Sunday, February 13, 2011

Edward T. Hall : The Anthropology of Space

Edward T. Hall talked about the way space affects human behavior and how our behavior then in return affects the design of spaces. He started by talking about the differences in culture and how spaces are made. For example, in Japan, homes are not categorized by their size or grid of the area; they are placed according to date, when they were built, and order, which came first. Roads of Japan and India are examples of something poorly designed for their function. In india the roads fail to separate walking and vehicle traffic. Poor design in America starts with poor consideration to the needs of the people occupying the space. Instead, Architects design things based on materials, the given space that exists, and previous knowledge of the environment and spacial structures they have always experienced. This leads to design that does not consider the people who will be using the space.

People are shaped by their surroundings, and in return, they determine how their surroundings will continue to be constructed. An example of this by Hall: The seating situations and the likeliness of conversations among people sitting there were recorded. There was the most conversation among those who sat around a corner to each other and then second to that were people who sat directly next to each other. There were no conversations among people who sat across a table. This is probably because we have been shaped in our society to feel boundaries and keep in our own space. To feel that we can talk to someone, we must feel that there is no boundary preventing that or it would seem inappropriate. The people who were sitting across a table most likely felt the boundary of the object separating their space from the person across from them. The people were sitting right next to each other had a smaller boundary because they were not separated by an object, but their seating position lead them to feel a vertical boundary, like an invisible wall in between them. They were able to make conversation despite this boundary, but it was uncomfortable to do so. The people sitting across a corner were positioned in a less structural position so they were less likely to feel boundaries preventing them from talking to the people who were seated comfortably in talking distance.

The movie Barbette's feast represents the importance of design when experiencing a social situation. The room where the dinner was prepared was plane and kind of dark, but the table was well lit and thoughtfully set. The placement of the candles to provide light and the way the table was arranged with such importance, made the atmosphere feel enjoyable to the experience. The table was arranged so that the people were able to make conversation across it contributing to the experience.

This article made me think of my friend who is from West Africa. The customs their are very different from America because people do not feel social boundaries the ways we do. All people of the same town  feel they are apart of one group instead of being individual strangers. They will talk to anyone like they have known them forever because they have grown up without these boundaries.

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