For the past few weeks, we have been working on our architectural structures based on the book, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Specifically, my partner, Patrick, and I based our model on Holden’s, the main character of the story, multiple personalities and the process of discovering them. Holden is an unpredictable character and much of that has to do with these multiple personalities- there are times when Holden is short-tempered and insensitive and other times when he is depressed and delicate. Most people only really see a part of him at a time, which is why there is a “discovery” phase that comes along with understanding Holden and his many pieces. Using these ideas as focal points, we expanded them into the building model that we have today.
The inspiration for our structure stemmed from a concept presented to us by David, a graduate architectural student from the University of Maryland. He drew us a narrowing hallway-like building which we used as a basis in creating the present one. The basic structure idea as well as idea of intimidating and making the observer feel uncomfortable stuck on to our final model. As the observer goes through the building, the space allotted decreases. This makes the observer feel less comfortable with each step, much like how the reader feels with each sentence. The physical construction of the model was quite simple, although precise measurements were required. The columns on the test model were poorly created and attached, so we had to make sure we didn’t make the same mistake. We cut a total of 30 columns from balsa wood and two symmetric trapezoids of foam which were connected to form the roof. After the pieces were cut, they were glued onto the base board.
Our structure was based on Holden’s contrasting exterior/interior and how he is misunderstood by other characters. The flow of the structure characterizes Holden, as each obstacle throughout the journey exposes another thing about him. At the beginning of the book, he seems very tough on the outside, as exemplified in his attitude towards Mr. Spencer, who was one of Holden’s teachers. Mr. Spencer tries to advise Holden but fails to do so because of the stubbornness of his student. When Mr. Spencer tries to tell Holden that “Life is a game”, Holden just thinks, “Game, my ass.” (Salinger, 8). This is to show that Holden’s seemingly toughness makes it difficult to reach him. This aspect of the novel is reflected by the looming walls at the front of the building which seem to be intimidating and impassible. However, if the observer is close enough, they can see that there is an opening in the middle of the wall. This represents how those who want to reach Holden could if they tried. Holden’s sister, Phoebe, is a prime example of such an individual.
Phoebe was able to get past the majority of the obstacles to really understand him. Holden’s description of his sister was that “she was somebody you always felt like talking to on the phone” (68). Holden feels attached and secure with his sister and this friendliness enabled them to be close and understanding. However, no one can completely understand Holden. Phoebe was unable to comprehend her brother when she found out that he dropped out of school, as shown when Holden said, “you can’t even reason with her sometimes” (166). After a certain point, Holden was beyond the comprehension of everyone, even those that were closest to him. This “limit” in understanding is also shown in our structure. At the end of the main building, the hole is too small and uncomfortable for anybody to get through, which shows how nobody can fully understand Holden.
Overall, this project was a rewarding experience. It took a lot of thought to create the structure; not only did we have to conjure an idea, but we also had to convert it into a tangible object. The book seemed to be much clearer after the project was done, as ideas in the novel were reinforced and really thought out. When the models were complete, it was very accomplishing.