Tracing the Caustic Edge Ryan Horton

The composition of the urban cores were drastically altered through the middle decades of the twentieth century. A combined set of properties including, a post war housing boom and a globalizing economy offered a migratory exodus from the center city of both economics and population, a combination which alienated aging neighborhoods within the city as well as the post industrialized working class which continue to occupy those zones. The loss of capital and interest has caused a continual contrition within those urban neighborhoods, and the aging building stock has begun to erode under the pressures of time and neglect. The remaining populations as well suffer from the same traumas caused by indifference. What results and emanates from these zones is a fearful energy, which questions our economic and governmental systems but more it fails to consider the humanity of its citizens, which are constricted amidst a kind of urbanism of alienation. Along these edges, we create subconscious boundaries; we approach them and move away from them.

This thesis is specifically interested in the de-urbanization of inner city neighborhoods, ones whose past and building stock hold a vast series of rich industrial narratives, demarcated through cultural and historical threads which continue to persist through time. Utilizing those characteristics as an initial framework, the project looks to deepen it’s knowledge of the placeless moments in the city, actively cataloguing the abandoned remnants within these zones, and questioning what role these remnants continue to play within the makeup of the city. After establishing that as a discourse, the resulting attitude will begin to make projections at how architectural insertions can restitch the latent readings of place, and develop strategies which are capable of traversing and crossing these physical and psychological boundaries, which exist to continually deteriorate and separate portions of the urban core. The architectural insertions will look to introduce a sympathetic tectonic language able to reestablish the role of the historical fabric, and furthermore, able to occupy the residual spaces in a manner capable of repositioning and repairing the demoralized street scape.

The test site for this thesis was located in Over the Rhine Cincinnati, a predominantly residential community immediately north of Cincinnati’s downtown. As it stands it is the largest and most complete example of Italianate architecture in the country, yet to to a bevy of negatively contributing factors over 500 of these structures are currently vacant or condemned.