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Hybrid spatial topologies

Holger Schnädelbach


Hybrid spatial topologies are those spatial configurations that dynamically span multiple local and remote physical spaces, at times across a mediating virtual 3D space. They are constructed through always-on, multi-user and shared video-mediated communication links. When such technologies become embedded into places, through large screens that are always on, architecture can be visually and interactionally extended. In this way, the space that can be acted upon or interacted within becomes enlarged beyond local physical space, which for a long time has been the exclusive frame for social interaction. Video communication technologies have become a core part of our lives. They are technically and economically available and are now used in workspaces, homes and urban environments. This general availability of video communication technologies to be deployed in a variety of spatial situations broadens the architect’s palette. This paper systematically investigates the effects of introducing video communication into architecture. It demonstrates how architectural topology becomes extended into remote space, how it becomes fractured and how it becomes dynamic. Such topological opportunities can be employed to increase the spatial integration of connected spaces and it is shown how the placement of screen and camera directly impacts on the opportunities for social interaction. The concept of the spatio-technological isovist is introduced to capture how dynamic camera properties shape architectural visibility into connected spaces. The paper concludes with demonstrating how video communication embedded into architecture provides an entirely new architectural interface, where those interfaces are understood as spatial manifestations of social relationships. In hybrid spatial topologies it is social life that dynamically drives topologies in an immediate and observable way, with topology in turn having a demonstrable effect on social life.


Adaptive architecture, mixed reality, topology, visibility, video communication.

Full Text: JOSS_2012_P204-222