Constructing the liminal: Applying the Japanese concept of Ma to the design of a liminal space

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Architecture and urban design (MPARC), MSc
Brandberg, Julia
The void is an important feature in the Japanese concept of Ma. Ma is found within many artistic fields in flexible and unique expressions, but in architecture it appears in the negative space of an environment and its potential of atmospheric character. It is an in-between space designed for heightened awareness in relation to its contrasting borders. A western coined term, liminal spaces, is an in-between space, creating a form of threshold from one place to another, a transition. Traditionally the limen would appear in historical architecture at for example the Propylaea at The Acropolis, a monumental gateway between the outside of the temple area, and the sacred inside, consisting of the rite of passage’s three phases: the separation, the limen, and the incorporation. In architecture, the rite of passage is a tool to enhance expectations while creating a moment of ambiguity and disorientation. In recent years the term “liminal space” has boomed on online platforms such as Reddit, Instagram, and Youtube. The images shared online intend to capture and transfer the spectator(s) to the unidentified and transitional realm portrayed. However, for architects, the spaces shared and discussed as examples of mysterious and atmospheric liminal spaces becomes an interesting reaction to our designed surroundings. It is something we should have in mind, especially as the online examples in most cases are unintendedly designed to trigger such a response. This project aims to discuss and understand in-between space from a physical and atmospheric point of view and will be put into example through a speculative design at Gustaf II Adolf’s square in Gothenburg. Here, the concept of the eastern Ma and western liminal spaces will work in symbiosis, contrasting, and complementing each other in the creation of a physical space that holds room for atmosphere on a more complex level than what the space, in relation to its rational concrete format as a space, has the expected outcome to create.
Ma , Liminal space , Negative space , Non-space
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