Authors: Alyona Sotnikova
Alisa Ontensone
What is care? Where and when does one feel most cared about?


The archaic human desire to hide from the outer world lies in the dawn of architecture. The reflex of securing and protecting your soft, fragile body, especially being in the most vulnerable state, is rooted deeply in human existence from the experience of being inside the womb. As we perceive architecture as a space organization — or, better, space determination than the first architecture you encounter — the walls of your mother’s belly define a space for you. This is the space where you began to exist, big enough to allow room for movement and tight enough for you to be comfortably wrapped.

Leaving this space and stepping into an open space must be unwonted and uncomfortable, and this is where the long-life journey of seeking the space of care begins. Unfamiliar with their own limbs and especially their positioning in space, newborns experience anxiety from being in a vast, boundless space and yearn to be in a securely close space, in the closest proximity to their mother, as they were inside her. At this point, loving arms or the tight cotton tissue of the swaddle performs as a new spatial organization that takes care of a disoriented in the big world newborn, figuratively and spatially returning him back inside the womb.
What is care? Where and when does one feel most cared about? Where do you feel the most cared for while experiencing daily life in the built environment outside your home? When you walk in the city on a hot day and find a shadow spot from the roof of a nearby pavilion, or when you find an empty bench in a regular park, placed securely in the landscape so no one can hear that deep conversation between you and your friend. When you, as a child, play hide-and-seek outside and discover how many mysterious niches there are in the exterior of your house. Or when you find a perfect mistake in the urban fabric, a corner is hidden from the unwanted eye, where you can kiss someone significant.
Thus, if the space of care is subconsciously associated with being enclosed in the offset or slightly expanded borders of your body, then the cave, the first human home, perfectly addresses this fear and discomfort of being in an open space. Not only a shield from bad weather but a spatial exclosure that cuts off unnecessary, scary space. The natural curvature of the walls creates all sorts of ledges, allowing every human body to find a perfect spot to climb in or lay down on. An intimate, dark, and moist space where one feels secure, protected, and hidden from the world — just like in a womb. And as a baby grows up, cave stone walls replace a swaddle, creating a new space of care — home.
Being finally able to control their limbs, adult human is still experiencing slight discomfort or healthy stress in an open space in a contemporary built environment. Streets, public squares, and parks are places of adventure and danger, where you can be seen or where you always feel like you are being watched. Home, whether big or small, now represents a swaddle, wrapping you gently and cutting off unnecessary space — still a space of care, a place of recharging, releasing tension and relaxation. Like putting a restraining shirt on a madman to catch him, comfort him and calm him down, the walls of your rooms take care of you, protecting you from the outer world, both physically and metaphysically.

Spaces of care also exist in a city — and usually, they are spaces of lowering architectural scale down to human size, spaces where you suddenly feel safe as they were built especially for you. They also are a space of organic irregularities, like the natural turn of the street up in a mountain city. Sometimes these spaces are carefully designed by architects, but mostly they appear in the intersection with irrational and inaccurate. Located off the grid in the city, urban errors and mistakes can also unintentionally create new spaces of care and discovery. Sudden shelter in the space of a big city, a funnel that sucks you inside from a wide street, is also a little swaddle, a place to take a break before stepping out again to the dangerous open space.
Space of care can be designed in a project of every scale. The act of designing such spaces is actually thinking of a human, their body, their boundaries, and their vulnerability, a desire for shelter, and a search for an embrace of architecture. A space with no meaningful purpose but with room for playfulness that allows people to occupy the space themselves and customize it to suit their needs.An intimate space where you can step out from the hectic city environment for a while and take a break before moving on. A comfortable wrapping of human beings.

The point of view of the author of the article is his personal opinion and may not coincide with the opinion of the editorial board.

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