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Fig. 1 – Can Feliz by Jørn Utzon
Fig. 2 – Prospect (left) – Refuge (right)

In the post 5 Basic Human Concerns in Architecture we briefly discussed 5 architectural concerns. In this post we’ll describe one of the most fundamental of human concerns – Prospect and Refuge – in more detail.

Key elements

  • Areas: We perceive areas as either prospect or refuge.
  • Changes: Our need for prospect or refuge can change over time. The time of day, season, year, and/or our life situation all influence our need for prospect or refuge.
  • Light levels: Light levels play an intricate part in our perception of prospect and refuge.
  • Ceiling height: Ceiling height also has a big influence on our perception of prospect and refuge.
  • Transitions: Transitions enhance our perception of prospect and refuge, e.g. a terrace in front of a house.
  • Sexes: Men tend to prefer prospect more, while women’s overall preference tends to lean more to refuge.
  • Water: Water complements our feelings of prospect and refuge: it provides drinking water, security and defence, and attraction of animals as a possible source of food (see fig.2)

Can Feliz

Within the house there is also a degree from prospect to refuge. One of the best examples is the house ‘Can Feliz’ made by Jørn Utzon on the island Majorca. The house is built in rugged hills surrounded with unspoiled savage nature and with a beautiful view to the open sea below. Within the living room there is a great degree from prospect to refuge. On the left side of fig. 1 we see the enormous window opening a wide view to the sea and bringing a lot of light in this part of the living room. At the right side of the picture we see a low darker area, achieved by raising the floor level and thick walls without windows. Grant Hildebrand says about this picture in his book ‘Origins of Architectural Pleasure’: “Here, at right, an interior refuge has been developed by opaque walls, a lesser floor-to-ceiling dimension, and a low light level. Continuously at left a complementary zone of interior prospect has been created by a somewhat greater floor-to-ceiling dimension, walls with extensive transparent surfaces, and a much higher light level”. (1)

So in the living room the differences in light level and in distance from the actual exterior view distinguish the two zones, with a high and bright zone on the left toward the view and a low and dark zone to the right.

Do you have any good examples of Prospect and Refuge?

We’re always interested in other examples of Prospect and Refuge. If you have a good example, please let us know! You can comment about it below or send us an email with pictures and explanation at:

  • experiencingarchitecture [at]



  1. HILDEBRAND, G. (1999) Origins of Architectural Pleasure (p. 30) – affiliate link

4 thoughts on “Prospect and Refuge

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