Monday, February 23, 2009

BEB Porch

I have been thinking about ambiguous spaces, that is, spaces that lack a clear sense of place. What makes a place? One definition offered by Merriam Webster is: a distinct condition, position, or state of mind. Place is something that is created, deliberately marking, or bounding, something as being separate from something else. I’m curious about the spaces in between places, intermediate zones with flexible programs.

The stoop, or porch or mediates the private function of a building and the linearity of a sidewalk or street. It offers a moment for pause. It is a place, but it makes no demands of its users, unlike the interior of the building and the sidewalk. It allows interaction and exchange to occur, as well as quick passage.

I am thinking specifically of the steps at the entrance of the Bayard Ewing Building, my second home. This place, for me, is primarily used to take a break and have a cigarette, but it is also a place for conversation, a place for meeting, sometimes a place for a nap or even a secondary work space. What is important to me about the steps is they don’t command any one occupation, and are often just a passageway. As soon as I enter the building, this changes. I have a goal, a place to be. Likewise, the sidewalk offers only two options, one direction or the other. There is an urgency with these places that is absent in the place of the stoop.

The porch does not impose rules, but permits the user to more easily control their situation. One chooses their primary reason for being there, and other things are secondary. In particular, interaction is not mandatory, rather it is possible. It is not a condition of “’togetherness’ or nothing.” The rules are flexible in this ambiguous space.

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