What is an "Interior Atmosphere" ?
I remember the first time I heard the term "atmosphere" back in Architecture Uni. The teacher was telling us that it is something that just "is". You can imagine that this explanation was not enough for me, I had to further look into it. Why? Because it sounded like I was missing out on something fascinating. I had a feeling about what it might be, but had to know for sure.
Turns out, it is a feeling that moves you (or it pleases that little voice that lives inside your head). But what does that mean? Remember that CCL? I believe it is strongly related to that, in some percentage. But it also depends on a few different key points as well. Architect Peter Zumthor actually wrote a little book on this subject, called ' Atmospheres'. In it, he asks the same question from an architectural point of view (but it applies to interior design as well).
Imagine yourself in Covent Garden (the picture above). Imagine the beautiful pavement, the texture of the walls, the metal frames and beams that complete the glass rooftop of this old market. You came to this place the see the new art installation that is inside this structure. You see thousands of balloons of different sizes hanging over your head and instantly, you feel like a kid again. You are fascinated by them, and while you are looking, you hear the beautiful violin music that is playing near the restaurants. It's an upbeat tune that sort of makes you want to join in on a dance. And to top that, you can smell the red wine and steak that people are enjoying around you.
That, my friends, is an atmosphere. It's all of those elements combined, that activate all of your senses, triggering memories and feelings. Zumthor calls this the 'the Magic of the Real'. Take the plaza away and you loose this feeling.
But then, how can we define what an atmosphere is?
1. Body of Architecture
By definition, an interior is a space inside a structure or building! What are the limits of this space? Physical elements like walls, floors, ceilings, openings, windows and doors. It is everything that surrounds this place, forming a protective frame, or layer for what is happening inside. Let's say you are inside your house/flat, in the living room. Take a moment to study this room. Can you notice the horizontal and vertical lines around the windows and door? Can you see where a wall starts and where it joins with another one? Can you imagine them supporting the ceiling above you? Oh and that beautiful pendant light that hangs from it?
What you are doing right now is reading the interior architecture of the space you are in. Feeling like you just discovered something new? :) I know, I know, whole new world. What I am trying to say is that you don't need a degree in architecture to learn how to read and appreciate the beauty of an interior.
2. Combination of Materials
This refers to the amount of different materials and how well they work together. Hitting that combination just right could generate a space filed with harmony. Let's take nature for example. We always turn to it; something in it gives us a peace of mind, so we try to recreate it indoors. Easiest way to do that is by using wood. Add a little plant here & there and boom, you sense a certain zen feeling all around the house. But the combinations and materials you can work with today are so so many (thankfully), so you can experiment until you find the frequency that makes your heart sing.
3. Sound of Interiors
'Listen! Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sounds, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere.' - arch. Peter Zumthor
What architect Peter Zumthor is talking about here is that materials also sing (besides just sitting there all looking pretty). Ever moved a stick on the metal balusters of a staircase when you were little? I did, and I remember how different it sounded from wood or concrete. Same goes with glass, and other materials. Every material has a different composition, so naturally it will create a certain sound when you hit it. Even if you slap your hand to a table or a door. It will hurt you, but you will notice a sound. It will differ from, let's say, a wall.
When an architect, interior designer or an engineer design a space, they take this info into account. This is known in the industry as acoustics. I am not going to go into details with this, because it's a whole other field of study (and there is math involved ughh), but you get the point. Everything has "a voice and it sings" - remember that.
4. The Temperature of a Space
Same as with sound, every material has a warmth or coldness to it. Every material has a composition, and each part that is forming that material, has its own characteristics. The simplest way to see this is by touching different surfaces. For example, if you touch a piece of wood, you'll find that it is significantly warmer then a piece of marble, or even metal, which will instantly feel cold. The same principle applies to your sight as well. If you were to enter a room that is made out of wood, you would feel warm and cosy inside it. At the opposite end, if you would enter a factory, the concrete and metal that define the space, will make you shiver a little bit. It is basically, what you see, what you feel, what you touch!
5. Surrounding Elements
Remember when you were little, and you would get to visit your grandparents? Remember how you just hated that porcelain fish decoration that was sitting on top of that old tv (at least, that was my memory), or the old rug that kind of smelled of the dog that you loved, which was sleeping somewhere in the house? All of these things were telling the story of your grandparents life.
Everything you have around you, at this very moment, are objects that you chose to keep next to you. Perhaps as a memory, or because it triggers a happy feeling inside you, it keeps you connected to someone, or simply because you like it. Every little thing around us is, in a way, an extension of ourselfes. It speaks of our life story, where we have been, were we are now, what we like, who we are as a person. It is as simple as that!
6. Levels of intimacy
Intimacy is a feeling of safety, security. You feel it when you are in a familiar place, or just in a right sized space. This may sound weird, but think of it this way. When you go to a restaurant, and you go to the restrooms, you just entered from a large space, in to a normal sized space. You feel a little bit more relaxed, but if there are people around (and you are anything like me), when you go inside the cubile itself, there is where you feel completely relaxed. It's just you in there. It's your space (temporarily), it's where you are "hugged" by walls, nobody can see you in there. That is intimacy.
The same principle applies when you go outside. The space grows more and more, to possibly monumental proprotions (like in a museum for example). In architecture this depends a lot on the function that the space is designed for. You will never see a restroom as big as a kitchen. Or a restaurant as big as a museum. I mean, sure you could, but it would look odd, and out of place.
So, to recap, atmosphere is direclty liked to the scale and size of a space!
The last and maybe the most important thing that can create an atmosphere in any type of space, is light! You know what I am talking about here. You have experienced this at some point in your home. No matter if it's natural or artificial light, it is a powerful factor, a game changer. Architects and designers know this, and they think about this when they choose the materials for their projects. Because, just like with sound and temperature, every material absorbes and reflects a certain amoun of light. Imagine a mirror vs a concrete slab, or a plank of wood vs metal. Or just the examples below.
So there you have it peeps, all of these elements create an atmosphere inside a space. These are the things that make you feel an emotion when you enter a space, whether you want to feel something or not. It triggeres your senses and you can't really do anything about it, except to accept it and live with it.
You know, I saw something the other day: "many people exist, but few people live" (cheesy I know). I think it was by Oscar Wilde. So if you feel something, don't bottle that emotion up. Live through it! Chances are, it's there for a reason ;).
Let me know your thougths! Would love to hear your opinion on this subject. Until next time - feel your surroundings!!!
All images that are credited as '©Detail Movement', are done by Raluca Vaduva for Detail Movement. All rights reserved. All pictures that are not my own, I credit them to the best of my knowledge & research, to their online sources. I do not claim ownership over them in any way.