Spatial Transparency

Light, Layering and Porosity in Architecture

What follows is an outline of a book project in the process of completion. The book explores distinct ways for assessing natural and cultural spatial configurations, which are also linked to the author’s worldview in relation to architecture.

 This book analyzes the phenomenon of visual connectivity through intermediate spaces containing transparency, layering and/or porosity. It explains some of the foundations that regulate this occurrence, and, using historical and contemporary examples, catalogs a few of the most common and recurring architectural configurations that manifest these characteristics.

 If among the various connotations of the word transparency we consider its etymological derivation, meaning the capacity to see through an agent, then, looking through building assemblies involves some form of transparency as well. Arriving at this early conclusion cannot be extemporaneous; there are particularities about transparency that make the notions ingrained in this term a complex topic of discussion.

 Although transparency is a concept largely associated with the modern movement, the use of glazed components, and twentieth century architectural discourse, this book explores a different form of transparency: a property referred to as spatial transparency, which takes place through the interstitial fabric of a structure. Spatial transparency is a perceptual quality that occurs when several consecutive spaces are visually connected. To the question: what makes architectural space transparent? The most frequent responses would point to the presence of glass assemblies on exterior enclosures. In architectural ensembles, however, transparency can be related to the ability of making visual connections through openings whether glass is present or not. In architecture it is a condition that takes place through the voids of buildings and is often manifested in layered and/or porous organizations where interstitial light is present.

 Spatial transparency is not tied to a particular architectural style; it also exists in nature and landscape and can be manifested in a great variety of expressions. Environments containing manifestations of spatial transparency tend to be alluring because they favor spatial variety, spatial continuity and graded sequential disclosures. These environments invite active participation, not as one-way communication but as a series of visual and experiential exchanges, interdependencies, and relationships. Configurations expressing spatial transparency potentially afford alternative ways for organizing living space, which in turn may help escaping the pitfalls of oversimplification and the organizational monologues that plague our contemporary spatial arts.

 We are creatures of space. The concept of spatial transparency involves fundamental aspects on the nature of spatial connectivity, light, and permeability. Connections and transitions between interior-exterior, exterior-interior, and interior-interior realms are essential components of this concept; they invite us to re-evaluate spatiality from the vantage point of linked and interdependent domains.