The sense of space

Human Bodies Zaragoza

Human Bodies Zaragoza (Photo credit: gaudiramone)

Architecture Thailand

Architecture Thailand (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

t is not space in particular that interests the art historians of the late 19th century; they are more
concerned with the relation between the observer and the artwork. Subject-object connection
leads them to the relation of people with their environment, the space within. The

theorists come up with to unfold the relation of the subject with the other, such as light, viewpoint,
scale, direction, depth and enclosure, are spatial aspects. Thus, as soon as the concept of space

appeared in art in the 1890s, it is related to senses, perception, and psychology. Human body is

considered as the generator of the three-dimensional extension of space -width, height and
depth. Not only visual but also tactile senses are taken into account; space is

Three Dimensional Space - Abstract Art Images

Three Dimensional Space – Abstract Art Images (Photo credit: bterrycompton)

perceived through
the movement of the body as well as through the eyes (van de Ven, 1978: 71-93).
For Schmarsow, architecture is composed of three-dimensional space -as the extension
of the human body– and time through the movement of the observer. The sense of space is
perceived via the experience of muscular sensations, the structure of the body, and the sensitivity
of the skin. He distinguishes space (the contained) from mass (the container), which will be an
important part of spatial discussions soon after. Architect August Endell, for instance, sees space
as a void expanding rhythmically between walls that define it. Purpose leading to space, for
Schmarsow, is a fundamental in architectural aesthetics (van de Ven, 1978: 90-93). Riegl, on the
other hand, rejects any utilitarian motivation and defines space as the source and the aim of
Kunstwollen (artistic will); not necessity but the architect’s volition drives him to space-making. “I
see in the work of art the result of a specific and purposeful Kunstwollen that asserts itself in
conflict with practical purpose, material, and technique,” (Riegl in Iversen, 1993: 71). This is not
the will of a single artist rather one orientation of the artistic will governs plastic arts in every
period; it is a cultural and collective attitude (Riegl, 2000: 94). These two theories are the basis of
another long-term opposition in architectural criticism about the foundation of space: functionality


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