Architecture for and about people : a monastery for the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood : [an honors thesis (HONRS 499)]

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Miller, Elizabeth M.
Laseau, Paul, 1937-
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Thesis (B.?.)
Honors College
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This thesis is about things which are exciting and important to me in architecture. It is about what has begun, after five years, to be a small, but real, grasp on what architecture is all about. I chose to investigate something that was a fascination of mine – the conflict between the architect’s ego and the user’s needs. It is a battle that seems to have raged inside me with every design project I have pursued. I am constantly torn between designing what satisfies the social, psychological, and behavioral needs of the user and creating a design of meaning, beauty, and poetry in what satisfies my own ego. Granted, the user also desires meaning, beauty, and poetry, but I am speaking to a very real conflict between functional needs and architectonic expression. Because this battle has always been an internal one for me, the ego has had a tendency to dominate. And so I used my thesis to externalize the conflict. I took the divergent parts of my conscience and assigned those roles to two groups of people who could confront each other. A group of contemplative nuns were chosen to represent themselves – their needs and desires. My faculty mentors easily assumed the role of architectonic critics. The problem was to design a monastery accommodating both the sisters’ lifestyle and my personal creativity. Throughout the thesis I was to listen first to one side, then the other – observing the conflict externally instead of feeling it internally. My job was to resolve the issues in my design and in my head.Perhaps the battle image is overdone. Many would argue there is not conflict. Certainly things are never as simple as two foes struggling against each other in order to establish either equality or dominance of one over the other. But I have felt this conflict for five years, and decided that perhaps it is from resolving and confronting this conflict that richer architecture derives. The most fascinating architecture is the most complex, as long as the complexity is guided by a framework – an ordering principle. I think this is reflection of the individual’s relationship to humanity – each of us is different, yet each of us needs the identity that belonging to a larger whole gives. Either is less without the other.The thesis is also about process, involving a user group in the design to make it richer, expressing issues pertinent to design graphically, and creating a whole from fragments. There is a product (and from that a very real satisfaction), and a great deal of thought and searching in my writing. It is hoped that this thesis is more of a beginning than an ending. It is hoped that the author never thinks she’s found all the answers.