Architecture Monday

A slightly different post this week.

As I was learning Buddhist philosophy many moons ago, my instructor posed us a question / parable / inquiry that I found fascinating. She said, “What makes a cup, a cup? That is, what makes a cup uniquely a cup that instead of, say, a plate.” She paused. “It is the space. The space within the cup. That space within the cup is what allows it to hold liquid and you to drink from it. The space is the thing.”

After giving us a moment to ponder that, she continued, “But without the cup, the space doesn’t exist. That which makes a cup cannot exist without a cup.”

It was a great thing to chew on, mentally and spiritually, and it was very moving for me when I realized it very readily applied to architecture.

The thing that makes architecture so resplendent is the space… to inhabit that space, to experience that space, to explore that space. It is space shaped by, contained within, and framed by a structure.

Without the structure, the space does not exist.

Without the space, the structure has no form.

 It’s a chicken and egg type situation – what comes first? What shapes which? What is designed first?

The answer is, quite rightfully, that there is no answer. Both kinda happen first, or maybe they happen simultaneously, or cyclically back and forth.

And beyond design, it is in the experience as well. What do you feel first, the space, or the container? Or both?

When we’re considering architecture, it is not one or the other, and it does not do us well to focus on only one element or another, be it structure, material, light, or the volumetrics. It is how they all interplay that is what can make a space sing, or, conversely, sink it.

It is a beautiful inquiry into the ethereal and wonderful qualities of architecture and why it can influence us so.