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Fernando Távora (1923-2005)


To cite this paper: TÁVORA, Fernando – «On space organization», Estudo Prévio, 20, Lisbon: CEACT/UAL-Center for Studies of Architecture, City and Territory, of the Autonomous University of Lisbon, 2022, p. 29-39. ISSN: 2182-4339 [Available at: www.estudoprevio.net]. DOI:
https://doi.org/10.26619/2182-4339/20.5 (original ed. 1962). Published from RODRIGUES, José Manuel (ed.) – Teoria e crítica de arquitetura. Século XX, Lisbon: OA-SRS, Caleidoscópio, 2010, pp. 480-488.

Creative Commons, license CC BY-4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Dimensions, relationships, and characteristics of organized space


When we mark a dot on a white sheet of paper, we can say, although conventionally, that this dot organizes the sheet, the surface, the space, into two dimensions, knowing that its position can be defined by two values (X, Y) in relation to a given coordinate system. If, however, we conceive the dot away from the same sheet of paper, we could say, albeit orthodoxly, that it organizes the space in three dimensions, since its position can also be defined, now by three values (X, Y, Z), in relation to a specified coordinate system. But there is a third hypothesis – that the same dot is not standing, not static, but in motion and, in this case, to the three values or dimensions (X, Y, Z) that define it, it is necessary to add a fourth dimension, that is time (T), thus having a set of dimensions that allows to locate the same dot in each position of its trajectory and in relation to a certain system of coordinates.

By referring above to the organization of space in two and three dimensions, we use the term “conventionally”, since it is known that the fourth dimension – time – cannot be left out in any case, a truth that is common today thanks to the theory of relativity with its notion of “space-time”. To speak, therefore, in an organized space in two and three dimensions, means to take a conventional attitude, useful for certain classifications, but not corresponding to reality.

Nevertheless, because volumes are enveloped by surfaces, these are generated by lines and these by dots, it can be concluded, generalizing what has been said, that volumes, surfaces, and lines, constitute, as well as dots, events of organization of space, which are given the general name of shapes.

Shapes, thus, organize space, but, like the sheet of paper that we initially mentioned and where we scored a dot, such space is also shaped, like a negative of that same dot. We can also generalize, stating that what we call space is also a shape, negative or mold of shapes that our eyes seize, since that in a visual sense, which is what is important to consider in this case, space is what our eyes cannot grasp by natural processes. Visually, therefore, we may consider that shapes animate space, but it should never be forgotten that, in a more real concept, the same space is also a shape because what we call space is made up of matter and not only shapes that exist in it and occupy it, as our eyes let us assume.

This notion, so often forgotten, that space that divides – but also connects – shapes, is also a shape itself, is fundamental, because it allows us to gain full awareness that there are no isolated shapes and that a relationship always exists, both between those that occupy a certain space, and between them and one that, although we do not see it, we know that it is shaped as well – negative or mold – of apparent shapes.

Nonetheless, the visual apprehension of space presupposes an observer who performs it, plus the consideration of the existence of such an observer enriches, by creating various situations, the dimensioning of space. Hence, for example, in the theoretical case of space organized in three dimensions by one dot, two hypotheses that rise: either the observer remains fixed, or moves, which means that, in any case, the observer sees space organized in different ways. In the first one, statically organized (by convention), in the second, dynamically organized. And in the case of the four-dimensional organized space, the same hypotheses can be made: a fixed observer, or a moving observer, also creating new situations in the space-observer relationship.

The world of shapes is of infinite and progressive richness for humans, and its study is increasingly captivating and necessary, given the growing awareness of the importance of shaping in relation to human existence; it is, also, important to mention that shapes visually seized are in progressive enrichment thanks to the techniques that contemporary science has created. Let us mention, for example, the new worlds of shapes revealed by the optics that allow, by immense magnification, to discover totally ignored shapes to the normal vision of our eyeballs, and the revealed new means of locomotion in space that come to create possibilities of points of view, from which, even using normal vision, new shapes are presented to human’s consideration.

