Date of Award
Master of Architecture (MArch)
All architects are spatial choreographers. Every individual subconsciously partakes in a unique choreography when occupying space. This reality is unavoidable. When an architectural site is considered in the urban landscape, there is an existing choreography that’s already in play, thus architects must consider how their project will entwine with the existing composition. There is great responsibility for architects to be mindful of this choreography and to consider, in an incredibly rigorous manner, the way in which bodies will move and feel when existing within their designed space.
I was trained in classical ballet for 15 years. The training was intensive and exhausting. I loved it. Every lesson is spent not only carefully refining technique, but also studying every minute way in which the body moves. Dance offers a unique form of intense observation that I carry with me through all parts of life. The most beautiful dancers turn this collection of meticulous movements into a graceful and seemingly effortless routine. Even when movement appears facile, it is the result of great detail and thousands of subtle decisions.
In order to understand how choreography can inform architecture, let’s first consider the way in which architecture is expressed on paper. Historically, the architectural plan is a gracefully choreographed drawing, filled with a deep understanding of relative geometries. The goal of the plan is to create a legible image through diagramming that can be translated into a built space. Like architects, choreographers require a notational system in order to transform three dimensional movement into a two dimensional form. Rudolf Van Laban created Labanotation in the 1920’s. This analytical notation consists of the five-bar staff, with the center line being the center of the body. It is read left to right, where the location and shade of geometric symbols instruct movement to specific parts of the dancer’s body. Similar to a plan, the poché, line, and direction allow this system to be legible and transformed into movement. While this method is effective in transcribing the intended choreography, it lacks the dynamic qualities that bring emotion. Though this might be absent in written form, the choreographer brings the piece to life.
The missing emotive layer of Labanotation does exist on musical sheets- symbols such as time marks, dynamic notes, and crescendos inform the musician how to bring expression to the more literal musical language. Each piece begins with a set BPM, the trusted home base of speed. Throughout the piece this number may grow and shrink with the original marker in mind. I often consider this as I occupy space- when my feet become synchronized with the rhythm of a facade, and when I feel my internal time mark speed up or come to a rest in relation to my surroundings.
This handbook is a proposal for a system of notation that maps the everyday choreography of the urban landscape. This is not only a study on language and mapping, but also a proposed reframing of site analysis. We exist in a constant state of subconsciously responding to our surrounding environment: why then is this existing rhythm not included in site analysis? Designers are given the opportunity to meaningfully embrace the urban choreography at the scale of the individual. The one whose daily practiced piece will forever be altered by the design. A new instrument is being introduced to an established orchestra: we must understand the existing composition before writing a new piece.
Bayer, Nora, "Psychochoreography" (2023). Masters Theses. 1065.
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