Spaciousness and Crowding (part 2)

The definition for Spaciousness is given in music and economy. For music: “Spaciousness or spatial impression is a term that was introduced in the 1970s to refer to a listener’s feeling of being enveloped in the music. Much research on this concept has occurred in the past three decades, and now two aspects of spaciousness have been identified: Auditory Source Width (ASW) and Listener Envelopment (LE). ASW describes how large and wide the sound source appears to the listener. Listener envelopment, meanwhile, addresses how the listener feels surrounded by the music, rather than listening to it as if through a window”.
Conventionally, it is agreed that music envelopment is caused by lateral sound energy in rooms. The paradox, small rooms usually have many lateral reflections but they are not spacious. It brings us to the problem of size.

Spaciousness describes the place itself, its extent, its width, but it means more than size. Size it’s only one of its characteristics. The interesting issue about spaciousness is that there is no qualitative judgement connected to the size. A small open space maybe is very good for a Chinese, and pretty bad for an American. The qualification can be a cultural matter, a personal feeling, or a professional appreciation. So, size is considered in its capability to accommodate certain programmes, occupants, furniture. Size is not related only to a room; the concept can be applied to topography, walkable distances, vegetation, that lead to the sense of openness.
As I said in part 1 of Spaciousness and Crowding, openness can be felt in the city’s streets. Again, it depends on the person. “Sense of openness, though connected to size, reflects this manipulation by providing a more sensual, qualitative measure for the spatial success of open urban space. It relates to the occupation and function of the space as well as to its position in the urban grid and its connectivity. Integration into inter-connecting urban routes enhances the significance of individual open space within any urban network. To be able to walk continuously onwards from an open urban space extends the space beyond itself and into a very fine and slow layer of inner city movement. The potential for such movement encourages occupation and occupants as well as shaping the form and layout of open urban space. It also introduces change and renewal to the space, therewith offering a particular persistent visual stimulation. Stimuli can be drawn from a variety of sources, such as occupancy (events, activity, movement, etc) but they are mostly strongly linked to the natural environment…….Visual stimulation refers back to spaciousness, as a visually stimulating space is more likely to be judged as appropriately sized”. (André Viljoen, Katrin Bohn, p. 109-110)

Spaciousness and crowding for Jewish prisoners in the Holocaust. From
Spaciousness and crowding in slaves ship. From
The terrible slaves spaciousness and crowding in ships.
Virginia Indians seated around a fire. By Bernard Picart after Theodore de Bry. Engraved book page, 1721. They generate their spatiality with the fire, in open spaciousness. From
The geographer Yi-Fu Tuan indicates that freedom is associated with spaciousness, and he exemplifies with an infant and a prisoner. Both of them are unfree, their movements are restricted, same for an old person. The first measurement would be based on our stretched arms, but the distance is increased when the person shoots an arrow or throws a stone. The body can feel both measures. Vehicles also enlarge the sense of space.
Movement is also part of spaciousness and in theory, it is acquired step by step. A pedestrian learns how to ride a bicycle, then to drive a car, then he could become a pilot and greater distances are overcome. Tuan notes that when the transportation is a passive experience, the conquest of space can mean its diminishment. His example is very clear: a person crossing a continent in an airplane, in a few hours, cannot experience the speed and space is probably less vivid than that of a motorcyclist roaring down in a freeway. And movement is also restricted in our life. The Sphinx of Oedipus’ legend knew it very well: What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening? Oedipus was lucky to solve the riddle and save his life; nevertheless, he had bad consequences on doing this…..

Cellular network city, by Jinqi Huang. 2006-2008
The last planning tendencies propose initiatives for healthy livings, in a car-less urban environment, combined with high density living in big open green spaces. Obviously, it will affect humans’ spaciousness. And I’m not saying for good or bad, it’ll be simply different. Careful reflections should be needed for underground developments. Many utopian projects are seen published everywhere, with people living underground, light coming from huge skylights in an effort to improve the environment –trying to keep it “untouched”-. Basically, these projects have organic beautiful morphologies that seem to mimic the landscape, usually the focus is on the form, not on inhabitants’ spaciousness.

Editor Andre Viljoen. CPULs. Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes. P. 109-110 Oxford, Great Britain. 2005

Yi-Fu Tuan. Space and Place. The perspective of experience. Chapter 5. University of Minnesota Press. 2007

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