Introvert space in architecture

Introvert and Extrovert Houses From Ancient Persia


March 11, 2015 19:00


There are two distinct and dominant forms of traditional architecture, known among Iranian scholars as “introvert” and “extrovert’ architecture. These two major spatial forms represent two different social organizations that have developed in diametrically opposed societies. Based on an article called “Gender Structure and Spatial Organization” by Minoosh Sadoughianzadeh, published in Sage Journals, the two types are elaborated as follows:


An introvert house has a sharp separation between private and public life. Introvert architecture is a spatial pattern that tends to conceal what exists or occurs inside, insisting on privacy, seclusion, and secrecy of the house. The very beauty of the architecture could be observed only when you are inside the building or in its courtyard. The family life is in the inner parts; the “outer” pertains, inversely, to the public and the public activity.

The roots of Introvert architecture can be traced back to the ancient Persia, the pre-Islamic Iranian empire; however, it started to dominate urban architecture style since the 7th century, during the Islamic period.

Introvert architecture is mostly observed on the plains peripheral to central deserts of Kavir and Lut, in hot arid zones of Iran. It has been the dominant form in the most developed urban areas of the country, such as the city of Isfahan, the capital of numerous Iranian dynasties. Later, Tehran followed Isfahan in culture and architecture style, including introvert lifestyle.

There is an internal courtyard in the center of the building connecting most of the internal spaces; thus introvert form is mainly known as the “courtyard house” or “central courtyard house.” This architectural pattern has likewise been historically interpreted as a typically Islamic form of housing.

The closed spaces of a building are all set around the central courtyard that plays a decisive role, not only as a multifunctional space for the house or as the main space for circulation, connecting various spaces of the building, but as a provider of light and air for the peripheral spaces as well. The closed spaces have no openings to the outside. All doors and windows open into the courtyard, whether directly or indirectly. The internal spaces have a very limited contact with the external ones.

In the case of wealthier houses, the architectural separation of the private space in each house has often been developed into a rich composition of two housing sections placed in one house. One, the andarooni, meaning “the inside,” is inhabited mainly by females, and the other, the birooni, meaning “the outside,” is used by the family males and their male visitors.

The separation between private and public spaces has eventually culminated in the devising of special door-knockers, exclusively used by males or females, installed on the entrance door of each house and thus specifying the gender of the person knocking at the door and entering the private space.

The visitor’s gender was told by the sound of the knock. If a man, the women disappeared or adjusted their veils, if a woman, men withdrew.


Extrovert architecture is characterized by a more open spatial layout. It displays more flexibility in private/public separation due to its respective social life, gender roles, and spatial organization of the built environment.

Architect and architectural historian Mohammad Karim Pirnia likens the extrovert buildings to a cage where there is a view of the outside world. According to him, most houses, both in West and East Asia, such as Japan, are constructed in this way.

Extrovert forms appear either on the slopes of the mountainous areas or on the fertile fields in north of Iran, south of the Caspian Sea. In Kurdistan and Lorestan, two western provinces of Iran, and in some other areas of the country, an extrovert house includes some rooms and probably a balcony.

Extrovert spatial organizations are in two prevalent forms, either in the form of buildings with yards that are located on the plains of the Caspian Coast or as houses built on terraced hills or mountains. In the former kind, the yard usually surrounds the closed space of the building or house, while in the latter, there may be no yard at all, chiefly because there is not enough flat land.

In both types of the extrovert spatial organization, the private space of the house provides an open connection to, and is relatively in greater contact with the outdoor spaces around the house. This is made possible by means of windows, doors, and especially balconies, which open to the outdoors.

The yard is a very significant space, just like a balcony, which comprises an area allotted to much of family’s private life. It enjoys direct connection to the outside world. There might be a short wall or a transparent fence around the yard, or it might totally lack an enclosing wall or fence of any sort.

The semi-open balcony is an important multifunctional space of the house, especially in the absence of a yard. The balcony not only plays a communicative role, mediating between the closed and open spaces, but it also acts as a major space for the house, where various daily activities might occur in most seasons. It opens into a yard or a public space in the neighborhood, enabling one to have a better view of the surroundings.

In the mountainous lands where doors, windows, or balconies directly open into the public passages, the separation between private and public spaces is at its minimum.

