The Tangible Time in Architecture


It is well known that architecture is an art of space. Architects have been creating various forms to define the intangible space. But the articulation of the spaces is as important as space itself. Space is hard to be expressed by architectural forms, time even more. Maybe, for this reason, we tend to overlook the narrative dimension of design thinking when the quality of space predominant the architectural world. Architect Aires Mateus said that “architecture is no more than adding a small moment to the reality made of layers of time. What remains is the idea, not the physical object.”

In the book Architecture Ethnography, Atelier Bow-Wow nicely explained a view that “architectural elements and devices (roof, wall, floor, column, window, staircase, etc.) always work, play and coexist with non-architectural elements (rain, sun, wind, gravity, body, trees, earth. etc.).” Therefore to express the intangible, we need to get help from the tangible. The famous n project of master architect Carlo Scarpa, Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice, Italy is rehabilitated from a 16th-century palace. The original entrance to the building was replaced by an existing window on the main façade. And curiously, visitors enter to the window-entrance by a wood bridge. With the connection to the bridge, the window becomes a gate instead.12Another bridge was wisely built inside the palace as well due to the high water-level problem on the ground floor. Because the building locates just beside a typical Venice canal. Instead of preventing the water to entry, Scarpa welcomes it by opening two iron gates to the canal in the façade. The meaning of gate is also changed when canal water comes into the building freely and left wet traces on the stone steps down from the inner bridge.


The building helps us sense the past of time in its subtle in-between connection with the canal city. With the poetically interpreted architectural elements like bridge and passage, gate and window, non-architectural elements like water, light and time are also enhanced and become tangible by us.


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