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

Another aspect is that humans prefer to explore from dark to light. We move from the dark refuge to the bright prospect, so we can always retread back in our safe refuge. A very important aspect of this preference to explore from dark to light is that we see without being seen. So the opposite exploring from light to dark makes us feel unsafe. In horror movies they use this fact with for example the scary darkness on top of the stairs.

Wells. The tracery at the top of the arc of stair, with the chapter house coming into the view.

Wells. The chapter house grove seen through the tracery.

Left: Well cathedral, Somerset. The Chain Gate Stair from the north transept, 1290 – 1460. (1)
Center: The tracery at the top of the arc of stair, with the chapter house coming into the view. (2)
Right: Wells. The chapter house grove seen through the tracery. (3)


Exploring from dark to light

A good architectural example of exploring from dark to light is the Chain Gate Stair from the north transept in the Wells cathedral of Somerset, built in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries in England. Standing at the start of this stairs we see one bright space, partly masked by columns and superstructure, at the end of the stairs. This partly masked bright space is the Chain Gate bridge crossing a major street to a housing project constructed circa 1460. The nearer part of the stairs, from about 1290, is lit from the windows at the left. These face west and late in the day they flood the space with directional light. Halfway this staircase one part of the stairs turns around a corner, where by accident or design each further ascending riser of the arcing portion of the stair receives the light more directly and therefore reflects it more brightly. We are drawn toward the light and the more we climb up this stair and turn around the corner the more will be revealed. We will discover a chapter house at the end of the arcing stairs. Obscured by columns and the door opening of this space we see a new source of light coming through the windows of this chapter house, so again we have a view from refuge to prospect.

The need for enticement

  • We prefer to explore our environment from dark (refuge) to light (prospect).
  • Our curiosity is triggered by partly revealed features in the distance.
  • Exploration from enclosed space (refuge) to open space (prospect); we prefer to see without being seen.


Do you have any good examples of Enticement?

We’re always interested in other examples of Enticement. 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] gmail.com.


References

  1. © WOODMANSTERNE. In HILDEBRAND, G. (1999) Origins of Architectural Pleasure (p. 60). California: University of California Press.
  2. HILDEBRAND, G. In HILDEBRAND, G. (1999) Origins of Architectural Pleasure (p. 60). California: University of California Press.
  3. HILDEBRAND, G. In HILDEBRAND, G. (1999) Origins of Architectural Pleasure (p. 60). California: University of California Press.

4 thoughts on “Enticement

  1. @gualetar: Thanks for your comment. Can you explain your comment about clarity? maybe we can do something about that in the future… please elaborate. And if you have any questions, please feel free to do so.

  2. Hi there really enjoyed your blog. I am a big fan of Hildebrand & Appleton’s work too. A great example of experiencing dark to light is MoNA (Museum of Old & New Art) In Tasmania in Australia by an architect called Nonda Katsalidis. The main gallery space is dimly lit and cavernous only the art work is really illuminated and also the stair case it draws the user towards the art like moths to a flame.

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