Extrovert architecture openly exhibits its facade, elements, and beauty to the outdoor public and does not much refrain from showing what happens within the house.


In certain nationally famous old villages in the mountainous areas of the country such as Hajij in the west and Masouleh in the north, the geographical features of the land have given rise to a type of spatial organization where no clear boundaries can be found between the private and public spheres. In these two villages, for instance, the roof of each lower house generally acts as a yard for the upper one, the connected neighboring roofs forming a route for passers-by. In such cases, the distinction between the private and public domains seems to be extremely obscure.




January 25, 2019

An introverted mute facade offers quiet contentment. Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design. 2018 National Award Winner from The American Institute of Architects.

In 2012, author Susan Cain published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain suggested that the world devalues and misreads introverted people. So too for architecture that might be considered introverted.

Even with its rich exterior color, this introverted museum focuses inward. Chinese Academy of Art, Hangzou, China, by Alvaro Siza (photography by Fernando Guerra)

Cain states, “Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology . . . Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

This elemental house expresses only the bare minimum. Casa Delle Bottere, Veneto, Italy, by John Pawson (photo by Marco Zanta)Intimate and introspective. Capela Do Monte, Luz, Portugal, by Alvaro Siza (photography by Joao Morgado)

In architecture, an introverted design idea might be confused with making a meek statement. In agreement with Cain, I argue that introversion is a strength. With design driven by introversion and not the “enormously appealing” extroversion, the introverted design result can be powerfully introspective, confidently content and simply genuine. Introversion is not a weakness.

From the art movement of the 60s and 70s known as Minimalism, the creative output was not ever empty or marginal, as the literal meaning of minimal might suggest. Through the Minimalists’ interests in being spare, expressing only the essentials, the final work was dramatic through its reductive and introverted self.

With dramatic black, a discreet but confident warehouse sits comfortably in its own skin. Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Moargs (photography by Alvano Garcia)

Architect Mies van der Rohe proclaimed one of history’s most profound sentiments, “Less is more.”  Through simplicity, such a philosophy can deliver the most commanding presence, surpassing the noise of extroverted architecture.

A simple and private residence walls itself from the world, not due to shyness, but for self-examination and contemplation, in Maia, Portugal, by Eduardo Souto de Moura, (photo by Lius Ferreira Alves)

Author Cain on introverts: “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak . . .” In contrast, Cain speaks of extroverts as “risk-taking, assertive, dominant, prefer talking to listening . . .” Brace yourself and see below.

The extroverted rooftop addition does not want to be ignored. Backadrin’s Headquarters, Asten, Austria, by Coop Himmelb(l)au (photo from

This extroverted form of architecture is commonly known. Our heroic buildings defy gravity, beautifully express forms reaching to the sky, and grab the attention of magazine covers and blog features. These extroverted structures stand proud and righteous, egotistically even, and are often delivered through the self-assured hands of one of our Starchitects, our celebrity hero personalities.

A colorful extroverted palace screams for attention. Palais des Congres, Montreal, Canada, by Hal Ingberg with Tetreault, Dubuc, Saia et Associes (photo from

For marketing and PR, it is easier for an architecture business to pitch extroverted projects than introverted ones—just as a big symphonic performance tends to outsell a concert hall, as compared to an intimate solo cello recital. Extroverted design makes a bold statement, and architects often aim for this, so as to put their name on the map—to plant a flag on the ever competitive landscape of design awards and recognition.

In stark contrast to its neighbors, the extrovert high rise wants to be noticed from all directions. W57, New York, New York, by BIG (photo from

Lastly, what is the appropriate architecture for an introverted individual vs. an extroverted individual? Obvious themes: introverts prefer private offices over the trendy open office space. Meaning, introverts chose areas for focus and reflection vs. the cliché of groupthink and the overrated committee collaboration. In the home, introverts seek out solitude like a reading niche, not the open kitchen and the adjacent high ceiling great room. At the park, the bench under a tree, not the big lawn. One simple conclusion is that introversion is related to the scale of the architecture, not necessarily its size. Meaning,  when appropriate,  a big room can be designed to feel intimate.

Director of a non-profit, Christine Fang provides education on mindfulness and meditation, and she observes, “In fact, architecture that supports the inward endeavor is addressing real human needs, helping us all breathe a little easier in this sometimes obsessively outwardly facing world.”

