Like Alice, my seventh-grade students would be hard pressed to answer the Caterpillar’s question. They are painfully confronting a crisis—adolescence. I wish to deal, in this unit, with three facets of this difficult passage from one developmental stage to another: first, the discomfort and unfamiliarity with changing bodies; second, the extension of abstract reasoning; third, the reaching out to others which is often belied by adolescent behavior.
My unit draws parallels from Professor Bloomer’s book,
Body, Memory and Architecture
as well as issues raised in seminar. There will be an exploration of the belief that the body experience is the most memorable and essential sense of three-dimensionality.
Our ease and comfort with our bodies, simply stated, will influence how we experience a particular “architectural” space or place, be it the classroom, the cafeteria or the arcade. In an attempt to foster this ease, I will concentrate on haptic experiences.
My research into the haptic sense was mainly in the area of art education, where a distinction is made between “haptic” and “visual.” When an individual responds haptically, he/she is concerned with body sensations and the subjective experiences in which he/she feels emotionally involved.
Touch and kinesthetic fusion’s are of the utmost importance, for they are the intermediaries of experience. When an individual responds visually, he/she feels as a spectator—on the outside looking in. The intermediaries for experience are mainly the eyes. Ideally there should be a fusion of the haptic and the visual.
There will be an exploration of the “clues” which building facades give us, moving into the realm of abstract thinking and reasoning. Does a building beckon us to come closer in a friendly manner or does it rudely rebuff us? Is a building public, private or anonymous? Questions like these can be answered by carefully examining how a building has been personalized.
Personalization is the act of taking possession of a building, completing it, changing it.
Personalization is not mere decoration or beautification; the establishment and expression of meaning, ethnic and group identity and status hinge on personalization. Rapoport suggests that we consider the meanings “ primitive” environments had for their users, for decorations were used to communicate complex associations. The meaning given to a place by the user is the center of study of the interaction between man and his environment.
The meaning a user gives to a place or space is frequently very different from the meaning assigned by the architect or designer.
There will be an exploration of the buildings which make up the community setting of our school. This will take place after my class and I have arrived at a working definition of “community.” Activities which foster a sense of community in our classroom will be an important part of the overall makeup of the unit.
J.B. Jackson states that the study of landscapes (urban as well as rural) should determine how they satisfy elementary needs—the needs for sharing sensory experiences which leads to a feeling of belonging.
Memory enhances this feeling of belonging. Our neighborhood survey in the Wooster Square area will try to determine factors which encourage-or discourage—relationships and bonds. These factors can, with some scaling down, be applied to our behavior toward people in another community setting, the school. The walls students and teachers construct are very real; the facade at times seems mysterious and impenetrable.