Hallways and corridors are spaces designed to move people. Geographers call these “non-places,” designed so that people do not loiter and linger. Non-places should encourage and facilitate movement by being nondescript. I used to walk freely and quickly through such spaces on my daily routes through the Earth Science and Social Sciences buildings. Now I have “taken” these non-places, following the invitation of the university, and am helping to turn them into places.
Corridors are uninteresting and–generally-speaking–empty of both material features and of meaning. Not any more. We are now busy converting these characterless spaces into places–chairs, tables, benches, and vending machines have attracted people and their stuff. The sounds of conversation, booting computers, cell phones ringing and crunching food wrappers have replaced the sounds of shuffling feet.
Non-places are quickly being converted into places. This is wonderful! Certainly spaces for building relationships and doing work are fundamental at a university. Boring, conventional hallways and corridors–non-places–designed to move thousands of students, faculty and staff from class to class are clearly lower on the priorities of space design and use. So, the hallways and corridors are, with a stroke of a pen, gone–transformed into places designed not for flow of people, but instead for people to stop, sit, work, sleep and converse. I can now “take my place” and watch, bemused, while thousands of people try to wind their way through the bodies and stuff on their way to classes and appointments. Why don’t these people realize that the corridors and hallways of the university are a relic of the past, and that they should now stop and build relationships? It is inevitable that they will come to such enlightenment, since they will spend many an hour lined up with others who similarly resist the spatial transformation of now and fixate on the obsolete non-places that were the hallways and corridors of yesteryear.
While waiting, they will have plenty of time to reflect on the benefits of these new spaces. I have.
Denise Fay Brown
department of geography