Master Thesis
2021

Topoanalysis of Space

“A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. ...Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.” Gaston Bachelard, a French Philosopher, explains the house first as a geometrical object of planes and right angles but it welcomes human complexity, idiosyncrasy and how the house adapts to its inhabitants.

My objective is to understand my house through a topoanalysis of space, as a “nest for dreaming, a shelter for imagining” as much as it is a physical architectural structure. The contrast between the physical building made of concrete vs. how one inhabits it, is the base for my experimentations.
Motivation

On 23rd March 2021, the residents of Johanniterstrasse 3, Basel, were told to vacate their house by the end of September 2021 in order to renovate the building - This is also my home. Old building with an attic, basement, shared laundry room as well as a garden with one giant maple tree. The house creaks every few steps but it is dearly loved by all due to its communal nature.

The landlord plans to split the building into two in order to create single room houses which can host more number of tenants compared to the existing four bedroom house plan. Post the renovations, none of the original tenants will have the right to move back. This raises concerns regarding global contested processes of gentrification and displacement.
Cultural & Historical Context

Through my own personal experience of ‘packing up’ my home in the next six months, I will study this process of ‘up-rooting’ one’s home by understanding the past, present and future of this building. The residents of this building have been living here in the range of about 15 years as well as a few months. The walls of the building carry marks and traces of humans that have inhabited this place through the years. The relationship of the “container” with the “contained” is a deep-rooted one. My neighbours and the ghosts of past tenants serve as insights for my research.
Practical Thesis Work

The building in itself turns into an artefact for exploration, dissection and abstraction. The inhabitants are lived experience of the past and present.

I aim to elaborate the experience of living together through a study of space, sound and understanding the ‘poetics’ of space inspired by the works of Bachelard who describes it as the “portal to metaphors of imagination.”

BLUEPRINTS

01.1
Idea

Each house of the building  has the same floorplan but it inhabits a completely different life. I was interested to know how each person understands the same space.

For this I created a rough blueprint of our house and asked the people to write, draw or mark out their favourite and least favourite spots, hot and cold zones, memories and moments etc.
Reflection

The result of this experiment reinforced Bachelard’s text. Additionally, this helped me gather data about the domestic life in each household.

The same space meant a lot to some and not so much to others. Each room is inhabited uniquely. Giving this concrete structure meaning and revealing the nature of human inhabitation.

UPROOTING

02.1
Idea

Abstracting the idea of the house being a ‘container’ and the inhabitants, the ‘contained’. I was curious to find ways to depict the relationship between the two.

I discovered this while gardening at home when I pulled out dead plants from their pot.  
Reflection

This experiment revealed the delicate relationship between the container with the contained. The roots of each plant have grown organically through time but at the same time, they have to adhere to the physcial constraints of the container.

The act of uprooting something plays on larger schemes of displacement and the graphic nature of this uprooting captures the complexity of such process.

I am now left wondering; To what extent do we shape our homes and how much do they shape us?

TRACES

03.1
Idea

The walls of the building are full of marks and traces left behind by tenants who lived before us. I’m interested to capture these “ghosts” of the past that still live among us in the present.
Reflection

These traces have no function. They remain lifeless in the surface of the walls but they do indicate proof of life.

The patterns on the walls of these marks leave the viewer with their own imagination to think of “what might have been” and this inspired my next experiment...

TRACES

03.2
Idea

Abstracting the architecture of a building to that of a book. What happens when the book is stripped of its content and only the parts which give the text structure remain?
Reflection

Without the content, we only see markings that give us some idea of the structure of the text.

Similar to the markings on the walls in experiment 03.1, it is upto the viewer to build and imagine their own narratives.

FRAGMENTS

04.1
Idea

Using clay to capture a small fragment of a larger whole. Capturing features of the space using clay allows me to retain a dimensionality, scale and a haptic sense of space

Reflection

I aim to build a library of such fragments that allow me to capture and archive the space. The fragments do not reveal the actual space but only a small moment/feature of it.

Like the previous experiments, this again allows the viewer to imagine what the actual space would have been.

I realise that it is important to have enough space for interpretation and to draw parallels to one’s own home as it is something that concerns every living being.