Rethinking Space and Place

Mansfield College, Oxford, UK. In the foreground: 'Present Time', sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley.

On September 2014 I took part in the 5th Global Conference on Space and Place held at Mansfield College, Oxford, UK. The Conference was organized by Inter-disciplinary.net, a British Association for Interdisciplinary Research and Publishing. The paper I proposed was included by the Organizing Committee within the Section ‘Rethinking Space and Place’, thereby the name of this website. The first article I propose – From Space to Place, A Necessary Paradigm Shift in Architecture – is dedicated to the complete transcription of that paper: as an architect interested in both practical and theoretical aspects of a discipline tightly entangled with both questions of space and place, I urged for a reconsideration of the traditional interpretation of the two concepts to find a better correspondence between architecture and the current epoch. In the background, the clash between abstract and concrete modes of thought in respect of which space and place are perhaps two of the most representative concepts. Our future, the future of our cities, and the future of the natural environment depend upon the right balance between abstract and concrete – or pragmatic – modes of thought, that is, they depend upon the way we think about space and place, the way we plan and organize them, as well as the way we take care of places.

Since that presentation, I’ve never stopped being focused on the study of the two concepts to elucidate their meanings by relying on different disciplinary sources; however, to paraphrase the sense of an expression used by Charles Sanders Peirce, it has never been in my intentions, or in my power, to study anything – philosophy, physics, biology, social sciences, arts, linguistics… – except as a study of the relation and influence that those disciplines have, might have, or might have had on architecture, by means of the concepts of space and place. Architecture is my direct field of competence, therefore my position on the subject – the concepts of space and place – is inevitably biased by my profession; nonetheless, I believe that a serious study of such universal concepts inevitably transcends any disciplinary boundaries, and conciliation between different perspectives is needed, on the base of a transdisciplinary approach to knowledge. Time is passing by, but I still think the fundamental tenet of that paper is valid: I just slightly reconsidered some epistemological and ontological underpinnings in order to fix shortcomings and omissions.  Finally, I decided to create this website to go deeper into many important questions that I just mentioned in that paper, and to share and confront my thoughts on the subject with other scholars from different backgrounds, hoping to gain new insights as well as to extend my knowledge on questions of space and place.

As for the structure of this website, I have decided to introduce from the very beginning my reformed understanding of the concepts of space and place through a synthetic definition – see the article What is Place? What is Space? -, while, in the following articles I have tried (and I will try, in future) to pick out and resume those readings and considerations that eventually took me to adopt such a reformed understanding for those ubiquitous notions. From time to time, I will also add new items, inspired by more recent readings or events, without losing the focus on the subject: rethinking the concepts of space and place. That being said, I suggest the reader who is concerned with the overall theoretical argumentation of this website to start reading the articles I posted first, and progress until the more recent ones.

On August 2020 this website changed structure and appearance: I have included a menu with 5 main categories, which have the scope to facilitate the navigation through the content. In the category ‘INTRO’, you will find the article Preliminary Notes which is a general introduction to the main themes that I’m going to discuss in this virtual place, or space. The category ‘PROCESSES()SYSTEMS’ requires a brief explanation. On the basis of a conception of Nature somehow indebted to the vision of the Anglo-American philosopher and mathematician Alfred N. Whitehead, I understand reality as a complex interplay of processes: when processes are actualized into physical structures, such structures can be thought of as the place of those processes, which means that, as I often say, reality is the place or system of actualized processes. Therefore, I have epitomized the continuous interplay of processes actualized into material entities – either matter or energy – by means of the hybrid figurative, almost pictorial, expression ‘PROCESSES()SYSTEMS’ to highlight the circularity or complementarity between process and reality, the hidden and the manifest, the abstract and the concrete, or space and place, ultimately. So, that figurative expression is encompassing enough to contain all of the unknown and known phenomena of the world. As for the latter phenomena, they can be synthetically grouped into four topics – or systems of actualized processes: physicochemical, biological, social and symbolic or intellectual (i.e. matter, life, society and thought). These are the basic sub-categories into which I have regrouped – and I will group in future – the arguments of articles and posts.

About Me

I am an architect from Milano, Italy. I graduated with honours from the ‘Politecnico di Milano’ – School of Architecture – where I spent some years as a Teaching Assistant before collaborating with other firms and before starting my own works as ‘Alessandro Calvi Rollino Architetto’; here you can find some projects I made in the past, just before turning my attention to the theoretical questions of space and place I’m currently working on.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at the following address: info (at) rethinkingspaceandplace.com

Featured Image (above): Mansfield College, Oxford, UK, https://www.mansfield.ox.ac.uk/