Interaction Of Spaces And Voids Cultural Studies Essay

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A human being has the ability to see, hear, touch, smell and taste everything that surrounds him. The five senses that are important for his development and knowledge, in the effort to distinguish response and decide. Touch is the sense of intimacy, affection and nearness whereas the eye is the organ of distance and separation. Our body acts as the main locus of perception, awareness and thought while the skin enables us to distinguish between colors, places and objects. Do we really see by our skin? What is the significant ability of the body and its senses to distinguish and experience the spaces we inhabit? The skin is known as the oldest and most sensitive organ of the body, the most efficient protector and our primary medium of communication and response. The sense of touch is differentiated between humans and is known as the "mother of the senses" as it integrates our experience of the world with that of ourselves. "My body remembers who I am and where I am located in the world"² The body performs the navel of the world, since is acts the main medium of memory, imagination, reference to a particular place as well as integration. Is able to capture architecture and the power of beauty in its own unique way in order to be remembered and admired.

Our hands comprise a massive, invisible power that allows as to accomplish numerous tasks and everyday errands. They are part of our everyday routine since we use them to eat, cook, and hold things, to work, to draw, to express our fillings, to communicate with others and to touch and feel everything that surrounds us. The two bones of the forearm are almost constantly in motion throughout our lives, turning back and forth in perpetual service to the hand. The movement of the wrist and fingers is controlled by more than 30 slender muscles arranged in layers from the elbow to the palm. The most important movement of the hand is the opposition of the four fingers to the thumb enabling us to grip powerfully and to hold gently. Hands are the supreme instrument of touch. Their sensitivity and delicacy of control makes them our primary antennae in our interaction with the world. Their strength and articulation have contributed enormously to our physical environment and to the entire history of artifacts. Their significance goes far beyond the understanding of mechanical function and form. They are part of our everyday routine and way of life. Even a deaf can use his hands to communicate and a blind to read. As Heidegger suggests: "The hands essence can never be determined or explained, by its being an organ which can grasp. " ³ Through the skin of the hand we are able to feel the texture, weight, density and temperature of matter. Through our skin we are able to sense the texture when standing barefoot in the sand, or the wind blowing under a patch of shade beneath a tree and the warmth of space between two walls or in front of the fireplace. We have the power of choosing our spaces in a weird way according to our needs and expectations, a phenomenon that is usually unexplained but never ignored or disregarded.

An architectural piece is experienced in its fully integrated material, rather than a series of isolated retinal pictures. Each building allows our consciousness back to the world and towards our own sense of existence. Imagine the number of feelings and thoughts that you establish when visiting a new place, experiencing a totally different kind of architecture in an unfamiliar place. We experience ourselves in a city, which exist through our embodied experience. Our body supplements and defines the city and vice versa. According to Merleau-Pontys philosophy the human body becomes the centre of the experience of the world in the effort to choose our world and the world to choose us. That means that we have the ability and power to distinguish and choose our places, spaces and surroundings. "Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism: it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it and sustains it inwardly and with it forms a system." ⁴ A human body is constantly interacted with the environment, imagination and the spaces that enclose it, strengthening as a result the sense of reality and existence. An architectural piece is able to generate an invisible complex of impressions while architecture maintains to provide the horizon of experiencing and understanding the world as well as the ground of perception. A strong example is Frank Lloyd Wright's falling -water house which provide a fully unique sense of experience and understanding of place since it combines textures, volumes, surfaces, colors along with the beauty of the forest and the sound of the river providing a spiritual presence that is truly embodied by the viewer. Success is accomplished when shapes and surfaces provided by an architectural work, they are given a sense of presence which is then inverted to memory, dream and imagination. We are able to dream, sense and feel our spaces, their geometry and their importance.

"Buildings have turned into image products detached from existential depth and sincerity."⁵ Architecture in the recent years is being transformed into the psychological strategy of advertising and instant persuasion rather than being a spatial experience. This contemporary cultural condition of knowledge of space and its experience are explained by Fredric Jameson as a notion of "contrived depthlessness" where objects, surfaces and spaces have no power persistence over time. The impact on Architecture, due to inundation of images is that it becomes a simple retinal art of the eye, preventing as to understand the true meaning and importance of building fabric, the reason of its built and its materials. As a result, Architecture becomes a printed image of a piece of art, losing its plasticity and smoothness, its authenticity of matter and construction. As Susan Sontag quotes "mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs"⁶, we capture each moment of life in architecture in a photograph, misplacing as a result the real meaning of the world and its magnificent creation of spaces isolating their importance in the distant empire of vision. "Structures become repulsively flat, sharp-edged, immaterial and unreal."⁷ We are not able to imagine or visualize life behind the walls of a building. But how does matter affects our understanding of a building over time? The eye captures the essence of building materiality and age. "Buildings of this technological age usually deliberately aim at ageless perfection and they do not incorporate the dimension of time».⁸ We are able to inhabit limitless space due to architecture but we are prohibited to understand and inhabit the continuum and magnitude of time. Time, which affects the life, appearance and age of the building. The eye has the implicit desire for power and control over vision and experience, overlooking the vital emphasis of the building fabric and age.

