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void manifesto

owen nichols

We call for a strict demarcation of public and private in cities.

No more semi-private/semi-public space.

These in-between spaces create public holes in the fabric of cities, swollen streets and concentrated social activity.

They are not green parks or gardens that capture light and air and breathe organic life into the city like so many sets of lungs.

They are gray areas gray matter gatherers of gray dust.

They are not privately owned they become a tumor of the street with their own social agenda offsetting the rhythm of the physical city to create new rhythms of urban public life.

In the most positive way, these semi-places could give us reason to go outside again. Some of us.

As it is now, we don’t want to go outside. We want to go inside to the only place that we can be at peace in the city. Where no one can see us, because too many people can and do see us all the time. Our entire semi-private life is documented. We are never alone. Until we go home to our own sanctuary.

The increase of surveillance and security has made certain people afraid and exhausted: these are the introverts. The introverts lose a great deal of energy from being in the presence of other people. Knowing that someone is watching frustrates them. More and more introverts are created everyday they are byproducts of urban change

In the gray areas outside, the introverts are claustrophobic They cannot breathe. They are choked by congestion and constipated by constant contact

To find peace in mind and body, the introverts want to go home to a place that faces inward, that shuts out most of the city, save for glimpses outward as they please.

Views outward in today’s city reveal a curious phenomenon. Are architects ashamed of their own work? Why then do they so often offer glorious views of other architecture? The best view of Paris is from the Montparnasse Tower because it is the only view of the city where you can’t see the Montparnasse Tower.

We don’t want to look outside because frankly it’s not that nice. Fuck context. Can’t our architecture produce its own context? We want to look inside, into the spaces that we live in, the ones that shelter us. This is a celebration of architecture a self-appreciation.

We want to create new life inside, which needs space and air to breathe and thrive. The light and air of the external city are polluted. Breathing is compromised. We need to find ways to create healthy internal environments.

Our buildings should have vertical voids that let in light and air, that are regenerative and not just sustainable. Who would want to sustain what we have when it deteriorates our lives?

We need new lungs inside the body of the architecture. Concentrated, local, effective.

The health of the introvert’s home is thus physical as well as social.

Not all people are introverts, however. An entire generation has grown up in the swell of surveillance, media and information transfer. These people are the representations and the representatives of their generation. They are not afraid; they are the people to be afraid of the people who love to watch and love to be watched. They are the extroverts.You are all victims of their voyeurism.

These people – the extroverts -- need not just to be accommodated but also to be celebrated because there are so many of them and they would be stifled by an introvert’s home.

They are the ones that crave social interaction, in the home and in the streets that are burgeoning with their presence. They want to see everything and to be seen by everyone.

Their lives are open both inside and outside.

But even the extroverts need inside living space that satisfies.




3-Bedroom (family)

3-Bedroom (roommates)

The displacement and redefinition of the hearth in the traditional home has made the so-called living room obsolete. It is a dead room.

Separating the living room and lining it with furniture is a relic of the way we used to live.

The living room should now be given a new purpose as the programmatic connector, separator and platform for unexpected interaction.

We will no longer cover up walls with furniture we will use them as circulation and as social activators.

We’ll allow air to flow through the building and exhaust up through the void. Void as lightwell Void as sanctuary Void as lungs natural light and air infuse the interior from the central void of the building, creating a new paradigm for healthy urban living.

The city thus gains a new peaceful breathing organism from within private and protected from the mania of extroverted street life.

Owen Nichols Void Manifesto - draft  

Columbia University GSAPP Housing Studio - Robert Marino, Critic Owen Nichols & Ayaka Hales

Owen Nichols Void Manifesto - draft  

Columbia University GSAPP Housing Studio - Robert Marino, Critic Owen Nichols & Ayaka Hales