On the Edge of Empathy: Amplifying the Veteran's Voice
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We live in a world of physical and conceptual edges that guide and shape our lives, and challenge us every day to choose whether to cross them or to remain within their shepherding corrals. Often we forget that edges connect different planes, worlds, and ideas, all of which, if explored, enrich the human experience. Storytelling is a vector of consciousness and is a catalyst of change, transporting one beyond the edges of preconception to a realm of understanding, where the speaker shares their experience and the audience learns new knowledge. This transforms casual listeners to interested parties, where the connection of understanding and interest grows empathy within the listeners, helping to experience the other side of the Other. Can architecture create, promote, and foster empathy? My thesis proposes a library and interpretive center of the United States soldier experience to raise awareness of the myriad journeys of service members before, during, and after service. Sited on the California coast at decommissioned Fort Ord, the project is nestled in a bluff that marks the edge of Western Civilization, and looks across the plane of the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern world. The thesis examines how architecture can empower and amplify the veteran’s voice to foster civilian empathy for United States service men and women, and reveals, over time, the strength of the veteran experience and its transcendence beyond the edges of understanding.