Interplay and Interpretation: a response to the in-between
Interplay, interaction, interpretation: all words that etymologically imply a coming together, or an in-between. The class Architecture from the Inside Out has already begun to heighten my awareness of the importance of an interior/exterior relationship in architectural design. From readings by authors like Henri Lefebvre, Siegfried Geidion, and Bruno Zevi to name a few, and Workshop I, I am interested in furthering this awareness. It is easy to look at these inside/outside spaces as two separate entities, perhaps different environmentally or volumetrically. But easy is boring. Instead, consider the excitement of the intermediate space, the experience of being in two spaces at once, and the interplay of one space communicating with another.
Architecture is such interplay between forces. To Le Corbusier, it was a confrontation between geometric and organic forms (Geideon 54). To Giacometti, the sculptor, it was the play between primitive forms and space (47). Interplay is not merely the way in which these forces have an effect on each other, but the result of such an interaction. Le Corbusier did not choose either form, but found non-hierarchical reconciliation between the rational and the organic, as exhibited in La Tourette (55). The same can be applied to our perception of inside and outside, combatting an either/or relationship with a question of the in-between.
Interplay in architecture can be described in many ways. “The whole history of life has been characterized by an incessant diversification and intensification of the interaction between inside and outside,” according to The Production of Space (Lefebvre 176). The idea that the interior and the exterior are both spaces that should be in constant communication with each other is important, because it seems humans are unable to spend as much time outside as we do inside. The result of interplay here, suggests a transition, spatial or objective. A window is one such instance, “as a transitional object, it has two senses, two orientations: from inside to outside, and from outside to inside” (209). The oculus of the Pantheon is a strong example of the transitional object, as a space is found within the light of the oculus and the dark of the dome that is neither in nor out. The Modern Language of Architecture explains the concept of interplay as, “the idea of continuous flow between inner and outer space,” made concrete in the Gothic Cathedrals (Zevi 49). In Space, Time and Architecture, Siegfried Geidion describes the interplay between volumes and space as the first stage of architectural development (Geidion 55). Interpreting these philosophies as my own, I find architectural development should consider “spatial volumes” and “volumetric spaces”. For example, in Workshop I, my design centered around the concept of a spatial shelf, which not only used volume to divide the service program from the public program, but also provided spaces within the volume for seating.
Architecture is also interpretive. These interpretations of interplay provide architecture with diverse methods of design. Having a blurred understanding of inside and outside allows for unexpected experiences by the user. My interest in interpretation developed through my initial thesis research, which looked into artworks that are devoid of scale and context. Suprematism is a multi-interpretive art and wavers between image and object. This wavering creates interplay between dimensions, where an object sometimes appears two-dimensionally and an image other times three-dimensionally. By providing multi-interpretive designs, interplay is stimulating to the imagination. My thesis currently takes interest in stimulating the imagination; therefore using interplay to create blurred space is a technique I can venture this semester.
Using these concepts of interplay and interpretation in my future processes of design can influence unexpected results. Designing from the inside out is important because it provides the user with the most functional interior environment to fit his/her needs. Conversely, designing from the outside in is important also, because it provides the user with a form, one that houses the necessary program or solves external issues like solar orientation. Unlike Louis Sullivan’s commandment that form ever follows function, architectural design should use the interplay between form and function to generate an architecture that is both practical and beautiful, or imaginative and pragmatic.
Geidion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (1969), 5th Edition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2009.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space (1974), translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith,Basil Blackwell Inc., Cambridge, MA, 1991.
Zevi, Bruno. The Modern Language of Architecture, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA, 1978.