At human’s level, and with all limitations that classification always entails, it is perhaps possible to fundamentally distinguish the standard cases of natural shapes – that is, those in whose definition or creation humans do not participate – and artificial ones, or those in whose existence they take an active part. These are limit-cases, no doubt, because humans themselves, as shapes, that is in their physical reality, are a mixture of nature’s work and their own, and it is difficult to distinguish what belongs to one and another, even by examining the phenomenon on a human scale, as has already been mentioned, for otherwise it would be necessary to consider them,  in their shape, as the total work of nature, a premise to be set aside, since we fundamentally propose to study phenomena of the organization of space, having mankind itself as the agent.

On the other hand, even on this basis or within this partial view of the phenomena of space organization, they cannot exclude from them either natural shapes – and even those that can be considered pure, that is, untouched by human hand – or their relations with human works, relationships so intimate, infinite, and inexhaustible, that it is not possible to know where some end and others begin.

Displacing their bodies, building their houses, plowing up fields, writing letters, dressing, painting, driving automobiles, lifting bridges, living overall, people organize the space that surrounds them, creating shapes, some apparently stic, others clearly dynamic.

The expression “organizing space” on a human scale, has, for us, a different meaning from that which could have, for example, the expression “filling up space”. We sense in the word “organizing” a desire, a manifestation of will, a logic, that the word “occupy” does not comprehend and hence we use the expression “organization of space”, for it reveals man as an intelligent being and artist by nature. From that, it results that space occupied by man always tends to – always walks in the sense of – its purpose, which is the creation of harmony in space, considering that harmony is what accurately translates balance, challenging consciousness, and sensitivity, as well as hierarchical and correct integration of factors. Man does not always tend towards harmony, according to an infinite number of examples, and neither to the development of intelligence or worship of sensitivity. There are acts of stupidity and ugliness throughout history; however, it cannot be denied that light, hope, desire, intention, permanently animate man in the general sense of his struggle.

Hence the difficulty that arises to us, and even the awareness of its uselessness, in classifying events of space organization in its functional or artistic meaning. Saying, for example, “this is a purely functional event”, “that is a purely artistic event”, which supposes, moreover, the possibility of separating two aspects so deeply interconnected that one can ask to what extent a shape can be beautiful without being functional and to what extent another can be functional without being beautiful.

There are, of course, gradings of these factors or aspects in each shape, though we believe that, just as there is no pure work of art, there is also no work of pure technique, known, on the one hand, all the conditionings that undersage the predominantly artistic work and, on the other, the indeterminations that follow throughout the process of defining the predominantly technical work. There are, however, professional organizers of space who assume it is possible to separate one thing from the other and just recently someone said, regarding the design of a particular industrial installation, that there would be no need to collaborate with an architect because it was only functional work…

But if in the process of creating shapes, of organizing space, there is room for everyone, as we will refer, and if art always presupposes shaping as a support of an emotional burden, as Abel Salazar[1] states, the truth is, as said before, it is necessary to admit shapes as of greater predominance of sensitivity and that includes those produced by the so-called arts of space. We will mention here only the cases of painting, sculpture, and architecture and regarding its spatial dimensions. The first one is usually classified as two-dimensional, since the painter organizes a space (painting, wall) that has two dimensions and within them finds the spatial limits of his activity, which does not mean, on the other hand, that in the history of painting there are no attempts to represent the third dimension (perspective) and even the fourth one (Cubism). As for sculpture, it is generally classified as three-dimensional because the sculptor creates volumes surrounded by space and the fourth dimension appears in it because of the observer who, moving to find various profiles, spends time on observation. Architecture, it is said, differs fundamentally from sculpture by the creation of internal space – one that must be lived, traversed, for total apprehension of the building, from where, as in sculpture, time exists as measure.

