Space is only Words...


February 2012

Part of anexhibition and selected for a conference in Prague, Mark Proosten and myself wrote the essay "Space is only words". It is an essay based on both our graduation projects for our Master degree in architecture.

With the text and exhibition we wanted to contribute to the architectural discussion about the importance as a designer to  develop a poetical attitude within the creative process.







The text of E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story “Councilor Krespel” conceals a design attitude which appears to full advantage to the position of a designer in contemporary culture. Instead of knowing what he wants to build as his new house, he lets four walls without door or openings whatsoever be erected. It is from this structure that he starts addressing the masonry man where to put the door, floor, interior-walls and windows. The result is a house with a rather awkward appearance from the outside, but ‘once inside you were filled with a quite unexampled sense of wellbeing and comfort’.(1) 

Councilor Krespel’s house is enveloped around the physical needs of the inhabitant; the dimension of the space, the entrance of the daylight, all derive out of the presence of the contemplator. No architect is in the position of first erecting the structure, and afterwards adapting it to the inhabitants needs. Therefore the architect must develop a poetical approach within the design phase. Like the writer who must consider the relationship between reader and narrative, the architect must consider the same between the contemplator and space. Both in literature as architecture, empathy is important for the experience of the narrative or space. An experience which derives out of the constant dialogue between men’s direct environment and their memory: ‘poetically man dwells’(2) like Martin Heidegger proposes.

By use of literature, we as architectural designers want to research upon spatial experience, experiences that become visible within literature. This leads us to the main question of this thesis: What is the contribution of the research into the relationship of the reader-narrative and the contemplator-space, for the development of a poetical attitude within architectural design.

1 Hoffman, E.T.A. Tales of Hoffman. Penguin Classic: May 2004, p.161

2 Heidegger, Martin. Philosophical and political writings. Edited by Manfred Stassen. continuum. New york, London. 2003. p.265-278

Space is only words_Mark proosten-Mike Schafer