What does it mean to look critically at an unfamiliar environment through our dissimilar personal lenses? How do we initially react to foreign territory, and then orient ourselves within it as we develop a relationship and understanding to this once unfamiliar space? As designers, we are often called upon to look critically to an unfamiliar environment, first assessing the situation, and then orienting ourselves within it as we develop a relationship and understanding of what was initially foreign territory. Evaluating the behavioral differences of a “nomad” and “tourist” provide a metaphor that is applicable to the process of cultural discovery. Cultural nomads synthesis what they pass through, are permeable to experience and are ultimately altered by it. By seeking not to adopt, but to adapt their surroundings, nomads can absorb and incorporate certain aspects and not others. The cultural tourist, on the other hand, remains separate and fundamentally unaltered by the experience of passing through different terrain. If we imagine ourselves as cultural nomads, we set ourselves free to enter different territories. Suddenly the borders separating these territories become more and more permeable, allowing one to cross back and forth and in between. It is in the mindset that the designer of today is able to engender qualities of community, participation and empathy.
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This project is in collaboration with Francisco Zamaro and Benjamin Riley.

We were given the instructions to walk East from Parsons (2 West 13th Street) across to 3rd Avenue. We began our journey by being conscious of the dynamic environment around us. We needed to choose a specific location within this area that we could analyze critically and also become aware of the various layers of human and architectural interaction.

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