“Cavity or unclosed space” is the lexical meaning of the word “void” in Turkish translation. Whereas in English, it is mostly described as “nullity or space with no bodies in, along with identifying it opposite to the meaning of fullness.”

In the structural concept, the void can be used to obtain a variety of effects, like, terraces, balconies, masses taken from the ground, entrances, places connecting two structures and enabling passage, courtyards, galleries, atriums, interior-exterior spaces that are able to create a field of vision in the whole form, orientation effects, vistas, etc. Value addition is also an important factor which can be carried out by voids. 

On the other hand, voids in the urban context are completely different. Due to congested cities, public spaces have become very scarce as the land is also expensive in such dense cities. Many times, there are some spaces that are badly designed and hence succumb to being dead, underused, unused spaces in the cities. These urban voids are the consequence of inappropriate decision making, poor land management, lack of coordination between decision-makers and designers. But in reality, these urban voids possess the huge potential of making the place better by creating a stronger urban fabric of the city.

In addition, if intervening is done in a proper manner, these dead spaces could change the perception by creating a better-shared space through imagination and comfort. There is great potential for these dead voids in this expensive world to be exploited as public spaces like public pockets, plazas, parks, public gathering space, or just a place for activities that will encourage the engagement of people which will help in developing the public realm. 

Also, it can act as a well-utilized buffer area between a closed and an open space. But, a lot of research is needed to study and find a solution to increase the urban public spaces in dense cities. The major problem is that the designers plan a two-dimensional plan which lacks the consideration of citizens and their experience along with the quality of life in the city. They sometimes fail in recognizing the needs of the users. As a result, the people perceive these spaces in a completely different manner from the designer’s perspective and this leads to the creation of the voids. 

How to treat voids between open and closed spaces - Sheet1
Voids between open and closed space ©Archdaily

One solution to this can be the inclusion of users in the designing process, through which, designers can understand the requirements and mind-set of the users. It will also make the people feel that they are having a hands-on experience for improving their neighborhood, city, or region. The designers will get a collective idea of how the citizens reimagine their public spaces to be. Also, it will be a factor that will promote the sense of connectivity within the people and space. Hence, it will reduce the chances of a space turning into a void. Also, it will help in promoting better planning and design and will also set an example. Furthermore, it can facilitate the creative pattern of use which will pay attention to the cultural, physical, and social identities unique to the place and its evolution. The plans and designs designed along the users will make sure the people’s perception is the same as the designers and will give way to transfer the dead, underused, and unused spaces- voids, into efficient public spaces.

How to treat voids between open and closed spaces - Sheet2
Voids between open and closed space ©object territories

Moreover, in dense cities, there can be a large number of small “in-between” spaces that have a key impact on the quality of life. Hence, if these spaces are not attractive and are left unattended then people will respond and retreat from the semi-open spaces and city streets which finally will have a negative effect on the city. Most of the cities face the monotonous roadside clutter including motorways which divide the cities have resulted in an increase in the number of unsafe spaces and cities. In reality, when we think about cities, we think about people. 

People like public spaces as these spaces contribute to social gatherings and happiness. Most of the space in the city is taken by highways or the roads and we can’t stop this as it has its own importance but what we can do is target the small void spaces which can have a major impact on the quality of life of the citizens as stated earlier. For example, if a semi-open parking space is ignored by the people, is unused, and is being an unsafe space then it can be changed into a mini shopping plaza or a small park based on the needs of the people. This will help in putting the unused void into appropriate use. Places that attract the citizens in large numbers tend to be relatively free of problems and challenges. 

How to treat voids between open and closed spaces - Sheet3
Voids between open and closed space ©Giovanni Paolo Austria

Finally, we should understand the core factor responsible for the creation of the void, that is, the lack of usability in the user’s perspective. Therefore, while designing, we should try to prioritize the life of the citizens followed by the public space and then the buildings. This will help in the creation of public spaces and will help in utilizing the void between open and closed in an efficient way. This will be actually included in between the build and the unbuilt forms and will hence impact the life of the people in a positive way. Thus, it will reduce the chances of turning a usable gathering space into a dead void.


Arundhati Chitnis is an architect and a writer based in Dubai. She believes in the architecture which can cater the needs of the users and hence apply user centric approach in her designs. Also, she believes every structure has a story to tell, we just have to give it a voice.