Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Our Third Skin

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posted on 2021-12-07, 08:19 authored by Hughes-Hallett, Charlotte Corbett

It can be argued that there is an absence of reverence between contemporary architecture that governs our urban environment and the human body. Current architectural forms are unwittingly unresponsive to the dynamic flow of human action thus realising a denaturalisation of the human body’s transformations. The natural body deliberately expresses itself through reactive and interactive dynamic fluctuations whilst planar verticality and horizontality are qualities that commonly delineate the revered contemporary architecture of our lived realities. This thesis explored the human body as both a metaphorical and literal site. Provoking an investigation into how the body responds to the surface of architecture in an attempt to redefine how the design of architecture can better respond to the body as an active controller for defining space and generating form. This notion elicits the exploration of the relationship between; body and space, body and surface, body and form. By actively trying to understand the fundamental parameters of interior architecture that enhance our experience of being, this thesis is a commentary on how principles of interior architecture can be extracted and adapted to thrive within the ubiquitous realities of the urban environment. This is an effort to return form back to something more intimately attuned to the body’s stature. The motivation of this thesis was to create a design methodology that transitions from concept, to design and reach its realisation – where material enables the abstract intellect of form to be thought. With each phase propelled by the aspiration to better understand the relationship between the biological body and architecture. Following the framework of body space, interaction, and form, the methodology of the thesis has been developed at three scales of immediacy, maturing from the wearable to the inhabitable. The first level of immediacy considered and intuitively explores the body as a ‘site’. By using the biological body and the scale of the body to understand the body as a vessel that both contains and occupies space. The second level of immediacy and scale increased and responded to the intimate expressions of the self upon the surface of architecture. An investigation into how the anatomy of the body responds to the planar and static nature of surface. Actualising an experiential surface that departs from being a flat rigid surface and becomes suppler like an epidermis. Such an architecture that excites and transforms the body that is subject to it. As the methodology manifests the possibility of using the body as a design generative, the third and last level of immediacy is an amalgamation and development upon the previous analyses. The existential dialect between the surface of the body and the surface of architecture generates the contours of a ‘vertical somatic topography’. Site and material are introduced to shift the ephemeral form to reach physical conception through a series of scale models. The chosen site’s organisation and behaviour of material(s) directed and balanced the variations of form. The form creates a new immersive spatial condition that entices passer-byers to rediscover an omitted space in the city. The antithetical form of the installation deconstructs and disturbs the space in which it is presented imposing an affective reaction between body and surface - counteracting the sensory deprivation and suggests a space to slow, ingest, interact, and confer yourself in a moment of realisation of the surrounding architecture’s immobility and insensitivity to the ever dynamic natural body.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Interior Architecture

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Campays, Philippe