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On the limit: The experience and representation of boundaries in architecture and urban design

Munar Bauza, Margarita 2018. On the limit: The experience and representation of boundaries in architecture and urban design. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Architects often draw a line around the boundary of a site on a plan to demarcate a part of the world that is subject to design, or delineate legal ownership. Yet, in human experience, that line is frequently imperceptible as a presence on the ground. People often perceive that when they move from one place to another, sometimes in close proximity, there is not a clear sense of a definite line that separates one from another. These limits in urban design and architecture are complex, made manifest in multiple ways, yet architectural representation rarely captures their richness. This thesis explores the delineation of such limits in relation to their representation in architecture and urban design. It draws from phenomenological methods to analyse limits as “experienced” in the world, and from design research methods, by exploring the architectural drawing of limits. It thus constitutes phenomenological design research. A working definition of the experiential limit in urban design and architecture is provided, based on a review of key urban design thinkers in relation to the limit, accounts of the experience of limits in two urban case studies and one landscape case study, and a review of the idea of the limit in philosophy, anthropology and socio-political literature. The limit is defined as recognisable, inhabitable, spatio-temporal, reflective and contested, resulting in a strip which can be characterised as ‘topological’. This strip constitutes what might be called a double limit, which simultaneously separates and joins, and is asymmetrical, ambiguous and fluctuating. Thereafter, this working definition of the limit is tested against drawn representations of limits with further reference to the case studies, following a review of conventions of architectural representation. The limit is recognised as inherent in the line, which characterises architectural representation, despite lines not being experienced beyond the drawing. The line, through the experience of drawing, explores and articulates attributes of the limit and how these operate, further refining the definition of the experiential limit. The thesis concludes that this idea of limit which “has made space for” is no longer negative, restrictive or obstructive – as in the conventional definition of “limiting” – but instead positive, imagined conceptually as a space from which to look outwards, mediate, multiply, and examine. Indeed, the idea of “limiting”, conceived in this way, as a design process, opens-up opportunities for alternative ways to imagine urban design, architecture, spaces, and the conceptualisation of the act and outcomes of the design process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Boundaries; Architecture; Urban Design; Limit
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 March 2019
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2021 11:26

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