“A life spent entirely in public, in the presence of others, becomes, as we would say, shallow.”1
The blurring and impoverishment of concepts like home, domesticity and the private sphere have become a fundamental part of our generation’s life experience and we are in a way forced to positively engage with them. Since effectively challenging the very forces that drive these changes is beyond our reach as architects, we feel that we should rather address the way in which we experience their spatial consequences. Unfortunately we still have a very partial understanding of the complexity of the spaces we inhabit, for we still largely focus on traditional spatial paradigms and relationships. As we move trough time we don’t just move from room to room, from inside to outside, from public to private, but we are also constantly moving through a man created electromagnetic field: the hertzian space2. Hertzian space is defined by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby in their seminal book Design Noir. The secret life of electronic objects as the invisible carrier of all informations and even though we cannot directly experience it through our senses it still influences our form of life in a radical way. Published in 2001, in a time when the electronic landscape was still a place where much had yet to be discovered and for sure our experience of it was not as normalised and austere as it is today, this texts gives us an incredibly articulated insight of the present and future manifestations of hertzian space and of the narratives it silently involves. At the same time Dunne and Raby argue that “real human needs” are different from designed and product related needs, and focus on the mysterious gap that opens between the regulated and predictable behavior of the world of electronic devices and its transgression and subversion. This is the space of critical design, or as the beautiful title suggests: Design Noir, a very refreshing tale set in the adventurous early electronic world, so different from the apparently innocent and joyful world of corporate tech giants we live in.
Hertzian space is largely militarized or privatized but quite paradoxically at the same time it is in some way an un-designed landscape, or at least it is not designed by architects, for our projects have little or no relationship with how we dwell in it. We argue that a planning of this uncharted landscape is not only challenging for architects, but might become necessary.
Pour Le Corbusier, c’était facile
– pas de wifi- .3
In a time that sees filters, spacial sequences and perceptional thresholds dissolving, hyper-connectivity has become by all means a new “state of nature” for our society, and as for any environmental condition some among us will sooner or later seek shelter from it, at least temporarily.
Starting from Dunne and Raby’s rather uncomfortable Faraday Chair, we borrowed its principle and brought it to a much more “domestic” scale and form. Otium is a domestic device that introduces a radical discontinuity within the field, a sudden clearing, a new form of private space. By going inside it you are not just entering a separate space, you are actually leaving the hertzian space. When in place these devices constitute an archipelago of private spaces fluctuating through time and the city.
A light curtain which functions as a Faraday cage shields the body of the occupant from the electromagnetic field, leaving him in a new condition of silence, the noisy multitasking is left outside. In a rather out of fashion praise of idleness, Otium reclaims our “right to be lazy”4 within our domestic space, it is a reservoir for unproductiveness.
Radio waves interacting with buildings from:
Design Noir. The secret life of electronic objects
1. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press,
2. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir. The secret life of electronic objects,
August/Birkhäuser, London/Basel 2001
3. paraprhased from the famous LC quotation “pour Ledoux, c’était facile – pas de tubes”, as found in: “A home is not a house” by Reyner Banham,
Art in America #2, 1965
4. Paul Lafargue, The Right to be lazy and other studies, Charles Kerr and Co., Chicago 1883 (quite ironically the text was written from the involuntary confinement of the author inside a prison cell)
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