Buildings, Faces, Songs of Alienation – This paper proposes a theoretical framework for exploring visual meaning in the design and use of interior spaces.

Connectivity in Interiority | Alienation

Buildings, Faces, Songs of Alienation: How Interiority Transforms the Meaning Out There - Sheet1
Urban alienation 4_©Laurent Hou. (no date). Urban alienation 4

For many people, “architecture is a little song” in our hearts, and we orient ourselves by this.

Stranger things are magnets that draw us into a world beyond our comprehension by generating increasingly complex combinations of unknown structures through big data and artificial intelligence

Songs help us understand this sense of alienation; something we no longer understand.

The conscious design of public buildings with the human senses has a positive effect on the user’s perception of the city. Well-designed public buildings can encourage social inclusion, participation, safety, recreation, and a variety of other social values. It can also benefit the environment and the economy by promoting environmental sustainability and public health improvements.

Hence, the meaning of buildings “stops you and forces you to participate” (Stafford, 2014).

Three Conditions of Interiority 

However, all three can distance themselves.

Architecture is our inanimate creation. A face is a creation; and life. A song is an abstraction; both something and creation we create.

Architecture is what we create, what we create is us. The faces are us. The song is the gatekeeper to both; the guardian of our sanity.

Buildings as Containers of Meaning

Buildings, Faces, Songs of Alienation: How Interiority Transforms the Meaning Out There - Sheet2
Stackable sports pitches make use of unused urban space_©Stackable sports pitches make use of unused urban space (2016) Springwise.

Architecture is the technology of “positioning interaction”.

Interactions during construction, after the builder, leaving the site, and by changing functionality.

Visual meaning is based on interaction rather than subject or object isolated from the surrounding environment. In building things in the traditional sense, storytelling exists in interaction.

The building is from outside to inside. The sense is that the interiors are not only connected to the physical world through their outer skins but that their abstractions cannot be divorced from the meaning of the surrounding interactions.

Just as our faces hide our hearts, the facade of a building hides its interior. Faces then act as containers for meaning.

Faces as Containers of Meaning | Alienation

We are constantly looking for faces or face-like objects and attaching to them effortlessly, both visually and psychologically. In buildings, the façade is the face; often the emphasis is on “the relationship between the readable and the unreadable, the relationship between the present and the hidden. Traditionally, façades reflect the interior of a building, but in Modernism, façades break free (Lefebvre & Nicholson-Smith, 2011) and represent whatever the designers and owners dictate. And just like that, the appearance is divided! From the inside, both physically and symbolically. Often, we cannot determine from the facade what the content of a building is. This creates a sense of alienation in us. The fact that buildings are the product of many people, each contributing uniquely, echoes the concept of interiority.

Songs as Containers of Alienation 

 The song locates the meaning of interaction, or in the case of alienation, the lack of interaction.

Markers of Interiority: Inside-Out 

Architecture as a Space Icon – Buildings no longer rely on hardware infrastructure to serve their interiors. Buildings can be alienated by their façades. Concentrations of buildings, especially tall buildings, have a physical presence and can be disorienting.

Faces as markers of space – the meaning of the song positioning interaction, or in the case of alienation, the lack of interaction.

A song as a marker of space – Song can help us understand alienation in a cognitively objective sense. The condition can recover and heal, can trigger warnings of distancing, and can help bind society.

Virtual Markers 

Virtual Reality for Architects_©TMD STUDIO LTD (2017) Virtual reality uses in architecture and design, TMD STUDIO’s Insights

The role of technology is also important because changes in technology help mediate the process of linking internal meaning to external meaning. With instant communication and smart city technology, this space compression becomes more pronounced. Today’s personal space is not limited by physical location, but data-driven is an inevitability.

Minding the Connectivity 

The inner space should exceed the sum of the elements that contain it. The visual significance of the interior space is not only related to the design and use of the interior of the building but more importantly, the related experience.

Because people ultimately create meaning in their surroundings, songs are used to trade with the unknown. Songs are a form of storytelling that express alienation. We sing songs about faces and objects with faces. Songs are a form of intermediary between animate and inanimate objects. Songs help us focus and help us see things and events in the world more clearly.

The Interior Becomes a Figure of Interiority | Alienation

The interior condenses the architectural space into a readable place, a locally and temporally determinable dimension of meaning that generates specific movements, activities and roles.

The interior becomes a question of representation: it is a model of our subjective lives, which in turn allows us to better understand the world in which we live.

The result is that minds and bodies can be projected beyond the facade and into the spaces in the buildings we live in. The role of technology is also important because changes in technology help mediate the process of linking internal meaning to external meaning.


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Image Citation:

  1. Image 1_ Urban alienation 4_© Laurent Hou. (no date). Urban alienation 4. [Photograph]
  2. Image 2_ Stackable sports pitches make use of unused urban space_© Stackable sports pitches make use of unused urban space (2016) Springwise.
  3. Image 3_Virtual Reality for Architects_©TMD STUDIO LTD (2017) Virtual reality uses in architecture and design, TMD STUDIO’s Insights. 

Akshita Gahlaut is an architect based in Delhi who strongly believes in the ability of the architecture and research combined with design thinking. She is an avid learner who has a penchant for understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development.