Perhaps this one introverted visitor has found a discreet desk away from the busy central space. Bibliotheque Alexis de Tocqueville, Caen, France, by OMA (photo by Iwan Baan)

As Susan Cain suggests, the world is made up of 1/3 to 1/2 introverts, and introversion is not inferior to extroversion. Quite the opposite, as she lists ground-breaking introverts, from Steve Wozniak to Dr. Seuss, from Rosa Parks to Chopin—and the many more that have shaped this extroverted world.

"House of Three Trees" with cantilever structure and introverted character

  • Architecture

1 year ago comment 0

© German Cabo

The House of Three Trees (La casa de los tres árboles) designed by Gallardo Llopis Arquitectos and completed in 2020 in Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera, Spain. The house is built in the heart of the island of Ibiza, in a picturesque countryside.

© German Cabo

The three-level mansion of 455 square meters impresses with its original design with white sculptural forms. The name of the project is explained by the structure of the house - prismatic volumes with cozy courtyards are located around the slender silhouettes of three trees - an elegant willow, a thin cypress and a knotty olive tree.

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Folk Mediterranean architecture, reinterpreted in a modern manner, became the starting point for creating a new architectural composition. White cubic forms resting on heavy stone foundation walls establish a dialogue between architectural abstraction and the tradition of dry stone construction. The aesthetic impression is enhanced by the luxurious landscape surrounding the residential area - a pine forest and small cultivated agricultural fields.

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The design of the building was greatly influenced by the features of the site. Due to the almost flat terrain and the limited space between neighboring houses, the new property lacked distant views. In this regard, the architects determined the introverted nature of the project. In this case, the architecture of the building creates its own interior landscape with many patios that establish their own visual relationship between the functional areas and provide the necessary level of privacy.

© German Cabo

The clean volumes of the building and the original distribution of spaces allowed for the creation of patios and terraces of varying heights and orientations. Associated with Mediterranean culture, the open exterior spaces are filled with greenery and the freshness of the sea air, which intertwine with the interior, making it especially inviting and cozy. Cantilevered patios define interior and exterior spaces and provide visual privacy and sun protection. The center of each patio are three trees - cypress, willow and olive tree, which are perceived as an integral part of the interior space. The cantilever structure of the building is complemented by a large outdoor swimming pool.

© German Cabo

The house is organized in accordance with a clear delineation of the functional program. The first floor, the most open and fully integrated with external spaces, is occupied by a social area - a living room, a dining kitchen. The spaces between the rough stone walls are designed for daytime relaxation. On the second floor, between the pure volumes, there is a private area with four bedrooms. The subtle connection between the rough carved stone and the smooth white surface emphasizes the balance between tradition and modernity. The basement is occupied by a garage, utility and utility rooms, as well as multi-purpose spaces for recreation and play. All levels of the house are connected by an elegant staircase with "dancing" steps made of light metal plates. Illuminated by an overhead skylight, it resembles a bright luminous column.

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Communicative spaces as a tool for understanding modern architecture

0 In our time, the internal systems, organization and functions of both individual buildings and entire complexes are becoming increasingly complex, and the most important condition is the effective management of these functions. And on the other hand, there is a quick and comfortable orientation of a person in such a building and the provision of comfortable conditions for work and leisure. This is an urgent problem of architecture, which in modern conditions is being solved in more and more non-standard ways.

This can be seen by considering examples of the design of more anthropological buildings. We can see that the description of how a building should look and function is more and more action-packed. Static definitions that regulate volumes, areas, functions disappear, and connections take the first place - connections with a person and the society in which he enters. Many of these tendencies are intuitive, but there are also those that rely on various methodological foundations, using them in varying degrees of completeness and conventionality. And this means the appeal of architectural theories and methodologies, both to abstract methods of cognition, and to private, developing in other areas of knowledge, methods that could help explain, streamline existing trends and serve as a basis for the development of their own methods.

As a result, architects and architectural theorists tend to look at it from new, previously unexplored positions.

At the same time, the object of consideration is not only the architectural environment and the principles of shaping the objects under study, but also how all these components affect human behavior in this architectural environment, both in the process of work and in the process of physical, mental and spiritual rest.

