architecture : urban : visual culture

Silence Inside - The labyrinth of spaces that have become visible

Spacium, a blank, a space, Leerzeichen. The Hungarian Pavilion at the Leipzig Book Fair [2017] erects a memorial to Nothing, which plays a vital part in interpreting a written text. What is invisible becomes visible, and what is visible gets eliminated in the background. Creative concept by Zalán Péter Salát, Zsófia Sztranyák, Gergely Sztranyák, Péter Zilahi. 


A written text using the Latin alphabet has a character which is hardly ever mentioned, which is not taken notice of, which does not exist physically, which has no tonality, while it is impossible to read without it and interpret the content of a written text clearly, whether the written words are in a book or on a computer, tablet or mobile. Typographers and book designers often talk about the chubby belly of the letter ‘a’, the beautiful eye of the letter ‘e’ or the hanging tail of the letter ‘y’, and so on. Typographers, who are regarded as eccentrics, have created several thousands of forms for each typographical sign intended for each sound, but the one in question does not gain attention and they do not imagine a shape for it. However, the keyboards of typewriters, computers and smart phones have a key with what is clearly the largest size to ‘present’ it on paper or on the screen. The key for creating this character is ten times bigger than all other keys on an old Mercedes typewriter, six times the size on an Apple keyboard and five times the size on an iPhone screen. This character is counted by the character count like all the others, yet it does not have a body.

This is our character:
a blank,
a space,

Spacium in writing ( ) is a gap between two written sections. Spacium which is used to separate words, or a word and a punctuation mark, is commonly referred to as a blank. The key for a blank (and thus the spacium) is often called the space bar, borrowed from the English. Traditions relating to the size of spaces between words and sentences can be different in different languages and in some cases constitute a rather complicated system. Many different keys for space are available on computer keyboards to express different sizes and meanings.

Hungarian uses a standard space for separating words. Latin writing did not use spaces until the 7th-9th centuries. Yet Old Hebrew and Arabic used spaces partly to compensate in meaning for the absence of marking vowels. Traditionally, spaces are not used in CJK languages – modern Chinese and Japanese still do not use them, although modern Korean does.
Spacium is the nothing without which the something cannot exist

We would like to research the typographical and architectural approaches and connections of absence, space, air, immobility and silence in our work. The Hungarian Pavilion at the Leipzig Book Fair erects a memorial to Nothing, which plays a vital part in interpreting a written text. What is invisible becomes visible, and what is visible gets eliminated in the background. The realized concept connects the most innovative proposition of the organisers of the Hungarian Pavilion at the Leipzig Book Fair, Collegium Hungaricum Berlin – the Hungarian pavilion should be the space from among the thousands of stands full of shelves and books where, as an absence, a work, a book should not be represented as an object to be displayed. The organisers who invited the tenders themselves stipulated the need for space and interspace at the Leipzig Book Fair.

“Every stand at the Fair offers visitors the same: a selection of the publications of recent years from a specific aspect. Yet, due to the stipulations of the organisers, it is impossible to make purchases. In order that the Hungarian stand would leave a lasting impression with visitors and become an attractive target, excelling from among the several hundred other stands, we must use different tools: instead of a stand with books, we would like to offer an experience for the participants of the Fair. The fundamental point is that the Hungarian stand is not an ‘exhibition of books’, but an experience responding to the situation, genre, literature and the object, an experience that gains distinction from the chaos of the Fair. It attracts visitors due to its position, appearance and features. It promises something different in its visuality and presents something different in its content. The stand can extend the Fair’s basic character and key words of content such as book publication, literature, science and the Hungarian nation with new befitting but innovative meanings, such as innovation, digitization, interdisciplinarism, experience, audiovisuality, etc.”
Extract from the brief call for tender by Collegium Hungaricum Berlin

The absorption of books and literary works with truly immersed content requires silence, positive solitude and a certain introspection. Stille im Innersten (Silence Inside) is a structure ending with an architectural enclosure where the rumble of the exhibition hall fades and dies away. It becomes suitable for perceiving silence, where the spaces in the selected Hungarian literary works placed on the external shell and internal layers appear and shine in the interior.

