Reconnecting in a Connected World: Nature, Technology and the Next-Generation Library
Cash, Keith Eric
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Alone. It is not a word that conjures a comforting feeling for most. We are social beings, evolved over millennia to prefer the group over isolation. It is perhaps, in addition to our intelligence, the hallmark of our species. This is evident in the technologies we create that unfailing aspire to bring us ever closer together. Yet in our pursuit to streamline, simplify and expand connection, we have demonstrated how little we understand ourselves. Human relationships are chaotic, complicated, and demanding. They are not meant to be efficient, simple or propagated by algorithms. By allowing us to minimize our personal investment and avoid the tangle of human emotion while also permitting us to prioritize quantity of connections over quality of connections, technology is simultaneously disconnecting us while connecting us. The same is true of our relationship with the natural world, where we create ever larger built environments that streamline and simplify, maybe even allow us to avoid, interactions with nature. We consume food from store shelves, natural light from engineered bulbs and the sounds of the wild via streaming digital tracks. But technology cannot be the villain. We are as inextricably bound to our tools as we are to each other. If we want to reconnect and to connect more deeply, we need to understand and design our creations with fundamental human needs in mind while leveraging technology for its strengths in an intelligent manner. This thesis proposes that technology, specifically architecture, augmented reality and virtual reality, can be used to deepen our connection to others and to the natural world via the vehicle of storytelling and first-person experience. As an architectural typology, the library for its traditional and revered role as a cultural repository and community hub was chosen. Located within the Denny Triangle district of downtown Seattle, the South Lake Union library is genuinely the next-generation library. On a site that occupies a full city block amidst adjacent office towers, the majority of the South Lake Union Library sits comfortably below grade leaving its roof to be an open woodland amenity for library visitors and the city alike. Since the entire collection of the South Lake Union Library is digital, the architecture is merely the physical threshold from one reality to another. It is within this context that a framework for a deeper, more empathic connection to the world through a intuitively natural relationship to technology is proposed.
- Architecture