The architect Alvar Aalto once argued that what mattered in architecture was not what a building ‘looks like’ on the day it opens, but what it ‘is like’ to live in thirty years later. In this book Robert McCarter presents a persuasive defence of why and how interior spatial experience is the necessary starting point for design, and why the quality of that experience is the only appropriate means of evaluating a work of architecture after it is built.
We live in an age dominated by images. We often feel we ‘know’ architecture and the places it makes, both old and new, through the photos of buildings we see in print and online, without ever inhabiting their spaces. McCarter argues that we need to counter our contemporary obsession with exterior views and forms, and makes a powerful case for the primacy of the interior experience in architecture.
The Space Within explores how interior space has been integral to the development of Modern architecture from the late 1800s to today, and how generations of architects have engaged with interior space and its experience in their design processes. In doing so, they fundamentally transformed the traditional methods and goals of architectural composition. As McCarter argues, for many of the most recognized and respected architects practising today, the conception of the interior spatial experience continues to be the starting point for design. Through historical and current examples of architectural works he takes us through how this is done, and eloquently places us within the spaces.
‘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. Although he provides no photographs of the interiors, he makes up for that with his own sketches, done while on-site. Highly recommended.’
‘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
Robert McCarter is a practising architect and Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. His books include Frank Lloyd Wright (Reaktion, 2006), Louis I. Kahn (2005) and Understanding Architecture (2012).