These classifications, though, do not fully correspond to reality; beyond the representation of time, there are contemporary attempts in painting, for example, of a dynamic painting, in which the canvas, moving between two parallel axes, presents itself to the moving observer, and even in ancient paintings, time as a dimension counts thoroughly, although in the long run, considering the changes that both the support and the chromatic layers of the same painting suffer throughout its existence. Sculpture – in which, moreover, and as in painting, attempts to represent the fourth dimension – can, on the other hand, be either animated with movement (Calder’s mobiles, for example) or, by succession of transparent planes, imply a step vision of which time is not equally unrelated, always adding movement, which completes the observer’s apprehension. In architecture (also in the long term), time play as a fundamental factor and not only as a dimension of the work itself, for buildings live – such as paintings and sculptures. This case is more distressful, because the fulfillment of certain specific functions requires an update – or abandonment – that changes it as an organized space.

From a slight consideration, one can deduce what is conventional in the definition of absence of space in these three manifestations, in which time always counts, because between one and the others there are a thousand modalities, such as the bas-relief participating in painting and sculpture, or the monument participating in architecture and sculpture. And, in addition to them, furniture, gardening, urbanism, cinema, goldsmithing or ceramics and so many others, some of which conventionally called “minors”, but whose classification, especially in a sense of hierarchy, seems dangerous to us.

Consequently, two problems arise, distinct and resulting one from another, in shapes created by man: first, the impossibility of clearly distinguishing “artistic forms” from “non-artistic forms”; secondly, the difficulty of hierarchizing their relative importance. There really is a major and minor arts classification and the concept of art as an end. We believe, however, that, although we accept gradations, shapes created by man tend, or should tend, to an artistic result, otherwise it will be devoid of a necessary totality; on the other hand, that all shapes are of importance for space organization.

A recently applied term, “design”, which in Portuguese may perhaps be translated as “formal design/conception”, comes in certain respects, to raise and solve one problem; generally used for “formal design” of industrial production objects, the term tends to expand in its meaning to include the forms of space organization and it was in this broad sense that it was used at the “World Design Conference” held in Tokyo in May 1960. Painters, architects, graphic filmmakers, “industrial designers”, landscapers, engineers, urban planners, and many other professionals of space organization were gathered there to analyze, fundamentally, three aspects: what is the meaning of personality in design, what is the role of design in the human environment, what possibilities design presents for the future.

The various communications and interventions that followed throughout the conference, always presided over a sense of integration of the phenomena of space, of unification of man’s visual environment, to which we are not accustomed in this world of classifications, distinctions, compartmentalization and which is urgently necessary to restructure according to new concepts. We believe, then, that the concept of “design” that integrates and merges concepts such as art and technique, major arts and minor arts, art and nature and others, is a concept that means and translates an attitude of global vision of the phenomena of space with a rich and promising future, and the realization of that Conference, in a country rich in examples from the past that are remarkable lessons for the present, points to a path that, not being new in its essence, at least in Japan, must be followed to try to solve the chaos of contemporary space.

Within this broad concept of “design”, it is perfectly adequate, although occupying only a portion of its totality, another important concept, that of “integration” or “synthesis of the arts”, more limited and partial, because the problem arises regarding the so-called larger trees, architecture, painting and sculpture, a position that impresses exactly by what is limited in relation to the problems of organized space. In fact, why think only of the integration of sculpture, architecture, and painting, when manifestations in which these activities are translated represent a small percentage of the organized space that surrounds us, and that there are a thousand other human activities of similar importance that equally affect space?

From what has been said, it seems that a fundamental characteristic of organized space can be deduced: its continuity. Space is continuous, cannot be organized with a partial view, does not accept limitations in its organization. And in the same way that continuity forms space, both are so closely linked that one is negative from the other, and vice versa, so they cannot separate; the visually seized shapes, thus, maintain close relationships – harmonic and inharmonious – but evident in any case.

