Andrea Bickley—RAIC Student Medal & RAIC Honour Roll

About the Award
For a student graduating from a professional degree program in each accredited University School of Architecture in Canada who, in the judgment of the faculty of the respective School, has achieved the highest level of academic excellence and/or has completed the outstanding final design project/thesis for that academic year.

Embedded: The Interface of the Physical, Virtual, and Social

This thesis began as an exploration of the relationship between architecture and cinema. However, as the years 2020 and 2021 offered a glimpse into a future dominated by the virtual, the focus of this thesis shifted from cinema to media. The term media, in the context of this thesis, refers to the variety of moving images and social media available today.

The unprecedented access to and abundance of media in contemporary society has changed how we experience and perceive our surroundings and, by extension, architecture by subjecting us to fragmented realities. The physical and virtual spaces traditionally associated with socialization, entertainment, work, and sleep overlap, intertwine, and intermingle creating hybrid spaces. Through early design explorations and analysis, the bed was identified as one such hybrid space. The activities and interactions associated with the desk, the dining table, and the couch collapse upon the bed.

In examining the role of the bed as an interface of the physical, virtual, and social, seventeen beds were analyzed and broadly categorized as private beds, social beds, media beds, and unconventional beds. This exploration of the changing roles of the bed over time served as precedent study for the resulting architectural project.

Through design research, Embedded, the architectural project of this thesis, became an intensification of existing systems related to the intersection of the physical, virtual, and social realms of everyday life concentrated in the most intimate and vulnerable of spaces–the bed. Embedded is situated in a speculative future and depicts an alternative way of life–living in a large, complex spaceship in low Earth orbit. Meanwhile, this speculative future invites us to be critical of our present.

While the spaceship in its entirety could feature countless other units addressing the range of human emotions and experiences at the interface of the physical, virtual, and social, the design research focused on four units: (1) the Memory and Detachment Unit, (2) the Sensing and Sedation Unit, (3) the Survival and Desire Unit, (4) the Death and Mourning Unit.

The hybridized spaces in these units create a multitude of tensions such as the yearning to have a private space, but to not be completely alone. Situating the project away from Earth served to highlight these tensions further. However, new ways of inhabiting virtual and physical spaces are revealed in these moments of tension. Ultimately, the bed, as the site of these tensions, can reorient space or reinforce the status quo.

Toronto Metropolitan Department of  Architectural Science Toronto, CA.