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“We turn clay to make a vessel, but it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends. Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not”. Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching, 6th Century B.C.

Space is finite, and it is infinite; it is internal and external, in, on, above the earth, and in outer space. Space is formless and formed, visible and invisible, implied, and hidden. Yet, it is physically and perceptually perceived. People move, see, hear, feel, smell, touch, and experience space with degrees of openness or closure. Physical space defines the ground, surround, and overhead surfaces. Perceptual space expands the interior with views to the outside, thoughts of other things connecting the tangible with the intangible, the visible with the understandable. Geometric space is the interval between points or objects having one, two, or three dimensions. Areas are visible, with or without reference to the existence of objects. Gottfried Leibniz, a mathematician and natural philosopher, believed space made sense of the location of bodies and things and that time made sense of their relative movements within boundaries. We think of spatial interaction as a subjective phenomenon based on our experience with objects, systems, and others. Visually we connect edges and comprehend shapes, geometries, scales, colors, sounds, and light quality. These are all architectural tools used to create space. Humans and matter and systems take up space and interact within spatial constructs. Explore definitions of space through form, place, geography, and time in this journey.

Activity 1 – Seeing Space and Form

The relationship of space with form involves visual interaction and perception. Architect and educator Francis D.K.Ching states that space is an understanding of open voids and solid masses, figure and ground, or positive and negative. Spatial Understanding draws from the early twentieth century Gestalt psychology of visual perception, where the human mind creates visuals from disparate data to create a unified whole. Photograph a scene and visually analyze what you see first, second, and then third. Label the steps you take to define the setting. Cut or draw by hand or digitally and make an animated GIF (or frame by frame storyboard) of each portion you see separately. Grasp how portions closer in the field of view are sometimes positive shapes, and those farther away are sometimes negative voids, also referred to as left-over shapes. The layering of foreground, midground, and background is a spatial tool for navigating physical space, as much as it a tool for setting the stage set in a theater to create a perception of space.

Activity 2 – Emotive Space

Activity 3 – Memorable Space

Activity 4 – Interactive Space

Activity 5 – Spacetime


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