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It is impossible to overstate the importance of space.

Space is powerful. Space as metaphor and reality.

We define space in many ways. Both as an act and idea. The space below this line is both a pause and a place.

Space isn’t necessarily white or coloured. Sometimes it’s silence.
Stillness.
An idea.
An offer waiting for acceptance.
It is all these things and more. Importantly space is rich and powerful. There is a levity to space.

As an architect, making space is intrinsic to what I do.
Space in our buildings and cities is often defined but not contained.
Space in music or art is often as important as the work around it.
We leave space for things to happen.

As an architect and artist, I’ve been fascinated by space for a long time and over the last few years I’ve been questioning what making space for myself looks like? Not a space, just space.

The recent documentary on Sydney architect, Richard Leplastrier, introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ma. One of four kinds of Japanese space. Richard spoke about it,

“Ma is a concept in Japanese architecture or place making which has to do with all the dimensions of life… It raises the whole issue of anticipation, and timing, and preparation, and not seeing everything at once. Partial view only. That things are revealed over time and through events and the passage of things.”

The complexity in this way of thinking about space was familiar but mostly beyond anything I had considered before, it piqued my interest. Without a deeper understanding of Japanese conceptions of space I’m resisting writing too much on Ma for now. There are two aspects of Ma I’m interested in touching upon and they relate to writing.

The Japanese kanji symbol for Ma consists of the symbol for door and the symbol for sun. The kanji for Ma is drawn as if the sunlight is spilling through a doorway, delivering life and growth. Ma drawn as a lit space in time, one in which life is experienced and one in which we can grow.

This flows into the Japanese term for human being, which uses the kanji character for person combined with that for place (Ma). It bestows an idea or understanding of a human, not as an individual but as someone that is made up of their relationships, their connections, and part of a greater whole.

Thinking about these representations of Ma and the insights they may bring, how might making space then be an opportunity. An opportunity to step back, to see the whole and to work on creating something richer, more complex, more connected?

Instead of making space as a manifestation of making time, what if making space was about taking the opportunity to grow, to build connection and to understand how we each shape the space around us?

Want to know more about the author?
Michael is the co-founder of
Redshift Architecture & Art, and founder & coach at Ed Shift

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