Title page for ETD etd-08192003-183608

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Harrell, Gregory Patrick
URN etd-08192003-183608
Title Design In Context
Degree Master of Architecture
Department Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Holt, Jaan Committee Chair
Frascari, Marco Committee Member
Wheeler, Joseph Committee Member
  • site
  • astronomy
  • contraints
  • context
Date of Defense 2002-09-20
Availability unrestricted

I am interested in creation, the root of what architects do whether they are designing a master plan or a detail. The interesting thing about architecture is that an architect's creation does not exist in a vacuum. Numerous forces operate on the vision of an architect before it can become a reality; the most important being the building's context.

Architecture without a site is conjecture and speculation and though it may have its place in some realm of study, it can never be real. For an idea to be manifested, it must be built someplace on this Earth and therefore I believe that architecture is a response to the context of the site. The site informs the architect on the material of the building's construction, how the building is oriented with respect to the sun, how and when the sun is allowed to enter the building, and how the building is approached and therefore entered. The context pushes and pulls on the building, informing the design process and demanding responses.

The city offers a context dense in built structures and rich in history and architectural precedence. These parameters should be ever present in the mind of the architect during the design. A good design should respect and enhance the urban situation in which it resides as well as provide a useful scaffold for the architect to build from. By limiting the architect and forcing the integration of the new building with the existing context, the urban condition spurs ingenuity and can actually simplify the endless possibilities of architectural space.

A rural site offers a different set of parameters under which the architect must operate. The shape of the land commands the largest influence on a rural design, should the architect look for contextual clues. The rural site can also set the architect free and allow a building to be a pure manifestation of the architect's mind, leaving the building program as the only constraint.

The intent of the thesis is to investigate how architects design. How does a building come into existence? By designing two buildings at opposite ends of a contextual spectrum I hope to raise questions in my own mind about how context influences the decisions that are made in the design process. Recognizing these different sets of parameters can lead to a better understanding of context as a guiding force that shapes architecture.

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