Humans are distinguished from the remaining primates in thatthey are the only ones to be entirely bipedal. From the moment they began to walk upright, the manner in which they experience space has been determined by their vertical condition, which coincides with the force that imposes a certain order on the world. By aligning themselves with the force of gravity, they found a tentative rootedness of sorts, a bond with the earth which both anchored them and allowed them to retain their inherent mobility. From an early stage, this upright posture enabled a more complete experience of vertical space. They soon realised that exploring the world from a vertical perspective, seeking to master height, would increase their sovereignty on earth and bring them closer to the celestial transcendence which they believed to be supreme, positioning themselves between those they wished to dominate and the unknown which dominated them.
This vertical posture expanded their relationship with the world at large, inviting them to overcome the limitations of matter in search of answers to the many unknowns offered up by the world. However, it also brought with it a state of permanent tension. Walking upright on just two feet, humans experience a constant need for something to hold on to. Upright, humans raise their head, perceiving three levels: the ground on which their feet rest, their field of vision, which ranges far and near at a speed unmatched by their feet, and finally the vertical void hanging over their heads. As a result, humans walk in tension, resting on the compact, obscure soil while feeling the volatility and unpredictability of space above them. Whereas on one hand this inescapable tension holds us to the ground, on the other it reminds us of a weakness which must be overcome: the price we pay for the ability to walk upright is the constant risk of falling.
Whereas, on a global scale, mankind has sought protection, advancement and dominion by exploring height, on the scale of the spaces we have built for ourselves we have sought to underscore the presence of the verticality we have striven to maintain. Indoors, the vertical dimension demands a volume of space which exceeds our material needs, reflecting our desire to reinforce our hard-won verticality through our conception of space.
The first humans who felt the need to build refuges, taking possession of natural shelters or moulding the materials provided by nature, created – for the first time – a division in the exterior spatial continuum they inhabited. From the exposed, open universe, they subtracted a small part in search of refuge, a limited space in which they could momentarily experience a sense of control. In this way, they sought to bring about an ordered system amid the inexplicable chaos of their lives. This need to be apart from the world led them to build indoor spaces, literally walling themselves off from everything else, segmenting the world. Ever since, they have been constantly seeking to make it one again.
However generous, every indoor space conceived by mankind is a reduction of the world, which finds its complement in the vastness that lies beyond any door. While the door has always been an unambiguous instrument of closing out, of exclusion, of protection – demarcating a restricted indoor territory – it has also had the opposite function, of opening. The door, like other openings, is the embodiment of the human need for contact with the exterior. Human survival depends on transit between interior and exterior spaces. Indoor spaces which do not harbour life have no need for openings – what is kept in these spaces is to be kept forever.
The wideness sought by humans is not limited to control over the space which immediately surrounds them. As it discovers the immensity of the territory it inhabits, mankind is faced with the monumental scale of its ignorance, and becomes aware of its limits – as well as a new freedom. Whereas the body is subject to the limitations of a small portion of space and its own mobility, the range of perception is another matter entirely. As is the case with certain other animals, mankind perceives and feels the world beyond its immediate surroundings. The senses provide a wider experience of the world.
Man’s quest for a state of continuity, albeit an illusory one, is also reflected in architecture. Accordingly, the increasing wideness provided by openings observed over the course of the history of architecture is the architectural expression of an intrinsically human trait – embodying the desire and ability to reach beyond our own body, and a yearning to regain a lost unity.