our relationship with space

what is “space”?
The space we spend time in has a huge influence on us. If you think about it, you might easily see that it shapes our identity and how we relate to things.

“Space” can be seen as the relationship I am experiencing between myself and an area, or an object, individual, or anything that I am engaged in at that moment or period of time.

Space is the world around us - people, objects, systems, physical nature - and is also the world within. So this means there are different forms of space that we move in and out of, depending on what our focus and attention is - what is influencing or imposing on us at any given time.

4 Spaces
The term “space” as used here is divided into 4 kinds - 1.physical (natural and built), 2.social, 3.psychological, and 4.spiritual.

1. physical space

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The is the space outside of ourselves; the place we inhabit, the place we exist in. It contains us, as a physical space and place that “holds” us, supports us, is the framework we operate in, and is all around us. It can be the natural environment, for others it is the built environment, the urban space, and for others, it is something in between. Both spaces involve relationship - one is between the human and the Earth, the other is between the human and others - objects, structures and inhabitants.

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The natural environment we are often in awe of; it inspires us. It constantly sustains us, is what we harness and live off. It often gives us comfort and we feel connected to. It is what we commune with, worship and feel at one with. It is what we build on and feel we own, yet in many ways, it controls us and has power over us. The built space, man-made, our space of home - is like a series of containers, that we move through - in and out of - i.e. the various rooms of our habitat, which are spaces that contain us, like containers within containers.

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This is the space we live in, where it is observed more closely - the relationship between humans and their environment through their lived experience. It is the space where we are learning how and what the overall impact of being in a designed space is having on us.

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2. social space

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Social space is made up of 2 things - place and relationship.
Within place are structures and systems that influence and become the relationships of interaction. It is the space of activity - with others (people, animals, objects), with structures, and with location. Everything is about communication and interaction.

This is the space we live in - our place - neighbourhood, city, county, country - and it contributes in shaping our identity.
By the end of the 20th century, just under 50% of the population is found living in cities. These built up spaces are the urban space, divided into other spaces, like a series of containers within containers - our home, the street I live on, the shops where I buy my groceries, the local school, my place of work, the public transport that takes me into work, or the road systems that my car drives along to go into work, etc. - all spaces that contain us. These are the spaces of people, movement and objects.

We are defined by our social connections.
The people we spend time with on our journeys through daily living, those who make up the neighbourhood we live in, the specific community we are a part of, even those we share our rush hour traffic with - along busy traffic ways or on our bicycle by a seawall, plus all the systems carried out by humans that run us as a whole, are all part of my social space.

The area one lives in can give a sense of belonging and identity, which as social space, can influence the development of identity and behaviour. People often define themselves according to their local hero, sports team, tourist attraction, monument, historical fact, degree of affluence, or physical environment.

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With social space comes the influence of humans on humans.
The self and relationships with others. The self shaped by family/social expectations and norms.
The self and relationship with systems and various forms of structures, arrangements, networks, complexities.

Society’s effect on the human is one of encouraging, guiding, directing behaviour that is are social norms. As each social grouping is made up of the ingredients of its participants and members, its specific approaches, ideologies and intentions will overall shape what that society is about, from grassroots and beyond.

As time goes on, the human develops more self awareness and the planes of physical, psychological, social and spiritual are heading toward a converging point of a collective understanding..

For example, our modes of communication have greatly changed, bringing vast improvements but also difficulties that are becoming social concerns, ranging from data security becoming vulnerable to youth losing social skills via the trends of reliance on social media and digital technology for communication versus personal contact. For those who do not or are not able to work with ever updating technology, division and isolation is occurring, especially amongst elders and youth. Gathering places have shrunk in numbers or completely disappeared - community centres, youth clubs, church halls, etc. Many youth now find their community online.

Adolescent mental health has increased noticeably in the past 10 years.

The awareness and perhaps, conscience, in the corporate world to assist in addressing these issues may need to awaken as governments increasingly demonstrate their inability to find solutions for these areas.

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Even the Governor of the Bank of England has recognised that exclusion, in the form of economic privilege, has a detrimental effect on society, and that a society that looks out for the needs of all of its citizens, instead of favouring an elite, is one which will thrive. He goes on to state that research has shown that equality is one of the most important factors of happiness and that a sense of community is a “critical determinant of wellbeing.”

3. psychological space

The most important thing to know about psychological space,
is grasping the impact our thoughts have on us.
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Psychological space is the area inside our minds, the mental place, the space where our thoughts are created and take effect, where our psychology operates.

What the mind creates can be very powerful, and it starts at the level of thought.

Thoughts are created by the mind, repeated thoughts create behaviour and thus becomes a part of my personality.

If we look at our thinking process, we can facilitate things easier for how our mind operates.

The faculties of consciousness are the mind, intellect and personality.


Our thinking process is our psychological space. It involves a number of faculties.

Memory (the storage unit of one’s life), Imagination (the creation of thoughts around new ideas, images, concepts), Conscience (reason and consequence), and Behaviours all exist or stem from this mental space.

The mind runs our thinking process and creates conscious thoughts, either positive or negative, which lead to corresponding emotions. The mind happens to be the most powerful asset of the body, creating anywhere between 50,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day - conscious and unconscious - and that can be up to 3000 per hour or 50 per minute, just under one per second.
The mind is made up of three systems - the conscious mind, the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind.