According to Heidegger architects, historians and philosophers tend to judge architecture according to aesthetics rather than the importance of inhabitation of places. Through his writings he maintains to provide an understanding of place through its use and experience.

².Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 11

³.Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 56

⁴.Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 40

⁵.Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 30

⁶.Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 30

⁷.Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 31

⁸. Pallasmaa, J. 2005 page 32


In 1914, the German art historian and architect, Paul Frankl, was interested and fascinated by Wolfflin's system of polarities, and was known as the most successful critical theorist of that time. Wolfflin, using simple polarities, established a new idea that reduces the analysis of artworks, into formal, visual ones that became plane and ''framed'' images.

Frankl, influenced by Wolfflin's combination of ideas and achievements he concluded that architecture was comprised by both of them. He then isolated these ideas by adding two others, light and purpose that were diffused in the concept of Space and Mass, as light reveals them while purpose generates them. Spatial, Corporeal, Visual and Purposive intention were the four categories of form, comprised into Frankl's critical system. Furthermore he maintained to split what Hildebrand described as Actual Form, into Spatial and Corporeal but he failed to apply this notion to his category of Visual Form since it must embrace what the human eye perceives, that is space and mass.

Frankl's interpretation of space as a concept was his concise evaluation of space, mass, light and purpose. The notion of Spatial Form according to the architect is controlled by the clear distinction of spatial entities, called addition, and the integration of spatial parts into a whole, called division.

This dual concept as a mega structural phenomenon functioned and interpreted really well in architecture. The difficulty was that in its ultimate limitation, addition comes to a halt, since it is not endless. Repetition of parts maintains the unity of modular mega- structures regardless the scale of the repeating elements. The aspect of form that is controlled by the polarity of generator and transmitter of force is known as corporeal. The generator of a force appears to be self-sufficient as the mass is capable of withstanding external forces and in architectural forms are characterised by tectonic individuality. Contradictory the transition of a force occurs when an architectural mass is controlled by feelings, uncertainty and incompleteness rather that by itself resulting in the flow of forces between the individual architectural members as well as the observer and the architectural work.

The aspect of visual form is combining one- image- like and many-image - like perceptions where one viewpoint can take in the building as a whole or the use of different standpoints respectively.' The climax of artistic perception of architecture would occur when the beholder is induced to an infinite, inexhaustible number of images''⁹ The essence of architecture by which we are surrounded is clearly explained as one- image-like perception, an idea that is contradicted and not maintained. As a result, this contrived polarity cannot be supported since architecture evokes kinetic vision through numerous images of perception.

Last but not least, purposive intention is a form that is controlled by both centripetal- centrifugal force and freedom of constraint personality. According to Frankl's idea, space and purpose are combined, since spatial organization is clearly connected to the mental state of the client and the user. The purpose as he quotes, ''is incarnated in the form of space''¹⁰

Several architects such as Hendrik Petrus Berlage, August Endell and Rudolph M. Schindler adopted the idea of space in their own intellectual and creative way, an idea that was first introduced by Hildebrand and Schmarsow in 1893.

For Berlage, social equality for all human beings was the initial idea based upon the communal sense for the world. During the 18th and 19th century, unity and plurality was a constantly repeated cliché in all aesthetic theories and Berlage believed that style was unity in plurality, repose and order and he remarked the cohesion of space and mass in architecture. To his belief, space should be the starting point of architecture that it should be proportional and geometrical and it can be named as the art of space only when unity is established in plurality. Based on his idea of space he also believed in the ''from-outside-in'' approach in the effort to manifest and explore reality rather than creating fake appearances. ''Space or spaces are manifested outwardly as a more or less composed complex of walls''¹¹ The third principle for his idea was functionality where architecture becomes conscious of the attachment of space and the art of enclosure, resulting in the aesthetics of purpose as an extension of the aesthetics of space.

In contrast with Berlage, Endell seek the theory of space through the beauty in a city street where according to the architect, the human being is centrally positioned in the city and his experience of space became its artistic creation.''Most people think of architecture as the corporeal members, the facades, the columns, the ornaments…..Essential is not the form, but its reversal space. The void that expands rhythmically between the walls and it is defined by walls''¹² For Endell, the artistic sensation of space and void was extremely important and it could transform the most ordinary and sometimes repulsive structures into stunning precious jewels.

Rudolph M.Schindler in 1912 in his book Manifesto, inspired by Endell, he managed to prove the importance of space in architecture which is the medium of this art. An architectural historian, Geoffrey Scott established a dialogue between form and the human body and how humanist architecture is related physically and mentally with it. Considering his principal elements, architecture has the monopoly of space and can provide it with its true value along with surrounding us with a void of three dimensions. ''it uses space as a material and sets us in the midst'' ¹³

Van Doesburg inspired from the notion of space, believes that Pure and disinterested aesthetics must be the focal mean of expression regarding the image of the world. The conformities and relations of forms and colours to space should be arranged, multiplied, measured and defined by each individual artist as each object is related with space. A connection between time and space is created when a moving object is continuously changing its spatial order, and each artist is ought to create a harmonic and melodic totality. In architecture the architect must be inspired by the true meaning of space, since space is the foundation of the building that determines its rhythm and its aesthetic value.

