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(RE)Developing Place: The Power of Narrative

Architectural space is a manifestation of human memory and experiences. It is a physical indicator of time and history, and it provides a canvas for us to imagine the future. Architecture anchors people in a moment in time and space, while also embodying the past and implying a future. It is not just a monument to time, but what has happened during that time; a collection of past human experiences and what will yet happen. Architecture is the manifestation of our stories, our lives. The more visually present these stories are in architecture, the richer the canvas, and the more readily it can be identified as Place. The slow and inevitable sinking of Venice, the interweaving of modern and ancient buildings of Rome, and the careful preservation of Machu Pichu. These places reach through time. We can imagine what it looked like in the past and dream of how it will change in the future. Place implies both continuity and change. New real estate developments are often associated with drastic and sudden change that often erases the history of a place and that rich linkage of accumulated markers of experiences and time. Many developers also seek to reduce the total cost of a project to increase profit margins by using cheaper, quicker construction. Most new buildings have an average lifespan of thirty years, and so the rate of change and renewal is quite high. While change is necessary and inevitable, the economic motivations of development make it more difficult to incorporate past memories and allow for future adaptations. These quick, nullifying changes come together to erode Place and create cold, bland, monotonous developments. This thesis proposes looking to narrative as a vehicle for understanding how Place comes to be. Approaching architecture as a narrative allows a designer to break down the system to better understand the components, and subsequently the whole. By using narrative, and the elements of narrative: Characters, Setting and Plot to shift the understanding of architectures role in the experience of the built world and how to develop real estate to create, or renew, the sense of Place in the modern built world.
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