If you have ever crammed into a subway car in New York city then you may have an idea about what it feels like to have absolutely no personal space. For those of us that tend to frequent more open areas we may hold to the idea that we have a right to a personal bubble. When others infringe upon these artificial barriers, how ever large or small they be, we can feel threatened, offended, just plain annoyed. This is our most intimate understanding of proximity. Who we choose to share close quarters with and why can be an indicator of strong bonds between people and signal the strength of a relationship. When we have people we do not choose very close to us it can be the source of aggravation and stress.
I know this personally because I shared a room with a little brother for the better part of my child hood and had roommates later in life that I could have replaced. It is not that these were bad people, or that I don’t love my brother but it takes a special kind of compatibility to live so closely with someone and always share space. The microcosm of our rooms and the interactions that took place there are what drive my curiosity now. I remember the day I got my own room, and how liberating I felt to have my own environment to express in. I put glow in the dark stars on the ceiling that reminded me of outer space. I decorated my walls with posters and magazine clippings of things that inspired me. I took great care to arrange the furniture in a way that allowed me to have the most amount of open floor so that I could dance, or simply move around if I so choose. Looking back it is of great interest to me how I employed the skills of interior design, and decoration, curation, and restriction of access that are all put to use in the spaces I visit today.
As reflective and expressive beings, the rooms we occupy and live in can dictate so much about how we behave in them. There are very really psychological conditions like, claustrophobia to consider. We will discuss that this month, along with many other of the implications of the spaces we keep. Not only this but we must look at where we live and work, and what those environments are like, how the design of those spaces can dictate our emotions and performance. These are not only practical considerations but so much about what we believe is possible.
On a somewhat larger level we have to address the communities we are a part of and how those we share environments with effect our perception of it as well. For better or worse, in the time I had with my brother as a roommate we learned more about each other than we could have other wise. Too many of us know how intimate moments can be shared by happenstance because of thin walls or bunk beds. Those stories are worth sharing, not only because they give us a chance to connect but also allow us to observe the different masks we wear in society. Certainly places come with specific sets of behavioral norms, like removing shoes in certain temples or homes, or a specific dress codes for a night club.
Cities too, have their own rules, some written and others informal. With this comes a learning curve, somethings are just “not okay” in certain parts of town. Be it colors associated with particular gang territories or proper protocol for handling pet waste. These cultural norms are as a part of society as the structures that form them and we should look at parallels between architecture and behavior and note any correlations.
As we zoom further out in our view of space, we’ll look at borders and the etiquette and laws that surround them. In the United States immigration is a controversial subject, but so to is gentrification, as well as creating solutions for the homeless. We are often forced to weigh human life against geographic constraints and how decisions are made is all but a mystery. Furthermore, what inherent compromises must be made by distinct cultures that share a natural resource like a body of water, a forest, or even the whole earth. On the planetary level, we are all bound by geography, in a certain way we are all roommates. Whether we like it or not, we have to share the kitchen and the bathroom until a second home presents itself.
Futurists may predict that this second home will be needed, and that some locations have already been identified as suitable. This conversation will take us out of our atmosphere and give us a glimpse at what possibilities truly await in the stars. The vastness of outer space is as much a promise of hope as it is the challenge of the unknown. All these elements space, from the personal, to the civic, and even the galactic, will be approached this month.
I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you as we survey and explore, not only ourselves but everything around us.