It represents, stands for or conveys another idea, visual image, belief, action or material entity. They take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. They are an energy that are agents which are impregnated with messages and with invitation to conform and to act when decoded in their context, they are found to have both cognitive and emotional meaning.
Humans, owing to their communicating nature, decipher and deduct meaning from all that they do and see or experience in their everyday life. The mental images created in the receptors; as in any other form of communication, enables them to derive meaning for them.
Moreover, the user learns through his personal experiences, the knowledge encoded in its organization and forms. In a way, people live not by the things that they see or the spaces that they live in, but by the meaning that they deduct out of such.
Talking particularly about architecture, materials and surfaces provide form and substance. However, they are almost never used in their raw form; they are manipulated in some way by the human hand, industrial processes, or now with digital fabrication. The relationship between labor or production and raw materials is in delicate flux, shaped by economics, politics, technology, and by culture.
The cost of raw materials and resources is subject to local and global market demands. If materials are rarely used in their raw form, where is the line between what we perceive as natural and manmade? What if a process of production is entirely natural, or a biological process is simulated?
It undoubtedly has a major impact on conception and production of surfaces and materials. There is a notable moment when one walk into a room made of the same white homogenous material. 3-D printing means that form and concept became the dominant conversation in that room. It divides the public, some were seduced and intrigued, others bewildered by the loss of recognisable material distinction within the works on display. I think that our relationship with materials will constantly evolve and be influenced by many factors, which I hope we can be explored – first questioning the meaning of materials practically and philosophically, then looking at the implications of their manipulation, and finally, experience which should be stimulating.
Spatial narrative in relation to surfaces and materials can be achieved through organization of form, organization of space, circulation and paths-space relationship, spatial hierarchies, context and/or elements. Stating that, I would like to briefly discuss here, an example that was part of my architectural thesis on a hypothetical topic namely Symbolism of Architecture; Memorial for activists. This was a symbolic journey where, to create that sensitivity of the space, I created scenarios that would communicate to the user what that space is all about by using surfaces, materials and architectural form.
The journey starts by entering into a void partially lit by louvres on the sidewall, which creates anxiety into the user. I used a maze; symbolizing the presence of true and false paths.
The place was of graffiti activism, which voiced and questioned the current conditions of the state and was a sculptural space elaborated by the use of cracked asphalt floor and broken walls symbolizing the ignorance of marginalized. The maze led to an opening of a dark tunnel with slight sliver of light coming from the roof where one had to walk over metal plates (scrap metal), the sound of which symbolized voice of marginalized. Now, since these were intensive spaces, proceeding space acts as a transition and encourages user to pause and anticipate the experience to come with smooth textured flooring and bright surfaces.
Design is an expression of thoughts; preferences, beliefs and emotions, symbolically communicating and imparting relevance to its users. In a broader perspective, it can be understood as a language that refers to meaning.
Everything in design has to have a meaning and when it will be associated to the people it is being made for, they’ll have a better understanding of what is being communicated to them. An outstanding feature of all symbols is their multi-vocality; i.e. they stand for many objects, activities and relationships; there is not a one-to-one relationship between symbol and referent but a one-to-many relationship. Similarly, when symbolism is applied in design, a powerful statement is developed because of the ambiguity that is created by a symbol through its multiplicity of meanings. This ambiguity creates a multivalent experience where one oscillates from meaning to meaning always finding further justification and depth.
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