When it comes to space organization, and recalling the dot we have drawn on paper, the former and the latter also count, or, pointing out a more prosaic example, it is the case of a certain famous cheese with holes, although the holes do not feed, they are indispensable for the full definition of its characteristics.

In his treatise, Da Pintura Antiga, our Francisco de Hollanda[2] establishes among his “precepts of painting”, one that seems fundamental: “Decorum and what is left to be done”. In the second part of this “precept”, there is a principle perfectly applicable to the fact we have been referring to, for, in truth, “what one does not do” is, in painting, as in all manifestations of life, as important as what is done or, applying to the concept of space, that there is left is as important as the one that is filled.

Everything is important in space organization – shapes themselves, the relationship between them, the space that limits them. And this truth that results from space being continuous has been largely forgotten. Let us remark, for example, a frequent case: a road is projected – a manifestation of space organization and movement factor. And what is it solely thought of? In its long longitudinal profile and the smallness of its transversal profiles; the rest, the whole system of relationships, whether landscape, urban, economic, or others that the phenomenon implies, is forgotten as if it were possible to abstract this event from the whole space and all the circumstances that surround it. It is a convenient but serious limitation that results from a partial vision, not only from the point of view of organized space, but from that of a set of factors – circumstance – from which it is not disconnected, as we will discuss below.

It is also convenient and frequent to affirm that it is necessary to move from the general to the particular, even if that is no less true; let us dwell, yes, from one to another, but the study of the former must not invalidate that of the latter, because they cannot live without each other, as they are inseparable. And the difficulty lies exactly in the wise and harmonic balance of both extremes, apparently opposite, yet complementary.

Nonetheless, because space is continuous and time is one of its dimensions, it is also irreversible; that is, given the constant march of time and all that it entails and means, an organized space can never be what it once was, hence the fact that space is in permanent coming. For example, when restoring a monument with “scientific” (or pseudoscientific) criteria, it goes through someone’s mind to give such a monument the aspect that it once had, one falls into the utopia of assuming that what once was, may again be, forgetting that the irreversibility of space does not allow us to accept such a hypothesis. It should also be said that the ancients had a clear notion of this, because their “restorations” – which they certainly gave another name – were done with a more realistic criteria and a more dynamic sense of organized space.

And from these two characteristics of space – continuity and irreversibility – one, consequence of the other, insofar as when we speak of physical continuity, we assume dimensions and, among these, assume time, it also results that the organization of space as an activity belongs to all men and not only to some; the same is to say that the organization of space is the work of participation of many individuals, in different degrees of intensity and even responsibility, but a work from which no man can exempt himself.

Wouldn’t someone’s body, shape in motion, be enough to make every man an organizing element of space? And how many of their thousand activities, whether physical, intellectual, or emotional, that do not take shape? Let us look at any portion of the space that surrounds us and think about how many men, at any given time or over time, have participated in its organization; and we ourselves, who look and situate ourselves in such a parcel, do not participate as well? Let us stand on a mountain and look around, fly over a city, walk down a street, sit in a square, observe the room where we are, notice this piece of furniture, that carpet or the lamp that illuminates us; our eyes always find space organized by men and so solidly, that it is not easy to distinguish what is up to the builder, the agronomist, the farmer, the worker, the mayor or the parish councilor, the politician, the administrator, the architect, the carpenter, the housewife, the painter, the gardener,  the engineer, the economist, the sculptor or, not to specify professions or activities, what exactly is up to each man. That is, thus, organized space, as continuous in its physical dimensions, as in the process of its organization.

Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote that “the artist is not a special quality of man, but every man a special quality of artist”[3], a truth too evident to need any comment, though so forgotten and withdrawn, that it is necessary to remember it all the time.

