Space That Moves Us
Author: Lana Yuan
ABSTRACT: This academic research paper is about sense engagement and psychological influences for visitors through contemporary architecture design, as well as how community occupants navigates around a space. In it discussed how architecture creates atmosphere through all means, the physical attributes that causes psychological and sensual response by human body and human brain. Through cases analysis and scientific statements on how human perception of emotions and mood through space, author reveals how architecture influence human emotions and manipulate human behaviors through atmosphere.
“senses, psychology, community engagement, atmosphere, emotions and mood. “
1. Introduction: how people in general sense spaces(why, when, how a space moves us); Pleasure, sense, immediate appreciation, spontaneous emotional response(art, music, design
2. Atmosphere: Memory and Light
4. Material, water, temperature, sound, nature
5. Summary & Conclusion
People command on Zumthor’s work “words like atmosphere and mood come to mind when faced with Zumthor’s architecture… the perfectly tempered feel of his built space is immediately communicated to viewers, residents, visitors and the immediate neighborhood”(Conversing with Beauty, The Island of the Sea, Arnold Böcklin, 1880, Kunst Museum Basel). How did they know? Through what did they sensed the atmosphere? How do people in general feel and sense spaces? Why, when, how does a space move the visitor? Pleasure, as well as pain, emotions, mood, were longed to be known and experienced through human six senses. Through art, music, design, people confirmed capability of immediate appreciation; Through interacting with a space or person or experiences people are capable of spontaneous emotional response. How exactly do all people perceive atmosphere through emotional sensibilities brought by architectural interior?
- 2 - Atmosphere: Memory and Light
When someone enters a space often the first thing they notice is the atmosphere. According to Zumthor, “We perceive atmospheres through our emotional sensibility – a form of perception that works incredibly quickly, and which we humans evidently need to help us survive.” Atmosphere can be defined as an aesthetic category and is influenced by color, interior lighting, and material, among other things. So how does a space move its occupants? One way is through experience. When someone walks into a space, they might ask, ‘Do I have memories of this space? Have I been to a similar space?’ If there were experiences associated with the space, the past mood will come back and influence the experience of the current space psychologically. For example Le Corbusier, in his later works, despite sticking to modern aesthetics, managed to draw on people’s memories of churches, in order to create a space that is unquestionably a place of worship. In the classical gothic cathedrals, towering stained glass windows let light filter through casting colors and shadows on the pews. In Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, in Ronchamp France(1950-55), despite the lack of colorful stained glass in God-like image, he still uses irregular, geometric cutouts on the brutalist concrete wall to let in tinted lights, drawing on people’s experience of a traditional church and creating a sense of holiness, grandeur, and a belittling atmosphere. This example not only draws on experience, but also the effects of lighting.
Lighting can be a very important element when creating atmosphere and is often one of the first things a visitor would notice. As Zumthor notes, “We are capable of immediate appreciation, of a spontaneous emotional response, of rejecting things in a flash.” Because of this immediacy lighting’s role in atmosphere is emphasized. In Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light he veers even further away from the traditional cathedral than the previous example. Instead of relying on previous experience of the church, Ando gets the point across with light. He creates a glowing cross using slits in the wall. The slit also allows a passage of air and a connection with nature, as it’s customary in much of Ando’s work. Not only this, but the natural light in the cross is a large part of what makes it so impressive. If it was created with artificial light, something that is manmade and controllable, it wouldn’t fit with theme of worship. In terms of Christianity natural light is much closer to being made by God than artificial light. In addition, natural light is fleeting, and therefore more precious. Having to wait for the correct time of the day to view the cross makes the experience more moving. The church itself is very dark and heavy toned. His cross becomes the focus of the church placing an emphasis on its religious value. This overwhelming emphasis effects the perception of space and creates a sense of aw within the occupants. Christopher Cuttle explains the phenomenon that occurs in Ando’s church among other places in his book ‘Lighting by Design’, (Oxford: Elsevier Architectural Press, 2008.) He explains, “Lighting that maximizes the luminance contrast of visual detail enables very small detail to be accurately detected, and this is the basis of many lighting standards.” (3,5. Cuttle, Lighting by Design) The book goes on and gives some examples of lighting in our daily decision making, what Zumthor would call it as ‘first impression’. “Judgments that we commonly make in deciding whether a surface is clean and dry; whether fresh fruit is good to eat; or whether a colleague looks tired.”(4, Cuttle, Lighting by Design) These judgements that we made towards objects, situations, and people are based on observations of appearance. However the lighting on them can be critical in making these judgments in a way because these everyday assessments of appearance can be influenced by subtle aspects of lighting, and too can our more complex assessment of the appearances of architectural spaces.” Applied to Ando’s church the otherwise ordinary concrete become elevated in the dim lighting and the focus turns away from the simplistic architecture and towards the glowing cross. By putting the focus on one strong central point Ando eliminates most of the visual noise from the rest of the church creating a sense of purity and tranquility. As shown in this example and in many others across the architectural world, “Lighting is both the medium that makes things visible, and it is a visible medium.”(5, Egan, M. David; Olgyay, Victor; Architectural Lighting)
- 3 - Color
“Modernists understand Color is light and light is color. “(Baum, Faith, Lighting and Perception) We are modernist, which means most of contemporary concerns with colors in interiors are how it engages senses. The standard and clues we use for evaluations are often interior lighting perceptions are “luminescence, integrity, sustainable, place making, perception, and psychology” influences in the use of interior colors. “Among them a psychological intent underlies most of our decisions. We place light and material color in a room to enhance emotive goals and spatial perception. We place color in architecture to communicate personal and cultural references as well. “
Le Corbusier had attempted sensual explorations of spaces through visual phenomenon of color with Villa Roche. The act of placing areas of pure color hues on the curved walls, gives off a private and pleasant atmosphere. long transparent windows opened along the wall to let natural light interact with the colored pieces in space, leaves room so visitors can perceive their location in space thus experience a level of comfort.
