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Uncanny Nostalgia: Nine Homes of the Land Surveyor

A Fiction of Architecture

Yalun Li
Harvard GSD 2021 M.Arch II Thesis
Advisors: Mack Scogin, Hyojin Kwon

“The question of architecture is … the taking place in space. It invents something which didn’t exist beforehand and yet at the same time there is the inhabitant, man or God, who requires the place prior to its invention or causing it. Therefore, one doesn’t quite know where to pin down the origin of the place.”
-Jacques Derrida

Architecture is a desire where its origins are at once imagined but remain elusive.

The permanent and stable house, as property and symbol, is so reassuring and comforting that many would call it a “home.” But “Home is where the heart is,” a space in the mind, in memory, a fabric that is beyond the built, physical, finite house, and as Gaston Bachelard aptly put, “a place that shelters daydreaming and protects its dreamer.”

Synonymous with home, Architecture is a desire which seems to always express itself as missing or a lack. Similar to the search of the self, the desire for “being at home” is never fulfilled. Home is always on the move, oscillating between nostalgia and uncanny. Nostalgia is an accumulation of memories into a place; uncanny is the doubts towards that place.

A home does not offer reassuring familiarity, nor does it regulate or limit its inhabitant. It provides the everyday needs but departs from the norms. It contains memories but asks for a different way of remembering. This home is completely incomplete, a starting point of departure——Architecture that liberates.

Because of the transient qualities of Home, this thesis uses a different way to approach architecture through new representational methods that trace emotions, memories, thoughts, and dreams. The Thesis is a fiction that combines memories, dreams, thoughts, and emotions of domestic spaces, temporal stays, traveling, migrating into episodes of nine different abodes for an imagined Land Surveyor. It questions the notions of boundary, property, ownership, the self, and the singular archetypal home.