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Exploring Liminal Spaces

17 of April '24
w skrócie
  1. Definition of Liminal Space: These are liminal areas located between different Places.
  2. Feeling of Anxiety: Desolate Liminal Spaces can cause a feeling of anxiety, similar to the Valley of the Uncanny phenomenon.
  3. Liminal spaces correspond with "Non-Places" and "Garbage Spaces."
  4. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the AiB portal

Liminal spaces, representing the transition between different states and environments, are most often invisible. However, their importance in creating a sense of identity and their impact on users is crucial. What happens when suddenly a crowded school corridor, a besieged cafeteria or a central subway station - become empty? To what extent are liminal spaces related to the concept of "non-places" and "junk spaces"? We invite you to take a journey through the liminal areas of architecture, where space becomes more than just a place of passage.

In the world of architecture, there is an area that belongs neither here nor there, a space that is right next door, beyond categorization. It is a liminal, boundary space that is on the borderline between inside and outside, the public and the private, and even between one function and another. These spaces usually do not intrigue, do not stop, do not try to draw attention to themselves - but when we look at them, they become a separate world, so to speak.

the metro station in my city
byu/Fuadabi07 inLiminalSpace

Liminal space as boundary areas of architecture

Derived from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold, liminal space is defined in culture as a transition between two fixed states. In architecture, meanwhile, liminal spaces are transitional areas that exist between two separate places or environments. They are corridors, passageways, waiting rooms and zones that connect one place to another, often overlooked, treated as mere connectors of places. Liminal architecture is neutral, it does not try to make people curious. It encourages people to skip it, walk past it, look away, leaving it unnoticed. Unlike traditional, ostentatious architectural spaces, which are often strongly defined by function and decoration, distinguished by their character, liminal spaces exist in a state of weightlessness. To the discerning observer, however, they exist and, moreover, possess a unique aura.

Characteristics and functions of liminal spaces

Corridors, stairwells, elevators, lobbies are the most obvious examples of liminal spaces. These spaces that we traverse every day, those places where we most often automatically pull out our phone or give in to spontaneous conversation - are invisible to us. But they can seem amazing, especially when we see them in a different context - for example, the hallway and corridor of a crowded office building, seen on a weekend, without crowds of people. Liminal spaces also include sidewalks, underpasses, tunnels and even a vast parking lot at a shopping center, for example.

The role of liminal spaces in architecture is deeper than it seems. They are more than spaces of movement or waiting. They also act as quasi-public spaces - they generate a sense of belonging in people and bring a sense of identity. Sensorially, they are also meant to provide respite. They are buffers, often having elements of transparency and permeability, allowing visual and physical connections between different areas. Glass walls, open staircases and mezzanines are common elements that blur the boundaries between inside and outside or one space and another. They can serve several functions at the same time, acting as meeting spaces, transportation routes and even places for contemplation and reflection. Spatial indeterminacy allows for flexibility and adaptability.

My local mall
byu/Spiritual_Design6313 inLiminalSpace

Feelings of anxiety vs. liminal spaces

The sight of a deserted shopping mall, hotel lobby or train station can cause anxiety when it lacks the expected context, namely the presence of people. Research by Alexander Diel and Michael Lewis of Cardiff University attributes the unsettling nature of liminal spaces to the phenomenon of the valley of the uncanny. The term, usually used to refer to humanoid figures whose inaccurate resemblance to humans creates feelings of unease, may explain similar reactions to space as well. In this case, physical places that seem familiar but diverge from reality create feelings of unease.

Peter Heft of the magazine "Pulse: The Journal of Science and Culture" continues to explore this feeling of unease. Using the work of Mark Fisher, Heft explains that such anxious moods can arise when an individual perceives a situation in a different context than he or she expects. For example, the sight of a school, associated with a noisy place full of runaway children, shown as empty - arouses anxiety straight out of a horror movie. This "lack of presence" has been identified by Fisher as one of the characteristic features of the aesthetic experience of anxiety.

Slightly more strongly embedded in this feeling are places that are completely abandoned. Ruined buildings, abandoned hotels or dying shopping malls - they too fall under the category of liminal spaces in architecture, but they constitute a separate aesthetic circle, luring groups of urbex followers in particular. This is the practice of discovering and exploring abandoned or ruined places, such as factories, hospitals, hotels or castles, usually for the purpose of photographic documentation, learning about the history of the place or simply in search of adventure.

Liminal architecture is not something new. Rome's historic Colosseum, with its vast corridors, vomitories, is a great example of leading viewers from the outside world to the spectacular inside.

Liminal space in contrast to "Non-Places" and "Garbage Spaces."

In addition to liminal spaces, there are also "Non-Places", which are characterized by a lack of variability and flexibility. "Non-Place"[1] is a neologism invented by French anthropologist Marc Augé to refer to anthropological spaces of transience, where people remain anonymous and which lack sufficient meaning to be considered distinctive places. Augé avoids making value judgments about non-places and looks at them from the perspective of a researcher who has a new field of exploration to explore.

Liminal spaces also fit into the category of non-places - they are spaces where one resides more out of necessity than of one's own volition, where they are used daily by a large number of people, but lack individuality or identity. Examples of such spaces are airports, shopping malls, supermarkets or gas stations, where they are usually used daily by a relatively large number of unconnected people. Non-places create an atmosphere of anonymity and routine. They are devoid of unique features and usually serve only as transition points or places of waiting, consumption.

The distinction between places and non-places stems from the opposition between Space and Place. The perception of space as a non-place is strictly subjective: any person can perceive any place as a non-place or as a place for building human relations. For example, a shopping mall is not a non-place for a person who works there and has acquaintances.

Rem Koolhaas ' notion of "junk space" is also related to this concept. Koolhaas uses the term to criticize the spaces created by modern modernization, which he considers worthless and chaotic. According to him, "junk space" is the result of our current achievements, where we have built more than all previous generations combined, but the quality of these spaces leaves much to be desired. Thus, they count among the effects of supermodernism, or the stage of the end of modernism. These spaces give the impression of being monolithic and lacking in detail. They do not connect with historical or cultural values, which makes them alien to the people who experience them.

Magdalena Milert

[1] Marc Augé, Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity, Le Seuil, 1992

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