Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

Orient and Occident. Specific Spatial Images

Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

Orient and Occident. Specific Spatial Images

Article excerpt


We often put the question to what extent the geographical frame, the physical environment, in which a culture appears, are determinative in the constitution of specific fundamental features of that culture. At a general look one may notice that spatial images have specific ways of organization, according to the geographical or landscape elements as determinant elements in cultural acts.

North and South. Natural light

The natural light has generated certain types of spatial organizations, depending on its intensity207. In the South, where the light is very strong, the architectural shapes have developed horizontally, the shadow given by the horizontal architectural profiles, being thus emphasized. In the North where the light's intensity is weaker, the architectural shapes have developed linear, vertically, with bold relief in depth for a more pronounced effect of shadow. This may also be one of the explanations for the genesis of the gothic style. The strong and very brightful light of Egypt lead to the preference for incision, for bas-relief, speculating the contrasts, the brutal passages from light to shadow, different from Italy's light which, through its gradual passages has generated the round smooth continuous shapes in architecture and sculpture.

At the level of spatial organization, one may notice the same tendency. The southern perspective, through the speculation of the clear effects of lightshadow, has been constituted through the organization of the component objects on a horizontal direction. Each of the three elements of the perspective image (observation point, intermediate field and terminal element), aligned according to a horizontal axis (the main axis of view) have a visual weight contributing to the constitution of an unitary equilibrated image with congruence between the constituting elements. The very generous light also asked for the detailing of the secondary elements of the image.

The point of observation (the arcade), the intermediary field (the façades with the columns on the left and right), the terminal element (the Signoria's Palace with the tower): unitary equilibrated image with concordance between the component elements.

In the northern perspective only terminal element of perspective is important (the cathedral developed vertically), the intermediate field and the observation point, usually developed horizontally, are minimally treated, a higher rate of detailing being unjustified.

Between north and south, the intermediate area offers equilibrium to these tendencies: the terminal element is sustained by the intermediate field which is less important as a visual weight. Thus, the temperate zone offers suggestive examples from this point of view. At a level of architectural object, the Christian architecture of the East has the vertical marked (by the tower of the church) but also the horizontal (by the longitudinal axis of the church's nave).

Similar to this, at architectural ensemble level, the monastic precincts have, as vertical axis, the church with its tower but also the cells, developed horizontally.

Specific spatial images of East and West

In the traditional societies the cardinal points were assimilated to the directions up-down, left-right. The up-down direction is expressed by the organization of the constructed objects horizontally, subordinated to the gravitational force, or by the vertical organization, opposing this force. The leftright direction is assimilated to the East-West direction at geographical level. One may observe the differences of spatial composition on this direction too.

The Orient is characterized by symmetry, monumentality, grandeur, an order and domination spirit more emphasised, given by the imperial power and by the religious authority. This may be noticed at the level of architectural object but also at the level of the ensemble. In the East the architectural objects are submitted to this natural fundamental law which is symmetry. …

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