In the end, the distinction between our spaces and ourselves is not so easy to determine. As Stanley Abercrombie writes in A Philosophy of Interior Design: “When we enter a building, we cease being merely its observer; we become its content. We never fully know a building until we enter it.â32 His observation echoes Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings: thereafter they shape us.â33
This explains why we decorate spaces and don’t leave them bare. Even cave paintings in the earliest shelters were an attempt by our ancestors to transmit something of themselves into a vessel that enveloped them. The interior is a buffer, a transition zone, between ourselves and the world at large.
So deeply ingrained is our longing for shelter that it does not occur at the level of consciousness and is understood even by children at play. BALI HOME DESIGNS US The “passion for building enclosures, or for ‘adopting,’ for taking possession of an enclosed volume under a chair or table as a ‘cozy place’ for making ‘home,’ is one of the commonest of all children’s gamesâ writes Joseph Rykwert.34
Our expectations for the built environment are, then, both biologically ordained and based on knowledge accumulated as we grow older. “In every case they incarnate some shadow or memory of that perfect building which was before time began: when man was quite at home in his house, and his house as right as nature itself.â35 A somewhat similar assertion may be found in anthropological literature on human habitation: