Our lives are influenced and defined by countless interactions which occur between ourselves, and the people and objects around us, we are constantly in a reciprocal relationship where in, we act upon or indeed are acted upon these objects, in a state of continual balance whereby we define our selves by establishing our place within this balance. There exists a dichotomy when we attempt to consider this interaction in terms of our external environment, and the objects which absorb or conversely curb the flow of our habitual life. A paradoxical discussion arises whereby we seemingly both extract and infer meaning from our surroundings in an attempt to clarify the space as it is, ‘real space’ and the space as it is experienced ‘experiential space’. The paradox occurs when we strive to weight this argument to either side and must come to the conclusion that both positions occupy the same space within our reality and our minds, both the real and the experiential are inextricably linked to each other but more distinguishably to ourselves. The fascination comes not with attempting to establish the degree to which our surrounding structures define our experience or in turn we define them but rather accepting this dynamic paradox and exploring how our understanding of this relationship, of the space that exists between us and our surroundings and the meaning we receive from it is the clearest definition and affirmation of ourselves and our identity as individuals and a society.
The existence of this constant interaction between our bodies and space is so prevalent, so ubiquitous that often it is imperceptible and goes unnoticed by our conscious minds unless its force is particularly acute, regardless it is ever present and continually informs the active dialogue that plays out between ourselves and our surroundings. In furthering an understanding of this interaction, we must perceive our surroundings not as background structures from which external meaning arises or is superimposed, but rather that they are in themselves meaning structures with an embedded knowledge which we extract, and perceive through our individual cognitive filter. An interest comes in the way in which we define our understanding of this space between us and our surroundings, the term understanding should not be viewed as a path to comprehending a series of finite and pre existing conditions, but rather it must be used as the method by which we make the world around us. This is so because any experience and subsequent understanding of our surroundings must call on our whole being, our bodily awareness, our physical faculties, our values, attitudes, expectations, our aesthetic sensibilities our linguistic and moral language, our entire cultural tradition must be called upon. And so this process of understanding, the way in which we give meaning to space and it gives meaning to us is the way in which we assert ourselves and our place in the world. Thus any definition of our surroundings is an equal and insightful definition of ourselves.
To begin an understanding of our surroundings we must attempt to find a way of acknowledging and interpreting the systems of interactions which are prevalent between ourselves and our surrounding structures. A method of spatial exploration which is aware of these gestalt interactions which construct the world around us. Georg Simmel discusses in his work that our comprehension of our surroundings is often a process of establishing borders and connections, he states that we are ‘bordering creatures which have no border’ and that we continually ‘seperate the connected’ and ‘connect the seperate’ in this he acknowledges the relative inter connectedness of all objects in space relative to ourselves and that the process of either seperation or connection are merely two sides of reciprocity to the same act. To go further than this, we can begin to discuss the process in which we interpret these connections, we are aware of certain physical qualities of objects that we receive through our sensory faculties such as colour through sight or texture through touch, and these are perhaps the closest and most objective utilities we have to explore what can be deemed the ‘real’ or ‘existant’ space that we are relating to. However there are another set of phycological or phenomenological forces which we also experience but cannot touch, these are often a direct product of the physical attributes of a space but go further to allow our emotional response to the ‘experiential’ space and call into effect this previously discussed process of self definition through spatial awareness. Though these forces or boundaries between spaces are not as tangible as there physical counterparts they can be equally evaluated or experienced, if we consider the spatial language which we utilise to do so. 12
The work of Mark Johnson strives to illustrate certain spatial experiences which he refers to as ‘Image Schemata’, these are moments of force or interaction which we acknowledge and experience, inherent in our surrounding structures that we than begin to interpret meaning based on our own processes and values. Broadly these terms are derived from looking at the forces either physical or phycological which are expressed and received between our surroundings, and how these existent forces are perceived with our presence within them. These forces can be given names such as ‘paths’ ‘compulsion’ or ‘enablement’ their terms are not essential rather it is the ability they impart to us to further explore the forces at play around us and gain a greater awareness of our reciprocal relationship with those forces. This process allows a greater awareness of the inter connectedness of objects in space to each other and to ourselves and how the forces present enable the dialogue of this relatedness to continue.
My particular interest within this area comes as the next stage in this dialogue, if we allow ourselves to say that this connection between ourselves, objects and space exists continually, that it is reciprocal and often even paradoxical but nevertheless is present, if we can then further say that we have available to us the methods and faculties to comprehend the existence of these intertwined forces and our relation to them and that finally it is our understanding, in its particular subjectivity that allows us a personal and cultural insight, is there in the next stage of this sequence the potential for a new kind of structure or architecture that takes this relationship further. My desire is then to say that if one can develop a structure or approach that further articulates these relationships as they already exist, and to develop a structure that heightens and accentuates the relatedness of ourselves and objects will in turn allow a heightened understanding of our surroundings and thus a greater awareness of ourselves from this process. I wish to develop a structure that seeks to articulate the language that exists within a space, therefore its properties would be linked entirely to the relationships, forces and qualities already inherent in the structural surroundings. The aim of this is to allow a certain awakening of the space, whereby its attributes are highlighted by the delineation of the new structure exists within it. The structure itself would thus be established only by the articulation of the forces present in the space, and would be as inherent in the space as these forces themselves.
