Choices and Strategies of Spatial Imagination
Architecture is by definition an act of spatial imagination, this wondrous capacity to envision possible futures for the built environment. Spatial imagination is essential in order to visualize new constructions taking shape, evolving in time, and partaking of the cultural expression of a place or era. It takes spatial imagination to foresee how architecture can meaningfully contribute to people’s lives, providing a sense of belonging, space for their needs and dreams. Nonetheless, spatial imagination is oftentimes hard to trigger or difficult to control. Imaginative ideas often emerge unexpectedly, when seemingly unconnected or contradictory words, images and thoughts are brought together. Spatial imagination, just like the creative act of writing, seems to reside in ‘the lightning flashes of the mental circuits that capture and link points distant from each other in space and time,’1 as Italo Calvino poetically claims.
The topic of this fourth issue of Writingplace journal, Choices and Strategies of Spatial Imagination, ‘links points distant from each other’, by connecting texts from different disciplines with architectural design, in order to study imagination. This issue starts from a paradoxical observation: although we recognize, almost spontaneously, the paramount role spatial imagination plays in the creation of an inspired built environment, there is admittedly limited emphasis on the detailed study of this creative imagination in the field of architectural research. Moreover, a lack of rigorous reflection on the key role of spatial imagination in addressing the urban and architectural issues that are currently at stake in our societies can be detected across all of the design disciplines. For example, there is surprisingly little attention for how specialties outside architecture can inform or inspire the proliferation of spatial imagination. It seems, as William Whyte argued, that we have forgotten that ‘we are always translating architecture: not reading its message, but exploring its multiple transpositions’. The issue focuses precisely on different kinds of transpositions between written forms of imagination and architecture, but without defending the popular belief that we should read architecture as a polysemic text and start to think in terms like ‘architexture’ or ‘polygraphy’ when analysing architecture culture.
Italo Calvino Six Memos for the Next Milennium, translated by Patrick Creagh (London: Vintage, 1996), 48.
William Whyte, ‘How Do Buildings Mean? Some Issues of Interpretation in the History of Architecture’, History and Theory 45/2 (2006), 153.
David Spurr, ‘An End to Dwelling: Reflections on Modern Literature and Architecture’, in: Astradur Eysteinsson and Vivian Liska (eds.), Modernism
(Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2007), 469-486.
Jorge Otero-Pailos, Architecture’s Historical Turn: Phenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 15-38.