Woodcut from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, by Francesco Colonna, 1499. Living room decor This woodcut illustrates in a cutaway view, somewhat unintentionally, the critical importance of the zone beyond our immediate physical bodies in defining who we are. Clothing, furniture, furnishing, and the barrier to outside world – the wall – all create a notion of ourselves in a way that is impossible in the outside world alone.
The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently stated the influence the body has over its surroundings: “The human body is the magazine of inventions, the patent-office, where are the models from which every hint was taken.â Emerson believed every human creation was an extension of the body: “All tools and engines of the earth are only extensions of man’s limbs and senses.â8 For Emerson, the phrase “extensions of manâ carried a purely technological interpretation of human agency, since it prized tools but probably did not extend to the built environment.9 But the phrase can also be interpreted more
Development of clothing from function to fashion
Refinement of clothing due to technological and material evolution broadly – distantly echoing Marshall McLuhan’s use of it in the 1960s – to mean that our immediate environment is an extension of our body and our internal self. Augmented with these qualitative criteria, the second skin is as much a psychological projection as it is a physical one. Human beings have a reciprocal relationship with their spatial environment. Our ever changing interaction with the space around us affects who we are and influences how we behave. This relationship is quite complex and is impacted from two directions. The first is in terms of who, what, and how we are, which changes from place to place, such as from office to home, from public to private, and from city to city. The second is how the intentional shaping of the environment – that is, by design – can affect the person occupying the space. Anthropologist Edward Hall makes this point in his classic work The Hidden Dimension: “Both man and his environment participate in molding each other. […] In creating this world he is actually determining what kind of an organism he will be.â10 While this truth is likely obvious to most designers, it is not sufficiently acknowledged or applied. The interior, our medium for engagement with the world, affects our self-perception and our designed environments must therefore optimally support us. Despite its present ubiquity, the idea that space, rather than being a formal concept, is something that is physically occupied, used, and experienced, did not move to the center of architectural discourse until the last decade of the nineteenth century. Over the next half a century, architects began to talk about space in terms of abstraction -evolving from the context of modernism – and as it related to the need for more rational design.11 As the practice of interior planning evolved, the role of space-making – the molding of habitable space not devoid of its functional or quantitative requirements and as related to the placement of specific functional zones, furniture, equipment, and objects -became clearer. This was in direct contrast to earlier interpretations of space-making that focused more on the formal presentation of the abstract design intent than on the use and experience of that particular space.