What it is all about

Ideal Spaces Working Group

What the notion of an ‘ideal‘ space means? And why it is relevant for many of today’s developments? Stemming from the Greek idea and eidos, it is a space imagined – in the sense of having an idea about something conceptualized as a spatial image. On the other hand, in the word’s common understanding, it is a space that is, or is intended to be, an ideal one: a spatial image or actually existing space that is conceived as a paradigmatic example of how spaces should be – if they would be optimal ones, and perfected for certain purposes.

These characteristics of an imagined ideal and of perfection can adopt many forms as regards space, in particular constructed space – which is an artificial space, a one that is made, and not a space ‘naturally’ grown out of the powers of the natural and of history. For instance, images of ideal cities representing artificial spaces of a virtual and ‘ideal’ world can be subsumed under this category, as well as maps (of imagined and real spaces alike), sceneries for theatre and other play, the background worlds of fantasy films or computer games, but even concretely built spaces as are realized grids and networks of urban environments, parks, dreamlands, or world exhibitions. Ideal spaces can also be designed interiors of various kind, or very abstract spatialities as they become expressed in system diagrams, flow charts and the like.

These examples demonstrate the wide array of meanings inherent to the notion of an “ideal space”, and quite often, we are surrounded by them, or working with them without explicitly recognizing that it is an ideal space we are confronted with. The historical era labelled modernity was full of such spaces, either physically realized, purely imagined (as for instance in case of ‘ideal’ cities) or later, after that era, even being located in some immaterial dimension or hybrids, as The Net with its “clouds”, mixed reality-approaches or other phenomena.

Traditionally, the notion of an ideal space was linked with another one, that of a community or communitas of people longing for some ‘ideal’, or perfected state of being. All of the eu-topias, the “good places” or “positive” utopias are in fact ideal spaces. In this traditional sense, the ideal space was conceived as a space constructed for a community or society, and the overall aim and (at the same time) mythic hope was to erect such a space in order to overcome that what has been before. Recently, the notion of an ideal space adopted more flexible, and individualistic meanings, for instance in case of hybrid city-conceptions or other person-related approaches to a former physical as well as imaginative reality. Nevertheless, that idea of a communitas persisted although in many of these cases, although the communities in question became much more flexible and ephemeral. Which means that the very idea of an ideal space also is a matter of the conditio humana, either explicitly or implicitly assumed, a supposed general condition of human beings underlying the various constructions of an ‘ideal’ space.

Moreover, by being a space as a constructed system, the notion of an ideal space closely relates to that of a gestalt, of a constructed (and hence, “artificially”) wholeness the properties of which cannot be derived from its single components. Ideal space is symbolic space, very often adopting the form of an allegory, and in these respects, ideal space, symbols and gestalt belong inherently together.

In addition, by being artificial, an ideal space is associated with technique, according to Aristotle that what nature, that which has ‘naturally’ grown out of its own powers, is not able to achieve or to deliver. Ideal spaces and technology belong together, and aligned to it, the notion of management and control.  As constructed spaces, ideal spaces are not only symbolical or imaginative, but also need management conduct, in both their construction and operations. This holds particularly true for modern ideal spaces and their recent descendants. To understand conceptions of ideal spaces without considering these aspects would be a futile venture.

We want to invite you in investigating ideal spaces. Since the above perspectives are just some of them.