The Sense Of Boundary In Architecture
Michael Graves


Michael Graves. 1982

©Monica Pidgeon

One of the major elements in architecture that we must be conscious of, I think, as the quality of boundary, the idea that we must in architecture separate one place from the other. We could, if we were pragmatic, say we must separate hot from cold or, in the social sense, here from there or public from private. In the religious sense, we could even say the idea of separation of sacred on one side and profane on the other becomes essential for our society, our culture. It is essential I think to make understood to us, the society, that space is not homogenous, that indeed we need the separations and boundaries of place to place, to understand our individual and particular realms. It is the sense of boundary which also allows the architect to construct ultimately the wall, the place that separates these two realms, one side from the other. Because it is that boundary that we ultimately make the place of passage. The idea that one first makes the wall to separate two things and then finds a way to combine them again. That combination of course allows that privacy and that passage of one place from the other. But that very act of making the hole in the wall, the excision in that surface, allows us to note that place as a threshold, as a condition of passage that becomes crucial for our society in knowing our place one side or the other. If one sees the door as a symbolic element, we can as well see it as a pragmatic device for combining two sides of two places, rather than thinking as much of modern architecture does of space as simply continuous.


The Poikile, Hadrian's Villa

©Michael Graves

If one looks at the wall of Hadrian's Villa you see in a craft tradition that is not complex, one of simply piling one stone upon the other, a formal situation of boundary that is quite clear in the density and severity of that wall; the will to make a door is slight where the idea of a separation, one side from the other, has been clarified by the density of that wall. It's quite clear what Hadrian meant by building such a secure fortification around his villa, he wanted to separate us, the people on the outside, from him and his court on the inside.

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