The Fences We Build

Vlad Thiery


The transformations that our society witnessed during the last century led to a dissolution of limits both in the urban and in the architectural realms. Thus, the old walls and fences became obsolete, only to be replaced by new boundaries. The aim of this article is to identify these new borders, “the fences we build”, and see how and why they have emerged in the contemporary built environment.
The first part of the study is a short review of the evolution of the traditional built limits until their near dissolution in the twentieth century. The context in which the new borders emerged is considered in the second part through the changes occurring in economy and society, as they have determined counteractions and tendencies to construct “refuges” from an ever-changing world.
Some of the narratives through which escapism constructs “ego-systems” – self-sufficient environments cut out from both urban and social contexts – are presented in the third part. The self-sufficiency exhibited by most of the architectural production is analyzed both for the concept-based “theoretical practice” and for the commercial practice which builds on a popular theme to deliver controlled environments, as in the case of the shopping malls or gated communities.
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Thiery, Vlad. “The Fences We Build.” studies in History and Theory of Architecture, no. 5 (2017): 169-180.