It's All in the Game: Designing the Contained, not the Container

Thumbnail Image
Cannady, Shelley L.
Associated Organization(s)
Organizational Unit
Supplementary to
Conveying the importance of negative space and the relationship of mass and void to beginning environmental design students is challenging. How do we teach the primacy of experience over the arrangement of things, getting students to see the spaces between tangible forms as their real subject? How can they gain a deeper understanding of how the character and arrangement of things affects experience? In my beginning design courses it took several revisions of an environmental design project for students to apprehend that they were assembling forms to focus on the 'contained' rather than the 'container.' To clarify this concept I proposed game play as a model for spatial experience. Experiences of both games and places are affected by design, by choice, and by chance. This set up the opportunity for discovery, through observation and participation, of how human experience can be staged. Students visited an urban area and recorded what shaped and affected their experience, and then they played different board or field games. They discovered that both game playing and spatial experience are governed by participant objectives and both present opportunities for confrontation and avoidance. Both have analogous physical characteristics and offer a series of punishments and rewards. Students then used their findings to design a three-dimensional board game. The research for and design and play of these new games provided students with an engaging model for designing human environments.
Date Issued
Resource Type
Resource Subtype
Rights Statement
Rights URI