Paul Martin,
Department of Industrial & Graphic Design,
School of Design and Manufacture,
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.


Spatial Design Beyond Three-Dimensional Form

Paul Martin,

Department of Industrial Design

De Montfort University

Abstract

The walls and ceilings of a building create an interior space. You can measure these and define the volumes in three-dimensional terms. However, this cannot wholly contain and describe `the space within'. In order to achieve a better interpretation of the nature of Spatial Design we need to move beyond the confines of three-dimensional thinking.

Although a building and its internal spaces remain essentially static, everything else changes. Buildings exist in time. Spaces cannot be sterile. After all, are the spatial shells that we construct around ourselves not essentially an extended skin in which to house the wider functions of human activity? Not all space needs to be usable - we can see, hear, smell and feel beyond what we can touch. There are many layers of activity, passivity and interaction.

If the methods we use to design are locked within the limitations of static representation and three-dimensional measurements, then how can we hope to achieve a truly dynamic, biomorphic, sensual, fluid and adaptable form of spatial design? It is necessary to evolve a co-operation with technologies in such a way that they enable us to view space in a much more flexible way and provide us with a means to create spatial designs with more 'life' and greater life expectancy. Co-operation with film, video, lighting, animatronics, performance, installation and interactive video can help achieve a wider way of seeing.

This paper was given using a dual screen multi-image presentation to emphasise the constantly changing aspects of interior spaces.

Painting is about two-dimensionality, sculpture about three- dimensionality, architecture about a bit more. (1). Spatial Design is certainly about a lot more than three-dimensions, in that it creates a capsule inside which people experience dimensions beyond that of solid tangible form.

The elements of time, space, place and movement require an additional dimensional concept. Buildings exist in time. The daily passing of time, with its changes from light to dark manipulating exterior faces, interior spaces, visibility, attitude and mood. The longer effects of time with the elements of weather, environmental decay and human wear and tear, all of which are sympathetic to the human condition with its aspects of memory and emotive response.

We only need to live briefly in a different environment to recognise how much our surroundings have formed us and our society in sensitivities, in values, and ways of life. (2).

Throughout buildings there is a constant movement of people and light - in, out and around. The perception of inside and outside fluctuates - through doors, windows, and movements of air, light, thought and recollection. This interaction touches the surfaces and manipulates their density, transparency and reflection.

After all, this is how we experience buildings, inside and outside: we walk, we look, we pass through space. Perspectives are revealed. Corners are turned. Scale changes. The depth dimension is revealed. Details can be explored.(3).

The position and size of the fenestration in a room is of paramount importance. Daylight is the largest contributing natural factor to the atmosphere of any interior. Additionally modern lighting is able to replicate, imitate, enhance, change or contradict these natural effects. Without light we cannot see, and similarly what is not lit remains unseen. Light and shadow modulate the experiential space yet the physical dimensions remain unchanged.

Ancient traditions in building placed great significance upon the orientation and site choice of a building. In oriental custom the feng shui adviser is consulted to determine the best spiritual location and placement before the building is designed. Most religious and empirical buildings of all cultures utilised aspects of place to enhance their sense of power/reverence. People felt "at home" with houses built of local materials taking into account their surrounding environment and climate.

In the post-modern age, science is rediscovering the aesthetic and spiritual meanings of nature.(4). In his book 'The Architecture of the Jumping Universe' Charles Jencks suggests that the shift in modern science and thinking towards the Theories of Chaos an Complexity should evoke a new response from architects. That they should be complicit in this new understanding which recognises that man is not god, and that God (in the image of man) is not the Architect.

The world is in a state of constant change and flux. No longer is it acceptable to inhabit buildings that make little or no reference to environmental issues or are patently bad for our health and wellbeing.(5). The twentieth century with its Brave New World and Modern Movement approaches created the misconception that people could re-design the world itself. That a homogeneous new style could be put in place and totally supplant its natural predecessor with a superior artificial condition. The Modern Movement's main failure was that.... it imposed an anonymous homogeneity worldwide. It ignored the vernacular architectural diversity of cultural response: to a plethora of environmental constraints - identity was forbidden to the Machine Age.(6).

By the very fact that architecture is built it can obviously never be natural. But how is it that the design of the modern built environment has become so isolated from the very place where it exists?

Civilisations have always used buildings to impress. The Romans and Greeks overawed those they conquered with huge constructions that re-asserted their might, paling the occupants of the indigenous buildings into humility. Religious Orders erected towering temples and churches inspiring reverence and piety. The fascists and communists employed monumental architecture in similar fashion to symbolise success and retain allegiance.

Likewise people have always wanted to visually depict their surroundings and possessions as an expression and record of there lifestyles. Early drawings were essentially two-dimensional and symbolic in style. However during the Renaissance, with the emergence of a larger, wealthier and more powerful trading class, materialism increased with a move to a greater importance on secular lifestyle. Paintings were commissioned primarily to show off possessions and property. New methods of perspective were formulated to picture things in a more "realistic" three-dimensional way. New technical rules had to be formulated and learnt to produce and interpret these drawn images.

By the twentieth century, technical sciences with their associated experts reigned supreme. Architecture and medicine alike dealt in terms of quantifiable analysis - everything could be measured, determined and prescribed as tangible "truths".

