Kinesthetic Foundations of Spatial Concepts and Configurations

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This paper focuses on the kinesthetics of human bodies, whether engaged in generic everyday movement or in ritual formations. It attempts to articulate how such kinesthetics constitute a layer of experience which, while ephemeral and barely-conscious, is deeply informative of the conception and configuration of building space.

To link the ephemeral grain of kinesthetics to spatial configuration, the argument refers to Rudolph Laban’s Effort-Shape theory of movement (Dell 1977). Laban distinguishes between movements that the body directs at itself, and movements directed towards other objects and bodies. The latter, termed spatial-movements, construct nearly-imperceptible forms of social interaction, as demonstrated by systematic analyses of dance forms in various cultures (Bull 1967). The fleeting, ‘fine-grain’ of encounter suggested by moving and gesturing bodies, underlies conceptions of space.
This is particularly emphasized in mass gatherings within building enclosures, which amplify issues of generic movement and stasis, and attendant kinesthetics. The paper examines two different building types: Muslim mosques and Soviet assemblies. While different in many respects, both involve synchronic and diachronic spaces meant for large crowds in ritual formations.

Generating a range of kinesthetic movements and sensations, the different crowd formations in both species of buildings construct subtle patterns of encounter, besides proposing models for framing the sense of things (bodies and objects) and of the enclosing boundaries. During Muslim ritual, it is the reliance on subtle spatial-bodily gestures between physically contiguous bodies to communicate a feeling of unity that
permeates Muslim ritual space with an overall sense of transparency. In Soviet mass assemblies, diachronic movement is more crucial. The Soviet Rationalists’ manipulation of building floors as curved surfaces (the Palace of Soviets, 1931), generates a choreography of rhythmic gestures synchronized across the mass of moving bodies (after Meyerhold’s theatrical Biomechanics (Law 1996). A flow of rhythmic spatial-gestures (after Laban) conjoins the attending crowd in a pattern which scaffolds shifting
attention. Self-awareness of the body’s we ight and movement provokes a sense of space as the empathetic projection of weightiness, complemented by the Rationalists’ tilted building masses and play on gravitational pull. Centered on this kinesthetic crowd, Soviet architects shaped spatial boundaries as ‘floating’: visually detached from the
ground and from a conclusive resolution to their structural forces.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, İstanbul, 2007
Place of PublicationIstanbul
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789755613048
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Event6th International Space Syntax Symposium - Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 12 Jun 200715 Jun 2007
Conference number: 6


Conference6th International Space Syntax Symposium
Internet address


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