Tolerance: Material Conversations on Life & Architecture

Thesis for Master of Architecture Degree
RISD 2020


ABSTRACT

    Tolerance is an investigation of the phenomenological aspects and latency of material in architecture through physical manipulation and sensory interaction. It is an investigation into the space between society and material, in which one can find new insight and appreciation for architecture at all scales. The word tolerance holds multiple definitions that wonderfully encapsulate the elements of this work: 
    -    The ability of willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not agree with.
    -    An allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or part.  -    The capacity to endure continued subjection to something without adverse reaction.

The method for this investigation was a process of learning, as much if not more so than the products themselves. The term conversation is used when referring to these interactions with material due to an approach where, as much as possible, preconceived notions of form were avoided and new forms were developed based on sensory feedback derived from those interactions. The architect Louis Kahn is famously known for asking a brick what it wants to be. This process was an attempt to find not only that kind of answer, but to hear the questions asked of the designer by the material.

The process resulted in recognizable and not-so-recognizable forms, in tandem with poetry that evolved with them. This allowed the concept of memory and human life to enter into the work, creating pieces that were unique and meditative. Topics such as gender, religion, death, and family arose, creating a charged space between the works and the writing.

A key realization in this work is the student as the product of education. Referred to as a “reversal” there appears a triad of discoveries in which communication is much more apparent than is traditionally recognized. These conversations occur between artist/designer and material, between student and education, and between architecture and inhabitant.

If given the time and attention, it is concluded that architecture can be much more than simply shelter from the elements or a container for humans. Humans experience architecture as different and as unique as they are themselves. It can hold messages from nature itself, as well as from the depths of our own memories, inspiring us to be better stewards of our environments, more equitable citizens and neighbors, and reminding us of the power and mysteries of life as conscious beings.

(Link to book pdf coming)