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Spatial Indeterminacy: Destabilization of Dichotomies in Modern and Contemporary Architecture

Authors: Adrian Lo


Since the advent of modern architecture, notions of free plan and transparency have proliferated well into current trends. The movement’s notion of a spatially homogeneous, open and limitless ‘free plan’ contrasts with the spatially heterogeneous ‘series of rooms’ defined by load bearing walls, which in turn triggered new notions of transparency created by vast expanses of glazed walls. Similarly, transparency was also dichotomized as something that was physical or optical, as well as something conceptual, akin to spatial organization. As opposed to merely accepting the duality and possible incompatibility of these dichotomies, this paper seeks to ask how can space be both literally and phenomenally transparent, as well as exhibit both homogeneous and heterogeneous qualities? This paper explores this potential destabilization or blurring of spatial phenomena by dissecting the transparent layers and volumes of a series of selected case studies to investigate how different architects have devised strategies of spatial ambiguity and interpenetration. Projects by Peter Eisenman, Sou Fujimoto, and SANAA will be discussed and analyzed to show how the superimposition of geometries and spaces achieve different conditions of layering, transparency, and interstitiality. Their particular buildings will be explored to reveal various innovative kinds of spatial interpenetration produced through the articulate relations of the elements of architecture, which challenge conventional perceptions of interior and exterior whereby visual homogeneity blurs with spatial heterogeneity. The results show how spatial conceptions such as interpenetration and transparency have the ability to subvert not only inside-outside dialectics, but could also produce multiple degrees of interiority within complex and indeterminate spatial dimensions in constant flux as well as present alternative forms of social interaction.

Keywords: interpenetration, literal and phenomenal transparency, spatial heterogeneity, visual homogeneity

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