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Our Proper Place


I don’t want to get all existential on you, but the last few years have been invested in finding some degree of comfort in my own skin. Indeed, I’m reminded each fall semester during the first two lectures in ARCH 321, wherein we treat Christian Norberg-Schulz’s opening gambit on primitive cultures’ attempts to establish their proper place in the cosmos.

First, he identifies the increasing sense of “place” as the threefold point, path, and domain. Somewhat later, Norberg-Schulz speaks of the five great themes of Christian religious architecture, though I find them distributed much farther afield than the architecture of Western Christianity. He identifies them as: 1) the path or axis, 2) the cruciform intersection of two axes, 3) the dominant sense of centeredness thereby established, 4) the “basilican” section, shifting into the third dimension, and my personal favorite, 5) “multiple levels of enclosure”, the sense of being within something that is within something that is…, well, you get the point. In architectural terms, #5 is expensive and, thereby, less often encountered.

In my remarkably short list of unfortunate encounters, there was the incident now several years ago when a colleague, discussing likely candidates for a minor administrative slot, observed, “Well, then, there’s Ron. But we know his talents lie elsewhere”. My reaction then was “well, fuck you, too” and I may yet get my comeuppance.

My most recent encounter with placedness was on Friday afternoon in the great divvy of students for the thesis class of our fifth-year students. My position in the hierarchy is one I prefer, frankly, and have learned to relish, despite being out of step with what might be expected of a traditional academic — which I am decidedly not.

I write this as preface for the section of thesis students who will be allocated to me on Monday morning. It will be my distinct pleasure to be their thesis “coach” for the next thirty weeks.

[See my next entry on Forensic Architecture as a point of departure.]

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