The use of hue, value, and saturation as the basic components for color is considered common practice, after visual phenomenon of color first studied in early 20th century, instead of arousing emotions, artists practices was rather rationalism and to concept driven art, hence quickly came along the peak of applying of color in design and interior space.
Rietveld looked for simple objective ways to design and expressed in color in his furniture and interior of red floor, blue wall, yellow cabinet. He simply cared about balancing off color and geometry in spaces; His color colleague Itten developed the Itten diagram methodology for teaching color at the Bauhaus and codifying rules for color design; While Kandinsky, also at the Bauhaus, investigated another aspect of the science of color theory. He studied how the stimulus of color triggers a sense reaction through his Kandinsky painting. Through the painting, he asked, Can color heal? Like Kandinsky, their mutual Bauhaus colleague Joseph Albers, After experiencing German in WWII, observed that color stimulates the senses, and made a serious of color studies for eye training applied the stepping hues, value contrasts, complimentary palette. Derivative of Joseph Alber’s painting and color work shows importance of environment color, introduced attention on color equilibrium- later made good use of in designing space by Luis Baragan, Richardo Legorreta, etc.
One might doubt the vitally important position Albers had in applying senses and colors in architecture and space, until they start looking at work of Richardo Legorreta, designer of san antonio central library, Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City, proposed Salesforce campus in Mission Bay, Museo Fort Worth-Foto de Lourdes Legorreta. Even his son Victor Legorreta, and the colorful bright orange-yellow graduate student lounge at Stanford. Every architectural piece by the Legorreta is a collection of compact of vibrant colors! And they are right next to each others- with biggest area of continuous primary colored wall. All Material color is changeable depending on the colors around it, so its context, as Joseph Albers said: color is “the most relative medium in art. It deceives continually,” due to the neurological phenomenon called Color Equilibrium. In San Antonio Public Library by Legorreta, big areas of saturated red geometry welcome you in the space, with bright yellow hue following up immediately to open and enlarge the space, drizzled with areas of blue and occasionally purple to add some rest to the eyes, made the whole space very comfortable and at ease. In scientific proofed term its called “Rainbow &Symmetry” in color theory, that our eyes are at their greatest state of rest when the three primaries of the visible light spectrum (additive system) are present.
When discussing about color as a sensual elements in interior design, Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s work cannot be left out. Barragan’s last project Casa Gilardi that he oversaw entirely, was designed as a house for parties. It is formed by colorful walls with pure and bold hues. In order to keep it vibrant and bright, it requires repaint and all sorts of maintaindance. Lead by pink facade to be welomcing and hostility, vertical glass panels with tinted yellow along the long glass hallway to lead the way, making the entire entryway feel warm and seem bright, to dispel the visitor’s anxious with unknown ahead. Vertical color tinted glass panels also make good ambient light due to light source- natural sunlight, which make colors appear to be lighter in value, thus hard to distinguish subtle value differences in colors(this is good for strong colors), Because of the fact that Mexico is in both the northern and western hemispheres, it gets high noon through out the year, southern exposure in summer, and northern exposure though winter, which makes the house one of the best location in the world to have bright vibrant color palette, and detailed material texture render at the same time. Having access to the right amount of light and color brightness, not too bright and not too dull, is the most ideal of interior spaces.
- 4 - Material, water, temperature, sound, nature
Besides lightings and colors, a carefully constructed piece of architecture that forms emotional-stimulating interior spaces and creates experiences that are capable of moving occupants, has to come through all the detailed considerations and first-rate combinations of a variety of sensory engagements in but not limited to aspects like: material, water, temperature, sound, movement, and sometimes placement of physical forming objects and participatory occupants. When one look at Zumthor’s Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland, it is a truly master piece of architecture where “the sensory qualities of temperature, touch, smell, sight and sound are all engaged.”(Redford, Antony; Morkoç, Selen; Srivastava, Amit; The Elements of Modern Architecture, Understanding Contemporary Buildings). Zumthor’s Thermal Baths in Vals is site located in a mountain in Switzerland, he chose the locally-sourced stone as a major tectonic and symbolic element of the design, embedded together as a modest response to local culture and environment. One the first site you are presented with views of the mountain and valley.