'' The existence of space is the essence of architecture''¹⁴

Certain artistic trends, during the beginning of the 20th century, stated that mass is the servant of the void, a fact that led to the rigid dematerialization of the solidity of mass. The De Stijl movement also known as neoplasticism, founded in 1917, is a strong example of this dematerialization. This movement was influenced by cubist painting as well as mysticism and the notion of the ''ideal'' geometric forms and it sought to express a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. By reducing the essence of form and colour they achieve to advocate pure abstraction and universality, and maintained to simplify visual compositions into vertical and horizontal directions, using black and white with primary colours.

As Mondrian quotes in his essay, Neo- Plasticism in Pictorian Art, ''this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say natural form and colour ''

⁹. Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 122

¹⁰. Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 122

¹¹. Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 148

¹². Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 150

¹³. Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 152

¹⁴. Van de ven, C. , 1977 page 3


"A boundary is not that at which something stops..., is that from which something begins its presenting."¹⁵ Although located precisely in space, a horizon is where earth meets the sky and it is totally unreachable as it recedes into distance when trying to walk towards it. It just slips further away. Within the generality of space, places are made mainly by the individuals who are able to understand and identify boundaries in between. The boundary, or metaphorically the "horizon" for Heidegger, is the power of people to appreciate things, themselves and others. We are able to broaden our horizon and determine our appreciation of the world. By definition, boundary is the limit of an area and a mean of enclosure of a space like for example a wall of a building or even a change in surface. These boundaries are often an indication of identifying a place in the world. These invisible boundaries that surrounds as, they are sometimes tentative or provisional. In many cities these indeterminate edges to places, the invisible boundary between two different streets is a frequent phenomenon due to the fact that they provide different experience to the viewer. For example, the main urban shopping street of a city is usually connected with a quieter, residential street, providing different kind of a character and experience. Thus, providing an invisible boundary between the two, that is established by the feelings and thoughts of the viewer. We sometimes tend to understand boundaries in the way that spaces are divided. When you are standing in the centre of a big city, you tend to feel lost as "buildings" or objects take the form of boundaries prohibiting vision and sense of awareness. You feel lost, since you are ignorant of what is going on behind a tall skyline or at the end of a long street and you are just trying to direct yourself through the world that is designed for you. Heidegger explains that the identification of a place is a result of our imaginative projection as well as the memories established by the particular place. Through the supremacy of the mind to engage with the world, lost or not yet visited places are still identified and spotted according to the same usual framework.

The founder of what is known Gestalt school, Max Wertheimer in 1912, based on the theory of the visual system to group perceptual stimuli into organized patterns. The mind has the power to arrange perceptual stimuli by spontaneous organizations, an effect that creates spontaneity, providing relative stability to the perceived organized patterns. Scenes that are sometimes considered "visual overload" are confronted by the eye to maintain a sense of equilibrium. The human mind is able to process a myriad of complex visual stimuli as for example, buildings, traffic, reflections and details. In architecture, spaces are not defined as full scale volumes as for example rooms or urban squares, but they result from placing major forms in bigger spaces. Forms, that maintain new circulation routes for people and create visual relationships in the overall composition. Each architect is ought to consider this division of forms and spaces in order to enrich the architectural experience of a place. Parts of larger architectural spaces such as intervals between two or more forms or boundaries are known as interspaces and they provide a mean for analyzing the most intricate aspects between space and form. The movement of either the eye or the observer relates the forms in space, creating "space potential" rather than "space enclosed". These forms that are created in space define interspace while boundaries express its enclosure.

For the Greek philosopher Aristotle movable boundaries, as for example flexible partition walls or mobile homes, cannot establish what we call a place. ''The movable boundary does not answer man's need for a resident place, or a place where he belongs and where he feels at ease''.¹⁶ The idea differs in the case of architecture and how different architects maintain it. Kenzo Tange for example in contrast with Louis Kahn, who rejected this idea, recognised the significance of architectural boundaries and the differentiation in floor area.

Spatial boundaries such as walls, ceilings and floors are used to define space, as space would be a limitless void with no sense of enclosure or what we call visual reference without them. Space modulators which are objects placed within these boundaries, form the major surface planes for the reflection of light and the images seen by human vision. The composition of boundaries and objects in spaces may differ, being either dynamic or ambiguous. A clearly defined volume with full or partial enclosure is shaped by dominant boundaries in a spatial envelope. Enclosing walls, along with the perception of floors and ceilings tend to define architectural space.

¹⁵. Sharr, A. (eds) Heidegger for Architects USA: Routledge 2007 page 55

¹⁶. Van de ven, C., 1977