How to Divide Spaces Without Traditional Solid Partitions
Functionality, good ventilation, comfortable lighting, and access to views are some of the important required characteristics that make for human comfort in inhabited or occupied spaces. Nonetheless, those elements are becoming harder to achieve within smaller city dwellings. Architects and individuals, therefore, turn towards design solutions to create more agreeable and personalized settings.
An initial solution to upscale and widen spaces is to reduce the amount of standard solid partitions or walls and replace them with alternative means of spatial separation.
If applied properly, this easy and affordable step would optimize airflow and natural light propagation within any given area, while saving a little space in small-scale apartments or houses. It can also create visual dynamism and movement as it frames and highlights different functions within the same area. In fact, there are many possible interpretations of non-solid space segmentation, as seen in the projects below.
1 – Wall treatments
A first step to replacing full partitions is to have large openings or cutouts within the existing non-structural walls. It’s a good way to ensure visual continuity and framing at the same time. This move could also highlight certain areas that one might like to showcase in the project.
Team Living House / Masatoshi Hirai Architects Atelier
Kolmio+LIM / Yusuke Seki
2 – Levels
A second follow-up solution would be to diversify ceiling or ground levels and heights. In fact, different functions could require different vertical dimensions that are more suited to them in terms of sound absorption or feel. The change in levels can be accomplished from above or below.
Lowered ceiling – In this case, a false ceiling, suspended grid system, or hanging panels could also be set up as a marker for different areas. They could also prove useful by housing mechanical or electrical machinery (HVAC, embedded lighting…).
Blue and Glue / HAO Design
Pillar Form – Beam Form / PERSIMMON HILLS Architects
Elevated ground – The level change could be made from the bottom-up just as well, creating a very clear separation between two functional spaces. This is a common – and in some countries traditional – construction practice that allows many integrations such as under-tile heating, storage area below or just providing a lower ceiling height that is more acoustically sound.
Els Terrats / LoCa Studio
3 – Material alternation
An additional manner of highlighting either the varying levels or simply alternating areas without having partitions is through material change. A layering of contrasting cladding or tiling in adjacent zones would constitute a practical and creative way of differentiating spaces. It is surely a decorative element that adds dynamism and movement to the project.
Apartamento Umami / Semerene Arquitetura Interior
The Rabbithole Apartment / Havkin Architects
Apartments in Senri / nmstudio architects + Nozoe Shimpei Architects
“This design leaves room for the resident to freely modify the space through “Shima”. Residents can freely place things which they love and discover their own way to use the shima. These small housing units gradually turn into comfortable living scenes full of “uniqueness of residents”.”
Shibuya Apartment 201 / Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects
Tehran Apartment / Rooydaad Architects
4 – Color coding
Delineating areas can be similarly made with the simple application of dissimilar, contrasting colors (including some materials). It’s an extremely interesting solution if cleverly and moderately used and is reversible if required.
Townhouse / Les Ateliers Tristan & Sagitta
Vivid Color / Waterfrom design
Apartment in Korydallos / Plaini and Karahalios Architects
“The arrangement of the apartment was reshuffled. The scheme became a sequence of spaces interlocking to each other, traveling through subspaces. Every subspace is a threshold to the adjacent areas. The use of color and different materials on all surfaces outline the distinct boundaries.”
5 – Furniture buffers
The ultimate easy partitioning solution in open spaces remains the use of furniture as a flexible dividing buffer between two areas. Whether it is a kitchen counter or a dining table, they could be utilized to informally distinguish between neighboring zones.
Clerkenwell Warehouse Loft / InsideOut
THE BOOKCASE / nook architects
6 – Flexible lightweight partitions
Finally, if the required outcome is a more flexible space that can still offer an additional level of privacy at times, then movable lightweight panels or curtains can be used in otherwise open spaces.
Rivaparc Apartment Renovation / Nhabe Scholae
The quoted texts are excerpts from the archived descriptions of each project, previously sent by the architects.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 12, 2020.