Space: a dynamic approach

Have you ever tried to define space?

In this post I’ll talk about two concepts which are space and shape, talk about a few theories and my understanding of them.

Space is a very complex concept, often defined as a limitless extension in which objects have a relative position and direction. Although throughout history many aproaches have emerged for the concept.

Lao-Tse (Laozi) an ancient chinese philosopher had described three different levels of space, being the first one, the result of a tectonic assembly (meaning the interior space). The second one being the overall shape that englobes the first one (meaning the exterior space). and the third one stablishes the transition between these spaces, (because of course, if there’s wall dividing the outside and inside, then there is an outside part of the wall and an inside part of it. What is left right in the inmediate border?) The link between the two, in architecture seen as openings like windows or doorways.


In the image above we can see a “modified icosahedron”, which contains a blue sphere in the inside, at the same time the shape is surrounded by more space (the exterior space). The holes in the icosahedron are the links between the inside and the outside, connecting both spaces and acting as a transition.

According to other theories, ones that think of it as a relation. (just like Einstein’s concept of relativity) we can see the followings:

Immanuel Kant a german philosopher from the eighteenth century had stablished the idea that space is not an independent existence because there are objects (that move) inside the space, and vice-versa, therefore a direct relatioship exists between the two, meaning that they depend on each other. He defined it as “Space and Motion”.

Albert Einstein had another perspective for this concept, he proposed that space and time should go together, meaning that neither one exists on its own. Space does not exist if time doesn’t and vice-versa. Adding another dimension to the theory previously known, in this case space is not three-dimensional, instead it is four-dimensional. Albert saw it as “Space and Time”, or Spacetime as he described it.

Knowing these concepts then: space is not a static entity but instead, it changes over time beacuse there are movable bodies inside the spatial extent; causing this space to accquire different proportions while these diverse objects move in different directions and speed, changing the distance between them in a constant manner.

In this clip we see the idea of “Space, Time and Motion”. There are three spheres, the white one, the blue one, and a black one. The blue sphere moves backwards (in relation with us) modifying the space between all three spheres, while it keeps moving, the space keeps changing; (meaning that while time passes (every single second), space changes too(the spheres are in a different location). Next we see the black object move to the right changing the space between the spheres and also changing the space that surrounds it because: the space that wasn’t occupied is now occupied. “While time passes objects move, causing a constant modification to space.” Jakob Brockmans.

OK! Enough with the physics………

The psychological aspect:

I’m going to talk about a very specific form of psychology; the “Gestalt” or “Shape” in german.

The gestalt psychology explores the essence of shapes as whole beings trying achieve an understanding on how the human brain reacts to the configuration of shapes.

The gestalt states that when visualizing a shape or object, the human brain first assimilates the whole and then proceeds to gain information from the details, meaning that when looking at something, the composition of the objects is perceived before all the tiny details (that happens if you are not looking at a picture of yourself, a friend just posted on Facebook).

The key principles of the gestaltism are: emergence, reification, multistability and invariance. 

 1.Emergence: is a process by wich the brain gathers complex information and simplifies it trying to understand it.


In the image above, if we look at the whole we’ll be able to understand it. (by the way, it is a cheetah).

2. Reification: is the process by which the brain tends to construct or generate the image from bits of pieces.


The brain automatically completes the missing parts of the shapes. 1. we see a triangle that is not really drawn, 2. It’s an “S” with erased center. 3. A 3D sphere object that is not there. 4. Kind off like a serpent or (Lake Ness’s Monster).

3. Multistability: often used for illusions, is the way that the brain perceives the image. Images that have ambiguos perceceptual experiences.


The famous face/vase. Here we can choose what we want to see.

4. Invariance: is the way that the brain keeps codifying the same object although it is modified by scale, rotation, translation, and even sometimes blend together with other shapes.


If we look at the whole, we’ll see a bunch of objects, but in reality we can only organize them in 3 categories, since there are only tree different objects.

 With everything said above one can say that when we see an object we try to understand it, without one even noticing. The human uses association, which is a process by which the brain links all the information stored and puts it together to understand whatever is not recognized.

rock_desertLets suppose you’re walking on the desert and you find this massive rock, just standing there, maybe you’ll stop and look at it, or just keep walking. I mean, it’s just a rock. How many division of spaces can you see? or is this just a rock occupying some space?


What if you’re walking on the same path, but instead find this doorway. How many spaces can you see now? do you see one side before the doorway and another one behind that doorway? In reality it is the same thing, a piece of rock. If we didn’t have any previous knowledge about what a door is, then it will be just another object. Also, our brain automatically divides the space because we complete the shape through “reification”.

Well well well friends! I hope this helped and worked as an engine to make you guys think for a while.

What if space and time have not been discovered yet?

All images made by Jakob Brockmans, by modelling, drawing, or mixing different pictures..


4 responses to “Space: a dynamic approach

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