Diploma Unit Two. Architectural Association School of Architecture

Tools for Architecture is a research unit based at the Architectural Association in London formed by a team of MArch AA Diploma students and lead by Space Popular directors Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg.

Describing the Complexly Ordered Spaces

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“Order alone is monotony.” “Complexity alone is chaos.” as Hildebrand states. In order to get the best out of it, a great combination must be obtained: a complexly ordered space.1As humans, we have an extremely powerful need for regularity. As the way our own body is structured symmetrically, we constantly have a desire to seek out for order in architecture since we see the human body as the space itself.2 There is one common element which all human beings want to experience throughout their lives; pleasure. Thus, we believe pleasure can be obtained through regularity, symmetry, proportion and harmony. However, one important element in this desperate search for pleasure is constantly missed out. And this lies between the duality of comfort and discomfort. In order to fulfil our desire and need for order, we have to be exposed to its opponent. Unless discomfort is experienced through our perceptual and kinaesthetic sensations, pleasure will never be obtained.



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By creating a static atmosphere, I wanted to show interchangeable experiences caused by the high contrast between chaos and fear vs. relief. The scene aims to portray these concepts by opposing architectural elements such as abstraction, featurelessness, large scales, darker tones and cold colors to more recognizable ornamental structures, smaller sizes, brighter atmospheres and warmer colors. As humans move in the space through the columns, they would first feel uncomfortable through the dark, fearful and mystical atmosphere. But as soon as their eye catches the element of recognition, which in this case is the ornamented door that leads out to a burning red room, they get a moment of relief, providing them with the comfort they were seeking for. As Gombrich states, “Man is man’s greatest joy.” Therefore, since the human brain recognizes faces and bodies the best, they associate architectural ornamental elements such as doors with their own structural forms. Thus these elements become a source of pleasure.



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The human body is the original source of experiencing space.3 Having an organically structured body forces the human mind to sense empathy towards natural forms. Thus the contrast between an artificially built environment versus the natural space leads the human mind to experience discomfort through moments of comfort, which leads you to understand what pleasure actually is. Gombrich refers to this experiential contrast by stating that ‘orderings are presumed and hypothesised until disconfirmed by later experiences’4. The human perception provides us this duality with the spatial experience through sensations.


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I kept playing with the expression of the duality by matching elements that cause the particular experiences in various ways. This scene demonstrates how in an extreme non-organic, continuous and artificial space, one could slowly detect the recognized element through the blurriness, and have a desire to reach that point which seems more organic, as they could associate with their own body in a better way. In addition, the high contrast of the dark, metallic and concrete structure of the interior vs. the bright, calming, soft sky and its reflection on the water creates moments of relief at some particular points in the space.



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As much as darkness creates a fear of the unknown by playing around with the human perception of possible or imagined dangers, pure whiteness could also succeed in this in a very strong way. What if you are left all alone in a whole white space, with one color palette and extreme brightness that creates an infinite plane? This would start intimidating most human beings by causing them to experience a strong fear of abstraction such as the silence between musical notes. However, this could also be seen as a powerful tool to help the human eye focus on other important design elements. When the space provides you with even one small element of recognition, your eye would immediately catch that and provide you with an inner relief, allowing you to challenge yourself to pass the obstacles, which cause displeasure, and help you reach the point of relief.


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In this particular scene, I tried to swap the elements I initially used to create both comfort and discomfort. This scene portrays that it’s not necessarily darkness that causes humans to experience displeasure, but also pure whiteness and overlapping of these white elements could also create an overwhelming atmosphere through the abstract perception. As it gets darker towards the back, your eye follows this tone change and catches the ornamented spiral staircase, which acts as the element of recognition.