PA1- My environment

The space that surround us

Well, after a lot of thinking, I finally decided the place I want to talk about: the Amistat-Casa de la salud underground station. Once you arrive at the station, on the outside, there is this big metallic tubular sculpture welcoming you. Seeing it always relieves me since it means I have already arrived and that I no longer have to walk! Then, there’s a simple staircase which brings you to the first floor.

metro map. Source: Mapa metro

There, you go through the ticket validation machines. This floor is actually huge. On top of that, the small amount of machines and other objects of the station makes it even bigger! However, that sensation goes away if you visit this station at rush hour! The inmensity is replaced by a huge “masked” crowd. Besides, the ceiling isn’t specially high, which also contributes to (in my opinion) the overwhelming and claustrophobic character of the space. Moreover, if you follow the escalator, you’ll get to the second floor, where the actual metro tracks are. Now I’m sitting and waiting for the subway and I can observe and analyse for the first time the space that surrounds me. Even though this floor ceiling is a lot higher, I still have that feeling of oppression. I feel as if there was no air to breathe (to be honest, wearing a mask maximises that horrible sensation too). The space itself is defined by its simplicity. As a matter of fact, I believe it is this simplicity and the obvious lack of natural light what makes it overwhelming. While we are usually oppressed by small spaces, in this case it’s the opposite. In this floor, there is just a long metallic bench, a vending machine and some adverts on the walls. In addition, the colour palette is quite simple too -everything has been kept in a greyish whitish tone-. Overall the whole station is in a quite good state. I guess it is relatively new. Nevertheless, there are of course some small but essential graffitis, which give a special value to it. Without them, could it even be considered a subway station?

picture of the exterior. Source: Waymarking

sketch of the exterior. Source: self made

I certainly wasn’t sure about which place I wanted to choose. I considered writing about my room here in Valencia, about my grandmother’s house… Still, none of them were the perfect place I was looking for. However, one day while I was waiting for the

picture of the subway. Source: Las Províncias

subway I came up with the idea: how about this station? I instantly realised that this was “the place”. Although there are several reasons why it is an interesting space, there is one that outstands the rest. I’m talking about the fact that it would be the first time that I can actually spend some time observing and analysing the space. In fact, it is extremely crazy how most of the time we don’t pay any attention or notice the special details of the place we are in. From my point of view, underground stations are a perfect example of this phenomenon, of this lack of interest. It is specially shocking, since most of us spend a huge amount of time in them. I am completely sure that if we calculated all the hours that we spent there for a whole year, we would all be extremely impressed! So, how can we ignore them? Perhaps because we are only thinking of getting to our university, our workplace, our school… or to our own home (after a long day of work!). Due to this, as an architecture student, I wanted to change it, I wanted to calmly sit on its long metallic bench and just enjoy looking at this special station.

sketch of the subway. Source: self made

On top of that, I also chose this place because of the strange sensation that causes me. Reading the description I gave of this station,

Sketch of the ticket machine. Source: self made 

you would inmediately think that I despise it. Nevertheless, it is in fact the opposite. In my opinion, it’s quite interesting and curious how even if it is an extremely plain and claustrophobic space, it creates a feeling of comfort and familiarity in me. I would say that its lack of natural light, its simplicity, its heavy atmosphere… is what indeed makes it familiar. We usually seek open, bright

, luminous spaces. In this case, it is the complete opposite; I find comfort in its features, which would be commonly described as negative. Also, in addition to what I’ve said about what makes it comfortable, there’s the fact that there are no disruptive elements (at least in my opinion). It’s quite harmonic. We can say that the station (the second floor) is just an enormous rectangular room. It hasn’t got a weird shape or weird corners. It isn’t composed of curved lines either. Overall, everything seems in order. There is nothing that seems out of place. Not even the big panels with adverts in them. There is not anything missing either.

