Thursday, October 14, 2010

The intermarriage of Form and Space

Now that we understand Form, we can see how it can affect Space. Space is defined by form(s), in fact; we think of it as empty, so the idea of defining it is impossible without involving form. This is what I'd call a dichotomy of design, but is more formally called the unity of opposites. These two opposite concepts are necessarily united in the building arts - designing a building isn't just about the structure, it's also about the spaces inside it. In a house, for example, the spaces are 'kitchen', 'bedroom', 'bathroom', 'studio', and so on.

Image credit: Kohl Children's Museum by Booth Hansen, Metropolitan Home, April 2006, 44. (Overlay mine. The overhang of the building is a form creating space.)

But how do we define those spaces? In many, many ways, all involving the use of planes and openings within them.

We can define space with horizontal elements, and typically this involves the base (or ground) plane, elevated plane(s), depressed plane(s), and overhead plane. Translated, this means ceilings, floors, and any horizontals in between. A sunken living room floor would be an example of a depressed plane.

Image credit: Barreneche, Raul. "Park Avenue Petite." Metropolitan Home. March 2009. 92. (Overlay mine.)
 In the above images, the circular element subtracted from the overhead plane defines a space within the hallway that encompasses the table and flowers below it.

Space can be defined by vertical elements, as well, and may be the easier concept to understand since it typically involves walls -- we tend to think of space as areas defined around us, not above or below although they are included. As such, there are many more ways that a space can be defined: vertical linear elements, single vertical plane, L-shaped plane, parallel planes, U-shaped plane, and four planes: closure.

Image credit: Philip Johnson's 1949 Glass House. Architectural Digest. May 2006. 68. (Overlay mine.)
The above images show what can be done with vertical linear elements, better known as columns or posts. These can also be seen in Le Corbusier's modern works like the Dom-ino Skeleton, or from antiquity like the columns of Greek, Roman, or Egyptian temples, for example.

This and the next images also show examples of openings that define the space -- usually meaning windows, but can broadly be any opening within (or instead of) a plane. Openings occur in various positions within planes, at corners, and between planes.

Image credit: Nobel, Philip. "A House for Art's Sake." Architectural Digest. May 2006. 242. (Overlay mine.)

These openings above are window walls, which occur between planes. When the edges of the window/opening go from planar edge to planar edge (involving 3 our of the 4 possible), an opening is between planes. Any smaller, and it would fall under one of the other categories. This configuration tends to let in the most light, although a few of the corner opening configurations may be equal.

This leads to the last point: light is a quality of architectural space, as is color, texture, scale, form, and so on.

Light can come from different sources, but it is typically natural or artificial. "Natural" includes sunlight and candlelight, while artificial comes from anything man-made (lampposts, flashlights, lanterns, lightbulbs, etc.). In the image above, light comes from both sources: the ribbon windows echo the showcase of cars along the edge of the room, while the overhead lighting spotlights the car underneath, evidently a prized possession.

Next posting will include the organization of space, and spatial relationships.

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