A series of spaces – interspaces: a labyrinth

How can we describe the invisible, something between things? First of all, the necessary tools must be clarified. The German word Hülle (cover, shell) primarily expressing the creation of space helps interpretation. Hülle, umhüllen mean a kind of covering and concealing. The etymological meaning is attributed to headscarf, consequently its character does not express volume but something that is two-dimensional. The interpretation of space, including the surrounding shell in modern architecture (Raumkunst), has become widespread, in contrast with the 19th-century notion (Baukunst).

Thus the invisible can be expressed by its opposite, the visible, the tangible. Its dimensions can be regulated by the arrangement of its shell. In order to make the ‘in-between things’ expressive, a simple shell is most suitable, for example a simple linear wall of identical thickness, which does not divert attention from the ‘in-between’ and does not attract the eye more than necessary. It does not become emphasised. At the same time, walls together produce an effect of volume. When walking among them they function rather as boundaries to space, as a counterpoint to volume.

According to what principle should the walls be arranged in order to express architecturally the complexity which is represented by space in printed texts so that it would provide a multilayered – tactile, kinaesthetic, acoustic, visual and, last but not least, intellectual – experience for visitors to the Hungarian pavilion at the Leipzig Book Fair? Our answer can be deduced from a system of a five-thousand-year old space, a symbol which is present in every culture, often with different (varying over time) meaning; it is
the labyrinth.

A space does not present a halt between characters, rather a transition, a division facilitating understanding. The architectural translation of the aforementioned principle points in the direction of the labyrinth, where the specific dynamics of connected spaces leads the observer. That is how a labyrinth, as a series of continuous spaces and interspaces, becomes an appropriate approach. We have examined geometrical systems which are able to result in the desired complexity in a space of 7 x 4 metres.

A labyrinth is like a set of steps; it has a pulling force. In the case of steps, human curiosity urges us to ascend, look around and see from another angle. Although differently, a labyrinth entices, we are curious about what the deeper layers conceal. Our desire to learn something new drives us. Labyrinths were traditionally created on powerful geometric lines. Our principle of construction was based on a right-angled grid of triple division, which was fused with a diagonal grid due to the corner situation. Finally we created five segments of space with different qualities, which we connected with door-like openings in the walls in such a way that lucidity was reduced to a minimum.

The four labyrinth-like corridors, which are open from above, operate as a kind of buffer zone, unlike the fifth, deepest covered space. On entering the latter the rumble of the exhibition hall fades and dies away. The wall is constructed from sawn and trimmed timber frames (5 x 10 cm cross section) covered with natural chipboard and painted white. It is about 10 cm thick with a height of 3.30 metres. Since it basically has a cavernulous structure, anything which can be held in a ten-centimetre space can be built in.


Creative concept

Zalán Péter Salát book designer and graphic artist, independent art director recipient of the German Design Award Gold twice and Red Dot Best of the Best twice, founder of Lead82. He lives in Budapest.

Zsófia Sztranyák, graphic designer, artist. Graduated from the Budapest Metropolitan University in 2016 and lives in Budapest.

Gergely Sztranyák, architect, winner of the Junior Prima Award, senior lecturer. Graduated from the University of Pécs in 2008 and obtained his Ph.D. in 2011. He lives in Pécs.

Péter Zilahi, architect, member of the P8 Studio. Graduated in architecture at the University of Pécs in 2011 where her gained his Ph.D. in 2015. He lives in Pécs.

Sound Installation
Katalin Tesch, media artist. After the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, she was a post-graduate student in Switzerland. She currently lives and works in London.

Collegium Hungaricum Berlin
The design for the competition of the Hungarian Pavilion in Leipzig was initiated and organised by Collegium Hungaricum Berlin. Director Gábor Kopek, curator and project manager of the Leipzig pavilion Ágnes Gelencsér, strategic director György Demjén and programme manager Dániel Kovács took part in the consultation during the design process on behalf of Collegium Hungaricum Berlin.

Publishing Hungary Program
Publishing Hungary Program guarantees the financial and professional background of the Leipzig project with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Cultural Fund. The manager of the project is Zsuzsanna Szabó.


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