Posteado por: Es Cau | junio 7, 2012

BLANK SPACE – LIMITS

Void: lack of physical or psychic content.

Space: a contained void.

In our minds, a void is essentially associated with our physical and experimental idea of matter. When we refer to it, we immediately apply the negative counterpart to give it a size. We do not, therefore, understand it in itself, but need a framework of reference to comprehend its limits and hence give it body.

A physical void not only implies the absence of something tangible, but also the existence of an outline that allows us to give it scale and shape, to identify it and consequently interpret it in its architectural dimension. The void is thus a solid in itself; one which we can sculpt by generating its outline like a mould.

Architects can mould emptiness as the remaining space left within the design of their boundaries; in other words, like something contained. Otherwise, they can define architecture within the framework of the volume of the inner void. These are two ways of approaching a project; in one, the inner space is the result of an outer vision, while in the other, the genesis of the design happens from the inside, giving the void an outline.

Finally, we can conquer the void and even give it shape, but always based on accepting the existence of a perimeter that helps us to understand it, giving it a use and an application.

The architectural void, the space which is only measurable through its surroundings, is thus the raison d’être of architectural work, the one that endows it with its purpose of use and shelter, like a liquid that needs to be moulded without draining away. Whatever the approach to the habitable project may be, the final project, in terms of its scale and level of success, is essentially interior.

Somos Piedra.
We are stone.

Not every architectural work seeks out an aesthetic equilibrium beyond the appropriate resolution and wealth of their inner voids, resolving the functions and uses of the project’s purpose. Today, many of the giant glass constructions, with all of their defects and few redeeming features, are planned from a reverse perspective, along the lines of a reversible jacket. It would seem that they are really being designed around the exterior void, and all that effort concentrated on designing boundaries is not seeking the dimensionality or interior enrichment, but rather projecting towards the exterior void as a mark of its identity. The interior functions, often dull and homogenous, have catapulted design from its limits towards the exterior; in other words, from the interior three-dimensionality associated with human use and scale, to an exterior three-dimensionality on a large scale with high impact, associated with the understanding of the purpose of the building in line with more distant and even capricious interpretations. Nevertheless, there are just a few projects that definitely succeed in turning three-dimensionality outwards without falling into the Mannerism of being “even more complicated”. Probably Sydney Opera House is the most classic example of the success of the reversible jacket, being a 3D building par excellence that is not associated with its use but with its surroundings, and thereby with a value and grandiloquent scale for which its interior value is not the important thing but rather the way in which its shape moulds the exterior space.  The result is still, nevertheless, an insurmountable and intransitive rock.

They are two disparate models.

What happens, then, when we break the boundaries of the contained space in search of a transitive architectural style?

Somos Paisaje.
We are landscape.

If we get rid of some of the retaining outline, what we are doing is allowing our void to dissolve and expand to limits that we cannot control, and we find ourselves with the architecture of intermediate spaces which, without losing interior dimensionality, allows a greater inter-relation with its surroundings, to the point of finding the difficult equilibrium between contained spaces and those unlimited ones that we can only feel through intuition. The design of the project therefore adopts a different position when relating to its surroundings, allowing them to penetrate and form part of the limits of the design or, conversely, allowing the architectural limits expand to become part of the landscape.

In this way the project takes on a cinematographic dimension, and architecture finds itself with the difficult challenge of dominating it, incorporating an unlimited boundary into its design and, along with it, the vast number of sensations that this symbiosis might awaken in the user. The difficult task of the projectionist will be to dominate these sensations, controlling them or provoking them by opening up the limits of the architectural void to the landscape.

Many of us will certainly call to mind Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” as the archetype of a space that plays with the limits of the natural surroundings and incorporates them into its own universe with such a mastery that it not perceived or inhabited from within, but from outside. In other words, the maestro succeeds in producing his architecture from the exterior void, as if the design were the result of applying boundaries to the landscape and, from them, constructing the interior space, but with the peculiarity of keeping the usage and human scale under control. It is a process which is certainly the opposite of the norm, but which, in contrast to Sydney Opera House, is a transitive architectural style, allowing the enrichment of the interior as well as the exterior, creating a building with diffuse physical and spatial limits, and consequently camouflaged and integrated with its surroundings.

The fundamental question is: how much of this can we incorporate into our daily domestic architecture in order to make it more at one with the environment and with the essence of mankind?

Somos vacio.
We are void.

If we were able to take just a little from “Fallingwater” to use in every block of social housing we design, sited in urban districts, we would genuinely start to sow a seed of emotional sustainability and to think of architecture in terms of its interchange with a fluid exterior, thereby allowing its users to enjoy a more enriching design.

If we reverse the centripetal concept of housing currently used, whereby we create universes within four walls, disconnected from their surroundings, for users who end up withdrawn into isolated worlds; and if we also design looking towards the exterior, or from the surrounding environment looking towards the interior, seeking out a centripetal connection between the user and the reality that surrounds him, we will start to open up areas of increased commitment to a more humanist lifestyle that is in harmony with Mother Earth and the very nature of man.

The most direct consequence of this way of approaching a project will be the improvement of desolate urban areas which will also be enriched by the transitivity of their boundaries.

Sustainability and the green architectural projects that are so fashionable these days must not be energy-efficient boxes occupied by inefficient residents who aren’t committed to the same struggle to rationalise and humanise their lives. The basic function of architecture is not only to provide shelter and protection but also to show residents the way towards better harmony with the environment. This lesson can only be successful when it is present and involved in people’s daily domestic lives in their homes, workplaces and recreational areas.

When the most simple and overlooked of containers cease to be opaque, solid and closed boxes and are turned into premises with boundaries which are diffuse, tangential, overlapping or juxtaposed, which break up the interior space to allow it to flow and facilitate a more direct contact with our surroundings; it is then when architecture will have started to win the real battle of sustainability, the one that will make sustainable ourselves.

Whatever the reality, and whatever the type of architecture may be, all we need to do is look upwards to discover the boundless limits within reach of design.

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