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The Repository of Shadows: An Inquiry into Architectural Drawing and the Realm of the Shadow

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posted on 2021-12-09, 01:32 authored by Wilkey, Nicholas

In Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, reality and imagination are infused in an interplay of narratives. The story is about discovering the identity of Self, using a walled city as a metaphor for the subconscious. The novel weaves the stories of two characters, the external self and the internal self, each chapter flicking between the real and the dream, from conscious to unconscious. Murakami provides the reader with a contemplation on the nature of existence, being versus non-being. Dr William S Haney, Professor of Literary Theory and specialist on culture and consciousness, argues that the shadow in Murakami’s allegory is a representation of the mind. As the narrative unfolds, the shadow—stripped from its owner—slowly dies, causing loss of memory, emotion and desire. The relinquishing of one’s shadow in the allegory suggests a loss of the metaphysical aspect of Self. The Shadow is not merely seen as an immaterial entity; rather it is the sign of full corporeality. The Shadow grants meaning to existence, illuminating the reality that we cannot perceive the light without the darkness.  This thesis is born out of a concern for the dearth of meaning in architecture in an age of uncertainty. In the modern contemporary sphere, we have become obsessed with the image, with rationalistic tendencies; with evermore light and luminosity, architecture has primarily been caught up in trying to order and rationalise the world. In this condition of objectification and reduction, architecture risks falling into a trap of homogeneity, thereby limiting itself to an empty datum of quantification. Thus, the unhygienic, the disorder and the chaos, the darkness that grants life its pungency, have been ‘relegated to the shadows’. Roberto Casati, senior researcher and Professor of Philosophy at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientique and an authority on shadow perception, argues that shadows avoid direct reading: “[t]he interaction of the two unequal brothers has been described in different ways, from the notion that shadows are ‘holes in the light’ through to the opposite idea that they are ‘the remaining representatives on earth of the cosmic darkness, otherwise torn apart by light’”. Viewed in this sense, Shadows can be seen as both corporeal operation—bound to the physical cycles of earth, moon and sun—and metaphysical entity, alluding to the primordial darkness before the birth of light and matter.  The allegory of the Shadow in Hard-Boiled Wonderland can be seen as a rumination on the loss of the metaphysical aspect of Self in a contemporary cybernetic age. In Murakami’s novel, the shadow cannot enter the walled Town; it must be left behind in the Shadow Grounds, the threshold between inner and outer realms. The Gateway, as described in Murakami’s novel, becomes the provocateur for this thesis. Interpreting Murakami’s architectural and allegorical program of the Gateway and Shadow Grounds in relation to Penelope Haralambidou’s seminal article “The Allegorical Project: Architecture as Figurative Theory”, this design-led research investigation interrogates the use of the Allegorical Architectural Project as a critical method. Allegory provides a structure of thought whereby meaning is not grasped immediately, but rather through progressive discovery and continual interpretation of its ambiguous traits. Ambiguity in architecture has the ability to appear ever-changing, resist resolution and remain open to interpretation.  The methodology of the investigation explores the spatial realm of the shadow through the critical and creative process of drawing. The principal aim of this thesis is to journey into the darkness, to embrace the shadow of the unknown, searching for a space in-between—between light and shadow, architecture and art, reality and fiction, the constructed and the imagined. Using Haruki Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World as a generator and provocateur, the research employs the notion of the shadow as both mythological entity and corporeal signifying process. Rather than seeking concrete conclusions, it posits a speculative allegorical architectural project that invites critical engagement and interpretation. It argues that architecture occupies the liminal position between darkness and light, the true place of human existence, and as such, the design of Shadow is essential to the meaningful design of architecture.  The thesis investigation asks: how can the speculative architectural drawing be used as a means of interrogating the realm, and enhancing our awareness of, the shadow in architecture?


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel K.