-The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. The conscious mind is your awareness at the present moment.
-The subconscious mind consists of accessible information, like memory recall. While we are not consciously aware of this information at any given time, we can retrieve it and pull it into consciousness when needed.
-The unconscious mind holds all experiences and memories from the past, that are not easily accessible, but at times are triggered and drive our behaviours. Our feelings, motives and decisions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and are stored in the unconscious.

This is the part of consciousness that discerns the conscious thinking of the mind. If the intellect is strong, it can control the mind and emotions - it is responsible for deciding whether or not I will bring my thoughts into actions. A healthy intellect has strength, clarity and good judgement.

This part of our mental space accesses the faculties of:
-memory (the storage unit of one’s life)
-imagination (the creation of thoughts around new ideas, images, concepts)
-conscience (reason and consequence)
Repeated thinking affects behaviour, and then behaviour becomes patterns, habits or tendencies in one’s personality. These all sit in the subconscious, ready to be triggered into thoughts by external circumstances and events.

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With the mind, one has the ability to create within their inner space whatever they so choose. Once I understand how my mind works, I can retrain my thinking to create inner experiences that influence my outer experience.

Thoughts hold vibrations. For example, the thought of peace, holds a very different vibration than a thought of anger or dislike. The level of vibration of the thought of peace will resonate with other thoughts, such as ones of positive human qualities or values - known as intrinsic values.

What is developed through this mental space is the relationship we have with ourselves, created through the thoughts we have that we initiate or are in response to experiences we have, both positive and negative, that have a direct hand in shaping who we are.

This mental space can be multi dimensional. While there is the concrete and practical domain of being physically present with each other in the same space, at the same time this space has another part to it, the facility of interaction through the process of thinking. You can come into my mind, and then suddenly the telephone rings and you are on the other end. This synchronicity is not by chance.

We connect through our thoughts, (it is mostly unconscious, such as - I think of you, and at the same time, you telephone me) but mostly through the verbalisation of our thoughts.

You and I can be thousands of miles apart, communicating by email, telephone or video link, etc, and although we will share very little of a physical space, we can share a mental space that can be of any size according to what develops within our relationship.

4. spiritual space

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The fourth type of space, the spiritual space, is generally not understood overall to the degree that is possible.

There is the physical space that we often associate a church or temple with - or for many, especially the Indigenous peoples - the land - which is all experienced as the holy or sacred spaces. But spiritual space can also be an inner experience of the spirit.

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Contemporary architecture presents spiritual space more secularly.

“Even if they are only a rudimentary aspect of contemporary building activity, new sacred buildings are sure to be a special attention, since they are the last messengers of a non-commercialized architecture, which does not shy away from the higher purpose and the related creative discipline.”

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from Modulor Magazine

"God needs no holy space, but man," said Father Claudius Wintz.
According to this, sacred buildings are not sacred places, but places of a different reality.

(wait momentarily while Google Chrome translates from German to English:)

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“Hollow”, Royal Fort Gardens, Bristol, UK - by Katie Paterson
A forest sculpture made from 10,000 species of trees from every country in the world.

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Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Doha

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Cardedeu, El Salvadore

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Seigerland Motorway Church, built on a site overlooking a busy motorway and surrounded by a hotel, petrol station and fast-food restaurant.
A motorway sign symbol of a church was translated directly into the structure of this roadside chapel on the outside Wilnsdorf, Germany.

From DEZEEN Magazine, photographs by Helen Schiffer


Spiritual space is also the internal space of the self, where one meets their soul, the driving force of the human.

By consciously using the mind to create the awareness of, for example, peace, or happiness, by creating thoughts of these experiences, the self, or the soul, becomes the experience.

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Within this internal space one can connect with the experience of silence, and become innerly still and even move away from or go beyond the material and consciousness.

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The power of meditation and prayer has been undergoing research over the years and continues to be proven with scientific studies.

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Wellcome Trust is currently funding a 7 year project, conducted by University College London and Oxford University to study adolescents, looking at the effect of mind exercises on improving their mental health. They plan to go into 76 schools, and research 6,000 aged 11 to 14 year olds.

One part of the study is to test whether mindfulness can increase resilience to “a core vulnerability” displayed by teens - which is having difficulty maintaining attention spans while being faced with thoughts and impulses that can become overwhelming.

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importance of belief
Overall, spiritual space is created by belief and experience and can exist in specific types of physical and psychological spaces; is of an immaterial and/or immortal state that can be experienced through:
▪ a sacred or holy place
▪ the powerful natural environment
▪ places where stillness, silence, contemplation have been practiced over time
▪ the practices of prayer and meditation
▪ rituals associated with religious or spiritual practice
▪ in imagined places or realities that do not exist in the physical realm
▪ an inner experience of transcending the physical body while still being in it

focussing the mind
The power of prayer, based on compassion and focusing thoughts on belief has been proven with scientific studies to bring benefit to others’ in situations of suffering and hardship.

Individuals are having documented success in healing themselves of serious illnesses, through the practice of meditation and positive thinking, applying focused thoughts and positive “metaphors” in place of the negative medical language used by doctors to describe the treatment.

The gist of these examples is to demonstrate the power of spiritual space in affecting the individual in terms of transformation, empowerment, and awareness, which has an indirect influence on the self and identity. All through the simple harnessing of thought power via directing the mind.


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