Can space make you insane?
I had the unfortunate experience of living in an apartment with constant noise. Heavy footsteps in the apartment above at 5am each morning turned me into a monster. It was a catastrophe. The building was pre-war and obviously built with little insulation or consideration for human life. I moved immediately!
Space, the number and spacing of windows and lighting do affect social behavior, mood, productivity and health. Crowding and noise is linked to annoyance, stress, aggression, withdrawal and horrible behavior. I definitely committed very bad, revenge behavior.
After watching “Rear Window” for the millionth time, my friend Nadja, (an architect in her past life), mentioned that this movie was often studied in architecture. It peaked my interest because the set is extremely minimal so I looked into why.
An apartment at 125 Christopher St. was the view that inspired the setting for murder. In order to create a sense of reality, Hitchcock sent four photographers to NY with instructions to shoot the village from all angles, in all weather and lighting conditions from dawn to midnight.
For months, Hitchcock did nothing but plan the design of this indoor set. He wanted to intensify the close proximity of interior spaces in city life. He used close neighboring interior spaces to create a claustrophobic and voyeuristic mood in order to intensify suspense and visual tension. The tense narrative, along with a limited space set design, make this one of the best films from Hitchcock.
In order to make the buildings feel taller, Hitchcock had the studio ground floor torn out, allowing the basement to become the courtyard. The massive Hollywood set consisted of 31 apartments (8 completely furnished) and 1000 arc lights to simulate sunlight.
The main character, Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a photographer, bored and isolated in his small apartment, wheelchair bound with a broken leg. Through his apartment window, with the help of cameras and binoculars, each character is framed, witnessed and analyzed. It’s from his perspective that we start to understand the spacial relations between the different apartments important to the mystery. The movie explores the small and limited perspective of Jeffries and his desire to uncover the truth behind a suspected murder. We are taken on a journey of suspense from the confinement of his hot and tiny apartment.
Hitchcock’s "Rear Window" is a commentary on human characteristics of behavior, voyeurism, identity and gender roles which he depicts through the film.
Architecture and interior design have serious effects on human behavior. Designing thoughtful structures has become critical for a positive mental state but also as a means of preserving limited natural resources.
I've learned my lesson...before buying or renting a place to live in, light, noise and privacy are closely examined...in order to avoid committing murder.
Ref: REAR WINDOW 1954
The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard