Appreciation of Unseen Existing Spaces

This philosophy made people feel safe in those spaces. Greek architectural and urban solutions were a response to the spatial characteristics, deriving from the narrative of spaces and the gods who dwelled therein. Only in this way were the spatial solutions an inherent part of the Greek space, since they were rooted in it and overbuilt it. Architectural and urban forms and compositions were explaining the space and thus making it more visible. They became the materialised presence of spatial potentials.

In ancient Rome, the insight into space changed radically. Roman castra, military camps assumed the missionary role of conquering new worlds. Invaders protected the genius of their capital city of Rome. Wherever they went, they brought it with them and engraved it into the newly conquered spaces. As it was the topos / locus method of argument construction in ancient Greek rhetoric, in the same way a transmission of genius loci was a Roman rhetorical argument or a transmission method of Roman ideology into conquered, invaded spaces. Roman attitude towards space had no longer required gods who would identify with it. Invaders set matrices Romae quadratae sovereignly, self-confidently and uncompromisingly wherever they were victorious. They connected them into a unified network of centuriation, which was spread throughout the whole Empire, beginning in Caput Mundi. Civis romanus, a resident of the Roman Empire, was identified with the ideology of his invasive city.

While personified gods helped the ancient Greeks to manage space, the ancient Romans mastered their Empire with military power and supremacy. Before the lands beyond the Empire were conquered, they were seen as hostile environments that threatened the Empire and its goals; therefore it was necessary to master them, to decisively exert an influence upon them and to have power over them. In such a relationship, the conquered spaces became a subject of possession, and had been subordinated to a central (bureaucratic) ideological model. Within the model their identity was no longer allowed to-be. (comp. Das-Sein, Heidegger).

Greek and Roman attitudes towards space are two completely different principles of spatial mastery, and they represent the foundation of the dichotomy in architectural, urban and landscape design and planning, predominantly in Western European culture, although today this dimension is already global.

Medieval pragmatism and rational utilisation of land and other natural resources dictated the recognition and respect for topographical features. Moreover, space and nature were understood to be God’s work, and therefore an absolute truth (comp. Chartres school, 12th century), to which spatial design was subordinate.

The dichotomy of attitude towards space initially captured the Renaissance. On the one hand, humanism set the Renaissance man in the centre of the universe according to the analogy of Earth’s central position in the universe, which was applied from the time of Ptolemaios until Copernicus.

Focusing on space as a starting-point of proportional harmony of space, the Renaissance man edged closer to a God-like position. This was (probably) a magnificent feeling of self-awareness within the space. All of the important Renaissance architectural, urban (ideal cities) and landscape solutions are a reflection of this focussing and proportional harmony. Perfect harmony govern in compositions of the high Renaissance. A golden ratio represents the most perfect proportion, and a circle is the ideal figure.

Planning of the divine ideal in the form of a circle had alienated the Renaissance ideal cities from spaces where they should be placed. An idea that it is possible to create a perfect architectural, urban and landscape composition according to ancient models was accepted. But the Renaissance had first rested on Roman sources, as the remains of the Roman Empire were practically lying under the feet of the architects / artists. Ancient models were understood in the form of perfect geometry and proportions, whereas the ancient Greek attitude towards space was usually not considered.

While the Renaissance flourished in Italy, the other side of the dichotomy of attitude towards space was expressed in the design of American colonies. The plans for colonial cities were drawn by European bureaucrats, who were detached from the real spaces of the colonies that they had never seen or experienced. In The Americas there was no tendency towards building ideal cities with a narrative of the divine focussing on space. The profitable conquering of territories was of the highest priority. Of course, in hindsight the Roman model could well have suited such goals.