“This is a building to experience in use, the spaces evoking feelings of rest and rejuvenation in bathers as they progress through the rituals of immersion in a sequence of hot and cold pools, steam rooms and relaxation areas.” critique from Markoç.
Users are allowed to immerse themselves peacefully in water of different temperatures, “with dynamic experiences of spaces, texture, temperature, sound and smell”. (180, Morkoç). All these variety of space, dark misty hallway in between, locally sourced Valser quartzite stone, cut into three different thickness, to allow massage and physiology meditation usage.
Another highlight is the hot and cold water body and pools, each body of waters varies in temperature and material textures and sits in juxtaposition to allow highlight sensation of the bathing experience. Together with the shifting light, Thermal Val forms a tranquil, meditative and serene spaces.
Tadao Ando is also a sensory master who creates spaces that arouse with senses, especially with materials and water. No matter in the case with Casa Monterrey in Mexico, or with Water Temple in Japan. The fact that the concrete house is directly touched by water body in the backyard or swimming pool, as well as the intimate proximity between water body with nature in Water temple, interacting with air, earth, nature, and human. By looking at the site picture, its not hard for someone to hear the sound of the nature and water flowing as spring breeze gently past by- these successful atmosphere are all results of the careful placement of soundings and detailed planning of use of space and combination palette of material and color, delivered it to our brain through our senses. Material potential for atmosphere creating were pushed to the extreme through Tadao Ando’s design and interior planning in his Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum. Large areas covered by densely places wood extends all the way throughout, added to the weight of materials and sense of timeless and presence of the material-wood, full walls of straight and curved glass were used together creating a natural and not disturbing place for the presentation of the writer’s works and exhibitions, matched the writer’s widely-known passion for walk and reflect, as well as peaceful space for readers, learners, and meditators. The urge of feel and the ability to touch and reach physically in this case is the showcase of comfortable material compatibility in a harmony, consistent body of architecture.
- 5 - Summary/ Conclusion
Zumthor wrote on his book, that he defines quality architecture as “when a building manages to move me.” Then he drew this ingeniously comparison and connection between “atmosphere of the building when he first be in the space” and “the first impression of a person”. I see color is one way that gives the most spontaneous visual hint; Together with light, memory, sound, touch, temperature, humidity, material, texture, movement, distance with surrounding, proximity and site environment, occupants, even occupant’s objects and smell, etc..just almost everything about the building and the interior space put together, is the whole package that contributed to forming of the “first impression”, which is to my understanding, the atmosphere and sensual experience that visitors get from the architectural space. How can a space moves us? Through our senses, it stimulates and influences our brain and psychology. How to engage human senses and make space sensual? It is more than architectural environments or relationship with surrounding objects. “an architecture of the seven senses”(Holl, Steven), sounds like a very subjective, but after this research and readings I realized that it can also be very objective and rational. “One of the attributes of art, throughout all time and space, is undoubtedly it capacity to move us.”, César Portela Fdez-Jardón also wrote in Spanish.(translated, 15, Emotion and Reason in Architecture). In my country in Asia, Lao Tse once said ”Architecture is not four walls and a roof. It is also, and above all, the air that reminds within, the space that they enclose.” How does a space move you? What are the things that you look at or feel when yo first step in a space? How do you feel, sense, and reason at the same time? Do you appreciate the experience or the narrative?
1. Pallasmaa, Juhani, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, West Sussex, UK:Wiley Publication
2. Atmospheres: Peter Zumthor, architectural envoronments, relationship with surrounding objects
3. Holl, Steven. Questions of perception : phenomenology of architecture; San Francisco, CA : William Stout, 2006.
4. Portela, César, Emotion and Reason in Architecture, Spain: LOFT Publications, 2012.
5. Cuttle, Christopher, Lighting by Design, Oxford: Elsevier Architectural Press, 2008.
6. Cosmos of light : the sacred architecture of Le Corbusier, Plummer, Henry
7. Redford, Antony; Morkoç, Selen; Srivastava, Amit; The Elements of Modern Architecture, Understanding Contemporary Buildings; London: Thames & Hudson, 2014
8. Wong, Wucius. Principles of Color Design‐2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996. NK1548 .W66 1997
9. Albers, Josef. Interaction of Color. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963. ND1489 .A4 2009
10. Birren, Faber. Creative Color, A dynamic approach for artists and designers . Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd,
1987. ND1488 .B5 1987
11. Finlay, Victoria. Color: a natural history of the palette. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. ND1488 .F56 2002
12. Miller, Mary C. Color for Interior Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997. QC495 .M47 1997
13. Egan, M. David; Olgyay, Victor; Architectural Lighting, NY: McGraw-Hill
14. Arthur, Paul; Passini, Romedi; Wayfinding: people, signs, and architecture. NY: McGraw-Hill Ryerson
15. Buether, Axel, COLOUR, Design principles, Planning Strategies, Visual Communication, University of Wuppertal, Germany:August 20, 2014
16. Tadao Ando, Azuma House, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka; Ando, Tadao.
17. Light and Water; Ando, Tadao
18. Tadao Ando at Naoshima: Art, Architecture, Nature; Jodidio, Philip.