Where boundaries and borders divide in hopes of peaceable separation, edges occupy the moment where things fall apart. As surface elements they are precipitous, as architectural enclosures cloistering, and as urban zones easily overlooked. To come face to face with the edge is to confront the limits of visibility and the outlines of public debate. This requires a dual and at first blush paradoxical practice: letting go of the edge’s determinism while enfolding its contours. In doing so we might come closer to—become more intimate with—the dissonance of transitions and difference. Embodied in its extra-territoriality is what Saskia Sassen has called the “subterranean trends” of history, those systemic forces that begin to take shape only in the extremities where we shield ourselves from witness.[1] While the initial image association of an edge may be one of singularity or exclusion, the drawing of an edge also inherently implicates multiple territories. As Hana Grundler, drawing on Heidegger, writes, they are “…never a clear, definitive line of division where something ends but rather a hybrid place where something begins.”[2]

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Master of Environmental Design program with this weekend’s symposium “Environment, Reconsidered,” this issue draws its inspiration from our program’s mandate to expand conceptions of what constitutes an environment per se. The articles enclosed suggest the terms through which we might remake disciplinary boundaries. Reframing architecture through the scale of the geological and the geographic, exploring the façade as media, and artistically intervening into hidden authoritarian activities, they generate new edges to define the terms of their engagement.

By shifting our models and metaphors of the edge, we propose to organize space, thought, and relationships along new routes. To redefine an edge is to call its contents into question, incorporating new strategies and discarding others. Focusing on the edge forces us to articulate a position, to define for ourselves or for others territories of encounter and operation.


[1] Sassen, Saskia. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2014.

[2] Grundler, Hana, “Borderline Experiences: Ethics, Art, and Alterity” in Log, Vol. 40 (Spring/Summer 2017) 45.