The boundary of a house or property is normally the place where a wall or fence is placed to form a barrier, to keep you save, to protect you from the elements, to form a structure, to define a space.
But it also provides the architect with the opportunity to connect the inner and the outer world, by placing a door to enter the space, a window to provide a view, corridors to connect rooms, a gate to enter the enclosed garden or connect courtyards.
A permeable space, however, defines the transitional moment where inside space becomes outside space and vice versa. The boundaries are blurred, opening up spaces, inextricably connecting spaces, making movements of people fluid and unhindered
The Japanese are, for centuries, masters in using these permeable spaces in their architecture, not in the least because the climate makes it possible to live in the open.
The boundary of a building in historic Japanese architecture is not necessarily formed by walls. A structure of wooden beams and trusses makes an open plan, without outer walls, possible. A careful layout of “shoji”, paper or wooden sliding screens in several layers, are the separating elements between rooms and / or garden and courtyard. Wooden elevated walkways, around the private perimeters of the building incorporated under the roof, provide shelter from the elements, form corridors to enter the more private rooms, but are also the place to have encounters, to have a talk, to sit and read a book or to enjoy the view of the garden.
Including such spaces in western contemporary architecture is challenging, even more because of present building regulations and conventions in how spaces should be defined.
But this “permeable” space invites, separates and connects, simultaneously and gradually. It makes this part of the house or building meaningful, interesting.
And doesn’t it look beautiful because of it!