Let’s Play the Preposition Game I

Here is one example of how to use prepositions to create or affect a design. What surprises will we come up with as the game unfolds?

1. Introduction of phrase.

For this first example, let’s start with an overall structure and let it relate to the landscape in some way. For the program, we will use an art center, and it will be in the piedmont of the Appalachian mountains. To start, the phrase is:

The art center is near a rock outcropping and waterfall.

This is a nice location for an art center, but how is the center sited relative to the land features? Another preposition of place would be helpful, and we might want to add a secondary preposition type–let’s see.

2. Examination of preposition use.

The art center is near a rock outcropping and waterfall.

To use near describes the proximity but nothing else. Is this near, above? Near, under? Near, among. A general description allows us to understand that the objects can be seen or visited in the location, but that is it. Are there any other shared characteristics or descriptions?

3. Analyze preposition use.

Should we change the preposition to improve the design? If we are designing a new art center that does not have the spatial relationships spelled out, then yes. Furthermore, if the art center already exists, then we should provide more specificity for a better description and writing. To be near something does not fully describe the relationship. Instead, we could use a more specific preposition, such as inside, behind, or upon. There are others that can provide a more abstract position, such as till, of, or as.

4. Develop existing or create new preposition use.

In this example, let’s replace the existing preposition with the six example prepositions above:

The art center is inside a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The art center is behind a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The art center is upon a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The art center is till a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The art center is of a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The art center is as a rock outcropping and waterfall.

Let’s look at each of these sentences:

The art center is inside a rock outcropping and waterfall.

In this possibility, the center is an interior, hidden by the landscape features. It is likely that the surfaces of the space are or reflect the outcropping and waterfall. Maybe the walls rusticated with the stone of the outcropping creating a mottled, undulating surface. Maybe the waterfall is like a window or sculpture–something with visual interest

The art center is behind a rock outcropping and waterfall.

This possibility could be the art space hiding in the land, divorced from the outcropping and the waterfall. This design choice allows each object to have its own definition, and although they are nearby, they do not need to interrelate or communicate. This sentence allows each to have its own program and needs.

The art center is upon a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The use of upon makes the art center heroic, above the outcropping and waterfall. In this relationship, the rock and cascade serve and support the art center, and the space is enriched by the landscape. The center does not necessarily change the understanding of the outcropping and waterfall, but it can affect them.

The art center is till a rock outcropping and waterfall.

This maybe a strange relationship, but we can understand it as a separation between the natural and the human. The art center exists up to the rock and water, where there is a break, and all of the objects are able to exist independently. In some ways, this is similar to the behind example, but there is an adjoining condition where one abuts the other.

The art center is of a rock outcropping and waterfall.

The use of the preposition of tells us that the outcropping and waterfall are materials or resources for the creation of the art center. In this way, the stone will act as stone to define the center, and the water will flow like water, creating spaces that blend very well with their context. This is a fine selection for develop the spirit of the place.

The art center is as a rock outcropping and waterfall.

As is similar to of, but the difference is that this relationship infers the art center is a simulation of the landscape features or parts of them. The materials may act the same, but they do not need to be the same. Concrete can act like stone, and fabric can act like water. The center complements the outcropping and waterfall.

5. Evaluate the preposition use.

Most architects would likely go to the choice of of for this example–it allows the most for the design. However, the use of till creates a complicated and novel option.

6. Draw the resultant idea and diagram, as possible.

The art center is of a rock outcropping and waterfall.

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