Post 31 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 1 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)



A typical dictionary meaning of Space is an expanse of area, volume or distance, which has some relevance for experiencing, visitation, occupation or some form of intervention. Space is considered to be three-dimensional realism, yet depending on means of perception and interpretation it is perceived to be inexplicitly extensive. Spaces are edged by definitive boundaries or belief that something exists beyond. Space is also a purposive nothingness between words, buildings, objects, events, time or concepts. It is a three-dimensional surmise, but distinct from the body, but as a thing in which body could be.

Spaces of Nothingness > Tadao Ando and Lee U-fan Concrete walls at Lee Ufan Museum at Kagawa prefecture, Japan Wikipedia Image by

The word space derives from ‘speh =to stretch or to pull’ (Proto-Indo-European), or from word Spatium which derives from root ‘spa =to draw’ and from ‘span =to stretch’ (German spannen). In its original use Spatium meant ‘a certain stretch, extent, or area of ground an expanse, in which to walk’. Spatium is a derivative de intervallo loci, the interval between places, hence ‘distance’. Space has more generalized character: ‘magnitude, size, bulk, bigness’. Other meanings of space include an enclosed area, extent or interval. Once it referred to an interval or period of time or a space of time.


Spaces are something we fathom. The space extent means two levels of measures: the sizes of ‘extent’ and distance from the perceiver. The space measures, width, breadth and depth and the relative distance-position from the perceiver, endow human relevance. The human relevance persists whether one is part of the space or beyond it. The space is evident within the limits of perception, so has elements that are neatly defined or diffused. One may perceive the space directly, or acknowledge it deductively after several layers of conversions. Like one can ‘see’ a space directly by listening to it, or by interpreting the energy transmitted out of it.

Radio Telescopes listen instead of seeing a Space > Wikimedia Commons image by National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Cornell, US

Space perception is also part of human behavioural processes. One learns and responds to space, and other humans. ‘The presence of other human beings in a space is real, metaphysical like objects, and metaphoric through remembrances’. The spatial features, environmental conditions and evidence of humans, all occur in concert, and so we expect the presence of one to trigger the other. A space, characteristically static, seems to vary due to continuously varying changing environment and varied behaviour human beings.

Home office sun deck > Flickr image by Matt Crawford


Space cognition is genetic, physiological and intentional. When individual, it has subjective significance, whereas the universal nature offers societal implications. ‘So space is the realm of conditions where human behaviour shows individual variability and communal consistency’. Space responses are genetic and learnt, but seen through the expression and communication.

Scaffold Building Manhattan New York City Taxi

The measures such as width, breadth and depth, and the relative distance-position offers the first idea of a space. The environment further defines that cognition. The presence of people allows how the learned information is nurtured and shared. Space experience as a result is further coloured by beliefs, metaphors, and group behaviour dynamics. Such realizations show the potential a space has for confirmation, cursory visitation, occupation (ownership) or some form of intervention like inhabitation.

Christopher Columbus arrives in America > Wikipedia image

The reach in space is a physical facilitation, and an attainment through perception. Reach in space is a personal phenomenon. The environment by being affective on certain times and sides, divides a space into segments, similarly different levels of personal reach in space create distinct personalization. Such segments and distinct personalization are more apparent very extensive spaces.

Personalization as a response to space setting > Old Port in Portland, Maine > Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/flisphil/3036263855/ Author: PhilipC

For space designers, the study of human behaviour in response to space is very useful, because it indicates how a person will respond to a given spatial setting. Alternatively one can predict how an individual or group will behave in certain spatial conditions.



This is the FIRST lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.