A1: Noticing and Documenting Online and Physical Environments — Step 2

Google Maps Overlook of my walk to the museum.

Introduction: As a way to observe and document physical thresholds within an environment, we were tasked to travel to the Carnegie Museum of Art and watch for the thresholds we passed in our effort to get their. In the simplest terms, a threshold is defined as a point of entry or beginning. In terms of this class, we have defined it as the entry into a new environment or the beginning of a transition in environments. While I have visited the CMOA previously, I used Google Maps on my phone for the references I make to certain locations along the path I traveled.

Bridge towards Craig Street.

a) I was first able to see some of the CMOA building as I crossed the bridge on Forbes Avenue over Boundary Street, though the angle is unrecognizable unless you already know which building you are looking for. While this location is significant because I knew that I was heading in the right direction, it

is also a threshold that I identified on my journey. The bridge to me is a symbolic threshold that takes you off CMU’s campus. Although our campus extends onto Craig Street, it feels greatly disconnected from the main environment of CMU. Even though there is no difference in environment on either side of the bridge, the act of going over it permits the feeling of going from one place to another.

First full look at the museum.

b) The transition between public space and private space was made very clear in the design of the environment outside of the CMOA entrance. This distinction is largely due to difference in materials. Upon approaching the museum, you have to walk down a staircase. The stairs and walkway leading up to the museum are all made of dark granite. The material stands in strong contract to the concrete of the sidewalk. As you cross over this very visual line, you know you have entered the museum space. This experienced is even further enhanced by the introduction of the fountain, which provides a noise that almost blocks out the busy city life that encompasses the museum property. Although the natural world around you has not changed in the slightest, there is an understanding that you are now inhabiting a new environment.

Showing the difference between public and private property.
Entrance to CMOA

I considered the space underneath the awning as a threshold. Even though you are inhabiting the same space, the ceiling above you is protecting from the elements. The transition into the inside has begun.

c) In order to enter the museum, you must pass through a pair of double glass doors. The walls above the door and to the left of it are also made mostly of glass, illuminating the space with the natural light filtering in from outside. The dark granite flooring continues inside, keeping the continuity of the space intact. Although you have now actually entered the building, you were already introduced to the space while walking in, so the transition is not abrupt. There is a very natural flow from the outdoor space into the indoor space, which is extremely unnatural in the sense that the entire environment around you represents the industrial, the man-made.

View from Forbes and Craig

One of the thresholds that I identified was the intersection of Forbes and Craig. While the environment remains entirely the same, I felt that a change was occurring. When crossing the street, you are making a transition from the safe space of the sidewalk, to the potentially dangerous space in the middle of the street. Although the transition seems minimal, it is an important aspect of getting to the museum.

d) I believe that the biggest challenge that faces the museum as far as environment is the proximity to Forbes Avenue. Since the museum is set so close to busy traffic, the transition onto the museum property is not completely smooth. Although there are many features that start to pull you into the new space, the surrounding environment can be incredibly distracting while making the transition through the threshold.

Conclusion: There are many phases one must go through in order to fully enter and inhabit the museum environment. CMOA has made many thoughtful choices in how visitors approach and enter their space, and they do the best they can given the environment around them. Physical thresholds can become hard to distinguish when a physical feeling of change is not attached to the transition. In my pursuit of thresholds, I observed how one can be brought into a space with very minimal details designed into the environment.

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