The Space Between Workshop

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 4.171 (Fall 2004)
Course Title: The Space Between Workshop
Course Level: Graduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Department: Architecture
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Jan Wampler
Course Introduction:
Syllabus Overview

This workshop, taught for more than ten years at MIT, is titled "The Space Between". Its purpose is to investigate and understand the nature of the space between objects and buildings. The studies in the workshop include the analysis of existing spaces, and the designs of new spaces and their surrounding buildings. The goal can best be described as "revers[ing] the process of design we know all too well, of designing objects first and spaces as leftover or negative space." This is to counter the common situation that "the form and detail of buildings are invested with more design energy than the spaces that buildings create and people inhabit." Students review examples of precedent in art and music, make studies of local neighborhoods and conditions (in Boston's North End, among others), and hear guest lectures on the subject of the Space Between. They then build models of the Space Between, to inform their own designs and understanding of neighborhoods.

The nature of the Space Between is best described in the article "The Space Between" (PDF), written in 1993. It describes the rationale behind the workshop, and the reasons for considering space to be as valuable as buildings. It cites references in Siena, Italy, Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, and San Juan in Puerto Rico, and describes how, in each of these instances, beautiful and inspirational public spaces were purposefully created and how the spaces in these cities are more than just leftover.

A description of the day to day workings and processes of the studio are described in more detail in "Exploring Prototypes" (PDF). Here the very first iteration of the Space Between Workshop is described, with all the steps undertaken by the students. The values of "path versus place" are debated. A series of models are described and built in which students come to understand the value of the Space Between, and learn to use that in their own designs. After the completing the work of the semester, the students hopefully understand better the ramifications of their designs on the surrounding spaces, and consider them as integral a part of the design process as the buildings themselves.

Articles

These two articles on the Space Between, also mentioned in the text above, are from the journal Places, and used with permission.

"The Space Between" (PDF)

"Exploring Prototypes" (PDF)