The Thacher School was founded in 1889 to combine education with outdoor life in picturesque Ojai Valley, California. To that end, students are expected to care for and train with a horse during their high school years. This peculiar habit of life contributes to a collective identity that sets the school apart from its milieu. Theorists from Johan Huizinga to Michel Foucault have argued that some form of absolute limit is necessary to maintain such enclaves of differentiated space and behavior, a limit most readily associated with architecture’s perimeter. How might this absolute limit be rethought in order to open the enclave?
This thesis proposes the mountain as an analogical device (long considered in the discipline, from John Ruskin to Stan Allen) to reconsider architecture’s perimeter and achieve this opening. As natural features generally defined by their exception from their surroundings, mountains are well-suited to host spaces of difference. Simultaneously, they provide a surface for hikers, explorers, and mountaineers—what might be understood as “the public.” This duality can be leveraged to imbricate an interior world of difference and a broader, exterior public.
Rowena Reservoir, at the edge of the Los Feliz neighborhood, lies tantalizingly landscaped but closed to the public. This thesis seeks to catalyze the opening of the site through a partnership between the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and an independent boarding school. In doing so, a hybrid institution—cultural, educational, and infrastructural—with its own peculiar habits of life can rise, mountainous, within the landscape of the surrounding city.