Where Form and Void Coincide

Cover. Salk Institute, La Jolla, California [1960] Architecture: Louis Kahn [1901-1974]. Photography: ArchEyes, Thomas Nemeskeri.


This text is an excerpt from Revitilisation of 'Dead Space' Through The Use of Interactive Interventions [2015] by Nainoa D. J. Cravalho.



The urban environment is an intricate system that has arisen, in part, due to the industrial revolution. 

Factory jobs became a major source of income, driving people to want to live closer to their workplace. This concentration of people created a demand for more infrastructures, thus creating the foundation for modern cities of today. This concentration of people and the complexity of the urban environment created a problem when it came to city planning,

'This management problem is made more difficult because the city’s political boundaries don’t fit the actual boundaries of the metropolitan community area […] Each metropolis is effectively composed of many different decision-making units – central cities, suburban cities, counties, townships, police and fire districts, sewer and water districts, and so forth – all with separate voice and vote over the area’s future. It is, thus, more an agglomeration of places than an autonomous, self-governing unit.'[1]

The management of cities becomes hectic when there are multiple interests involved because there is no 'one size fits all' solution to the concerns of each party. As a result, it creates an uneven growth of solid and void space within the city.

'Growth-related issues are often at the forefront of current urban crises. While growth is a basic goal of many cities, it produces its own problems. In the United States, urban sprawl and the deterioration of inner-city areas are major issues. These represent problems of ‘uneven development’ that  dramatically distinguish the social topography of the new urban landscape.'[2]


'The problem with dead space is that it gives the impression of an unsafe, lonely, and unsanitary environment – factors that discourage people from occupying the space – and as a result, becomes a wasted space. Rather than expending a great deal of resources towards rebuilding the site, each space has the potential to be intervened.'


The expansion and development of a city causes spots of urban decay to emerge. The constant changes within the city created an  'accumulation of disparate spatial experiences without a binding order, where form and void coincide.'[3] These voids within the city are referred to in this paper as 'dead space.'[4]

Dead spaces arise from these conditions of varied growth and improper planning, which create spaces that are not conducive to social interactions. The problem with dead space is that it gives the impression of an unsafe, lonely, and unsanitary environment – factors that discourage people from occupying the space – and as a result, becomes a wasted space. 

'The rise of post-industrial sites in cities around the world have come about only in the past thirty or forty years and people don’t know what to do with them. They think they should be removed and erased. What we’ve found over the past ten years is that you can actually take these post-industrial conditions and through creative design, actually produce something that people love. It’s not erasure and it’s not preservation it’s really transformation.'[5]

Through intervention, each site has the possibility of transforming into a beautiful space with the use of fewer resources than rebuilding. These interventions tap into the potential of the space, which can encourage people to take action and accept responsibility for the site. Part of revitalising dead space is to increase the amount of social interaction that occurs, and a proposed way of doing this would be through the use of interactive architecture. 

This form of architecture can create a more engaging and meaningful experience which alters a person’s perception of that space. 

1. William A. Schwab [2005]. Deciphering the City
2. Ibid.
3. Elly Van Eeghem, Riet Steel, Griet Verschelden, Carlos Dekeyrel [2014]. Urban Cracks: Interstitial Spaces in the City. Sabanci University.
4. According to Tetsuya Umeda, a Japanese artist, dead space: 'tends to emerge from the gap between what was envisioned for a building before it was constructed, and what was deemed necessary for it while the building was actually being used… you might find that there is a lot of dead space within architecture that has been sloppily conceived ... Developers, planners, or architects create buildings that do not flow within the existing built environment creating pockets of space, which are devoid of human occupancy. Conversely, dead spaces can be well planned and thought out, yet not as successful as originally intended. In these cases the space can be highly occupied, yet devoid of any social interaction;' Blouin Art Info [2013]. Tetsuya Umeda on Osorezan and Dead Space.
5. Gary Hustwit; Jan Gehl, Amanda Burden and James Corner [2011]. Urbanized.
Back to Top