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ABYSSAL DREAM

AN EXAMINATION OF LIMINAL SPACE, DARKNESS, SHADOW, ABSENCE, AND VOID

Master of Architecture Thesis

This project explores the perceptual effect of vacuity – emptiness. Though emptiness should not be confused with nothingness. Vacuous space is filled with memory and meaning. Emptiness carries with it a vast array of potentiality. And this absence of matter allows imagination to breath. Vacuity implies a certain incompleteness, in which the individual is beckoned to complete. This requires an active engagement with the world. For what the eyes cannot observe engages the imagination and inspires the mind to resolve.

This film is an exploration of empty space. It examines ‘liminal space’, which is the in-between – turning architecture into an ephemeral, temporal event. In this case, light and shadow are sculpting and defining spatial boundaries, which the body enters and exits. 

Stills from the short film Abyssal Dream

The scale of vacuity can reach vast, sublime dimension. From Bachelard speaking of the boundlessness of silence to Pallasmaa expressing the unlimited horizons of darkness, our enacted senses take on spatial existence. This project focuses on a poetic architecture designed through absence, rather than presence. The space of vacuity makes room for an elevated sense perception and a primordial intentionality of movement. 

“The imagination and daydreaming are stimulated by dim light and shadow. In order to think clearly, the sharpness of vision has to be suppressed, for thoughts travel with an absent-minded and unfocused gaze. Shadow and darkness are essential, because they dim the sharpness of vision, make depth and distance ambiguous, and invite unconscious peripheral vision and tactile fantasy. 

Mist and twilight awaken the imagination by making visual images unclear and ambiguous; and give rise to an unfocused way of looking, evoking a trance-like, meditative state. The absent-minded gaze penetrates the air and focuses in infinity.” 

-Juhani Pallasmaa

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Studies of Darkness and Vacuity

It is easy to design a single, linear path or a room with a singular intentional experience. And it is easier still for the perceiving body to occupy such a prescriptive architecture. Yet as matter opens up, possibility grows. When there is no clear indication of boundary or direction, the individual is faced with following bodily intuition or the various cognitive forces that can propel the body into motion. This analysis explores the perceptual effect of vacuity on the body schema and the body image. It begins with a short narrative inspired by the natural habitat of the deep-sea comb jellyfish – the abyss. For the vacuity of this habitat approaches the very limit of comprehension. 

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