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Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Space Within

Interior Experience as the Origin of Architecture

Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Space Within

Interior Experience as the Origin of Architecture

Alvar Aalto once argued that what mattered in architecture wasn’t what a building looks like on the day it opens but what it is like to live inside it thirty years later. In this book, architect and critic Robert McCarter persuasively argues that interior spatial experience is the necessary starting point for design, and the quality of that experience is the only appropriate means of evaluating a work after it has been built.
            McCarter reveals that we can’t really know a piece of architecture without inhabiting its spaces, and we need to counter our contemporary obsession with exterior views and forms with a renewed appreciation for interiors. He explores how interior space has been integral to the development of modern architecture from the late 1800s to today, and he examines how architects have engaged interior space and its experiences in their design processes, fundamentally transforming traditional approaches to composition. Eloquently placing us within a host of interior spaces, he opens up new ways of thinking about architecture and what its goals are and should be.

176 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 8 1/4 | © 2016

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

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“Ever entered a building and been captivated by the quality, layout, and use of the interior space? How it directs you along the path you need to travel? How it makes you feel as though you are in a space designed for your enjoyment? McCarter persuasively argues that this consideration is the necessary starting point in design. He insists that one cannot know an architectural design without inhabiting its spaces. To support this position, the author delves into the process used by various designers and examines how they have engaged with interior space and the experiences it can provide. McCarter focuses on modern architecture throughout the world, examining familiar buildings by renowned architects. Highly recommended.”


"We should welcome, then, McCarter’s The Space Within, a meditation on 'interior experience' in architecture, and an appeal on behalf of this experience as 'the only appropriate way to evaluate architecture.' . . . A dense and compelling portrait of a particular history of thinking about, and making, buildings."

Oxonian Review

“Inhabitation is the soul of architecture. This important and thoughtful book is one of the very first to discuss the primal nature of the interior experience, which we believe is the place where design begins. The Space Within initiates a conversation that is essential to all who study, practice, and think about architecture.”

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, architects

“A succinct, erudite study of the experiential qualities and meanings of interior space. Using his unique knowledge of the design work, writings and thinking of the masters of modernity, Robert McCarter shows that the geniuses of architecture have always grasped the experiential and mental essence of their art form. The Space Within is highly recommended as a significant antidote to today’s formalist aestheticization and shallow digital ecstasy.”

Juhani Pallasmaa, architect and author of The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

Table of Contents

Introduction: the Primacy of Interior Experience in Architecture
one      The Space Within as the Origin of Architecture
two      The Nearness of Interior Experience and the Distance of Exterior Form
three    Three Early Modern Conceptions of Interior Space
four     The Separate Paths of the Eye and the Body in Experience
five      The Shape of Interior Space and the Boundary of Place
six        The Society of Spaces and the Emplacement of Encounters
seven   The Nesting of Places at Once Intimate and Immense
eight    Making Room for Experience and Memory
nine     Interior Experience of the Exterior Environment

Conclusion: Interior Experience as Initiation and Evaluation of Architecture


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