Architecture is a way to create a physical version of an idea or a feeling. It is the way to construct reality as we wish it to be, rather than as it is.

Deyan Sudjic


“If I had to represent man ‘as he is,’ I should have required so bewildering a tangle of lines that a pure treatment of the element would have been out of the question; there would only have been an unrecognizable blur. Besides, I have no desire to show this man as he is, but only as he might be.”

Paul Klee


The basic ingredient of architectural design consists of two elements: mass and space. Interestingly, I would suggest this is the basic ingredient of social connectivity. Ponder that. I’ll get back to that later.


If the essence of things is the relationship between these two things, I would suggest, in today’s world, mass has taken on a disproportionate value compared to space. We seem to have a preoccupation with mass to such an extent it almost seems like we have become space blind. This is not a healthy situation to be in. Awareness of space engages in our full range of senses. And, I would argue, engaging all our senses is the pathway to engaging what is possible – for the individual as well as the community engaged with the space. Or maybe I could suggest that our progress is found within our capacity to perceive space from the spaceless. In layman’s terms that is a deepening perception of context and a deepening understanding of the situation possibilities. In systems thinking terms that is a deepening sense of the system as a whole.

Which leads me to say that space is made up of two elements: movement and stillness.

Not to get to “quantum” but these things can happen simultaneously.  This is the people’s canvas with which they can paint whatever experience they would like. And while we may put a higher value on mass, within space, the reality is the mass and space equation can be experienced by anyone, some moving and some still, on an equal basis. The test of our humanness is actually found in whether we can approach space and deal with it as a whole to maximize total potential. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this demands that we do not think too early in terms of how to form the experience. Form should derive from, not be dictated by, either the design and the structure of the space or what we desire to design from that space. Making arbitrary decisions with regard to the experience too early too early in the process tends to stunt thought and inhibits or stop the flow of basic creativity within the space. I say that because once articulated structured experiences are hard to get rid of and tend to impose themselves where they do not belong. I’m suggesting that presence should be emergent. To be clear. I fully recognize we relentlessly attempt to ‘manage space’ and use ‘mass’ (and masses/people) to craft the space experiences all the fucking time. Emergent experiences are not happily embraced by people – generally speaking. In particular, leaders (a mass in and of themselves) invest a lot of energy managing spaces in the attempt to manage people and, well, manage power. In many ways, many ‘mass’ things, people included, are architects and architecture. Architects build for emotional and psychological purposes, as well for ideological and practical reasons. That said. Architecture is about power. What an architect can offer, in part, is the sense they are creating a space in which there is some sense of meaning and purpose or, maybe, that the meaning and purpose can be explored if not found within that space. At its best it includes a sense of belonging to a wider world, but at the same time celebrating the individual (the power) and his or her place in that world. But architecting, and architecture, is far too often concerned with the instinct to control, to order, to categorize, to shape life as it should be lived in a space, to choreograph every activity within every space. In other words, shaping a demand of a certain view of the world.

Which leads me to the interesting relationship between mass and space.

It is one thing to constrain space by structural devices such as walls. It is another thing to infuse space with activities that constrain minds. One could argue that the highest level of value as both mass and space working well together is to heighten the sense of ‘the mind’ and minds. What this pragmatically means is that while there will always be mass there must be enough space to provide for different activities and to allow things to articulate themselves in such a way that possibilities emerge free of constraint. The relationship between mass and space should be a continuous flow of experiences where each moment of time is preceded by a previous experience and becomes the stepping stone for the experience to come. If we desire a continuous flow of ‘progress experiences’, then the relationship of spaces and masses should not be one of constraining but rather releasing. Just to remind everyone, one of the objectives of space is movement. The purpose of a space is to affect the people who use it therefore its composition must encourage a continuous unbroken movement, flow, of impressions and experiences. Maybe what I am suggesting is that mass is a participator of space and should be viewed as an engine of movement, not just stillness.

Which leads me to stories and narratives.

Structures, buildings, meetings and gatherings are all expressions of mass and space of the culture within which it resides. They demand notice and are narratives and stories themselves. These stories are informally created as well as formally created. We, all of us, should think about what I just said. Far too often we emphasize the stories and experiences we construct and craft as the stories and narratives that matter. Yet, structures, buildings, meetings and gatherings generate narratives all by themselves. To be clear. Crafted “space narratives” have always been dependent upon the allocation of resources and manpower. Which means the execution of crafted narratives has always been at the discretion of those with their hands on the levers of power, i.e., those who wield the mass within the space. Although many spaces may appear to be rooted in pragmatism, or even diminished into some definition of ‘just space’. it is a powerful tool of human psychology. Far too often it is a tool for inflating the individual ego to the scale of a community, a city, a nation and, yes, even a business. It reflects the motivations, ambitions, and insecurities of that particular ‘mass’, therefore, if someone squints hard enough they can see the nature of its belief in power, its strategies, and its desired impact upon people. Space, in and of itself, is a form of mass communication. By understanding what it communicates, and the relationship between psychology and power, offers a key insight into what exists and, in fact, our own existence. And there is where I will end. With a cautionary tale for those who thrive in ‘crafting spaces, experiences and stories.’ Space, left to its own devices, tells it own stories and narratives and offers its own experiences. These are the ‘informal stories.’ These are the stories the ‘masses’ tell themselves when some ‘mass’ isn’t telling them what to think about that space or within that space. Ponder.

Written by Bruce