Still, if the participation of all men in the organization of space is fatal, such participation will only lead to harmony to the extent that it becomes collaboration, and collaborating means acting in common, with one same intention, with one same dream. For this, there must be an extraordinary and intense understanding; to respect, to be respected; and to speak a language that all parties in presence understand.

We can, perhaps, consider two types of participation in space organization: one that we call horizontal, which takes place among men of the same era; another which we call vertical, that takes place among men of different eras. They are two aspects of the same reality, with one difference, if we can call it that, that time counts more in the second than in the first, although it is not absent here either. Horizontal participation is that which binds men of the same generation, while vertical links men of different generations, in a work that takes place over a period that goes beyond the generation dimension.

For organized space to be harmonious, we said, participation must be transformed into collaboration, and of both horizontality and verticality, there are magnificent examples from the past. Let us cite, regarding vertical collaboration, which means as mutual continuity, understanding and mutual respect, one space organized over centuries, as St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy.

Our time, for reasons to which we will refer later, has been averse to collaboration, which happens in all those whose men ignore each other, from which it follows that their works constitute only sum and never integration; the “barbarism of specialism”, as Ortega y Gasset[4] calls it to one of the most characteristic phenomena of our time is not, in fact, conducive to collaboration, but only to a pure and simple participation, and from this nothing else can result but a pure and simple occupation of space and never its organization.

However, unlike what man sometimes thinks, the shapes he creates and spaces he organizes, are not created, or organized in a regime of total freedom, but rather deeply conditioned by an infinite sum of factors, some of which man is fully aware of and others acting unconsciously upon him. The number of these factors and their relative importance are difficult to point out and refer to in each shape that man creates, because the artificial ones (of human creation), in addition to those thar are natural, are important as conditioning factors of each created shape, as space organized by man is conditioned in its organization. Nonetheless, once organized, it becomes a condition for future organizations and hence, only for convenience of study, it is possible to separate these two aspects of organized space, for it is conditioned in its elaboration and conditioning in its existence.

To this set of natural and human factors (and it is only possible to distinguish between them to the extent that the phenomenon is observed on a human scale; in any case, they are closely linked to each other), we name “circumstance”. Therefore, “circumstance”, by the very meaning of the word, is that set of factors that involve man, are around him and, since he is the creator of many of them, to these must be added those that result from his own existence, from his own being.

The circumstance of the organization of space and that of the forms that organize it, in addition to the pre-existing forms – natural or human, one and the other already of infinite numbers – are constituted by factors as varied as scientific thought or religion, economics or sensitivity, politics or philosophy, and it is sometimes difficult to discern the importance of one over the other and, even if possible, it is certain that all of them, more or less, are at the base of any shape in such a way that the total understanding of it will be all the more perfect the more it becomes an experience, so far as they identify shape and observer, for an intellectual process of pure analysis is not enough to obtain the full spirit of any shape, even though it may be close to it.

The most understandable way for the observer will, thus, be that which best portrays him and identifies with him the most, the one he knows by connaturality, that is, by the existence of a common nature. Hence, moreover, the problem, not in relation to knowledge by intellectual means, but in relation to experience or integral knowledge, that of shapes from the past or different cultures within the same era, or even produced by different cultural levels of the same society. When art history, for example, and as it is generally taught, describes shapes without framing them in its circumstance, makes, in our view, two serious mistakes: first, it lets us assume that shapes are free and appear a little by chance (the circumstance is so fundamental to the definition, as water is indispensable life); secondly, because it does not provide us with elements for their better understanding – it gives us, instead, a vague knowledge of them and does not bring us closer to their true reality.

The explanation of shapes, according to a given circumstance is, in fact, difficult, especially their total understanding, and just as a good wine can only be enjoyed by drinking it and not thinking about its chemical formula, so a shape can only be understood by living it, as well as its circumstance and not just by hearing descriptions about it or consulting its reproductions. It is true that this is a somewhat theoretical position, insofar as it is impossible to reconstruct the circumstance of each shape; even so, it is a position that should be considered, for although limit unattainable in an almost general way, it indicates at least one way towards a better understanding of the shapes that present themselves to us.