escalator. Source: ABC

This station, Amistat-Casa de la salud, makes me feel in a way that nowhere else makes me feel like. From my perspective, we live through experiences, which are determined by different factors. Experiences change depending on time and space. They are unique

graffitis in nyc subway. Source: Gizmodo

and personal. Due to this, they are   constantly changing. By this, I want   to express the inability to feel the   same way in different places, even   in just one same place! For   instance,  every time I wait for the   metro is different. My feelings or   sensations can even change depending on what music I am listening to at that specific moment. The point is that we have to understand that space is much more important than we first think. The conditions of space definitely influence our experiences as occupants. In fact, I believe that any change in a room, no matter how big or small it is, has an impact on us. As a consequence, it is crucial to understand the power of architecture. In the end, architects are the ones in charge to design the space that surrounds us. In other words, everything architects build is going to have an impact on us, both as individuals and as a society. On top of that, architecture is not only the buildings, but an artistic expression. Overall, architecture affects our art, our culture, our whole way of living and well-being. This way, it can have a positive or negative way. For example, thanks to the corona virus outbreak, we’ve realised how big of an impact it can have in our mental health. Obviously, for those who live in huge houses with gardens and access to nature quarantine was much more easy to deal with than for the ones who live in small apartments. Luckily, although my apartment isn’t especially big, having a balcony made a huge difference.

keith haring in the subway. Source: Art is a beating drum

Architecture must be at the service of society. So, in relation to the underground station, despite my attachment to it, I would

Moscow underground station. Source: Ritebook

definitely change it. Of course, there is no way the station can get natural light. However, to lighten up the space or to give it a special touch, there could be pieces of art in it. On the one hand, there could be paintings by artists of the region on the walls, in order to promote our own culture and art. Moreover, keeping in mind that there’s a lot of empty space, there could even be some reproductions of sculptures. On the other hand, the grafittis could be kept, since they are a way of artistic expression too. If these measures were to be implemented in all stations, it would make such a big difference. The main idea is to transform these “wasted” spaces into art galleries. This way, the spaces would increase people’s interest in art and culture and people’s respect for public spaces. Of course, it can’t be compared to the artistic value of stations such as Moscow’s ones ,but it would definitely make a huge difference!

“Atmospheres”, Peter Zumthor

Besides, related to my reflections on the space I chose to observe, there’s this text “Atmospheres” by Peter Zumthor. The essay follows the process of observation and the different aspects Zumthor keeps in mind when designing a building. Also, from the text I can understand that architecture is totally sensorial and personal. To be honest, I completely agree with the understanding of  architecture as something emotional. In the end, the impression that a building, for instance, leaves on you is instant and unique. This phenomenon isn’t a consequence of logical thinking. As the title rightly states, architecture is nothing but a matter of atmospheres and how we perceive them. In my opinion, atmosphere is indeed a relatively complex concept to define, however here we can find it as the “projection” of a building on us. In fact, he relates this architectural atmosphere to the sensation that music provokes in him. In my opinion, we get to know reality through experiences, which are unique and determined by time and space. The same happens to our approach to architecture. In the end, it is just about how we experience spaces, about the atmospheres Zumthor talks about. In the essay, he gathers nine aspects that influence a space atmosphere. Firstly, the Body of architecture. As humans, we tend to compare and to measure things in relation to us, and so does Zumthor. Basically, a space works as a whole anatomical body, in which every organ (light, material…) with each own function works collectively with the rest of them. They just work cohesively and in harmony. Then, Material Compatibility, the Sound of space and the Temperature of a space. The latter refers to how we perceive temperature in a more psychological way. By this, I mean that depending on the materials, a building can create a sensation of warmth or coldness. Also, he talks about the Surrounding objects, which are the elements that decorate a space. In my opinion, it is quite interesting how instant and effective the impact these make is. Moreover, he talks about Between composure and seduction, which is the movement or the occupants’ discovery trip generated by the building; the Tension between interior and exterior; and the Levels of intimacy, which is about the relation between a space size and us. For example, a huge space can make us feel smaller and insignificant or even dignified. Finally, he also mentions the Light on things, referring to both lights and shadows. With these nine aspects, he addresses all senses. In other words, our impression of a space is not only determined by our sight, as we might first think. In conclusion, even though it may seem as if I had no opinion at all, I sincerely agree with all points Zumthor made! I agree with his perception of architecture as a question of atmosphere and sensations. It is indeed true that even the most irrelevant details can change our whole vision. I guess that from now on, I won’t be able to ignore these nine aspects! I will just go around reflecting on  atmospheres!

“I enter a building, see a room, and – in a fraction of a second – have this feeling about it.”, Peter Zumthor, “Atmospheres”

Bibliography and image sources