Date of Award

12-2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Architecture (MArch)

Legacy Department

Architecture

Advisor

Hecker, Douglas A

Committee Member

Bruhns , Robert A

Committee Member

Chamberlain , Frances F

Abstract

The palimpsest is, by definition, 'writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased.' It provides a conceptual field for the layering of text, or meaning, over time. This text may be built up by successive authors and can be altered by additions and erasures. Traces of these amendments remain, providing a history of revision of the original text. Additions that comment on and interpret the primary text are called marginalia.
Landscape operates as a palimpsest, with written, rewritten, erased, and revised layers of history. While typically considered ahistoric, the suburban commercial strip also operates as a palimpsest, one composed more of systems and processes, both natural and artificial, than of historic references. It is the role of the margin to comment upon the main text of the site, to reveal the layers of history, systems, and processes imbedded within it, and to add an additional layer of meaning and function to the existing landscape palimpsest that is absent from the normative condition.
The primary text of the most recent layer of the suburban strip palimpsest consists of a system of roads, parking lots, and buildings- primarily big-box retail. This system is monoprogrammatically consumptive and prescriptive, and seeks a homogenous landscape and inhuman scale in order to maximize profitability. This is achieved through cut/fill construction, providinging large expanses of unnaturally flat terrain and massive earthworks of retention. The natural topography and natural systems of the landscape are subsumed and subjugated by this system, often by a thin veneer, ephemeral in both construction and in program. The residual landscape of the margin resides between these elements, and its resultant architecture must, in contrast and as commentary, provide varying scales and typologies of non-prescriptive space that are inherently bound to the imbedded layers of the site.
Movements made in the marginal conditions have resultant reverberations in the main text of the site, and space is created as a direct result of these movements. An architecture of erasure in the margins and redistribution in the primary text will reveal some imbedded layers through void, call attention to others through accretion, and provide spaces for subversive non-consumptive counterprogramming.

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