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You’ve spent days in the dark, winding through dim corridors. The first time you saw the cathedral it was covered in light, and you’re basked in it again as you teeter on the threshold. Your heart jumps as you step through, into a space vast enough to make the giant in front of you seem small. He raises a hammer.
I’m alone in a conference room when I speak to the architect James Blaze Burn Sale on the phone. He is director of Collaborative Design and Build (Co-DB), an architecture and design company, and he’s going to tell me about the ways buildings tell stories.
“As architects, our tools are the materials that the building is built of, but also light and space. We can contract and expand those as much as we want,” he explains. “It’s what we use to give space different feelings. For example, a classic trick is to create a small threshold and then open out into a big space. You contract and then release.”
Contract and release is a great phrase; it reminds me of someone being born. The soon-to-be-mother gripping her partner’s hand. Contract and release. “If you imagine walking into a cathedral, you’re going from the outside, which is a big space, through a small doorway, and back into a big space,” Sale continues. “Your eye is drawn up and around. At the threshold you have that sense of protection, from this grand space. You might have a small lobby, or in a house you might have a porch – those small spaces give one feeling, and the larger spaces give another.” […]