Noticing Environments: Steps 1 & 2

Wire-framing and Noticing Thresholds at the CMoA

Step 1: Wire-framing

Wireframes of the home, map, and connect pages in the app
Wireframes of the exhibit and video pages in the app

Step 2: Noticing Thresholds at the CMoA

One of the times I went to the museum was on Monday, Labor Day. To check if it was open, I used my Gallery Guide app on my phone, and to my surprise, it said the museum was open. However, seeing that it was a holiday, I didn’t really trust the app but decided to walk over anyway. I opened Google Maps just to check if there were any faster routes than the one I usually take (just down Forbes) to get to the museum.

As I walked over, I started noticing changes in the environment as I passed through CMU territory, the transition from CMU to public property, and CMoA’s property.

The view from the walk down Forbes from campus

The bridge over the railroad tracks seemed to mark the border of CMU’s territory. The tall CMU buildings no longer loomed overhead and a billboard advertising another university appeared ahead.

After a couple minutes, the CMoA started to peek out from behind a building. Here are some observations from where I was standing:

Left: My first view of the CMoA, Right: Panoramic view from where I was standing when I first saw the CMoA on my walk

I like to think that the idea of a threshold is fairly simple, but when it comes to actually identifying them in a walk such as this, I find myself unsure of what exactly qualifies as a threshold and what’s just a slight change in scenery.

That said, I believe I passed through a threshold when I was finally able to see the CMoA. It marked being in public, rather than CMU territory (the building it was blocked by was related to CMU). CMU buildings were far more scarce further down that road, and restaurants appeared as I approached Craig Street.

Sketch of the view from where I first saw CMoA on my walk

I didn’t notice a change in much else, though. Perhaps I need to become more observant, but since I was still on the same sidewalk that took me just down Forbes from CMU, I didn’t notice any changes in lighting, temperature, or material that I was walking on. Perhaps there could have been a change in smell because of the restaurants ahead, but I didn’t note it. I think what changed was the area’s purpose.

The next major threshold I noticed was when I passed the trees, bus stop, and bike racks next to the museum, right after the entrance to the parking lot. This entire area’s purpose was dedicated to transportation and how the visitors get to the museum. This area stood as a liminal space between where visitors arrive from the street onto the museum’s property.

Left: crossing the threshold, Right: before crossing the threshold
My sketch of the threshold between the street and the museum area, marked by the bus stop, bushes, and trees

Again, I didn’t notice a lot of changes other than visual, but the purpose of this particular area was unique. Everyone who gets to the museum by a means of transportation other than driving has to pass through this area.

Below is the entrance to the museum from where I stood right after passing the bus stop. The building itself is set quite far from the sidewalk so there was no shade anywhere other than under the shaded overhang, which, as I stood there, seemed to get more and more appealing.

Everything about this area just pulled me into entering the museum. from the bright banners to the stairs leading down, to the welcoming outdoor art installments and flowers.

However, as long as I stood on the concrete sidewalk, I felt that I was still on public property and not on the museum’s. As soon as I crossed onto the stony material of the steps though, I was definitely on the museum’s property.

Left: the difference between the stone material on the museum steps (above), Right: my sketches from my walk, the bottom portion showing the front entrance of CMoA

As I walked further toward the entrance, I noticed that I was getting distracted by the fountains, flowers, and outdoor art installments in front. I found that the flowers especially blocked my path to the front door. Everything else in the area seemed to have some sort of purpose, but I really couldn’t think of a good reason why someone would decide that there should be large flower pots in the middle of a walkway.

Installments outside the front entrance (clockwise): fountain, flowers, and two art pieces

One that was particularly interesting was the interactive Lightime clock camera, which contained a component inside the museum. This way, it pulled me further in toward the museum entrance because I was intrigued and felt that I needed to go inside to see the second part. It’s kind of like a book chapter that ends on a cliff hanger — you can’t just put the book down because you want to know what happens next.

The “Lightime” clock camera

Under the overhang, the shade provided a slight relief from the warm weather. The entire area had a calm atmosphere created by the fountain, potted plants, furniture, and people relaxing in the area. It wasn’t necessarily quieter under the overhang, but it felt like it was because the sounds were from the fountain and people talking rather than from the cars on the street.

Sketch of the view under the overhang

As I entered through the double glass doors into the museum, I noticed multiple changes in flooring. Shown below, there is a mix of the stony material and carpeting.

Various different types of flooring

Once inside, I first noticed how much quieter it was. The cars on Forbes and even the fountain seemed so far away. Even though the area is mainly lit by natural light through the huge glass windows, there was a slight difference in lighting due to the very small but many overhead lights. I expected the temperature to drop once entering, but I think it was cool enough under the shade that it stayed about the same.

View inside from the front entrance

From where I stood, right next to the glass doors, I saw the second part to the Lightime display outside, including a screen on which I could see the panoramic photos the camera outside took. This display didn’t require any sort of entrance fee to see, so it was like a little taste of an exhibit before even entering the rest of museum.

Our “Lightime” photo from when we briefly visited the museum as a class
A wider angle of what I drew, including the ticket desk and hallway to the right

Looking back, I found that because physical transitions can seem so smooth, I found it challenging to confidently identify specific thresholds. Instead, I approached the task by first identifying distinct environments based on their different purposes. I look forward to trying to understand more about environments and their purposes.

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