Tim Verhetsel, Fátima Pombo, Hilde Heynen

Emptiness in the interior has many faces. Engel, Benjamin and Bertoni each point out different promises related to the idea of a sober interior: quietness and potentiality for Engel, adequacy and respectability for Benjamin, authenticity and serenity for Bertoni.
‘Emptiness’ thus stands for many things. There is a common understanding in contemporary interior design that emptiness has to do with an absence of ornamentation and decoration, and refers to a condition in which there is no overload of signs and objects that might block the experience of space and spatiality. Nevertheless closer analysis shows that there are many different ways of interpreting ‘empty’ interiors.

Emptiness as Potential. Different Conceptions of the Sober Interior (PDF)

One thought on “Tim Verhetsel, Fátima Pombo, Hilde Heynen

  1. shinichi Post author

    Emptiness as Potential. Different Conceptions of the Sober Interior

    by Tim Verhetsel, Fátima Pombo and Hilde Heynen


    Emptiness in a contemporary interior design is often sought by architects and designers in order to achieve order, frugality and purity as a counterpoint to the stressful, busy and noisy outside world. A point of reference for this ideal is the Japanese architectural tradition of quietness, sobriety and harmony of mind, spirit and nature. It is our intention with this article, to focus on the meaning of emptiness from a critical perspective clarifying its potential within home interiors. We differentiate between three visions on emptiness, which each offer a different interpretation of the experience of home and its relation to nature, time and beauty: the ascetic emptiness identified with the Japanese tradition and wabi-sabi philosophy, the constructivist emptiness defended by the Russian Constructivism and by philosophers such as Walter Benjamin and the minimalist emptiness as a response to postmodernist aesthetics. We present two case studies, which both can be seen as contemporary variants of sobriety and emptiness: the formal minimalist emptiness of John Pawson’s house versus the more organic emptiness of Marie-José Van Hee’s house. We conclude by highlighting the difference between the different theoretical frameworks, and their potential bearing upon contemporary interior architecture.


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