Equipotential Space

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The term Equipotential Space was coined by Renato Serverino in 1970 in his book Equipotential Space: Freedom in Architecture. He defined Equipotential Space as "...the determining characteristics of Equipotential space are continuity, flexibility, and articulation. Instead of being planned for a few specific purposes, Equipotential space can be modulated at will for any purpose".[1] Equipotential space is space that has the potential to be anything at any time. Many architectural theorists during the late 1960's and early 1970's conceptualized these types of "future spaces." Some architects even attempted to create modular futuristic spaces. Some of these spaces began to resemble spaceships, or pods, others were composed of interlocking places suited for either one number it occupants or many.

Technically, this kind of space poses an extreme architectural difficulty. It is quite costly to create a persistently liveable space whose form and function differs based on those who use it. In contrast, the Internet is an Equipotential space by definition, as it is comprised of fluid, editable code and the spaces between networked machines.

In Berman's All That is Solid Melts into Air, Marshall Berman wrote of a highway built by city developer Robert Moses in early modernist New York city. The highway led to a beach that was only accessible by vehicles.[2] One could not take a bus, bike, or walk to the hidden beach, but had to physically modernize in order to access the space. In the same way, the Internet is a vast interconnected architecture only accessible by technological hybrids; those connected or engaged with machines and browser software. Highways, for instance, are an architecture on which only those with vehicle shells can travel. In the same way, there are some spaces that can only be visited by a human plus a browser.

Serverino posited that "equipotential space offers the possibility of real freedom", wrote Serverino, "This is not freedom just to be different, but freedom to participate as fully as possible, given social, economic and technical reality".[3]. While these theories and manifestos did not play out in the physical world of architecture and construction, they were harbingers of a new era of that invisible space between machines. The digital architecture of online community and networked spaces have shown us a full realization of Severino's Equipotential Space. These sites provide us with, as Serverino wrote, the "freedom to shape responsive solutions to immediate needs; and when these needs change, to have a new solution".[4] During a crises, empty frameworks and communication lines morph to fit the shape of the communication needed to solve emergent problems. The architectures of Facebook and Twitter morph to meet the needs on their communities, and their communities are shaped by that space.


  1. (Revisiting) Equipotential Space: Freedom in (Digital) Architecture From: Equipotential Space: Freedom in Architecture. Praeger publishers. Serverino, Renato. New York, London. Pg. 14.
  2. Berman, Marshall. All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Penguin Non-Classics, 1988.
  3. Ibid. Pg. 29.
  4. Ibid. Pg. 29.