Let’s Play the Preposition Game III

1. Introduction of phrase.

For the next example, let’s zoom out and look at the urban scale. Architects need to look at buildings and their context at multiple levels to draw meaning and connection, and the use and choice of prepositions can help this process. Again, we will use simple terms for the objects as we explore this game. Let’s use structure and city as the words.

The structure is within the city.

Within is a preposition of place, and it defines the location of the building rather well. However, the preposition doesn’t explain the relationship of the building to the city, other than being amongst the constituent buildings and streets of the city. Can we further define the condition of the building relative to the city? What makes this structure and its location in the city important?

2. Examination of preposition use.

To be within requires other elements that are likely similar, however they may have quite a bit of variation. What is important is the conglomeration of the various elements creates an interior where the main subject sits. The term is composed of with- and -in; with informs us that the elements are a group, creating an aggregation, whereas in describes the location relative to the others of the group.

3. Analyze preposition use.

We understand that the structure is within the city, but can we have a better description of how the building works with the urban environment and the urban environment works with the building? The description in the given statement provides a preposition of place; although we could use another of this type, we can explore other relationships using one of the other preposition types. In this exercise, we will use prepositions of manner and agent.

For prepositions of manner, we will look at the prepositions after, depending on, and regarding.

As for the prepositions of agent, we will use about, by, and from. There are similarities between prepositions of manner and agent, but we will try to have difference in the options.

4. Develop existing or create new preposition use.

Once again, we will replace the preposition in the initial sentence.

The structure is within the city becomes:


The structure is after the city.

The structure is depending on the city.

The structure is regarding the city.

The structure is about the city.

The structure is by the city.

The structure is from the city.

Now, let’s review each sentence:

The following sentences use prepositions of manner.

The structure is after the city.

The use of after tells us that relative to the structure, the city is primary. Later in this experiment we will see other, similar descriptions that are like another definition of after, but even that definition requires the city to be first and the structure second. Does the building follow and learn from the urban environment? Yes, this is very likely, but the building also must cede importance to the city in this example. The structure is not the object, the city is.

The structure is depending on the city.

Once again, the structure is second to the city, but it is very clear in this example that the city nourishes or supports the structure. The structure cannot exist without the city, which explains the nature of the structure, something of a wallpaper building that relies on the armature of the urban condition–outside of the city, the building would fail.

The structure is regarding the city.

This option anthropomorphizes the building, and it is actively watching and evaluating the city. The structure likely changes because of the conditions of the city, continuously transforming in reaction to what happens in the urban context. This is an exciting relationship that truly activates the structure–it is not just a passive object in the space.

These sentences use prepositions of agent:

The structure is about the city.

In this example, as alluded to above, the city defines the structure. Although the structure’s nature is slightly different and perhaps less than the city, the building’s description is composed of elements from the city. In this relationship, the city is primary and the structure is secondary, but the structure is like a mirror, reflecting the city’s essence.

The structure is by the city.

This is another, similar example, but in this case, the city makes the structure, however the structure’s nature can be different than the city’s. How can this occur? How can a building be from an urban location but not be similar to that place? Usually, we would like the structure to relate to the city, but maybe the structure is responding to some inconsistency or deficit in the city.

The structure is from the city.

Here is another example of the building being born of the city. However, this choice of preposition is more general than other options. There is nothing wrong with the relationship of the structure to the urban environment, but this example has as much or perhaps less specificity than the original sentence, the structure is within the city.

5. Evaluate the preposition use.

From this example, the most interesting relationship found from the given prepositions is:

The structure is regarding the city.

This may be abstract, and it does not provide the exact meaning of the structure, but we understand that this building learns and reacts to the urban context. What does this mean? How can the architect make the building active, changing with the conditions?

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

The structure is regarding the city.

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