space…can’t live without it, can’t make it


Warning…architectural speak coming. Last Friday we took our first year students out of studio to draw conditions where there was overlapping spatial conditions and complex background/foreground interactions. Each of the five studios went to a different building on campus. We were assigned the Gates/Hillman Center; more specifically the center helix. I haven’t made up my mind about it so I’ll delay any opinion about the building except to say I definitely like the idea of it and I like parts of it. I’ll commit to that.


No, I don’t have their drawings to share, but I took a few (poorly done) photos of spaces with my phone to share. I started my own drawing so I could experience the same assignment, but I haven’t finished it since I spent my time interacting with my students.


Space is important to architects. We talk about it in simple ways. We talk about it in complex ways. The funny thing is we really don’t create it, we just define it, envelope it and surround it. So one of the best things about architecture is the very thing we don’t even create. Yet, how we interact with it, understand it, perceive it and move through it is extremely important. Enjoy the photos, and if you make it to campus, give me a call and I’ll show you this space.














space…can’t live without it, can’t make it

8 thoughts on “space…can’t live without it, can’t make it

  1. The only word that comes to mind about this building is “busy”. I’m not generally a fan of large buildings designed with so much going on in the structure, fenestration and finish. There’s just too much to try and take it that it makes the entire composition distracting for me. Of course this could just be due to the photographers perspective. 😛

    1. This is the general tone of the inner helix; a main circulation element. However, the building breaks down into classroom and offices with secondary circulation elements where it calms down. The architect’s photos are better than mine, but it’s not your usual university building.

      1. I’m definitely noticing a trend in most universities to build very iconic new structures for their various departments. Even smaller universities like University of North Florida. They completed a LEED Silver Student Center 3 years ago. Very High Modern design. Emory University in Atlanta has several buildings by signature architects as well. Same with Univ. of Arkansas….the list goes on and on. 🙂

  2. William J. Mello Jr. AIA Emeritis says:

    We know that space is perceived as we travel though it an can not be captured in a lens. why do we try to explain it in a static format. I attended a symposium related to “numinous space” the major international participates all seemed to display their thoughts in static terms, along with missing the other senses that add to the construction of space.

    1. William, that’s a great thought. Did you think I was trying to capture or describe space in static terms? Or did you interpret my students’ exercise as trying to do that? What would you suggest? It might be a good conversation or exercise.

      1. William J. Mello Jr. AIA Emeritis says:

        “Did you think I was trying to capture or describe space in static terms?”
        No! I thought that you were describing the complexity of the space.

        “Or did you interpret my students’ exercise as trying to do that?”

        “What would you suggest?”
        1. An exercise in sculpture.
        The creation of positive (exterior) space by the creation of negative (interior) space.
        The Architectural Design implication:
        Does the positive space of the functional ( interior) space create a negative space of the related resultant positive space?
        A cup and a saucer would make a good model.
        2. A discussion of acoustical effect on expanding/contracting space, such as footfalls on different materials. Yes soft and hard soled footwear change as the dress culture changes.
        3. Any discussions of any of the senses effects on space.
        4. A discussion on the presentation of any conclusions derives from the above.

      2. Simply put, the purpose of the exercise was to use the space for a drawing to show overlapping spaces and surfaces that recede from one’s line of site. The other studios used other sites on campus. Our intentions were probably different than your description, even though your suggestions are relevant to architecture students.

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