Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Borders of Pangea

ekthorp's picture

Solnit speaks a lot of the border between being lost and knowing where you are. She references Ptolemy's notion of Terra Incognita, which entailed the possibility that the Earth went well beyond established boundaries  and an all-encompassing ocean. This made me think of Pangea, a state in which all land was connected, with no divides between the continents. I wanted to enact this with select Bryn mawr buildings, and see what it would look like if several of the dorms were so near to eachother they were practically inseperable. By doing this, I discovered that this created several small spaces were created between the dorms, which fade into the foreground while the large buildings stand out. Additionally, what went beyond the exterior of this new layout seems to fall away into gray space. I wonder what would be the effect on our campus if it was actually situated like this.

While reading Solnit's work, I was repeatedly drawn to the idea of Terra Incognita. When I chose my location, I wanted to a place I had yet to know. I was drawn to the idea of Inner and Outer border that I had developed through reading both Solnit and Thoreau. Ultimately, I landed upon a grassy bank of the Rhoads pond that faces the back of Rhoads and Goodheart. I chose this spot because it allowed me to look at the edge of our campus from a different and new perspective. Additionally, I feel as if it falls into the area between the Inner and Outer boundaries of our campus, that "gray space" that went so unrecognized in my visualization. 



ekthorp's picture

Keywords Response

So I really hope I'm doing this right!

While looking through our list of keywords, I realized how many interconnections I could make in my visualization. There was a whole lot to think about.

Anthropocentric (hira):

    I wish there was a word for building centric. I looked for a little while online and couldn't find a word for it, but I feel like that is what I was trying to do in this rearrangement- put buildings at the center of our attention and see how that plays out in human interactions. As the daughter of two architects, I was raised to believe good design is king. I wish there was a way to see beautiful human design combined with natural order at the top of our heirarchy. 

Community (Nan):

   I am curious how our community would change if our campus was actually shaped like this. I think that's the true questions I'm trying to ask by reshaping our campus like this: How does our environment effect our lifestyle? And more specifically, would out campus act more like a city if the buildings were all this close together?

Adaption (hira):

   How do we change and develop according to our environments? How would we adapt if the entire world was still Pangea? How would this entire campus transform if all the buildings interlocked?

See (eetong):

   I was particularly drawn to this deifnition given from the OED: To behold (visual objects) in imagination. I think this is exactly what I was trying to do by physically creating a different potential layout of our campus. I wanted to experiment with what it would look like. I often have trouble visualizing something until I enact it.

Campus (me):

  I can easily see how my mind works sometimes. I like the idea of configuring a campus space in near impossible ways.

know, play, pattern (froggies 305)

I feel like all these words sum up the entirely to my vizualization. I wanted to know, so I played with the campus design as if it was lincoln logs. I wanted to play so I could find a new pattern of the campus. I wish I could see this pattern enacted in reality so I could see what patterns humans would develop around it. 


mturer's picture

Revisiting: the effects of interaction

The fact that this allows parts of our school to "interact" that usually do not is interesting! I have revisited your idea before, but I haven't really thought about this yet. I also wonder what the effect this organization would have. The proximity would probably cause the students to mix betwwen dorms more and the personalities of each dorm might be blurred because of the loss of established space. I think our campus would function more "ecologically" in which all elements coexist and interact rather than being spread out and isolated like the way humans tend to build things.

Anne Dalke's picture


...did you do this?

ekthorp's picture

Oh, yes, I did. I just

Oh, yes, I did. I just printed out a bunch of the floorplans for the dorms and cut them out.

Nan's picture


That's so interesting, Emma!  I love the way that "architectural" layout looks like a labyrinth whose mazes are everywhere and whose center is somewhere?  Where better to explore the unknown than in a labyrinth of which you are both designer and traveler!