For some strange reason, today, in my search for inspiration, all I can think of is one thing: void… large, deep, intense void.
I do not know if it is because of the long time that has passed since I wrote my last essay, or because of the sensation we get after the Holidays end, but the void is the only thing in my mind now. And the feeling is so strong that invades my body. I cannot stay seated. I feel like levitating among my books and memories. I cannot breathe… I need some air.
So I decide to take a walk, go outside and feel the void in the middle of the city and experience the sensation that produces the architectural construction of the nothing.
A specific concept appears in my memory. I go in search of that non-place that Marc Auge talked about. I remember that when trying to define it, he associated the concept with highways, hotel rooms, airports and supermarkets, but I think, especially today, that the concept goes further. It goes far beyond a physical “place of transience that does not hold enough significance to be regarded as place” (Wikipedia). I think that non-places are inside each of us; that just as we all have an eternal desire to find a place to call home, we also have a desire, perhaps a smaller one, one that we prefer to ignore and hide, that makes us want to remain nomadic, beings without ties or restrictions.
It is similar to the idea described by the concept of yin and yang, which represents the duality of everything in the universe. This symbol has always caught my attention: “In every good thing there is always something bad, and in every bad thing there is always some redeem quality”. Today it strikes me that there is no concept more comprehensive and broader at the same time… I think we can apply it to everything in life.
I stop rambling for a moment, and I make myself aware of where I am. In my journey through the streets, I try to feel the vibrations of the spaces; of fullness and void. I vibrate intensively in the narrow streets and feel my energy flowing freely in the squares and parks. My journey becomes a set of black and white emotions, and I realize the importance of the contrasts in the city, the value of the gaps, because without them we would live stunned, in an eternal absence of a place of escape, a place (or non-place) in which we can be nomadic for a while… I start to ramble again.
I remember my college years and urban planning projects pop up in my memory. I realize that every time that I started an urban project, the first thing I did was to create a plan of solids and voids (figure-ground). Only then, through those black and white spots dancing in perfect harmony, I could start to give life to the project.
Today I think of the importance of these Nolli plans which I did back in those days while living life on autopilot. They were a reflection of the urgent need to give a respite to the city. It was the ideal way to identify, in two dimensions, when or where the city needed voids, and how it was possible to connect those voids by turning them into white networks.
In his book “Arquitectura del vacio” (Architecture of void), Melvin Villarroel talks about the structuring of the void as continuum. He wanted his architecture to appear as a result of the relationship between the built volumes and the much needed void that should exist between them. It was a way to ensure that the cement did not predominate over the nature around it.
I once read that “architecture is the intermediary between nothing and everything”. This statement strongly clung to my brain cells and has resisted time and oblivion. Today, it appears in the middle of my void to shake up my thoughts.
The whole always comes from the nothing, from the void. We, architects, take a blank space and slowly cover it with black strokes until we discover a balanced space; but we must know when to stop, when we get the right amount of fullness and void.
The universe is full of contrasts, and it is these contrasts that give balance to our lives. We, architects, creators of the habitable physical reality, have the great responsibility of finding that balance, the architectural yin and yang, in which fullness and void are able to coexist harmoniously.
“Thirty spokes converge towards the hub, but it is the space between them that forms the essence of the wheel. Pots are fashioned from clay, but it is the hollow that makes a pot work. The walls, with the windows and doors attached to them, form the house, but it is the empty space within that creates the essence of the house. This is the rule: the material harbors usefulness, and the immaterial imparts the true essence.” — Lao Tse