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The Fall of the House

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posted on 2023-10-10, 20:35 authored by Nicholas Mercer

We live in a world that has access to a multiplicity of devices and means of communication with the outside world. Despite being more connected than ever, one can still find oneself alienated from society, whether it be through perceived difference, pandemic, ostracisation, or any number of other reasons. With this supposed limitless connection, perceived security can develop on just how connected we are. Therefore, it is even more prudent a time than ever to address the individual’s alienation from society.

This thesis uses Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) as a literary provocateur for the design of an allegorical architectural project. In his story Poe uses architecture, the Usher house, as an allegorical device to convey the theme of alienation from society, and the dangerous ramifications it brings for an individual. This thesis investigation seeks to re-present this theme from Poe’s short story as a work of architecture.

Penelope Haralambidou describes the allegorical architectural project as a critical method for architectural design research; it draws from design disciplines outside the field of architecture to inform new ideas about architectural design. While Poe’s short story reflects primarily on the characters who inhabit the house, this architectural research thesis reflects primarily on the allegorical library and the books that are its ‘inhabitants’, and then finally the library as an ‘inhabitant’ of the house.

The principal aim of this research thesis is to investigate how an allegorical architectural project can be used as a critical method to enhance understanding of alienation and the individual’s connection with the outside world, or lack of. This will be addressed by transposing and architecturalising three of Poe’s primary themes within The Fall of the House of Usher; Artifacts, Dialectic Dialogues, and Temporality.

To fully explore the possibilities of the allegorical architecture project, the context of this research exists within a purely speculative realm and aligns with Haralambidou’s methodology. Although there is no intended physical site, to make the outcomes more convincing to the viewer experiments are explored in such a way that they could exist. The implication of this research is not to solve the difficult issue of the alienated individual, but rather to facilitate self-reflection so that one may understand their connection with the wider world, while simultaneously providing a method of conceiving a house that otherwise could not exist. This design-led research investigation asks: how can an allegorical architectural project be used as a critical method for the design of a ‘house’, that enhances an awareness of the alienated individual?


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel