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Title: Emotional geographies: curating a relationship between grief architecture and the Niagara escarpment
Authors: Riehl, Jacob
Keywords: Grief;bereavement;mourning;loss;landscape;Niagara escarpment;architecture;empathy;experience;senses;perception;psychology;pedagogy;community;healing;hope
Issue Date: 8-Jun-2020
Abstract: Through the creation and development of one’s personal story, an individual pursues their beliefs and passions. The life of an individual is intrinsically shaped by the experiences defned by one’s place, relationships, and surrounding culture. However, the inherent duality of life and loss is often suppressed in the normalization of the pursuit of notions of happiness.1 Specifcally, this can be experienced upon the loss of a loved one, as one enters a state of grief: a psychological response to bereavement. This can lead to a state of melancholy which is a psychological experience caused by a subjective reaction to the emotional, physical, and cultural processes of bereavement. During grief, the well-being of an individual can deteriorate afecting the body, mind, and spirit. Often, a person in a state of mourning avoids social interaction due to pressing negative thoughts and emotions. Society can foster such unhealthy coping methods by encouraging private or psychological remedies that neglect regional, social, and cultural contexts.2 Arguably, dealing with negative emotions in isolation is not a sustainable experience, nor does it support the well-being of an individual. Exploring and understanding why and how people think, and respond to these situations in life has become a growing concern in organized psychology, resulting in an increased dependency on psychiatry.3 Humans are curious and we seem determined to understand ourselves as a species. From this, human experiences and conditions have been scrutinized and the emergence of grief as a topic worthy of psychological study solidifed, popularizing the understanding that normal occurrences and situations are part of medicalized psychiatry. The occurrence of grief has transitioned from a natural phenomena to a constructed theory, becoming a pathology to be monitored, managed, and treated by mental health professionals. Over time, psychologists have attempted to defne grief, arguing that grief is a transitory melancholy that afects everyone at some point in their life and that this experience interferes with day to day life, disrupting the ideal.5 The categorization of grief has led to the development of active processes that involve intense struggles to give up the emotional attachment to the loss, requiring time and energy on the part of the mourner in an attempt to prevent prolonged social or medical alterations for an individual. As a result, psychologists seek to defne the mourning process as they believe that bereavement contravenes the obligatory pursuit of happiness. It is apparent that grief theory has become decontextualized from experiencing one’s own emotions and has been completely psychologized. Having a place to explore the innate emotions of life is thus imperative to sustain the well-being of society. Supporting those disorientated by bereavement requires a shift away from the psychological realm, allowing grief to become an sensorial and experiential process for people to actively navigate together. This thesis proposes a means through which mourners are able to process their grief through a public built form. An interpretive experience can ofer a means to explore an individual’s grief by framing it in relation to the vulnerability of the landscape. The Niagara Escarpment is an underlying condition of the human experience that transcends time, boundaries, and culture, forming the construct of human life. However, due to the impact of the human species, this sacred entity is becoming endangered, causing society to collectively grieve its loss. The atmospheres embedded within the Niagara Escarpment can therefore act as a more comprehensive way to engage grieving individuals, aligning with the vivid emotions present in bereavement. Manifesting the thesis’ response in relation to the site’s atmospheres enables mourners to project, relate, empathize with, and be inspired by the landscape. Perceptions of vulnerability, remembrance, resiliency, and hope embedded within the site embody the emotions of bereavement to establish a therapeutic environment for people to navigate their own narrative. As a result, architecture can be recognized as a pedagogical means to curate grief as a living experience.
Appears in Collections:Architecture - Master's Theses
Master's Theses

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