According to the Collins Dictionary, ”Space is an unlimited three-dimensional expanse in which all materials and objects are located.” 

We all experience space as we look at it, walk in it or live in it. However, ever wondered why architects tend to have different notions for space? Space and architects have a multi-faceted relationship. They not only design space but interact with it while learning from it and it is an incessant cycle.

Why do Architects think differently? - Sheet1
Why Architects Think Differently?

One doesn’t begin to merely formulate designs without understanding the elementary requisites. Designing thus requires a deep psychological understanding of the functioning of a habitat and its co-relations. To comprehend behavioural orientations, it is essential to develop a holistic approach. Although the perception of space is highly user and design-centric, primarily it is virtual to a large extent.  

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Perceiving spaces

Our perception of space is largely defined by the architectural education we are a part of, initially. Every school has its methods of teaching how space should be perceived. But regardless of it, each student is compelled to think extraordinary, beyond the extents of the physical world. In the beginning, one’s interaction with the visual field is quite haphazard. 

To understand the entire notion, there is an untold need to deconstruct the space into its constituent elements while continuously questioning its form. After getting acquainted with the distorted reality, one starts to readily inquire about the function of the same constituent elements that together form the space.

With the onset of understanding the constituents of a singular space, one must realise that as an entity, space is never in a vacuum. The intention is to understand the relationship of a particular space with its corresponding spaces. For example, a park amidst group buildings tends to have an impact on each of them. The sooner we realise the influence, the better we can design. Even thinking about a building at a site level will have an impact on the existing surrounding. This conception will, however, work at every scale and level. Perceiving the space, however, changes due to the relationship between different surrounding spaces.

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Form and Space

Furthermore, there are additional parameters of perceiving spaces. Space as we understand does not exist as a void. It always must consist of some form of mass. The masses might differ at every level, for example, it can be a piece of furnishing in a room enclosure or it can be several buildings at an urban level. These forms of masses and space together define a spatial field that mainly tells us about the interaction between the two. 

The spatial qualities such as form, proportion, scale, texture, and light help decide one’s perception of a space. Although there is no set framework, it is experienced that with every new undertaking it is important to be in a continuous cycle of interrogation to be aware of the space you are in and the tone one wishes to set.

The process of design thinking involves problem solving and space perception at varying levels. The conceived notions and built notions are solely from the perception of an architect. However, to inhabit a more holistic approach, the architect requires an understanding of the impact of the built space on the historical, social, cultural, economic, psychological environment of the users. 

To be able to foresee the implications of space on the user, architects are compelled to think differently from the masses. Architecture changes one’s perception of space because of the rationalised thinking used to conceptualise spaces. Besides, it is not just about the user perception, but to be able to refine the functioning of a society to achieve more efficiency. But the complexity of the human environment frequently devoids people from visualising the benefits of the built environment. Thus, people often find themselves in a state of continuous refusal with an architect’s conviction. Nevertheless, criticism is always a part of the change.

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The Streets of Chandigarh

If Le Corbusier wouldn’t have foreseen the issue of traffic, he would never have planned such wide roads in Chandigarh. The criticism however seems to be illogical after six decades and the architect’s perception of the space is now widely termed to be successful. Nonetheless, the approach of designing is extremely subjective and depends very much on the movement of a user in space and time in the particular built environment. 

Sometimes, the conceived notion of the designer faces a massive setback due to the lack of understanding the Time. The space perception might depend on a variety of parameters, but the conception of an equally proportional, progressive, and fundamentally better from the user binds all of them together.

Even after saying all of this, a design problem can still have numerous solutions since no human thinks or perceives space in a similar fashion. This is widely due to the difference in the psychological encounters of each person. Regardless, architecture changes one’s perception of space constantly irrespective of the amount of engagement.


Francis D.K.Ching – Form, Space and Order.


Kanika Trivedi is an architect and a writer who believes in Design Activism. Architectural writing can be a strong means to spread awareness about the underlying issues in architecture fraternity. She also believes that a space is nothing without its context and so there is a lot to learn while you incessantly explore new circumstances and their interpretations.

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