Session Chairs: Matthew Wilson & Sean Burns, Ball State University
Speaker: Dr. Cesar A. Cruz
The concept of a site, location, setting or a context is a notion that has, in recent times has taken on meanings seemingly directly associated with the pandemic and concomitant social distancing – whether permanently or not. However, as a concept it has always resonated in very different ways across different disciplines: literature, poetry, philosophy, history, politics, film, fine art, and allied design fields all have their particular associations ascribed to it. From the field of human geography, David Harvey once defined ‘absolute’ material space as the experience of streets, walls, territorial markers, and physical boundaries. However, he also suggests that there are multiple other readings of space, from lived-relative to conceptualized-relational spaces. His reading of ‘site’ in the urban context is thus complex and nuanced.
In alignment with the nuanced pre (and probably post) pandemic reading of site found in Harvey, this session considers site (and its correlates in different disciplines – location, setting, context etc.) as something more than just ‘absolute’ and/or material. Rather than reduce the notions of site, location or setting to a category of perceived parameters, boundaries, or topographic features, we consider ‘site’ as a more intangible and malleable concept that may serve as a framework for art and design teaching, and as an impetus for the creative process.
In the disciplinary areas of the speakers of this panel (architecture and urban design) designers often think of site in ‘absolute’ terms and thus, in design-teaching, it typically connotes an urban, suburban, rural, or exurban place. In the traditional design studio, students use this approach to draw upon multidisciplinary concepts to generate architecture that establishes the order of the city. Recent research on the effects of post-industrialisation, however, argues that architecture no longer orders the city and, in its place, landscapes, sites, and atmospheres now define the nature of our urban experience. Consequently, it is our proposition, that ‘site’ more broadly understood, should now serve as the medium for multidisciplinary, conceptual design-thinking in the fields of spatial design.