Theory and Criticism
Meaning in the Built Environment
What is meaning of meaning in the Built Environment?
Ashraf Salama
Meaning in the Built Environment
To educate is to advance the mental, aesthetic, physical, or moral development of a group of people. Such a process can't be achieved without occuring in a sutiable atmosphere that not only be able of fostering the intended activities, but also to encourage new ones to happen.

No doubt that architecture is the main generator of new built environments. Therefore, they are to be well designed in order to introduce portions that not only are easily percieved, but also to introduce a pleasent educating context.

Architecture is the framework through which the society performs and interacts. The more the designed spaces are welcoming and wel organized the more the users get to achieve the intended objectives. The fact that architecture isn't just arrangments of solids, walls, and partitions, but affording appropriate zones for fostering activities, highlights how such a feild should be well studied before applied.

Therefore, meaning in the built environment, is the ability of the physical context to convey certain messages, that can be easily recieved by the users. The more meanings are clear, the more users can manuever fluently within.

To sum up a physical context is to be meaningful, in order to have all the predeterimed meanings well expressed as well as more percieved by users.
Moustafa El Attal
Meaning in the Built Environment
Meaning as it appears in the dictionary is to have the intention of behaving, and as a noun, it is sense and significance. Yet the philosophical definition of the word meaning, which I personally like, is the one introduced by Merleau-Ponty: meaning is a matter of differentiation.

However, without going too far into philosophy, we know that when we attend to a lived experience, we cannot visualise built environment as a positive-negative object in space. We recognise that things always and only appear in a horizon-structure. It is as Merleau-Ponty asserts that the immediate, is at the horizon, and must be thought as such; it is only by remaining at distance that it remains itself. Yet, for a thing to be visible, it has to enter my attention while other things recede into the periphery and become inactive, not, however, desisting to be there. This active-inactive situation, through which things manifest themselves, occurs because there are two kinds of horizon: exterior and interior.

Exterior horizon is what guarantees the identity of the object in its visible situation. An object includes numerous attributes such as line, light, colour, relief, mass, and so on. None of these attributes is ever an isolated fragment of being offered to an isolated look; rather, they manifest themselves through participation in a universe of being. Merleau-Ponty calls this universal being the interior horizon. It is within this inner horizon that the various aspects of an object become articulated and assume meaning.

The horizon-structure, in this respect, shows that what makes an object visible and meaningful is not the object itself but a universe of being from which it is differentiated and by which it is articulated. This is how we understand the nature of meaning in the built environment: We perceive built environment by reference to differentiation, but do not perceive differentiation itself. Hence, differentiation is the invisible ground of all perception, the unseen phenomenon against which we see built environment.

Space, in its physical and metaphysical senses, acts as a medium for the interactive relationships between people and nature. As such, space is the invisible differentiation of the visible built environment. In order to perceive meaning in the built environment we need to explore the invisible differentiation inhabiting its space.
Mervat El-Shafie


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