Modern medicine dealt with chemical cures where the illness was isolated and rectified. Traditional medical skills, involving a wider overview of the body as a spiritual/organic/ emotional interdependent structure in an ever changing state, were lost.

Similarly, architecture became more technical and architects assumed a more totalitarian rule over all building. The technology and its systems created a new aesthetic. Designs were conceived within the limits of the three-dimensional format, rather than using it as a means of representation. A building or interior evolves from an initial concept which is then sketched in two dimensions, mocked-up and eventually constructed in 3D form. The use of drawing boards, perspective principles and cut out white card models led to a preoccupation with straight lines, right angles, and a desire to "clean up" on nature with the scientific aesthetics of ultra-smooth building materials and the development of monochromatic, homogenised textures and surfaces.

Unfortunately this ubiquitous style of design became entrenched within modern economic thinking. It is assumed that straight lines, box like structures and mass produced materials are cheaper, and at a time when it is the short term end of year accounts that take precedence, this pattern is largely unquestioned. Urbanisation has irrevocably changed the geography of the surroundings where we live. Buildings are responsible for more external pollution than any other product.(7). This arises in their use of constructed materials and their energy consumption, creating greenhouse gases and acid rain and causing the reduction of the ozone layer. So what is the true longer term cost?

All design must assume a rightful responsibility for sustainability, considered energy efficiency, bodily health and mutual cohabitation with nature.

If the built environment and spatial design are to regain a proper natural and human context, then their designs must move forward beyond the constraints of three-dimensional design to amalgamate the wider realms of behaviour/emotional response and constantly changing environmental causes and effects.

Although a building and its internal spaces remain essentially physically static, everything else changes. And change implies movement. The environment in which a space exists has its own dynamics of time, light, air and resonance, and the people within the space contribute their own dynamics of motion, action, reaction, thought and imagination.

I see the environment and architecture not merely as a stage for performance but as the fields of energy which have a history, which have both psychological andethical qualities.....environment is not only physical, it is also mental, political and social.(8).

How then can we take all of this into account when designing and understanding the true nature of interior spaces?

The problem often exists in the tools and processes used to depict, express and develop ideas during the design process itself. If the processes we use to design are locked within the limitations of static representation, then how can we hope to achieve a truly dynamic, biomorphic, sensual, fluid and adaptable form of spatial design?

Like medicine it is important acknowledge the wider organic, spiritual and emotional contexts. After all, are the spatial shells that we construct around ourselves not essentially an extended skin in which to house the wider functions of human activity?

Co-operation with technologies and methods that enable us to view space in a much more flexible way can provide us with a means to create spatial designs with more "life" and greater life expectancy. COLLAGE. FILM, VIDEO, INTERACTIVE VIDEO, ANIMATRONICS, PERFORMANCE, INSTALLATION and LIGHTING provide useful allies in this respect and help to achieve a wider way of seeing. Observation is vital.

Whether real or imaginary there is an inextricable link between the creation of films and the development of our built environment, at least in the exploration of volumetric space in time.(9).With moving film the stills run at 24 frames/second thus capturing the building being viewed in a closer to' real' manner.(10).

If we use the animation potential offered by computers it could be in connection with other elements either from site footage, drawings and of course, with the introduction of the human element. This ' mixed media' environment is a key point for the appropriate and effective use of new technologies.(11).

Like life, spaces cannot be sterile. There is humour, ambiguity, contradiction, heterogeneity, colour and ageing. The notion that form follows function implies that a function is a single, colourless, identifiable action that can be wrapped and contained. Human activity is extremely complex and diverse. Spatial Design needs to be elastic and plastic in its treatment of the overall space. Not all space needs to be usable - we can see, hear, smell and feel beyond what we can touch. There are many layers of activity, passivity and interaction.

Performance art and installation have for long periods operated in empathic tandem with one another in the artist's search for creating an ideological space.(12).

In order to achieve a better interpretation of the nature of Spatial Design we need to move beyond the confines of three-dimensional thinkin

References

1. Charles Jencks. The Architecture of the Jumping Universe. Academy Editions. 1995. p 20

2. Christopher Day. Places of the Soul. Aquarian Press. 1990. p 11

3. Murray Grigor. Space in Time. AD Architecture and Film. Academy Group Ltd. 1994. p 19

4. Charles Jencks. The Architecture of the Jumping Universe.Academy Editions. 1995. p 22

5. David Person. Earth to Spirit. Gaia Books. 1994. p 12

6. Nigel Reading. Dynamical Symmetries.AD Architecture and Film. Academy Group Ltd1994. pXIV.

7. Dorothy MacKenzie. Green Architecture. Thames and Hudson. 1991. p 38

8. Tomas Ruller. Per Form of Site. AD Performance Art into the 1990s. Academy GroupLtd.1994. p 61.

9. Maggie Toy. Editorial. AD Architecture and Film. Academy Group Ltd. 1994.p7.1994. p 41.

10. op cit.

11. Francois Penz. Cinema and Architecture. AD Architecture and Film. Academy Group Ltd.

12. Simon Herbert. Bread and Circuses.

AD Performance Art into the 1990s. Academy Group Ltd. 1994. p 33.

This paper was given using a dual screen multi-image presentation to emphasise the constantly changing aspects of interior spaces.



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