When we think of shapes that man has created throughout his existence – and, to limit our field of observation, only those of architecture and urbanism – what different worlds of circumstances mean, for example, the cities of New York, USA, and Teotihuacan, Mexico, the pyramids of Gizeh, Egypt, and the palace of Katsura, Japan, Versailles, France, and the acropolis of Athens, Greece… The light, the natural shapes of the land and its constitution vary, the climates vary, the concepts of physical and spiritual life vary, the techniques vary, the uses and customs vary… in a word, the circumstances of each of these different worlds of shapes that man has created vary.

We stated above, however, that organized space is not only conditioned, but also conditioning and, for the sake of serious study, it is possible to separate these two aspects. A house, for example, is conditioned to the extent that it will have to satisfy a certain program, be built with a certain amount of money, settle on a certain ground, fit into a certain environment, use certain materials and labor, satisfy physical and spiritual aspects of its users, etc., but, once carried out, translated into an organized shape of space, the same case, which to exist had to obey such a large number of factors,  becomes a conditioning element and a circumstance. The way it was solved, how the problems that raised its conception were met, the attitude taken by those who designed it, depend on a lot from the appreciation or devaluation of a space to the happiness or unhappiness of its residents.

Two fundamental aspects result from this small example, which can be generalized to everything that man does to organize his space: first, the importance of shapes in the lives of men; and secondly, and therefore, the responsibility that each man assumes in organizing the space that surrounds him. And this responsibility arises precisely because man knows that space organization, having to satisfy and meet the circumstance, is not “fatally determined” by it – and hence the possible active intervention of the organizer – and knows that once space is organized, the organizer’s activity must be the basis of it.

It follows that man must take an attitude in creating any shape, either because he is not obliged to passively obey the circumstance, or because the latter can have terribly negative aspects and it would be a cowardly position to cultivate those, rather than to combat them, and man also knows that in creating shapes, he does create circumstances, and these can aggravate those aspects or improve them.

The difficulty of the position to be taken is precisely in knowing which portion of the circumstance to follow and what part to forget or even contradict; there are, in this case, two limiting positions and, consequently, perhaps non-existent: to either fully follow the circumstance or deny it entirely. In the first case, and insofar as the circumstance presents negative aspects and we believe that such aspects always exist, the position is reprehensible from any point of view; in the second case, and insofar as the circumstance presents positive aspects, the position is equally condemnable by falling into utopia, deprived of interest, because it often does not come take shape, given the impossibility of specific, spatial realization of the idea that resulted from such an attitude.

Even so, it can be argued that there is the case of the forerunners, of those who go beyond, who abandon a present circumstance to suggest shapes or even only conceive ideas of shapes for a future circumstance; are they in a position with positive significance, or should they be condemned as well? To this, we answer that the forerunner’s position is useful and acceptable insofar as the future proves its truth, for in general, the precursor is only recognized as such when time gives the assurance that his ideas or shapes really have meaning.

Still, between the total commitment to the circumstance and its total abandonment, there is an infinite number of positions that can be taken by an equal multitude of men and they range from the professional space organizer (the civil engineer, the architect, the painter, the “industrial designer”, for example), to the man who has different functions in society (the lawyer, the farmer, the worker, the doctor, for example), but whose activity also affects space. Everyone has responsibility in the organization of the space, as has already been said, but it seems clear that the degree of such responsibilities varies, being higher in professionals, but it must not be forgotten that certain professions or activities (those of administrators, for example), even if they are not exercised by men who by function or by training can classify themselves as professionals of organized space, play an extraordinary role in it, which in fact confirms that any rigorous classification here too is as dangerous as it is impossible.

Of course, it must be counted that, apart from their training, there are great differences between professional space organizers in terms of the ability with which nature has endowed them, that is, their abilities vary, even if other causes did not exist, thanks to their personal qualities.

