City & nature : sensory experiences

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Images come to mind when I take the time to think about what architecture means to me. These images, from my childhood, from exposure to my surroundings, from my experiences and training, even though this part of my life is still limited show me how simple architecture can be. I am always surprised that since I began studying the many aspects of architecture it has become so much more important to me. There are moments that I am able to recall the way the wind surged through a space or the way clouds would come alive and dance in a store window. It is these aspects of architecture that have began to shape and influence my life on an emotional and sensory level. I appreciate the simplicity of architecture when I think about summer visits to my grandparents farm. I am reminded of the sound of straw and leaves breaking under my feet, the creaking of a rusty hinge on the pasture gate, and the chill of the cold breeze from windows that were years beyond repair. These experiences are much more important to me than the visual images that come to mind because it takes more personal emotion for me to recall them; this makes for a much more powerful memory, one that last much longer than when I rely on the image alone. I remember a time when life was so much simpler and architecture was something to experience, not simply view. It is these simple experiences that hold the most personal meaning for me in my life. As I reflect upon my childhood, I realize that I rarely desire simplicity in my life as I once did years ago.
Even when I go for a walk there is a certain amount of excitement or emotion that I need to experience to fully enjoy life. The simplicity of the Saskatchewan prairies has ceased to be forever changing to me, which leads me to the design of an urban space. This space needs to have the ability to be an ever changing sensory experience that can create an environment influenced by both nature and city life. Saskatoon is home to dozens of spaces available to the public that are modeled after the Saskatchewan Prairies. Each space that resembles the vast open prairies is a naturalistic way of designing a park and only demands that a visitor observes the space they inhabit; design that is focused on respecting nature. A variety of purpose and activities is what our culture has come to desire in our lives so we no longer desire the naturalistic park as we once did. Instead we are looking for a place that has the ability to interact with our senses on many levels. As cities get more dense, public space becomes increasingly important because of its ability to give relief to the increasing pace of urban life. The ability for open space to impact many different parts of the urban landscape, that it supports, stimulates emotions that can affect any person. Encounters can summarize what an urban park should offer an individual through the interaction between old and new, architecture and our senses, the immense and the intimate, and the city and nature. This thesis will explore, through encounters, how the modern city must respond to the natural environment in order to enhance our sensory experiences through the design of an urban park.




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