Nold Egenter and the list-
Nold, thanks for a very well-phrased, scholarly, and informative discussion of spatial formation of places and architecture. I would just throw in two items to help shade in the background of the thorough discussion you have put forth:
Your comments re traditionalist doorways -- regardless of period or structure type -- as bearers of culturally-recognizable symbology is, in a sense, a restatement of Kevin Lynch's concept of urban imagibility. Lynch emphasized again and again that we find our way in complex settings through conscious and subconscious recognition of spatial clues delivered by familiar shapes: a door as a means of entry and escape, the scent of a familiar plant as a place-marker, signage colors or shapes as deliverers of particular messages. Traditionalist design, then, recognized/-es human scale and the human need for spatial familiarity.
Marc Treib -- in his excellent course on Japanese architecture and gardens -- also discusses cultural impacts on spatial design. He points out that Western religions concetualize a heaven that is above us, and much of our architecture reflects our reaching for that heaven by thrusting upwards. The Japanese philosophy/religion of Shinto finds gods, demons, spirits of ancestors, and spirits of all things living with us and around us in horizontal space. That is, heaven and earth share the same human-scaled horizontal space. Japanese architecture and landscapes reflect that philosophy by emphasizing the horizontal.
Again, thanks for the discussion. Please let me know if you have any objection to my including your comments (credited to you, of course) in my planning and design course readers.
after May 15, 1997:
David Mandel, MLA, Principal
Dune Landscape Design
7326 24th Avenue N.E.
Seattle, Washington 98115-5810
ph/fax: (206)527-1166 Email: email@example.com
I appreciate Nold Egenter's thoughts. Your discription of humane, complementary space is rather clear, but I have to add my own assumptions to define modern space. Your description deals with historic development and what appears to be detailing of edges. Can you add to this or correct me? Thanks.
I have enjoyed Nold Egenter's discussion and David Mandel's response on spatial design. Although as a landscape architect, I am interested primarily in exterior space, there are, as Nold suggests, many useful insights to be learnt from examining interior built form. One of the most enlightening architectural writers I have found is Tom Markus, who succinctly summarised his ideas in an article in Building Design (UK publication) in ? January 1997 (I'm sorry, I've lost the reference but I'll give his book reference at the end).
Tom Markus asserts that, in the wake of the fracturing of traditional alignments between architect and client that occurred in the late 18th century as a result of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, etc, a kind of unspoken pact was set up between architects and their clients. This pact agreed that:
function of buildings would be beyond debate, couched in the apparently 'neutral' terms of the brief and planning codes;
spatial structure would remain implicit - neither specified nor spoken of - but clients will expect designers to reproduce established structures (which, inevitably, confirm the social relations which give the clients/sponsors their economic power in the first place);
form is the area where designers have free reign, focusing all their energies on the stylistic debate, and reinforced by calling the workplaces "studios" and the designers "artists".
Markus goes on to say that, to see how buildings (and presumably, by extension, landscapes) embody social relations requires of designers, critics and the public analytical skills which are undeveloped. He and others such as Bill Hillier (responsible for developing the study of 'space syntax' - a valuable urban design analytical tool for landscape architects as well as architects and planners) argue the case for much more rigorous analysis of spatial structure than commonly happens at present. Markus and Hillier claim the spatial structure of towns and buildings is a matter of topology, "nextness", not geometry, and such structure generates the encounters on which communications and solidarities depend. It is possible to examine the detailed consequences of spatial structure, thus defined, for such mundane but important everyday experiences as pedestrian and vehicle density and trading success of shops and to make reliable predictions for future proposals.
I see this debate as vital to the way landcape architects work with space. No amount of exciting geometry or form will resolve fundamental problems with spatial topology and we, as landscape designers, should be conscious of the implications of different spatial structures which may both define and elaborate our interventions in the landscape.
I would greatly welcome further debate on this subject.
Tom Markus's book is "Buildings and Power; Freedom and Control in the
Origin of Modern Buildings', Routledge, 1993
Bill Hillier's latest is "Space is the Machine", Cambridge University Press, 1996