Dec. 31, 2020

Entry Magic I


Indoor vs Outdoor Behavior
Do you remember, when you were a child playing in the house with your siblings or friends and your mother used to say “Use your inside voices!”? Why did she say that? Because whether we knew it at the time or not, there is a distinct difference between inside/indoor/private behaviors and outside/outdoor/public behaviors. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you passed gas, picked your nose, or rearranged some clothing in public? Why are Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) considered to be something worth commenting on, but Private Displays of Affection (also “PDAs”) are never mentioned? See what I mean? We have an entire range of behaviors that we allow ourselves in private that we would never do in public. As a society we reserve certain behaviors for private environments while we allow other behaviors to occur in public environments.

Preparing for Indoor Behavior
Remember those old TV shows where the man of the house would come into the home after work, put down his brief case, take off his hat, and hang up his coat, and say “Honey, I’m home?” Or think even of Mr. Roger's quotidian and unchanging entry ritual: hang up his coat, put on a sweater, and change shoes – only to be reversed in 30 minutes. The role of these kinds of rituals is to allow for us to psychologically “change hats” from outdoor behavior to indoor behavior. Research has shown that before people can relax completely and adopt ‘indoor’ behaviors, a physical transition in the environment is necessary to help people “break the momentum of the closedness, tension and “distance” which are appropriate to street behavior…”[1] Most of the time people aren’t even consciously aware of the presence or lack of these transition spaces. But at a subconscious level, there’s a profound distinction in the ability to relax and adopt ‘indoor’ behaviors when this transition space exists.
In his classic book A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander suggests that this critical transition space between outdoor and indoor should be marked with a change in lighting, sound, direction, surface, enclosure, and view. Another way to explain what helps in entry transitions is what garden designer and author Gordon Hayward describes as design prepositions. (You will of course recall from your grammar lessons that a preposition describes the relationship between a noun and a pronoun – basically, it most often describes a physical position. For example these words are all prepositions: with, into, against, on, towards, through, before, between, under, along, behind, across, around, above, and beyond.) Hayward describes the effort to make this public to private emotional and subconscious transition in this way:

As guests get OUT of their cars and walk ACROSS the asphalt driveway, they step ONTO a sandstone walkway. There they walk BETWEEN potted plants or THROUGH a gate and UP a step or two and ACROSS a landing UNDER the branches of a tree and AROUND a corner of the path and INTO a garden and AMONG shrubs and perennials. Then they walk UNDER the portico or porch before stepping UP steps and THROUGH your front door INTO your home. [2]

The magic of an entry with lots of prepositions is that it enables both the owners and their guests to subconsciously process and psychologically ‘switch hats’ from outdoor/public behavior to indoor/private behavior in a seamless, gentle, gracious and welcoming way.     

[1] Alexander, Christopher; A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, 1977, pg. 550
[2] Hayward, Gordon; Your House, Your Garden, W.W. Norton & Co, 2003, pg. 25