With the discovery of new worlds on Earth new truths about the universe were discovered. So far, the focus on the universe and man’s place within it had provided a sense of security, which was dramatically lost after the Earth slipped away from the central position into Copernicus’s circumference and, later, into Kepler’s ellipse. Earth had become just one of many planets of the solar system. Giordano Bruno had assumed that the universe is infinite and that there are many worlds (galaxies). Sudden dramatic forms in architecture and other arts, first in Mannerism and then in the Baroque period, demonstrate the drama of these cognitions. Edge exclusion of the Earth on the elliptical path around the sun had radically shaken the sense of security in space. Baroque monarchs tried to restore the sense of security with strong integration of their mansions in the wider landscape space, so that they put them in axes, attached to infinity. Once again the consciousness of world structure has influenced spatial design.

Roman centuriation rarely takes topography into consideration, only when it is technologically unavoidable. Therefore, the orthogonal network of centuriation practically transcends the spatial characteristics and, if necessary and technologically possible, cuts into topography without compromise. Renaissance solutions of gardens and ideal cities, as well as huge baroque spatial compositions, often transcend the local spatial characteristics in favour of universal considerations.
It seems that space, with its own characteristics and narrative, is always ignored when power in the form of any political or individual ideology is exerted over it.

The industrial revolution deepened the rationalism of Enlightenment and alienation from spatial characteristics. Architectural and urban solutions of the Modern period (with the exception of some works by authors and speakers in favour of organic architecture: A Aalto, F.L.Wright, E. Saarinen, etc.) consequently float in space above nature: e. g. Le Corbusier’s cities, La Ville Radieuse and La Ville Contemporaine, are ideally placed even on pilots, together with roads, which run on the mezzanine level. Nature, over which the city floats, has become a recreational facility and simultaneously an object of romantic admiration. It has become something in the distance from the urban, even though it was in fact so close to it. Nature and space/matter/energy/time has fallen into several functional units, and therefore architectural and urban spaces, as well. The best architectural and urban spatial solutions of the Modern period have been created by means of individual genius architects, who responded to the spatial characteristics during the design process, even though perhaps only intuitively.

In the second half of the 20th century the exponential growth of world population and accelerated deagrarisation required rapid and large-scale construction. Postmodernism sought to find a solution amidst the crisis, which was caused in space by expansive construction of the late Modern period. As earlier Renaissance and Classicism, the Postmodernism relied on ancient starting-points seeking architectural and urban solutions in ancient forms. Although key postmodern authors discussed the context and identity, the ancient Greek understanding of space was generally overlooked. Postmodern architecture has changed many times in the retrograde trumpery, because of which Postmodernism has actually lost credibility.

The present day world, in the grip of global economic crises, demands a renewed evaluation of attitudes towards space by all available means.

Self-similarity of space (résumé)
Based on the assumption that space is not an empty void, but has its own characteristics, these being prior characteristics, given in advance and existing even without matter, and that matter influences them in the same way as spatial characteristics exert an influence on matter, that one of the key spatial characteristics is the fourth dimension, and that precisely this spatial feature is the very one that is maintained and creates the self-similarity of space, while everything else changes, then the space is a non-Euclidean system, which in architectural, urban and landscape design and planning is not always visible. It is unnoticed and overridden when any of the paradigms of architectural, urban or landscape design arises as a consequence of ideological power. Because of this, the urgent need for mutual balance between man, society, nature and space/matter/energy/time is disrespected and disregarded. When one entity overrides the other, the balance is ruined. Then, space slips into crisis.

All we need to do is to listen to the space once more – feel it, see it, identify with its characteristics, allow them to be, respect them, and then build forms with a contemporary architectural language that is a narrative of these re-cognitions and is enabling the survival of nature and society in the meantime.

doc. dr. Tatjana Capuder Vidmar, univ. dipl. ing. arch.
University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Landscape Architecture

1 Scott, A., Ben-Joseph, E., ReNewTown, Routledge, 2012, p.2
2 Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known / Svoboda je onkraj znanega, p.17
3 Krishnamurti, idem
4 Gleick, J., Chaos, p.105, 111, 289
5 Rucker, R., The Fourth Dimension, p. 59
6 Rucker, idem, p.77
7 Rucker, idem, p.83
8 Schulz, Ch. N., Meaning in Western Architecture