A Gate to Imagination

Picture taken during walk through Bergen

What is missing from our dwellings today are the potential transactions between body, imagination and environment
Kent C. Bloomer and Charles W. Moore

While walking through Bergen a mark in the ground invites me to jump over it. A choice is given to play with it or ignore it.

The child's attention is caught—or in the view of an accompanying adult, distracted—by everything from the play of light and shadow to the flight of birds and the barking of dogs, to the scent of flowers, to puddles and fallen leaves, and to myriad trifles from snails to conkers, and from dropped coins to telltale litter. It is the rifles that make the street a place of such absorbing interest to the miniature detective whose eyes stay close to the ground. For the child on his way to school the street is a labyrinth.Tim Ingold

The city is a game. If the street is a labyrinth for children, then what is a city? Adult people are invited untold times by the environment to interact and play with it. But are people still able to play? Do people remember what playing is? In my point of view, playing is a basic need. It is an experience where you get to know yourself and the environment better. It is also an opportunity to escape reality for a while and see the world in a different daylight. There are diverse ways of playing, but one of the most important for me is imaginative play. When a child is playing, it is about much more than just jumping over something or crawling under something. It is about the imagination with which a story is created around reality. Suddenly a water supply becomes a horse and you find yourself in a whole new unique and imaginary world, a new reality on top of the existing one. It is this kind of playing, imaginary playing I will research in my project.

Narrative, either based on successive actions in a story or on spaces that are seen sequentially, is at the centre of creative imagination. There are creations, in which fictional and spatial narratives are inseparable from each other.
Sophia Psarra

Today we see that there is not enough time to play in our Western culture. We live in a society where a lot revolves around having a decent job. Also, for children, born with exceptional imagination, everything quickly starts to focus on what they will become when they are older. What do you want to be when you have grown up? This is one of the typical questions you were asked in the many friendship books that you used to fill in so carefully. Many children lose much of their imagination as they get older.

A new perspective on reality: The new consciousness presupposes a rediscovery of the original, positive faculties with which every person is endowed but which generally have no chance to develop in the prevailing Wester pattern of culture. These elementary faculties, primarily imagination and creativity, are born anew in every child—nothing can bring man’s submerged most positive qualities to the surface with such magical certainty—but are invariably blunted by conventional education.
Aldo Van Eyck

I am not saying going to work is bad and everyone should stop working and start playing. It is about more than only work. It is the whole pressure post-modernity brought to the Western culture such as advertisements and social media. By playing you can escape from this postmodern world, just for a while. You can put all your worries aside and just relax. But playing is not only relaxation, but it is also about sharing a body experience which will create a deeper impact. Therefore, I am not suggesting video games, although it is a wonderful way to imagination and relaxation. Most adults can describe the great feeling of playing in the garden as kids, of the physical relationship with the environment. It is about this physical experimental experience that triggers the body. Juhani Pallasmaa writes about this experience.

Our bodies and movements are in constant interaction with the environment; the world and the self-inform and redefine each other constantly. The percept of the body and the image of the world turn into one single continuous existential experience; there is nobody separate from its domicile in space, and there is no space unrelated to the unconscious image of the perceiving self. How can you reactivate imagination in both children and adults and make everyone play more in the city? This research is looking for a new playful and imaginary layer that can be superimposed on reality.
Juhani Pallasmaa

It looks for ways to stimulate the imagination and how it forms a story that is embedded for everyone in their own narrative. The playful child is reflected in oneself’s subjective imagination. During the research, the qualities of ‘open work’ and ‘ambiguity’ became a helpful tool to stimulate the imagination. In his book "The Open Work" Umberto Eco talks about the duality of open work and the freedom that the maker gives to the viewer. In architecture, may this be reflected by the human body and its positioning within architectural spaces? Does this manifest in how the user reacts to the building or architecture in unexpected ways?

The research tools that evolved during this study on the potential of play and imagination in urban spaces are inspired by the notion of Robert Venturi on ambiguity:

Ambiguity and tension are everywhere in the architecture of complexity and contradiction. Architecture is form and substance—abstract and concrete—and its meaning derives from its interior characteristics and its particular context. An architectural element is perceived as form and structure, texture, and material. The oscillating relationships, complex and contradictory, are the source of the ambiguity and tension characteristic to the medium of architecture. The conjunction “or” with a question mark can usually describe ambiguous relationships
Robert Venturi


  1. Kent C. Bloomer and Charles W. Moore. Body, Memory and Architecture, Yale University Press: (1977)
  2. Tim Ingold. The Life of Lines, Routledge: (2015).
  3. Sophia Psarra. Architecture and Narrative, Routledge: (2009).
  4. Strauven, Francis. Aldo van Eyck - Shaping the New Reality From the In-between to the Aesthetics of Number. (2007).
  5. Juhani Pallasmaa. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, Wiley: (2012).
  6. Umberto Eco, The Open Work, Harvard University Press: (1989).
  7. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, New York: The Museum of Modern Art: (1966).

When I Was a Cowboy
I went outside to play and discovered what 'playing' actually means to me. Imagination and narrative. It is an experience where you get to know yourself and the environment better. By moving your body trough a landscape, the landscape itself can become something else like a desert.

When the child was a child, it walked with hanging arms, wanted the stream to be a river, the river to be a stream and the puddle to be the sea. Der Himmel Über Berlin. Directed by Wim Wenders. Berlin: (1987).

Butcher's saw
Butcher's saw
Butcher's saw
Floundering fish

Butcher's saw
Magical stone
Butcher's saw
Popping caterpillar
Butcher's saw
Butcher's saw
Mountains, thorns

Magic Pillow, doors and windows at Christinegård.