The new issue of MAS Context, a quarterly publication released by MAS Studio, explores the actual and perceived divisions of space. MAS Context #17: Boundary contains varying in discussions of urban development, forced and naturally occurring segregation, the politics of such separations and ultimately, breaking the boundaries that frame our engagement. Of particular interest in this issue is the philosophical divisions between designers and non-designers and the specialized world that architecture school and the architectural profession construct to define themselves. Through a series of essays, projects, personal accounts and photographs, MAS Context crafts an argument around the boundaries exist in our built and un-built environment - and ways in which we choose to transgress them.
More after the break.
Boundary can have very different connotations within different contexts. It may define what is found within as well as outside of a set of parameters. It may be a division or a meeting point. It may be a point of contention or a point of compromise - "a line [or a] space", according to designer Lawrence Abrahamson whose short essay is also featured in the publication. Beginning with a photo essay by Brian Rose, the photographs chart the presence of the Berlin Wall between 1985 and 1989. In areas of desolation and in bustling cities, the wall stands as a beginning and an end, both physically and mentally. Looking at these photographs we already perceive the distance in years between the building of the wall and its eventual destruction. We see its transformation from a formidable architectural presence, to a mural, to a point of penetration. In just a few photographs, Rose summarizes MAS Context's 17th issue with subtle clues captured in still frames of photography.
The essays that follow explore the idea of boundary through a variety of lenses. Carl Nightingale maps the historical development of segregation through the development and tools of city-splitting as the establishment of power and order - ideals that eventually developed into the lines of race, creed and sex. "One of the oldest impulses in city design", Nightingale writes, "is to drive people apart: to rend the urban fabric into separate and unequal zones." These impulses prevail today and are a constant assault to equality, opportunity, and the collective identity that cities ideally represent. In short, Nightingale looks at how physical, political and mental boundaries unify or isolate spaces according their function in the city or, more cynically, according to the function of the people living in these divided spaces.
Interboro Partners follows up with an essay describing the natural impulse of people to congregate under common interest along economic, ethnic, generational, racial or political boundaries. In trying to break down these invisible walls, Interboro provides tools and guides that create cities of inclusion or exclusion and how these effectively create neighborhoods that can be welcoming or hostile to outsiders.
Political boundaries are an altogether different concept of control, authority and behavior. In an essay by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the idea of boundary becomes a question of international law. In the towns of Derby Line, Vermont and Standstead, Quebec, the border between the United States and Canada is unique as in some cases it runs right through buildings, where they are transformed into international territory. International territory is a no-man's land of questionable authority. Natural features like the ocean, miles off the coast of any country, fall into this category; but so do man-made structures like airports, designed to be as generic as possible, creating a no-man's land of co-existing authorities within the liminal boundaries of international politics.
Paola Aguirre and Dennis Milam are developing a project that documents boundaries via photographs taken at eye level every nine feet of both sides of the boundary line - beginning with Lake Michigan. The photo-collection-project embraces the Google Maps inspired "being there" phenomena that hopes to capture an experience of time and place in more intimate ways than Google Street View has yet been able to do.
A project by KD | AP (Killian Doherty | Architectural Practice) for a community center in Kimisagara in Rwanda undertakes the difficult task of creating a fully accepting, near neutral space for a country of ethnic divisions and long established psychological boundaries of social and economic inequity. Kimisagara is the largest informal settlement in Kigali, Rwanda; the community facility planned for the 30,000-person community is designed to accommodate planned and unplanned activities, flexibility of function and form and a place of safety within the context. The project is a test of architecture's role and limit in the fields of development for improving social conditions.
Boundaries, by definition, are places that define or inhibit passage. Architects work in oscillating between the two faces of boundaries in an effort to define space or function. Boundaries can be put in stark contrast with the context or they can be subtly implied. They may be blatant or invisible, physical or psychological and drift openly between the two. This issue of MAS Context explores the potential of all of these manifestations of boundary and encourages moments that redefine it or eliminate it altogether. In all, it questions when and whether boundaries are necessary.
Contributions by Lawrence Abrahamson, Paola Aguirre, Alaska, Noël Ashby, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Odile Compagnon, Killian Doherty, Sharon Haar, Interboro Partners, Sean Lally, Teaque Lenahan, Meredith Ludwig, Dennis Milam, Carl H. Nightingale, Jason Pickleman, Yorgos Rimenidis, Brian Rose, Julia Sedlock, Mario Vaquerizo, and Larry Mayorga, who is the guest cover designer.
Click here to download a PDF of MAS Context # 17: BOUNDARY.
Guest Cover Design by Larry Mayorga