space | order | flexibility
A question of Space
Space, as a boundless expanse of nothingness, finds its limits in the construction of houses, where boundaries are pre-negotiated by client and architect, and infrequently, the end user of the building. It materialises into a quantifiable substance when it is defined or negotiated by the presence of elements which impinge on its universality. According to Ching (1987) space is "the prime material in the designer's palette and the essential element in interior design".
Buckminster Fuller's notes in Synergetics II (1895) describe space as a "non conceptual awareness." (526.18) He reports the following:
"526.101 Space is the antithesis of solid. Both are misnomers... Space refers to locals of an event frequency per volume too low for our apprehending equipment to tune in."
In 1928, Rietveld stated that this is the true 'material' of architecture. "The reality which architecture can create is space". It is frequently divided in a cellular fashion, creating areas which are private, and secluded from one another. On the other hand, Mies van der Rohe identified the positive qualities of a 'universal space' which used clearly ordered structural frameworks, usually featuring manufactured steel extrusions infilled with brick and glass. The partitioning of space becomes limitless within the order of the frame.
Indeed, when architecture becomes a discussion of space, and one's own home is the very subject of this argument, we resort to lines on paper to justify whether or not the configurations of our retreats and work stations are suited to our daily needs. Our preoccupation with the notion of living space serves as an acknowledgement of the role it plays in the quality of our life. On paper, lines enclose spaces, which describe an exact dimensioning, the orientation of door and windows, as well as the probable function of the room. The drawing may include a rough idea of how furnishings of specific sizes will add and subtract to this void. A cellular arrangement may be chosen in favour of a womb-like interior, however, it is most common to find interior plans which include various types of room sizing.
Thus, Ching (1996) interprets a volume as a space which has been captured and defined by walls, floors and ceiling or as a "quantity of space displaced by the mass of a building." The perception of this duality gives the observer a good understanding of the volumetric element one is dealing with.
The value of our individual space
"Of late years there has been a great revival of the hall as a central feature in a house, but as a rule it is practically a sitting-room where no one sits, a kind of show place forming a passage for the servants to the front door and for visitors to the drawing room. This is all very well if we can afford to sacrifice a sitting-room in this way, but in our small house space is far too valuable."
Baille-Scott, An Ideal Suburban House 1894-5
This famous extract by Baillie-Scott shows an early preoccupation with the increasing price of space, or land in metropolitan areas. This seems to have climaxed in the early 20th century instilled by a need to overcome post war recessions, the 1920s were host to innovation in the housing realm. Moreover, the experimentation on new housing was released to the public using exhibitions and other visual media. Visitors were invited to discover the new sensations by themselves. Ideas previously used in industry and offices were given a new place for breeding.
Mies van der Rohe commissioned 29 architects to complete the individual design of the 24 flats. He himself designed the interior. A publication by the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt in 1927 (see Kirsch, Karin) describes how the Rasch brothers were set to the task of creating a flat for a bachelor whilst Ferdinand Kramer was asked to create a space for a 'professional lady.' The distinctions were so fine that three Stuttgart architects were also entrusted with rethinking the living requirements of a 'working woman', while the Swiss Werkbund collectively designed a residence for a family with children. Their brief was otherwise quite open; he only informed them about the means of construction with which the furnishings were to be built.
Mies" 'houses 1—4' at the exhibition were apartments consisting of four parts with six flats on three floors in each block. The author's own commentary ran as follows: "In the building of rented apartment blocks today, economic considerations demand a rationalisation and standardisation of construction. But, on the other hand, the increasing variety of our housing needs demands the greatest freedom of methods of utilisation. In the future it will be necessary to satisfy both these tendencies. For this, skeleton construction is the most suitable system. It permits rational manufacture while leaving free, the organisation of interior space."
Each flat corresponded to the individual family situation and needs. He also wished to have the additional advantage that should there be "a change in the family itself the flat could also be changed without extensive structural conversion work."
The rational sizing of rooms
The qualitative deliberation of plans with respect to the sizing and positioning of furnishings seems to have been resolved by Ernst Neufert, and his efforts to marry geometry with effective interior planning. It is certainly easy to write off a supposed 'main bedroom' which cannot include a wardrobe and a double bed as bad design. Kahler (2002) suggests that Neufert "has taught generations of architects – without openly stating the fact – that a layout plan should be based on the functional , rational arrangement of furnishings."
- 'Make it bigger, Hugo, then you can do anything in it.'
'Attitudes toward size are curiously programmed. Some things are admired for being miniaturised – portable electronics, for instance. Many more, however, are preferred large – or, to be precise, larger than one has. When it comes to living space, Western ideals tend to be conservatively focused on accretion, which is to say, acquiring more. Indeed, "spacious' is always a term of approval.'
Michael Freeman, Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living (2004)
As one would expect, the idea of a larger space appears in literature as a design tool which can achieve greater possibilities. Mies van der Rohe is reported to have once said to Hugo Haring: "Make it bigger, Hugo, then you can do anything in it." Baillie Scott's (1894-5) radical 19th century thoughts on 'An Ideal Suburban House' encouraged new design solutions which freed from the inconveniences one is faced with when rooms in a house are too small.
Along with size, generally come openness and grandeur. Kaltenbach (2002) refers to Jean Nouvel's statement that "a large dwelling is a good dwelling" and reflects that, the smaller the footprint area is, the more one must pay attention to ensuring optimal usage.
- Smaller spaces
On the other hand, the Japanese identify smallness as an appreciable quality of a room. Freeman explains that floor-level living and tea ceremonies precedes such an arrangement of space which provides an amplified level of intimacy and creates "a separate world removed from that of work and the city". The allocation of space demands the very modern exclusion of that which is not needed, freeing the surroundings from clutter. At the same time, relative proximities enable every item to be within reach. The genre"s main inspirational spin-off is usually the provision of awkward sites, which due to Tokyo's high land prices frequently constitute the only purchasable metropolitan sites for construction. They are generally, deep and narrow with a front elevation often described as 'eel-like'.
When ceiling heights permit this, it is commonplace to suspend a mezzanine within this volume, where families sleep together on low-level mattressing.
Malta has the 4th highest population density while Japan ranks 18th. Out of Tokyo's 23 wards (Ku), Nakano rates almost as highly as Senglea, Malta"s most densely populated enclosed maritime city. Nakano has a density of 19,854 inhabitants/square km. In 1995, Senglea's was 22,066. And yet, the careful Japanese attitude towards floor space is not as popular.
space | order | flexibility