The Form of Space
MSS 02 - 15 - 2010

The concept of space is one of the most interesting aspects of design I've studied on this trip. Open environments found in plazas, corridors, gardens, parks, meeting rooms, lobbies, and places of worship tend to convey the feeling of freedom, simply because they allow people to move and stand wherever they please. In these cases, function follows form - people must first have open space (or enclosed space) to be able to use it in their own way. Spaces have personalities. The most fascinating aspect of space is what defines it - the objects and spaces that lend their character to their common surroundings. By studying the plan view of many of these spaces, it is possible to compare and contrast how different spaces are defined by shapes created on the ground plane. Squares, rectangles, ovals, circles, and other shapes are common among the built spaces of ancient and contemporary sites alike. Not all are perfectly regular, but many boast perfection and order in their form, either as a testament to their gods, their people, or their natural surroundings. In addition to geometrically perfect spaces, we have experienced a multitude of deliberately irregular spaces. Free form gardens, irregular plazas, and oddly shaped rooms enhance the feeling of spatial freedom. Every view, every angle, is completely different. I feel space becomes the most interesting when perfect meets irregular. I have become especially intrigued by organic symmetry, where a space holds a somewhat regular form due to a common axis. Below, in Barcelona, Spain, Gaudí's Casa Battló is organically symmetrical, much like a leaf. Hallways and openings are mirrored across this main room, yet every wall, every stone, and every window is completely unique. Symmetry is found in the general idea of the space, a playful interpretation of a rectangle. Because of this, the space is easily navigable and intrinsic in function. Organic symmetry makes spaces visually interesting and physically comfortable. Recently, in our visit to Dubai, we witnessed a similar space. To the right, Madinat Jumeirah, one of Dubai's many unique shopping malls, reflects the type of organic symmetry present in Gaudí's work. A generally elliptical form is characterized by angular walls, nooks, and elevation changes to create an instinctively navigable, stimulating space. The different scales of spaces surrounding the canal provide "rooms" for different amounts of people, whether they are walking, sitting, eating, or standing. Again, a sense of symmetry provides an obvios arrangement of space, with an organic character that cannot be matched by the perfection of regular geometric forms.

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