A LESSON IN SPACES

September 10, 2012

There is a host of reasons for our creation of an interactive conversation page on our site. Our hope is that we engage you as a reader and encourage your involvement in the discussions on various topics.

We want to be transparent to our new and existing clients about the motivations and influences that drive our designs. We additionally want to drive traffic to our site, this is a marketing medium after all! Most importantly, we feel that an open discussion about our built environment helps to strengthen the relationships between design professionals, builders, and ultimately owners and user groups. 

We all use buildings and spaces every day. They provide shelter, comfort, and stability. Our worlds built environment hosts many functions from education, to medical attention, and even to structures that reach for the sky metaphorically extending the human body to the heavens... did you think a church steeple was just to house the bell?

 

We have a feeling that the way we perceive buildings and spaces as architects is much different than the owners who fund the construction.. Further, the users of buildings may not be knowledgeable about the motivations of the owner that drive the buildings programmatic function nor the architects influences on design. 

This leads us to our first entry into our blog: Architecture - A lesson in spaces

We use the word lesson, not to insinuate an educational event, but rather a lesson on the importance of space, or better yet a reminder of what a space means. Humans find comfort in defining spaces. These constraints help us to comprehend the limits of understanding. Without these limits we have things such as outer-space, which to many people is scary or at least uncomfortable.

Every day, as we all go about our lives, we move in and out of spaces. Everybody wakes up and finds themselves in a space called a bedroom (at least we hope you commonly wake up in this location!). The bedroom is a space, which has qualities and design decisions that influences the construction that define its perimeter. A bedroom is a private space. It would not make sense to have ones front door enter into such an intimate space. Taking that thought even further, most bedrooms are designed (or should be!) in the locations furthest from the common areas. 

Have you ever been exploring a building, looking for the restroom, and had that thought "I don't know where I am, but I know I don't belong here". Why did you think that? Did you see a sign that says "Do you feel uncomfortable here?" Did you come across a space that was private? Did you arrive at someone's bedroom? More commonly, you probably arrived in the storeroom of an unknown business and knew you were invading somebody else's private space.

This explanation of private verse public spaces is only one of an infinite number of considerations that define space. How a room is laid out, and how much light is allowed makes people act differently. Entering a room that is dark typically causes people to lower their voice (so long as they don't scream!) while bright rooms, which are well lit with natural light invites people to enter and explore. Opposite spacial situations don't always equate to opposite human behaviors!

Spaces are not always constrained by walls. Exterior areas are often defined, even though no walls are in place. The same concepts of design considerations in these outside spaces can drive people to act a certain way. A path between rows of trees in an outside space often encourages people to keep moving along the path of travel. There can be an abundance of space adjacent to the path that would accommodate stopping, but so long as the "tunnel vision" is apparent through the trees and the line of travel is visible, people typically feel propelled forward. To prove this point, you can even remove the path but hint at the destination, and people will feel the draw to keep moving forward.

 

The converse to this is what defines destinations. If at some point along this path of travel, the path simply widens to form a circle plaza, people will usually stop in this location rather than stopping on the linear path.

 

The point of this blog entry is that human nature IS architecture. Architecture is ultimately the definition of these spaces and the design that invokes the qualities of human behavior so that the function of the room acts as intended. Since we are all humans, and we have all been moving through spaces since our birth (hopefully in space called a hospital delivery room), the concepts discussed above should be very easy to understand.

Spaces are the commonality that helps most people understand what ultimately architects do. Sure, we are taught the PSI of structural concrete, and understand the different types of door hinges and their appropriate use, but ultimately, what makes an architect valuable, and what makes people feel a certain way in certain spaces, is the expertise of how spaces affect people. 

Next time you walk into an unknown space, and feel a certain way, enlightened, frightened, welcomed, comfortable, or any other feeling, consider what made you feel this way.

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