The program does not seek to enforce a particular experience as such but rather to attenuate any experience of the existant forces which created it. If this can be achieved than, it will allow a clearer exploration of ourselves within that space, it does not seek to define or impose a single position in this balance but rather allows a clearer representation of the existing balance for you to more representatively define your place within your space. For me this is the point at which culture and nature coincide and it allows for the discussion to extend beyond one spatial experience and extend to a cultural and architectural development. If we can consider a structural approach such as this whereby the potential of certain spaces is enhanced than we can begin to consider an approach such as this almost as a process of urban regeneration, however this approach would be based upon developing a language which verbalizes what a certain space is already trying to communicate rather than introducing a removed language into the dialogue.
Considering some of the work of the ‘situationists’ and Chombart de Lauwe’s ‘Paris et l’agglomeration parisienne’ 1952, we can consider how everyday modern experiences of our surroundings are particularly reductive and revolve around prescribed routes, during which there is little to no understanding of the space that exists between our designated destination points. The aim of this program would be in developing a structure that creates a heightened sense of the experience of a space and in turn a persons place within that relationship, that this would create an arresting affect that increases ones awarness of the place in which they find themselves but also of themselves, this would aim to make these spaces more inclined to generate and recieve activity to which they are already pre disposed or indeed enhance what activities may already exist within that place. The program and the structure as the articulation of this program would seek to create a regenerative approach that is not the result of external stimuli but rather the articulation of that stimuli already present.
The work of Lebbeus Woods considers this condition, and proposes that in a similar way that the ‘meaning structures’ of space can be made visual so too can the forces of energy be expressed physically. In his experiment for the ‘System Wien’ he proposes the expression of these forces through material vectors which in themselves are also embodied energy, and that by redistributing this energy at the human scale and the scale of the street we can enable fundamental changes in thought, perception and interaction even through the use of temporary small scale structures. We can also consider the work of Peter Cook and the ‘Instant City’ where he proposes the construction of an architecture of framework whereby the latent possibilities of a city or site are reengaged through the interaction with an architectural or infrastructural framework . This framework allows a balance of stimulus and infrastructure for a space to fully exploit its inherent capacity on both a physical and perceptual level. By removing the prescriptive element of the architectural language the space is allowed to self determine its balance whereby it reaches its own predetermined equilibrium based on its qualities and energies. It is here where the most influential and unqualifiable force of energy is brought to bear on the newly recalibrated system, the element of human interaction. An initial external stimulus is made to provoke a re-engagement of the spatial condition, qualified by the fact that this stimulus or external energy is made in an attempt to physicaly express the meaning embodied within the space, and from this point a period of expression and evolutionary interchange exists fueled by cultural and personal engagement. Facilitated but not prescribed by a cognitive frame. 22
Having previously understood that the interplay of objects and people in space can be deciphered or understood by considering the perceptual and actual lines of force about which they act. The force we refer to are in many cases psychological in so far as its effect is largely made visible through our personal response to it. We can then begin to articulate these lines of meaning techtonically, to allow a heightened perception of this existent condition. It is then possible to consider these lines of force to also be concurrent with lines of energy, and that the construction of space be it in the earth or built fabric is composed of lines of energy some which are continually in dynamic shifts but others which have reached a state of equilibrium or balance to result in static forms. The articulation of the perceptual forces of a space then begins to take on the discussion of its lines of energy when the conceptual becomes constructional and the dialogue takes on a material in its manifestation. So any construction of a physical form which seeks to elaborate the conditions present within a space must address its own relationship within that space as it enters a cycle whereby it seeks to define, while acknowledging it will inevitably somewhat alter that which it is attempting to express. The language of articulation must now also become the language of redistribution, whereby the latent energies present within the equilibrium become redirected and the system is altered through the introduction of new energies constructed along the â€˜image schemataâ€™ of the space.
The initial program is then adjusted to not only seek to articulate the existing language of interaction between people and objects in space but by introducing new energies in this articulation provides the initial stimulus in a process of redirection whereby the present but often dormant energies in a space are realigned along the â€˜image schemataâ€™ that its static from has defined. The result is an infrastructure that is self aware in its evolution and engages in a process of cultural erosion and production the catalyst for which is that of the communal and individual engagement of people. The existing conditions are analysed, they are expressed techtonically, therein they provide new energy and meaning embodied within them, and these qualities are either adjusted, removed or reinforced under the consistent flow of human interaction. The result is a structure that exists as a manifestation almost exclusively of its conditions, it is designed by its location and sculpted by its inhabitants, pulled into permanence through a structural logic that is embedded in its surroundings and a functionality that is described by its users. It allows for a process of personal evaluation of self within the space, and further to the culture which inhabits it. The dialogue of interaction which calls the initial structure into existence now provides the framework on which it has the capacity to evolve and re evaluate itself.
Publication cataloging research carried out during design project for Architecture Bygg 3 course at Oslo School of Architecture and Design