Boundaries and the Built Environment
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The human tendency for bounded space bridges time, place and culture. Boundaries can either be physical or invisible, permanent or temporal, political or natural, they can invite or exclude, unite or divide. Boundaries can assist in regulating communication between separate entities, but they can also isolate and be detrimental to the well being of their contents. It is a natural human tendency to place people and things into well-defined categories, and it can be difficult to dismantle our preconceptions about these categories. If designers are not aware of this predilection, harmful environments can be created if these boundaries are replicated spatially. The Oldtown and Penn Fallsway neighborhoods in East Baltimore, Maryland are disconnected and therefore isolated from their surroundings, and also function as a centrifugal boundary between downtown and East Baltimore. This thesis explores the rise and fall of these neighborhoods over time, and how a series of decisions relating to physical and sociocultural boundaries were instrumental in their eventual decline. This thesis explores how to dissolve those perceived and actual boundaries by weaving the urban fabric back into the surrounding context. By critically studying how boundaries related to the temporal, sociocultural, and ecological aspects of this site, Oldtown can once again be a healthy connected neighborhood.