Monday, November 5, 2012

The Allure of Layered Space

Temple of Hadrian
Ephesus, Turkey - 2012
The architectural concept of "layered space" was pervasively evident everywhere in Turkey. At the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the ruins of Hieropolis and Ephesus, the streets of Istanbul, and even in the humble rock churches of Cappadocia, space is revealed, screened, punctuated and illuminated to create a sense of "layers," directly influencing the way in which we experience our three dimensional world. It was a constant source of delight. I loved it.

Suleymaniye Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
An architect's vocabulary includes many terms that don't often make it into our everyday conversations, which is a real shame, as they can capture the rich and complex characteristics of space in a single word or two. Layered space embraces nuance. It provokes a sense of discovery. It provides a frame of reference while foreshadowing what is to come. It is the antithesis of a one-liner.

Bayezid II Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
The design tools employed to layer space center on the many ways (and degrees) in which perceived space can be defined and connected - or conversely separated. This may typically involve the use of level changes, deep niches, colonnades (row of columns), decorative screens, as well as openings to above or openings to below. Spatial volumes become interconnected and also divided into slits and slots which are often accentuated or reinforced with a change in materials, color, texture, and light. Because your perception of spatial quality changes as you pass from one layer and into another, the element of time is also added to the mix.

Hierapolis, Turkey - 2012
Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
And because space is three dimensional, it can be layered vertically, as well as horizontally. I was especially intrigued with how this was accomplished in the mosques of Istanbul where beautiful bold chandeliers act as horizontal screens, or an implied ceiling. Within the grand interior volumes of these domed mosques, horizontal slots of intimately scaled space are created for people who would most likely be sitting on the floor.

Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
The ultimate goal of layered space is to provide a rich and relevant sensory experience that also enhances the ways in which that space is used. For example, a colonnade or arcade can define a walkway just as well as a solid wall. However in contrast to the wall, it also provides a rhythm of solid and void, a view beyond to establish context which aids in way finding, and the illusion of a less constricted, more expansive space - all things that enhance the simple act of moving from point A to point B.

Celsus Library
Ephesus, Turkey - 2012
The concept of layering space is not limited to the inside of buildings. It works beautifully in landscape gardens - where garden walls, hedges and trees are employed to similar effect - and also in urban environments where degrees of spatial definition can indirectly guide us to recognize public areas as opposed to private ones.

Spice Bazaar
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
So the next time you are sitting in your living room or going for a walk in your neighborhood, your city or maybe even in Istanbul, try consciously considering your sensory response to your surroundings. You will perceive the delightful "space within a space," notice the framed views, the literal and phenomenal transparency.  You will experience rhythm and progression, solid and void, figure and ground. You will respond to the promise of a destination. Your perception of the physical world will become more acute. That is the wonderful allure - and reward - of layered space...

On the Bosphorus
Istanbul, Turkey - 2012
photo by Roger Winter

All of the images posted here are also available for purchase as 8x10 and 5x7 fine art prints and A2 size greeting cards (all printed on archival water color paper) at Be sure to send me a message if there is something you'd like that you don't see listed, or if you'd like a custom size or item, as I truly enjoy creating one of a kind items that hold special meaning. Thanks!!

No comments:

Post a Comment