Nature's Manifestation: How Architecture Can Entice Exploration of the American Landscape

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Virginia Tech


Design inspires simplified understandings of complex phenomenon and manifests, through spatial experiences, external loci for exploration of the natural world.


While the early Americans utilized "Manifest Destiny" for their own conquests, the manifestation of these architectural elements alludes to the buildings propensity to instill a sense of wonder in the observer. This building strives to present a new Manifest Destiny, where there is not an indomitable expansion of land but rather the expansion of what many Americans know of the American landscape. Four regional interpretations of the exterior landscape develop a similar vernacular for a populace that resides in the built environment more than they do outdoors, per an NHAPS study. (Klepeis, Nelson, Ott, Robinson, Tsang, and Switzer, 2001) Ultimately, the museum will present a reasonable facsimile of the natural landscape and inspire the public's exploration into the American landscape.

Research for this thesis stems from my personal exploration and experiences while traveling across America. Reasonable facsimiles of the landscape developed from the quintessence of each regions overall gesture, my interpretation of what I experienced through my travels, and my ethereal perception. The thesis of each region has a hierarchy of primary, secondary, and tertiary ideals that have inspired the design, from east to west:

Appalachian - Passage, Barrier, Sliding Plains - Vast, Horizon, Fluid Grand Canyon (Canyons) - Erosion, Depth, Vertical Redwoods - Solitude of Silence, Solitude of Isolation, Massive

A theoretical investigation of the spatial quality of this museum yields a juxtaposition between perception and affordance. Affordance is a term that James J. Gibson coined that denotes the ability of an environment to be utilized differently through a multitude of dimensions including time (as age or time of day), need (present to the person at that moment), and ability (physical). Affordance defines the static nature of the environment and the observer's requirements and the environment's ultimate fulfillment of those needs (Gibson, 1987). This is to demonstrate that a person experiences space differently and specifically to themselves according to their needs.

To present a building that is of my own experiences, while diluted to its pure elements, is not demonstrative of the actual experience. It is something that can never be captured, the phenomenology of the landscape and how someone may feel in that space. Thus, leading to my thesis exploration, having the observer delve into spaces, experiences, and feelings set forth in the project. Then, inspiring the observer to explore the natural phenomenon of the American landscape.


  1. Klepeis, N. E., Nelson, W. C., Ott, W. R., Robinson, J. P., Tsang, A. M., and Switzer, P. (2001). The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants. Retrieved from
  2. Gibson, J. J. (1982). Reasons for Realism: Selected Essays of James J. Gibson (Resources for Ecological Psychology). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
American Landscape, Museum, Natural Architecture