After Universal Space
After Universal Space _ Douglas Murphy
In a period of pluralism in global architecture, where boundaries between methodologies are becoming increasingly irrelevant, where formal experimentation is easier than ever to achieve, and the proliferation of online media means that access to architecture and architectural imagery is easier than at any time before, the 20th century investigations into “universal space” of Mies van der Rohe, once thought to be the very endpoint of reductionism in architecture, are now frequently being used as a basis for more complex and articulated buildings.
What was once a statement about the spatial promises of modernity, in many respects fulfilled by the adaptation to the demands of capitalist space, can now be approached by contemporary architects as a toolkit for more free-form and eclectic tectonic investigations. The almost-linear development of “universal space” through the 20th century, where structure and envelope gradually dematerialised until one could begin to discern the ideal of a totally abstract interior, free from load and completely indeterminate, can now be adapted to create more convoluted interpenetrations of space. Informed by intervening decades of formal exuberance and luxury minimalism, these new versions of “universal space” are more indicative of the digital 21st century.
Learning from Spaces _ Aldo Vanini
Where for adults, perceptions of a built space can be responsible mainly for certain momentary mental states, in the case of children such perceptions can contribute in a fundamental way to the formation of their mental structures. For that reason, spaces specially designed for children are true educational mechanisms, and to invest in their architectural beauty and functionality is to invest in the future intelligence of humankind.
Awareness is now growing that educational spaces go beyond classrooms, and that liberal creative and physical activities contribute to the individual’s education at least as much as does traditional learning. Recent studies in neuroscience not only empirically confirm this awareness, but provide tools for objective definitions of spaces better able to maximize children’s wellbeing and intellectual growth.
Even at that, a concern remains as to how well young people raised in environments thus well adapted to their education will be able to cope with the increasing sloppiness of contemporary urban environments. A great creative effort is therefore called for to imagine a new range of building types that observe the same criteria for cultural stimuli applied in the most advanced forms of architecture for children.