Motu Embodied Perception

Digital collage experimenting with perceptive qualities of moving through the forest on Breistølsveien. The negative space was made with cloning the original photo and was used to explore the arbitrary moments and perception of blur and focus as you engage with a place on a walk

This project aims to explore the nature of in motu perception and its importance in our formation of place and atmosphere—putting together ideas from a range of academics from the fields of architecture, landscape, and philosophy to help aid and contextualise my field and design research. By developing my prior understanding of the nature of perception to include embodied movement, interesting questions arose as to how this might aid in widening the frame of information available to architectural practice to include a more concrete conception of place. Questions such as:

What is the nature of the experience of an embodied perception in motu? How does this embodied perception in motu work to inform our notion of place? Can place rhythms be a useful lens to survey S.E.M’s (Space. Event. Movement) of spatial sequences? Would then, using a more embodied criteria than Tschumi’s “walking notation” give a more appropriate understanding and measure of place rhythms for a more concrete survey?

What started by trying to understand the visual perception of space then grew into an understanding that, in motu, the clarity of this perception isn’t of consistent quality. By combining the way that our attention focuses in and out of spatial clarity while we are in movement with the radial nature of our optical focus I started to gain an understanding of the form of space as blotchy vignettes of detail formed out of implied fields of atmosphere. What also became apparent was that these moments of clarity where constantly varying dependant on ever-changing and temporal physical, environmental, social, and psycho-personal conditions—meaning that the perception of space in motu is less concrete than what can be read from a traditional spatial survey and with only moments of actual spatial clarity or focus.

Walking rhythm patterns have been used as a way to analyse a more concrete in motu perception of space. The intention of this is to build a base of information to serve an ambulo sensitivity to a Pallasmaa-esque conception of atmosphere and place. The idea here being that the architecture for a walked path resembles the nature of perceptive momentary focus (or detail), formally, amongst a wider less defined atmosphere—an overall effect akin to architectural depth of field. Decisions of composition, form, and sequence are being driven by analysis from my site using the tools and ideas developed out of the design research phase, with this new embodied, in motu, understanding suggesting the manner(s) in which I could strengthen the sites pre-existing features—paring back the rhythm to exaggerate the essence of the sites performative qualities.

For this site, the connections between spaces are both abrupt, and tenuous. My proposal is to simply pronounce the existing natural space rhythm of the garden more clearly more definition to the points of focus and creating architectural smudges in between. For the focussed vignettes, this means refining the natural formal characteristics that make the space-moment engage your conscious (for example with irregular rhythms in the riser heights and directional axes, or clear, sharp form emerging from soft gradations) and having the craft and materiality reinforce both the formal logic and the existing language. For the blurred spaces, this means designing them to graduate into a less-descript space formally and then using this new ambiguity as opportunity space where a user might change course to the places of pause in the garden—these being the grass knolls at the upper level with afternoon sun and views out over the harbour and a new lower meadow with informal seating and a new cherry tree (in reference to the demolished fruit gardens of an neighbouring ex-nunnery).

A series of 3D scans of a goat track between Breistølsveien and Fjellsiden Nord to interrogate the differences between unique walks. The scans were taken with a camera in front of my eyes to make scans of the specificities of the details of the walk. The scans were studied overlayed to understand what might be unique and what might be more standard or typical features of the path. Then the scans were studied to understand the differences between the experience of walking up a path versus down it

Distinctive moments of the path were scanned, the edges of the vignettes smoothing out as the scanner projected and approximated the geometries. I found this analogous to my studies of the nature of the radial focus in our vision and the experience of coming in and out of engagement with the specificities of the place as I walked through forest

A combined site survey of multiple walkings of the path on my chosen site at Festningen, Bergen. The drawing studied the rhythm of focus and blur in the walk. View shafts show the limited reading of a wider place as you walk through and helped me make decisions about what was important to this particular park.

Zooming in on makeshift steps from exposed rocks on a goat track, I analysed what were the characteristics that made this particular space engaging from a perceptive perspective and understandings were found of the wider space from small features within this small portion of the path

The design proposition revolved around refining the existing focus/blur rhythms of the site. The blurred spaces were made to be texturally soft and these spaces were used as opportunities to gently lure the walker off their path and into new feature focus points in the garden

Existing places of focus and engagement were refined to maintain their existing characteristics, as well as subtly diffusing out into the blurred spaces with a strategy akin to how reverb might be used in music

Masonry⁠ details—a typology taken from the fortification walls at the top of the site⁠—were developed to reinforce findings from the site studies. Key themes being a diffusion into the the blurred architecture, the preceptive engagement required to navigate the steps, and an important (but small) existing stone being a small pivot point to the park


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