Monday, March 20, 2006

[Go With The] Flow

More thoughts on the architecture of community…

One of the key roles of the architect is to give a lead to the flow of people through a space, or series of connected spaces - which is not really the same as attempting to control how they use the space/s; for, to the extent that control happens, a much wider cultural grid is responsible. Rather than controlling users, it is about giving clues and cues to enable them to navigate the space for themselves.

The flow through a series of spaces tends to move us from outside to inside (and back again), and from public to private space (and back again). At each step, clues (windows into another space; fixtures and furniture) and cues (doors; corridors; light, and colour) enable the psychological and social transition from one space to another. This may begin with the transition from general space (the street) to specific space (steps to the entrance of an art gallery; the car-park of a stadium; the garden, or driveway, of a private home; the ginnel in a row of terraces). Next we navigate the transition from outside to inside: a door Рautomatic or revolving glass doors, inviting the general public into a business or cultural space; closed, locked, restricting access to a select group, determined by ownership or invitation Рleads into a reception area, foyer, or hallway; driveway leads into double-garage, into utility room, into house (or, directly onto the living room in The Simpsons). This thresh-hold can be deconstructed (café tables encroach on the pavement; a water-feature straddles forecourt and vestibule); but this is done to ease, rather than undermine, the transitional flow.

Consider a space for living in. The flow might take you through:
Transitional spaces: garage, porch, hall, stairs, conservatory (linking the house to a private garden space); some simply for passing-through; others taking-on their own social dimension…
Social spaces: living/dining rooms, used for entertaining visitors, in different or possibly combined ways, including viewing and eating; possibly other rooms of similar use but more private (snug, den)…
Creative spaces: kitchen, studio, library; may connect to social spaces (kitchen-dining); a kitchen may be private and/or purely functional, or the heart of social dynamics within the building…
Purifying spaces: bathrooms, toilets, rest-rooms; private spaces for intimate cleansing functions/rituals; may be public-access or restricted access; may well be used with less volume/frequency than other spaces, but remains essential nonetheless…
Re-creative spaces: bedrooms, private spaces for intimate activities; sleeping, whether with another or alone, is a vulnerable activity – and, conversely, a healing/restoring activity; both sexual intercourse and dreaming are intimate, potentially creative, activities…

Not every living space includes all of these rooms; while others not listed (this is not an exhaustive or even idealised list) may be included. However, community itself is made up of combinations of transitional/social/creative/purifying/re-creative spaces. (Note that while public buildings have a different dynamic to private ones, they still exhibit their own transitional/social/creative/purifying/re-creative spaces.) Moreover, these spaces occupy part of a spectrum of outside-inside, and public-private, movement. With both physical living spaces and community-as-living-space, the particular configuration of these component spaces speaks volumes about the social context in which they were designed and built…

So:
To what extent is church about creating alternative community? And, to that extent, what spaces are present, and how are they connected? What clues and cues are present, to help people navigate the space? What spaces are absent or poorly used? Why, and, what might be done?

And:

To what extent is church about pointing to God within the structures of the wider community in which we find ourselves – and, in so doing, playing a role in the transformation of those communities? To that extent, what spaces are present, and how are they connected? What clues and cues are present, or can be proposed, to help people navigate the space? What spaces are absent or poorly used? Why, and, what might be done?

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