Inside/outside: at first glance, these are two distinct opposites, one delimiting the other through exclusion.
Architecture shapes and embodies this apparently fixed duality within a space: the protective, familiar, stable inside, demarcated by the walls, provides shelter, countering the potentially dangerous, foreign, vast and changing outside that surrounds it.
The architectural inside protects or contains by separating the subject from the outside alterity. The inside/outside couplet resonates with the tradition subject/object opposition: from inside, the subject is distinguished from the world of outside objects. As such, the role of architecture is to delimit inside/subjects in a world/object.
And yet the boundary between inside and outside is not so clear. On an architectural level, there is some porosity; be it in terms of light, sound, electromagnetic waves, thermal energy or atmospheric pollution, the outside penetrates the inside and the inside radiates to the outside. Similarly, on an individual and perceptive scale, when I look outside, my gaze projects outwards from the inside, but what I see also enters me. The outside in a pure state is inconceivable. Everything external is internalised by the subject that perceives it, so there is never a pure exterior; moreover, for the subject the exterior represents an environment that influences their inner state, meaning there is never a pure interior either. (Quantum physics has devised an equation for this mysterious connection between the observer and the outside object transformed by observation itself.)
Inside/outside: it would therefore appear that the boundary between these two terms is not so clear and that each one penetrates the other. This intuition can help us in considering spaces and objects that no longer dissociate inside and outside in an overly schematic and definitive way, but which take them into account as an indissociable pair in order to explore the complexity of the project for living.
Four themes will be explored: The outside as a project principle, the outside as an appearance, the outside as an environment, the outside as inside.
The outside as a project principle
The theme of the outside allows us to shift our gaze to the design of interior spaces and objects, situating us outside the strict framework of crafts/professions and their teaching. Moreover, we will take the project framework as the outside, in other words the surrounding world as a whole, rather than simply the architecture envisaged as a container delimiting the inside.
All projects are projections of an inner will or desire towards an exterior. The creation of the very first tool, the first cut stone, distanced the world and established it as an outer environment useful for inner needs and desires, something to be exploited. But the project also stems from the outside, as a world of realities and ideas given, internalised and interpreted.
The outside as an appearance
The primary inside is the body, the primary outside the world, the skin the boundary between them. Appearance expresses a person’s inner states. Similarly, the façade of a piece of architecture or the surface of an object is a skin that can both mask and reveal what is inside.
The outer surface can be the expressive face of inwardness. The outer surface of a building or an object, its material and the way in which it is decorated, can be the fundamental expression of a project that originates in the deepest inner source.
The outside as an environment
We can consider the outside a given world on which we can act by transforming it. We can presume that humans are free to submit the entire world to the power of our technological actions. And yet, our hyperindustrial society produces something that economists call “negative externalities” – the undesirable effects of using resources and energy that is set to have irreversible consequences on the climate and the environment in which humans live. How can we approach the project in this critical situation where, in the name of utility, human invention is destroying through externalisation?
The outside as inside
The outside world is projected within us. From the moment we perceive it, it exists as an inner projection. As such, inhabited spaces, as places outside of us, build our inner conditions. Architecture and objects therefore have power over our affectivity; a space that makes us happy or sad is itself classed as happy or sad: it is our interior that reflects onto the exterior as if onto a mirror of our inner life. To inhabit is therefore also to project our inwardness outside the boundaries of our body.