The Architectural Experience of Community Spaces

Just as people may affect places, places can also affect people. Places influence people both because of their physical structure and also on a subconscious level, engaging a deeper connection that the place can create with one's soul. Some personify these connections created as the energy of the space.

The energy of a place affects how we experience the place as well as how we represent it. A sense of place identity derives from the multiple ways in which place functions to provide a sense of belonging, construct meaning, foster attachments, and mediate change. The place identity of a person can inform their experiences, behaviors, and attitudes about other places. The concept of place identity was introduced by environmental and social psychologists which defined a place identity as a substructure of a person’s self-identity, and consists of knowledge and feelings developed through everyday experiences of physical spaces. Identities and affiliations shift as places gain or lose particular meanings. The ways in which place and identity intertwine both confuse and allow us to make sense of the worlds we inhabit.

The distinctive aspects of a place, which we witness with all our senses, is what brings out the energy of a place. Our senses help shape a fragmented or rather clear memory of the space we experienced. As Peter Zumthor says, a space can imprint its memory indelibly on one's mind. The atmosphere of the room can become insolubly linked to the purpose of the room. Every single detail within a room  is part of the atmosphere created and these details become memories attached to these spaces. Zumthor said, “Memories like this contain the deepest architectural experience that I know. They are the reservoirs of the architectural atmospheres and images that I explore in my work as an architect.”

There are various ways how a space can imprint a memory through the senses, such as the use of materials. For instance using particular materials which have a meaning within the specific architectural context of the space can throw new light on the material's inherent sensuous qualities. Heidegger says, “Man's relation to locations, and through locations to spaces, inheres in his dwelling.” The reality of architecture is the concrete body in which forms, volumes, and spaces come into being.

Being concerned with creating a space is vital, no matter how small it is. That space in a tiny part of the infinity that surrounds the earth, every building marks a unique place in this infinite world. The way we create spaces for people matters since the design of these spaces affects the conscious agent. Architects have the capacity to design dwellings that inform our inner world. When you walk into a room and you start feeling better but you don't quite know why and then you realize; the lighting, the shapes, the lines, the shadows, everything about how the designer installed mind and intention into a physical form is able to move you.

Ferrier from a French architecture firm suggests that, “The idea is no longer to focus solely on technical potential, but instead to put people back at the heart of architecture and urban planning”. In establishing our relationship to the city, it is necessary to find a mobility to give a fresh point of view through movement, dynamic perception of volume and space as such, sharpens our visual sense. We need to take the senses seriously. Addressing the aspect of spatial experience that we find has been ignored in the climate of contemporary city planning. In a city people are restricted to conventional flow currents that inhibit them from tapping into a more sensitive state. Every building is built for a specific use in a specific place and for a specific society. In a day and age where constant productivity is expected, leisure in its conventional form is greatly valued but few have the time for it so why shouldn’t the city, in particular community spaces, evoke a new kind of leisure through the spatial experience that we get through a multi sensory journey. This idea is no romantic indulgence, as written in A Theory of the Human Environment Eugene Victor Walter; “A place has no feelings apart from humane experience there. A place is a location of experience.”

The idea is to immerse ourselves in spaces within the city in order to absorb its atmosphere, its images and its stories. Being Baudelaire’s flâneur, the idle man of leisure and urban lounging of the modern experience. Those urban atmospheres are then translated into graphic and narrative form, giving shape to a sequence of social landscapes that brings character to particular areas of the city.

Image from: "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" Exhibition Catalog, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972. P242