Diderot’s definition also introduces the notions of separation and boundary in classifying what is inside and out. Any artificial barrier beyond our skin – clothing, walls, a building facade (and certainly the peripheral space surrounding the body) – can be defined as a second skin. Though it lies beyond the physical boundaries of our body, our second skin is nevertheless critical in defining who we are and how we are perceived; thus our identities extend beyond our physical perimeter. Design is the intermediate zone between our skin and what lies beyond. As our second skin, it is an essential extension of ourselves.
The argument that buildings and their interiors serve as extensions of human beings is not new. Living rooms The function of a building has often been equated with the supportive environment of the womb, as discussed in chapter 1, while its walls have been likened to clothing.6 Just as clothing extends the function of the skin, the building envelope expands our personal space into an area that is not limited to one that is in direct contact with our bodies.
We create progressive layers beyond the naked body for protection, function, and identification, and also to provide a surface area for adornment and fashion (see diagram on page 42). No matter how sophisticated the argument, our understanding of this zone has often remained literal, emphasizing the physical barriers that define interior space and ignoring the subconscious and interpretative possibilities created by the second skin.7
Humans do not view space distantly, as if through a frame. Rather, it is people who define space through the process of perception. Between our interior selves and the exterior world lies a series of literal and perceived boundaries that we establish. These barriers do not stop at the outer limits of our bodies, and comprise our second skins, while more distant boundaries define urban space. Designers, therefore, must not limit their dealings with people to the physical environment; rather they must concern themselves with the dynamic flux of the self as it comes into contact with the built environment.
There is a large body of thought on space and spatiality in architecture and the built environment. However, the discourse still lacks a sense of the implications of human interaction in built space. While many conceptual and theoretical exercises have explored the abstraction and volumetric relationships of space, we do not have a clear understanding of the behavioral response of people to built space. Accordingly, we lack in-depth design knowledge of the experiential attributes of designed space.