So I’m taking a medieval architecture course this spring, but it’s a bit atypical. Instead of breaking down formal architectural progression throughout the middle ages: Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic etc etc, the professor is more interested in waxing philosophical on the experience and use of space. Such a notion encompasses many aspects of our lives that we don’t normally think about: why do we organize the space the way we do? We, as humans, tend to use space to create order out of cosmic chaos, structure out of disarray. We’ve been reading, not art history, but sociology, anthropology and archaeology. We just finished a book called The Social Logic of Space, by Bill Hillier and Julienne Hanson. The goal of their text is the application of a workable theory in order to understand 2 primary schema: the social logic of space, and the spatial logic of society. They argue that our organization of space, both interior and exterior, is not random, but follows a set of (admittedly bendable) rules. It’s possibly the most complicated way you can investigate simple concepts such as, where is the door, and why is it there and not there? Why is a neighborhood organized the way it is? How does your ability, or hindrance, of access inform your status within your culture? It’s a dense. ass. text, but it’s one of those books that I plan to keep and re-read on occasion, because I’m convinced I’ll get more out of it each time I peruse its pages.
Hillier and Hanson mention another notable figure in anthropology, Victor Turner, and his book The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. His approach is more concerned with a given culture and its design and practice of interpersonal connections, how things like rites of passage and ritual affect these social structures. Our professor assigned this to get us thinking how this theory might inform and influence spatial design choices. The concept of ritual also permeates many aspects of our lives, from profound religious practice, to the more mundane….. like getting ready for a date! Yes, I was in fact performing the latter ritual when the implications of the practice struck me. For me, it’s a simultaneous soothing and exciting preparatory act. It’s when I indulge in a longer, more luxurious shower. I’ll devote the extra time to consider the impression I wish to make via my appearance. What will I wear; what kind of …..image? do I wish to project? I take extra care with my makeup (a full 10 minutes instead of my rushed 5). I use my ‘special’ perfume. I take that extra minute in the mirror, choosing my jewelry.
It seems like a ‘duh’ proclamation, but have you ever asked yourself why you have certain routines? Why you do the things you do? How much are you influenced by outside factors? Go on, complicate it! I find that it’s a thought process that, surprisingly, functions much like self-discovery. And the cool thing about that, is it can eventually provide a window to your inner core, or you aura, or you soul, whatever you wanna call it. It can be upsetting, no one’s infallible, but it can be very helpful and rewarding. It’s not an easy process, don’t get me wrong. When I jump down that rabbit hole I usually find myself with a tissue clutched in one hand, and my biffl on speed dial should things get too intense. To seriously ponder why you make certain choices can help you define which choices are caustic to your physical and mental health, to your happiness. At the end of the day, I try to force myself through the arduous practice because I, like most people I would wager, just want to be happy. And a big chunk of being happy, is loving your gifts and accepting your faults.
Current Jam: “99 Problems” Jay-Z