The Tomato Palace; Empathy, Practice, & Design
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Empathy is the capacity to move beyond the confining sense of ‘I’ and experience the world through others. Like laughter, it does not exist in isolation by its very nature it is an act of human connection. This thesis examines empathy as both a philosophy and a tool of architectural practice. The underlying narrative of this thesis embraces the potential of relating to other people as positive and powerful sources of learning. Learning through social interaction is neither new nor revolutionary and consequently it is easily ignored by the contemporary work of architects and does not feature as a topic in the education of the architect. While architecture depends on the act of material construction it is fundamentally about addressing the needs and well-being of people. We need to recognize that the best way to learn about these needs is to develop a framework in which people feel open to share their experiences. The role of the architect in this scenario is to remain curious, to listen empathically, and to transcribe and embody these experiences. The setting for this thesis is a children’s camp in rural Ontario. At the site a series of collaborative drawing and writing exercises based on the principles of empathy, enable a medium for the architect to value the experiences of the children and their capacity for expression. These interactions help bring our interdependence to the forefront and provide the rich internal ground from which the camp is architecturally re-imagined.