The most gifted naturally have the role of conductors, prototype creators, but we believe that, because more gifted, this quality should not allow them to escape their circumstance or a path towards utopia, because the others – who justify their reason for existence and need them – have the right to expect from such gifts something concrete for their being. Excessive individualism of the most gifted has resulted, in our time, an excessive and dangerous individualization of shapes and an overly personal style in the way of organizing space. This trend, which is, moreover, the product of conditions that are beyond the scope of space professionals – but against which, they can, of course, struggle insofar as they judge them to be negative – has led to an extreme discontinuity of the shapes we create, since a sometimes-insurmountable barrier has been established between “geniuses”, abundant in our age and ignored in so many past ages, and common man.

If, in fact, space organization is based on an attitude of choice in face of the circumstance, it  will have to count on the latter – even denying it in certain aspects – but it does not seem fair to put it entirely on the sidelines, in order to create shapes that are allegedly “genius” or “different” which, sometimes, satisfy nothing more than the selfishness of its authors, for it is known that a shape has meaning only in that it represents or satisfies, in addition to a person, an entire society that uses it.

Also, the responsibility of the fittest is great as well, because, as we said, their work is usually prototypes that are more dangerous, moreover, the more individualized its design is. Knowing the importance of visual education that results from the ease of the grasping shapes and their retention by memory, those created by the fittest play a decisive role in the world of shapes, an aspect that they should not fail to consider insofar as they know that the way they organize space has, among other functions, a pedagogical one. Now, this pedagogical aspect of organized space cannot in any way be forgotten, especially in societies with strong contrasts between their cultural levels and in which the less evolved, due to the absence of their own structures or changes in pre-existing structures, look at shapes of the most evolved as a trend to follow. From this, we believe that the pedagogical aspect of shapes must always be considered, the influence they may have on certain sectors of society, which presupposes, in essence, an attitude of humility and understanding of the creator in the circumstance that surrounds him.

On the other hand, insofar as shapes produced by a given society clash, negate, contradict each other, disintegrate, the space in which such a society is established suffers a process which we will call dilapidation, which occurs, of course, for various reasons, but in which the fittest have a clear share of responsibility. Dilapidation is thus a process of creating shapes devoid of efficiency and beauty, utility and meaning, rootless ones, that add nothing to organized space or disturb it with their existence.

And this “disease” of space has several aspects: it affects, for example, the economy, since shapes created are not efficient or, if they are, they are not in the broadest sense of the position they occupy; it affects culture insofar as shapes created destroy existing values or do not create ones of cultural significance; it affects, in a word, man, in his physical and spiritual life, to the extent that shapes created do not serve to prolong, serve and enrich him, but only contribute, by devaluing his physical environment, to disturb him in multiple aspects of his existence.

Space is one of the greatest gifts with which nature has endowed men and which, therefore, they have the moral duty to organize in harmony, not forgetting that, even in the practical order, it cannot be squandered, because space that man is given to organize has its physical limits, a fact that is not very sensitive, for example, on the scale of the object, but already extraordinarily sensitive on the scale of the city or region.

The squandering of space, which we may classify as sin against space, is perhaps one of the greatest offenses men can do to nature as well as to himself, and the existence of this possibility of negative action, in contrast to the possibility of a positive one, reflects the drama of man organizing space, a drama which is a guarantee that this is one of the highest functions that man can attribute himself to.


[1]. Salazar, Abel – O que é a arte?, Coimbra, 1940, pp. 65-80.

[2]. Hollanda, Francisco de – Da Pintura Antiga, edition with commentary by Joaquim de Vasconcelos, Porto, 1930, p. 172.

[3]. Transcribed from Gill, Eric – Last essays, Londres, 1942, p. 55.

[4]. Ortega Y Gasset, José – La rebelión de las masas, Madrid, 1943, p. 127-135.