Oikod’ Workshop about Housing and Proximity.

Oikodomos International Workshop 2-6 May 2011, Istanbul, Turkey

Proxemic models affect our reading and use of space and refer to an important cultural dimension of the built environment: systems of intimate, personal, social or public distances are based on our education and cultural constraints. Therefore, proximity embraces multiple dimensions (personal, social) and at various scales (domestic, urban): proximity encompasses both the perception of space by inhabitants and the planning of space by professionals.

Manuel de Solà-Morales once stated that urban space can be seen as “a system of relative distances”: systems of distances between housing blocks, between individual dwellings, between leisure facilities and residential neighborhoods, between industrial areas, wastelands and residential development areas. As if they were sets of rules to be decided, coded and decoded at various levels, by various agents. These systems of distances do not operate exclusively on a bigger scale: they penetrate the very domain of the dwelling itself: distances from the street to the front door, from the entrance door to the living room, the distance between the kitchen, as the heart of the dwelling, and the bedrooms, being the more intimate territories within the domestic space. Dwellings could be seen as configurations of distances, where physical distances obtain additional meaning: bigger or smaller distances can mean higher or lower possibility of contact, of sharing space. In other words, proximity also refers to a social dimension: sets of distances define the level of collective use within a project, from the scale of the domicile, to the scale of the neighborhood. Distance can become social distance.

In recent years, social distance is increasingly understood as a buffer, a safety measure: distance has become a device to guarantee separation and segregation. In this context, the following question arises: have territorial mechanisms which prioritize individual identity replaced mechanisms based on strategies to share space?

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