Thickening the Ground Line


10 • Reflections

Volume 10, Issue 02
April 8, 2024

The ground, the fundamental substrate upon which architecture takes form, holds a significance that extends beyond mere physical support. While in architectural sections it is often reduced to a simple visual element—a thick line or a solid hatch—the ground embodies a multitude of meanings and implications that extend far beyond its visual abstraction.

Our methods of representation mirrors our perception, and the simplification of the drawn ground is indicative of how we view the soil—as a static medium, frozen in time, and inherently monolithic. However, the soil defies its portrayal as a passive entity; rather, it serves as a dynamic arena of continual change and decay.

Positioned at the crossroads of various temporal scales, soil operates within both human and geological time frames. This transformational process is often observable within our immediate understanding of time, such as the decomposition of flesh and bone into soil. Alternatively, it may unfold as a profound change over extended periods, as demonstrated by the conversion of organic material into oil. In this intricate weave of time and decomposition, the soil undergoes a meticulous reorganization, shaping a distinct spatial chronology.

The vast array of materials and resources generated by this decomposition has been seized upon by humans through extractive practices. From excavating oil to mining materials for concrete and construction, architecture has frequently regarded the subsoil as a reservoir for extraction and economic gain. Yet, in the cyclical nature of existence, architecture eventually succumbs to the forces of time and decay, returning to the embrace of the ground from which it arose. The ground, as both witness and custodian of this perpetual cycle, becomes a symbol of construction and deconstruction, a reminder of the deep interplay of depth and time.

So, when the next architectural project beckons us to draw the ground, let’s pause and consider beyond the simple stroke of a line or hatch. Let’s thicken this continuous line, allowing it to swell with the weight of time and narratives hidden within.