Space. The Final Frontier.

Space. The final frontier. Our voyage on this topic reflects on the architect-designer’s interpretation of space. Geoffrey Bawa’s ideas borrowed spaces from the outside and conceived a spatial identity of inside-outside as integral. Shown in the next two photos of his buildings in Sri Lanka, such as the Lunuganga (next pic) (taken from link and link).

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However, this way of thinking about space by designers should not be limited to how space is being used by Bawa, though clever, but by programming space in architecture in terms of social and cultural context and economy of scale. If we think in blocks of structure we get blocks. How do we unlearn the design approach to not think about blocks or form first?

DIAGRAM A

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What we see (in our minds) is what we get? The mind of a creator is often pre-conceived from ideas we encountered and experienced. We must travel and see more. But thinking about it more programmatically and scientifically, questioning and not just duplicating what we experienced.

Traditionally we think of architecture enclosed, but what about in-between spaces of buildings or space around and above a building as shown in the Diagram A above. The human figure is limited. We know of very tall people, almost at seven feet and very short people and children, but safe to say, the basic human dimensions limits us to certain dimensions in creating space and the enclosure reflects on that human scale.

The sense of scale has been explored since the Renaissance as shown. Alberti’s facade is based on the classical proportions of the human’s body. At first, the exploration were more two dimensional concentrating on the facade as it were limited to the technological know-how. And later, architects expanded the ideas with three dimensional forms in later periods.

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Space, was always something that needed to be explored but always in conjunction with enclosure and structure. Framework of construction and material defined the spaces inside. Some architects explored structuralism and post structuralism ideas, like Van Eyck’s Amsterdam’s Orphanage since the 1960’s, on this notion of space, but always in a modular or cell-like manner.

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The cluster of houses in Lombok (link) shows the traditional way of roofing and enclosure for security and keeping out the elements but the streets are defined by the houses’ walls (though perforated rather than solid) as spatial entities in terms of scale for the human to function. The in-between spaces are just as important as the inside spaces. In a spread-out design such as a campus design of a university, as shown below, St George campus, University of Toronto, the neo-classical sense is felt in a larger area, unlike the village of Lombok, which is more intimate, as with the different functions, needs and social and cultural context. One questions the idea of a campus design that is spread out in a tropical country where perhaps shade and shelter from the elements should be the prevailing guide to design.

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Space forms the enclosure first, rather than the other way round because space responds to the human dimension needs immediately rather than structure and wall enclosures. Space and volume  is mindful to be defined well before detailing. Often students of architecture would start their design with bubble-diagrams but only with the purpose of understanding spatial relationships and creating a matrix of design parameters. Modularity should seek out spatiality in conjunction with program, whereby form is just a device to create meaningful and comfortable spatial and environmental enclosures. Depending on the micro-climatic conditions, social and cultural context, the sense of space in building complexes depends on the economies of scale.

 

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