Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Interior Design

First Advisor

Rob Ventura

Second Advisor

Sara Reed

Third Advisor

Camden Whitehead

Fourth Advisor

Emily Smith

Fifth Advisor

Christiana Lafazani


MOTIVATION In the simplest form, a pencil mark on a page is removed by a traditional rubber eraser. However, the marks are often never fully removed, and the paper thins with each attempt to rub out an old idea.

But how does one erase a chair? A pilaster? A room? A building?... More importantly, how does the subtractive act of erasing become an additive one?

The historical fabric of a building is important; it is also imperative that it does not remain stagnant. Erasing is an opportunity to design an interior environment that both acknowledges the traces of the pencil marks and the eraser. It is an opportunity to learn from historic design strategies and thoughtfully transition into the present to create a living, breathing palimpsest (Plesch, 2015).

PROBLEM Current preservation policies and landmarking tactics arguably contradict preservationists’ claims of promoting environmental, economic, and social growth within communities by exempting historical buildings from complying with codes and regulations which consequently use property that could be more sustainably employed. Historical preservation is largely based in social constructs; therefore, present policies should be reflective of societal changes. At times, the act of preserving often removes these buildings from the possibility of a relevant and functional future by attempting to keep them wedged within historical restraints (Avrami, 2016).

METHOD Research of precedent incidents of erasure with applications to concepts involving historical preservation and restoration in the fields interior design and architecture will influence the design approach. These precedent studies will include works by Carlo Scarpa, Peter Zumthor, and David Chipperfield. To supplement these studies, other artistic disciplines and artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, will be researched to holistically comprehend approaches to the concept of erasing. The execution of explorations of erasing different objects and media to better understand the process of erasure will also be imperative. These experimentations will include the strategic erasing of pencil sketches and common objects to investigate how to best represent an object that has been erased.

PRELIMINARY RESULTS The approach to erasing the historical fabric of a building is largely dependent on the building itself. This is evident in Scarpa’s attention to the physical and metaphorical joinery of new and existing structures in his design of Palazzo Abatellis, Zumthor’s weaving of old and new brickwork at Kolumba, and Chipperfield’s use of exposed ruins in his design strategy for the Neues Museum (McCarter, 2013; Carrington, 2008; RYKWERT, 2009). The process of erasure within the realm of preservation is a constant and demonstrates how the act of erasing allows opportunities for the existence of something new (Katz, 2006).

CONCLUSION Choosing to re-program and systematically erase a section of a historically significant but outdated medical tower as a collective art studio space would introduce the opportunity to design an “erased space “as an environment for post-graduate art students to produce creative work. This space would strengthen the growing bond between a school of the arts and a historic medical school while contributing to the culture of the surrounding neighborhoods and contribute to the rich tradition of art within the city.


© Maggie Davids

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission