Monica Ahairwebyona | Duality: Form and Space
Duality: Form and Space
Form refers to the shape or configuration of a structure. Space encompasses the volume of a structure that we may move through and experience.
Taking a stroll across Kampala’s cityscape to tell our built fabric’s story. It may appear obvious or generic at a careless glance but on taking a closer look with deliberation, you are met with some iconic surprises. These could be attributed to unique designs, ingenious application of material, different ways in which users adapt to their spaces, resilient neighbourhoods, the list goes on.
Having embarked on a journey to explore contemporary design, I was struck by the similarities between what is perceived as ‘professional’ design and that which people have built for themselves with what is available to them. When I set out to capture what I considered as contemporary design, my mind was directed towards spaces that embodied the minimalistic style that looks a lot like the modern movement of design to me and to structures that were outstanding or fascinating. But contemporary design essentially refers to the current style of architecture, and what is more current than architecture that springs to life through the spatial need and culture of its users?
When we speak of architecture, our minds normally run to professional bodies: firms, movements, architecture schools, books, famous architects, etc. I do the same, and I understand why, but my question is whether we are right to overlook the everyday, the impulsive and the pedestrian- what some have referred to as architecture without architects- when we only think of architecture in its professional form. I ask this because when it comes to spaces and structures created by non-professionals, it is almost dismissed as architecture. And yet, since these spaces and structures arise from the above, doesn’t that make them part of architecture? I wonder.
Passing through the city I am amazed by the efficiency of these structures- they are put together by people who are nothing short of visionaries. It takes ingeniousness to build something without reference, just focusing on need, resources, and capacity and coming up with something. For me, it was evidence that traditional architecture has evolved. When traditional Ugandan architecture comes up in discussion, grass thatch is usually the first thing to come to mind. But I have always felt that there was more to the story than just those traces, even as I had been taught that foreign architecture had caused a wipeout of what was traditional to us. But the more I examine the city, the more I see that traditional design is still with us in many ways, and is expressed through the work of its makers.
As you experience this story, consider carefully whether we are able to see beyond our preconceptions of what is and what should or should not be.