The Nature of Physical and Interpersonal Spaces

A space exists the moment there is a boundary, wherever there is an interaction between two objects, people, or aspects of the physical world. In utero, you grew in the space of your mother’s womb. You differentiated yourself in the space of her container.

We tend to focus on the objects, words and events that we experience, not the space between objects, words or people. Unless one is a therapist, interior designer or urban planner, one tends to ignore the quality of this space between, even though it impacts all of us.

To create a conscious space, you need to focus on the dynamics in the space. Each interpersonal or physical space has distinct qualities that can be nurtured or altered once they become conscious elements of your experience.

Spaces are always intersecting with other spaces. Whether the overheard conversation, or raised tone of voice influences the interpersonal interactions at an adjacent table, or the street noise and physical experience influence the quality of space of an adjacent business, you can consider each space as a circle that touches, or overlaps numerous other spaces or circles.

Interpersonal spaces exist between people even without their conscious awareness. Each of us exists in our own circle or space which is defined by distinct qualities that range from our emotions and thoughts to the quality of our energetic field. Interaction with another person’s space creates a third space where individual spaces overlap.

The space between two people is comprised of emotional, mental, visual, auditory, olfactory, and energetic information. Appearance, tone of voice, speed and clarity of communication, qualities of honesty, kindness, respect, the energy of each person, and the alignment between what we say and how we feel all influence the space of interaction. If you are interacting with a sentient being, like a dog, then the space includes the energy of the being and the visual, tactile, and magnetic information of the being.

When you are in nature or the built environment there is the existing space you enter, and the space that is created between you and the environment.

In nature the space is impacted by light, weather, geology, climate, topography, and geomagnetic fields. In the built environment the space is impacted by proportion, colors, shapes, patterns, sizes, geomagnetic fields, and other sensory information.

Inanimate objects have a space of their own, in the same way that we have ‘personal space’— an amount of space between us and another that feels comfortable. The object exists in relation to other objects nearby, and that grouping then relates to larger and larger spheres of relation like a rug, windows, or color themes.

Whether considering interior design questions, urban planning, or energy usage, the greater the number of spaces of interaction we consider, the more holistic and effective our solutions can be. The more we are aware of spaces as actual vehicles of communication, the more we can care for them.

Many cities are now exploring how the built environment influences social interaction and civic involvement. Hospitals have begun to consider the healing possibility of consciously designed spaces. Many people do not register these qualities of space although they influence all of us.