In Japanese, ‘design’ is madori (間取り), ‘grasping space’. The following

attempts to do just that, to grasp what ‘space’ means when seen through the

prism of another language. The exegesis of the term and its cognates employs

a twofold ‘methodology’: it locates them in the context of writings on art and

architecture; and uses what might be called ‘an etymological archaeology’,

digging beneath the surface of the pictographic content of the Chinese

characters (kanji ) that ‘represent’ the terms. These two exegetical strategies

reveal nuances of meaning missing in the one-for-one equivalences given in

dictionaries, and uncover ways of seeing and thinking architectural space that

differ fundamentally from those structured by the English language.