The desire of architects to analyze and study this trend is manifested, first of all, in the appearance of modern completed objects, projects, the implementation of which is planned in the future; projects participating in tenders, competitions. They are different in architectural styles, in the nature of their activities, in placement and interaction with the environment, original approaches to the problem under consideration, but having a common goal - to create a harmonious anthropological architectural and spatial environment.

Currently, the goal of an architect is to study the interaction between an architectural object and a person, as well as a complex of relationships between a building and a person. Based on this, the principles of shaping architectural objects are identified, recommendations are developed for the implementation of these principles in practice, as well as the development of appropriate methods for organizing such complex spaces.

The question naturally arises of a method that could be used to build structural, but at the same time dynamic models in architecture. This method is suggested to us: firstly, new buildings, more precisely, a whole trend in the construction of public buildings - universal multifunctional complexes, and secondly, attempts to theoretically comprehend them.

One of the terms that began to appear in theoretical works is the communicative space. It reflects the most characteristic and stable structural properties of the environment in which the type and its group are immersed. In our case, the type is a person, and the group is a local society located in a given environment. The environment acquires properties depending on the person - his tasks in this environment, psychology, and so on, and taking into account the entire social group, and not just an individual. Communicative spaces take into account the time factor, the dynamics of the structural model. They are opposed to classical structuralism.

Structural functionalism, as the very name of the method testifies, singles out in the studied phenomena, firstly, structures and, secondly, functional connections between them. The absence of a dynamic side in the theory and practice of human interactions is perceived as an anachronism in the sociological sciences. In architecture, an intuitive departure from the systemic perception of the building appears through the prism of strict functional typology and composition, which obeys it. We are used to the fact that a person perceives an open or closed architectural environment of different types. It can be visual thinking, which is typical for intuitive types, auditory, emotional.

The question arises: how can we combine all these types of thinking so that we can describe the interaction of a person or society with the architectural environment (which, in turn, turn into interactions of communicative spaces, because such a space is the essence of the behavior of a person or society in the environment, expressed in a single abstract object)?

Lest the thinking seem too abstract, let's take an example of space organization, which is increasingly being used in modern multifunctional complexes abroad. The main spatial idea of ​​the new building is the division into functional "layers" - floors that provide the visitor with the opportunity, if desired, to move from the cinema hall to the video hall, and from the information hall to the children's area or cafe (if the building is a multiplex). The alternating functions of various rooms reduce the psychological stress arising from a long stay in a monotonous information space, and also stimulate a person to receive more diverse and exciting information. It is very important to understand that besides dividing spaces by creating partitions and walls, there are other techniques that often organize the environment of a building more effectively than we are used to. The interior does not allow vision to strain or stop at one thing. The space is scaled through smoothly flowing spaces, along with their color, geometric, tectonic solutions and functionally thought-out arrangement of equipment, as well as through various electronic means (for example, the increasingly common reference computer modules). The interior appears as a dynamic information space that communicates with a person.

Communicative spaces and their communication are realized by such practical methods. Namely, the visual separation of the “layers” of spaces with an obligatory set of interconnections (we can say that this complex of interconnections is precisely the most important and allows the building to be “dialogue”), as well as with a unifying space, which is also a connection.

These connections can conditionally be divided into various processes, which, in turn, are constantly balancing with each other. This is a visual and psychological discharge of a person. Exclusion of functional monotony, ensuring the necessary, but not excessive contact with other people and with staff in each specific space. Preservation of the unity of the perception of spaces for an easier and more comfortable perception of the building and its functions. Aesthetic perception of the building (again, depending on the specific communication space in which the person is located: if this is a space for receiving information, then concentration, if for rest, then relaxation). Ensuring the dynamics of perception (that is, the building directs a person, orients, in order to allow him to be most fully realized).

It is very important to understand that all these processes must be of equal importance, since they directly contact a person and complement each other. They are part of the overall interaction between spaces within a single structure.

Human motivation is closely related to such a distribution of processes. As you can see, this structural thinking is characterized by a very clear construction of models, but at the same time it also covers the most diverse aspects of human life and existence. This is also characteristic of architecture, which strives to become harmonious and comfortable.

Thus, it becomes possible to create spaces formed by internal and external forms that most fully reflect human needs in various aspects: material and objective processes, communication and hobbies, social, professional and industrial relations, and so on.

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