Space, Place and Atmosphere | Miquel Lacasta Codorniu

Atmosphere | Miquel Lacasta Codorniu

With this sugerente title, Juhani Pallasmaa came to the ESARQ1 to give a conference the past 10 May. What follows it is a free and incomplete translation of the conference, and completed with other readings and registers or better said, an intentional interpretation and interested of one magnifies conference of architecture.

The instantaneous recognition of the inherent nature of a place, is similar to the automatic reading of the identities and essences of the biological world. The animals instantly recognise other creatures for his survival of the same way the humans recognise some human shots known between thousands of other similar faces, at the same time that read the sense of the emotions from tiny muscular movements of the face. The space or the place is an image, a mental creature, or better said, neural, a singular experience merged with our experience and cognition more existential. Once we have appreciated a space like pleasant or like deprimente, hardly can change this trial at first hand. We find us tied to some parameters and remain extraneous to some others and both intuitive elections are really difficult to analyse verbalmente or to change of significant form once have experienced a true portion of reality.

Other authors refer to this external capacity to what habitually we call reason, as not conscious intelligence,2 ethat is to say what we think and feel is the result of operations ignored by the own subject that it thinks or sits. In I make concrete in neurology it is demonstrated that everything happens to cerebral level approximately eight hundred milliseconds before us demos account of which it is happening. Something like that we are delayed always a bit with regard to us themselves.  It is for it that we can suspect that in the complex operations neuronales that develop in the previous instants to the conscience, control multiple factors that transcienden the habitual list of the analytical intelligence or of a simple empirical / empirical reasoning. It is in this narrowest margin of time where there come together intuitions, feelings, emotions, small irrefutable truths, recollections, etc.

And it is there where probably we should place the center of interest of architectural proyectual.

Nonetheless, the value of the experience, of the understandable one, simultaneously that diffuse way of catching the environment or enclosed of a spatial entity to catch the whole landscape, must be dealt under the point of view of the survival as species. Evidently we are provided with an evolutionary consistent advantage in detecting rapidly if we are before a potentially dangerous scene or on the contrary before a sure and nourishing configuration. It is necessary to make notice specially that this instantaneous judgment does not come from the capture of conscience on the details, that is to say it does not come from a slow and reflexive or analytical attention, less still critique, everything opposite, is a type of instantaneous sensation caught from a reading intuitive and based on a tree-shaped reading of the environment. This perception and polyphonic knowledge have been identified as one of the essential conditions of the creative mind.

In opposition to what it would seem as logician, the creative searches base on vague ways, multifactoriales and in the main from perceptive routes of the unconscious one, product of an ambiguous attention, more than of a specially focused attention. Actually we catch atmospheres across a process of scanning and diffuse of the unconscious reality.

It is necessary to underline the fact that we have capacities of unexpected syntheses that habitually we do not bear in mind at the moment of projecting in architecture and to which in addition we are not in the habit of attributing a special value. It is interesting to observe as the education of the architecture continues emphasizing the conscious premeditation, with a special attention in the imagery, over the pre-reflexive field and his experiences. It is to say while we overvalue the analytical rational capacity, despise a bouquet of intuitive, “irrational” capacities and condemn them to the category of occurrence.

Mark Johnson, author of The Meaning of the Body, Aesthetics of Human Understanding, assigns a crucial role in the production of thought to the emotions on having commented that there is no cognition without emotion, in every thought there is an emocionalidad unconscious.3 Under his point of view the emotions are the principal resource of the sense. The emotions are not a second-class knowledge; everything opposite, they constitute affective bosses in our meeting with the world by means of which we take the sense of the things to a basic level. The situations are the locus of the emotions, more than the mind or the brain. Definitively he concludes that the emotions are a fundamental part of the sense of the human beings.

On the other hand, which we are in the habit of understanding for this intelligence rudely limited in his habitual conception. The last studies in psychology have revealed between seven and ten different categories of the intelligence, beyond the narrow kingdom of the test of the intellectual quotient. The psychologist Howard Gardner lists seven categories of the intelligence: the linguistic intelligence, the intelligence logician – mathematics, the musical intelligence, the intelligence kinestética, the spatial intelligence, the interpersonal intelligence and the intelligence intrapersonal.4 Later in his book suggests three more types of intelligence, the naturalistic intelligence, the spiritual intelligence and the existential intelligence. It is more, three more categories should be added the emotional intelligence, the aesthetics and the ethics and finally determine in the area of the intelligence the specific paper that would have the atmospheric intelligence.

Our innate aptitude to catch atmospheres and spirits of understandable form is similar to our aptitude to project the imagination and to construct mentally suggestive configurations, both spatial and affective, of the whole novel or a narrative text, as we are reading it. Equally it happens with the dreams. The dreams are complete spaces of imaginatively lived experiences, though they lodge at the kingdom of the subconscious.

If in the area of the architecture we can attend with major depth fundamental aspects in the creation of atmospheres as the materiality, the gravity, the incident of the light, the smell and the tact, etc., reason of more, to seek to what Constantin Brancusi was referring: the art, (and I add here, especially, the architecture) must provide suddenly and simultaneously, the shock of the life, the sensation of respirar.5

This touching force, based on the creation of atmospheres that cut the breathing, might be a new beginning to qualify spaces beyond the individual expressiveness of an architectural specific object. It is evident that we are not speaking about an isolated situation, of a singular building that for size or by means of any of the banal tricks to the use that every architect has in his arsenal, they start an Oh!, but of the capacity of ritualizar (I would dare to use even the term to re-tie) of the real essence done architectural, that of necessarily intrinsic form involves the idea of place, of context, of espacialidad complex and of emotional depth, of structured materiality and of constructividad concise.

Definitively to provide to a space of conditions for the life, which they are the life itself.

Miquel Lacasta. Doctor architect
Barcelona, september 2012


1 I want to be grateful in this post for Jorge Vidal’s brave bet for inviting the Pallasmaa to the cycle of conferences called FORUM of the ESARQ and to Marta García-Orte’s habitual generosity for sharing the transcription in English of the conference.

2 MARINA, José Antonio, Las Arquitecturas del Deseo, Anagrama, Barcelona, 2007, p. 16

3 JOHNSON, Mark, The Meaning of the Body, Aesthetics of Human Understanding, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Londres, 2007

4 GARDNER Howard, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Ontelligences for the 21st Century, Basic Books, New York, 1999

5 SHANES, Eric, Constantin Brancusi, Abbeville Press, New York, 1989, p.67


Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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