyche like an invisible worm. I grew up reading masters of language like Norton Juster, Carroll, and Twain. Inspirations such as these taught me that language not only communicates ideas, but it can also augment them, shadow them, and encrypt them. Amazingly, language allows us to do so in such a dazzling array of diction and dialects, but, inherently, these are all simply sounds and gestures associated with instinctive human thought. The fact that narratives and fiction has kept my interest fixated for so long has, in recent years, led me to ask the questions of why and for what purpose. I refer, of course, to the purpose and motivations for which these stories are told. While the obvious answer would be that storytelling exists to convey ideas concurrently with emotion, but the greater question lies with how those stories achieve such emotional catharsis and empathy. Language and syntax gives us the means to communicate specific ideas, even highly complex ones within ones own linguistic structure through the relatively simple means of associated

    sounds, but the addition of narrative allows the communication of emotion, connotation and hidden meaning in these nearly identical language structures. The freeing power of narrative is the unknown realities that stories can make tangible; whether through historical myth, or a fantastical landscape, narrative can liberate our perspective on what is possible and within ones grasp. With all of its tragedies and flawed characters, narrative can introduce us to a new perfection; a perfection of sequence and plot. The suspension of disbelief allows us to accept a series of events which lead to a climax and a resolution that could only happen in the specific reality of the authors invention; and storytelling allows us to see possible outcomes the common world would not, and sometimes could not, produce. Narrative is a beautiful epitome of language and thought; that which can envelope and project the sum of human desires, emotion, pain, and pleasure in a way which exposition like this will always fall short. I love stories because with them, authors can help us see a world in which our decisions and outcomes are not so politically and economically charged, but with a new set of rules and expectations, we can see the outcomes which are a product of more idealistic motivations, if only for a moment.

    I will begin by saying that

    Acknowledgements | Foreword

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    I am well aware that I am not the first interested in architecture theory to address the idea of language in architecture; in fact I would never have so many books to look up on the subject if I had been. Nor am I trying to revolutionize the theoretical subject, but I do hope to perhaps address the motivations and perspectives one undertakes when employing the idea of linguistics and narrative as a tool of communication in architecture, and perhaps patch a few theoretical holes in the process. Pardon the colloquialism, but after all, such nuances are the stuff that gives narration its thisness; Ill get to that later. While I said I didnt want to reinvent a theoretic stance in architecture, or revolutionize the theoretical spectrum, I have no illusions of my ability to do so, I had hoped for the opportunity to introduce a new element of dialogue which I feel has been horribly misplaced if not disregarded as of late in the theoretical realm. Theorists have popularly felt that the individual person ought not to be regarded in architecture, but I feel that without that individual person, architecture is nothing. Any space is only a void until a single person inhabits it much in the same way that colors cant exist without light. Abandoned or forgotten spaces even have a metaphysical function once they are reinhabited, either permanently or by visiting occupants, because of the potential and latent energies that a

    defunct space carries. How, then, can we argue for autonomous building? A literary architecture can open our minds to the kinds of reinventions an innovations the proponents of autonomous form seek, while addressing the perspective of the occupant by understanding the literary point of view. In all of its rhythms, its temporalities, and all the elegance of its disruptions, narrative can elevate us to the fantastical realm of building while anchoring its means to the perceptive and phenomenological human experience.

    -From the Author

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    ABSTrACT Storytelling and narration is a process by which authors help readers to see the world of the authors invention. Throughout times of antiquity until today, writers and storytellers must understand the fundamental processes of perception and comprehension the human brain uses to process and store information. By using a system of groupings (schemas and scripts) the human brain filters information in order to store it through relationships to familiar and shared knowledge. Whether through the archaic narratives of Homer, or through contemporary literature today, authors use and understand these fundamental groupings and processes to communicate ideas at the brains intuitive level through storytelling. Architecture theory has attempted to use ideas of linguistics and narrative, but as it has polarized away from a habitation-oriented approach, language has merely been used as a metaphor or generative device. Fractured Narrative is a reaction to this method by observing the methods of storytelling, both written and visual, to design a methodology which employs the intuitive processes by which the brain understands and processes information.

    The conducted research will allow me to translate literary techniques into architectural studies which will center around a both intuitive and cognitive understanding of language and space. The language to which we respond need not be attached to any particular

    architectural rhetoric, but rather, it should respond specifically and intentionally to the process by which the mind creates memories. By reacquainting ourselves with a humane habitative process of architecture theory, the economic necessities of practice can be resolved in tandem with theoretical ideas and concepts, not in place of them. A fusion of fundamental cognitive processes with architectural space can create a stronger link between architecture and its necessity within and among the community which inhabits it. While theorists such as Peter Eisenman propose an architecture which is not time, place, or scale specific, I posit that architectures relevance stands a much better chance if spatial design adheres rigidly to those specificities, because while a novel and alien form is not necessarily time, place, and scale specific, those who would exist in the space are.

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  • Alderman

  • The Spark 9

    Language and storytelling is both the oldest and most intuitive methods by which humanity conveys thought. Language conveys not only ideas, but emotion, and is actively fixated on the deepest, most persistent intuitions of man1. Since this medium, so archaic and intuitive, timelessly persists throughout all of human history, it holds a grasp on the hierarchy of the many ineffable qualities which make us human. It makes sense, then, to adhere to these linguistic qualities in the process of experience. Language thus becomes indispensable not only for the construction of the world of thought but also for the construction of the world of perception, both of which constitute the ultimate nexus of an intelligible communion...2 The idea of this adherence is nothing new to architecture theory, however. Some architectural theorists make this comparison as an effective method to communicate spatial and visual ideas, which then generate an ordering system based on the syntax of whichever linguistic properties the architect adopts. The application of this theory typically takes one of two forms; the use of language as a narrative, or the use of language as syntax. Giusseppe Terragni exemplifies the first method with

    1 Noam Chomsky, Language and Thought: preface (London, The Frick Collection, 1993), 10.2 Noam Chomsky, Language and Thought: preface (London, The Frick Collection, 1993), 11.

    his unbuilt translation of Dantes Divine Comedy into a monument of Italian culture under fascism in the 1930s. Based on the lucid rhythm of the three canticles with thirty-three cantos each, the Danteum is filled with Italian political and religious metaphors which reflect the 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy and