Architecture is described as functional art, abstract in nature, unlike the personal nature of a painter or sculptor’s work. Metaphorically speaking, an architect is the theatrical producer of the lives of people they design for, who moulds people’s day-to-day lives. Elements belonging to a certain era might fit the requirements of that time, but with changing generations, the needs change, and so does the architecture. An architect should, hence, be aware and adaptable to the needs of the changing time.
During the formative years of architectural education, the state of awareness of our surroundings is very limited. As architecture students, we are trained to cultivate and nurture sensitivity towards the end-users. It carves the way we form our perspectives towards a variety of spaces. It teaches us to view architecture not just through our visual senses but also through our other senses.
Most importantly, it also encourages asking the right questions concerning the different situations in which the building or spaces are built and also answering them.
Let’s see an example of a public space…
Public space is a place that is generally open and accessible to people. Public spaces form an important part of our urban fabric as they provide many opportunities for socializing, recreation and civic participation. Large areas with accessible lawns, well-maintained footpaths, street furniture, public squares, museums and water landscapes are important characteristics that form an integral part of public spaces.
In urban cities and towns, open spaces help people to maintain a sense of belonging between themselves and their city. Any urban open space caters to a large human population. It is designed for different functions for different age groups. It caters to many stakeholders who use the space in different ways. Some use it for recreational purposes, some for economic activities, some as gathering space and some as a break-out space to isolate themselves – a deeply felt need in an urban setting.
Let’s look at the architectural process followed by an architect in giving life to a project– how an abstract concept is given a built form.
Projected Space – Intangibility
“The projected space is the space that the architect imagines and conceives.” (Julean, 2016)
Architectural education helps us understand not only the tangible aspects but also the intangible aspects while designing. At the core, light, ventilation and movement must be the most essential of all architectural materials in terms of how our bodies inhabit and move through space. These intangible or seemingly invisible substances which can only be felt are fundamental to architectural space. These aspects involuntarily affect our perception of a space and our movement around it.
Produced Space – Tangibility
“The produced space, is actually the physical space, the built space in all its instances.” (Julean, 2016)
While speaking of the tangible aspects, open space needs to cater to physical factors like accessibility, the number of people to cater to, built form, materiality, and interaction. For optimum use, they are planned in an orderly manner, giving due regard to the needs of the stakeholders of the place. The built environment shapes the produced space.
Perceived Space – User Experience
“The perceived space, is the space as it is experienced by its user.” (Julean, 2016)
Stakeholders or Users are the core of every design and their experience is what decides the success or failure of the built environment. Every user is unique in their own way and expresses opinions based on their socio-cultural and economic background. Besides, for the user to be able to relate to the space, the design must interact with its context, allow versatile usage for various human activities and facilitate a notion of belongingness, comfort and safety.
For example, in the Jewish Museum in Berlin designed by Ar. Daniel Libeskind, the concept of a ray of light portraying the restoration of hope during dark times is represented through spaces with no windows with a single opening in the ceiling. The feelings of fear, loss, confusion, uncertainty and a myriad of other such emotions felt by the Jews during the unfortunately dark period of the Holocaust, get symbolized by cold stark concrete walls with fewer or no openings, long narrow corridors leading to dead ends and the change in the use of materials.
While this may be the concept used by the architect, person knowing the history of World War II, a person who may have lost a loved one to the holocaust and a person unaware of the history may view the museum with a different pair of eyes.
This article was an attempt from my end to share with everyone the most important thing that is learnt through architecture – How to translate human experiences into an architectural composition, which is possible only through sincerity, humility and empathy.
Basic Observations. (1959). In S. E. Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture (pp. 9-35). The M. I. T. Press: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Julean, D. (2016). Why Architects See Things Differently: An Architectural Approach On Teaching Space. European Scientific Journal.
Perovic, S., & Folic, N. K. (2012). Visual Perception of Public Open Spaces in Niksic. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 921 – 933.
Thompson, C. W. (2002). Urban open space in the 21st century. Landscape and Urban Planning, 59–72.
ArchDaily. 2021. AD Classics: Jewish Museum, Berlin / Studio Libeskind. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/91273/ad-classics-jewish-museum-berlin-daniel-libeskind> [Accessed 12 April 2021].