88 days until this thesis is due. Exactly one month has elapsed since the end of the last semester, and although my thesis continually occupies my mind, it has been some time since I formally talked about it. Therefore, I think it is necessary to take some time to reflect on what it actually is. In two days, I will need to have prepared an idea map and a road map that plans my process over the next 88 days. In addition, I will be making my first three conceptual models of overall ideas as well as specific moments that I want my project to encompass.

My thesis is my claim that architectural forms which transcend time, people, and societal ideals need to be dealt with in a way that neither preserves them in a state of frozen history, nor presupposes their obsolescence and subsequent demolition. As time passes, the purpose for which a building was originally designed and used for might turn into something different. When this happens, different waves of people will occupy the building and their engagement with it will create individual experiences, which will in turn be embedded in these people’s collective memory. Old buildings that have changed in program over time develop a mystical quality, which is the result of understanding that they have been a part of so many other people’s lives. They can shape the identity of a place and its people, at leas the history of the people. This is not a history that needs to be frozen and preserved. By taking an old building whose original function is no longer needed and turning it into something that is necessary for the needs of society today, it is possible to acknowledge the origins of the building and the site, and adapt it for current needs. This layering of history is what makes architecture and cities so complex, and I believe it should be embraced.

To prove this, I am using an example of a building that was more vital to the societal ideals of 110 years ago when it was built: a church. setting aside the issue of our society becoming more secular than religious, there is also a shift from the parochial to the global. back when this church was built, it was more than a place for religious worship; it was the center of a microneighborhood. back then, particularly in a city, people did not move around as much. today, people live here for a few years, then they can live in another state for a few years. they drive more, and can even participate in a virtual community. although it is evident that we are becoming more global, i feel that the need for human interaction and a sense of neighborhood is something people will continue to want no matter where they are and how long they are there for. the church is obviously not the center for this for many people anymore, so i want to implement a program that is one example of how to continue the function of an old building by adapting it for current needs.

what needs did a church fullfill that are still valid today? well, i already talked about the center for community activities. but what can that be? a music school is an ideal program because it not only attracts new people to this site, but it allows for the people who are currently living in that part of charlestown, in whose collective memory this church is embedded, to have a place to either learn a musical craft or watch a performance. there are two overlapping issues that can be fixed with the same problem. One issue is that a music school is noisy. The other is that it is a public space in a residential neighborhood. The solution? Well, looking at a figure ground of this area, it is evident that it is a patchwork of urban change:

the yellow part was not there when the church was built. it might seem strange today to have a school so closely adjacent to a residential complex, but back when the church was built, it probably stood alone. rather than allowing the yellow blob to swallow it up (heavens forbid a church be divided into condos!) the church complex must be fortified. not too literally as to say STAY OUT to nearby residents, but enough to muffle the noise and express it as an autonomous site that is more special than the surrounding residences. also, there will be a courtyard in the center that the rooms will face, leaving more solid walls exposed to the outside. this map not only shows the yellow/purple dynamic, but demonstrates the idea of layering that i was talking about earlier. the pink represents those old, densely built houses that are iconic to charlestown. the blue is the charlestown navy yard. the yellow is projects. the orange is more projects? the green in a highschool complex, and the purple is a group of misfits. aside from the old parish, there is a hideous community center, a liquor store, and a police station, which is separated from the navy yard by the heavy presence of the tobin bridge overhead.

okay… i ended up writing a little more than a paragraph. i guess it’s hard to have a quick informal reflection on a semestersworth of work.

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