Push or Push

Source: Science of the Secondary

Science of the Secondary is a Singapore-based zine by Atelier HOKO, employing an “inquisitive approach towards uncovering implicit conditions that exist in our experience of the everyday” (Atelier HOKO 2017). The term ‘secondary’ refers to the conditions and sensations we experience but are not conscious of on a daily basis. Each issue they explore a different ‘everyday’ object. Research-led and interrogative, the fifth issue on Doors is my subject of interest today.

Source: Science of the Secondary

You can hardly be in an enclosed space without a door, unless walls were to be (physically) built around you. (And yes you can be a space with a permanently locked door, like in the movie Room where the room’s door is almost always locked to prevent mother and daughter from escaping, only opened at night when their kidnapper comes to sleep with the mother.)

Source: Science of the Secondary

We interact with doors everyday — they are quite literally our door to opportunities, experiences, interactions. Yet, we scarcely pay notice to them as they are just an object to facilitate movement to fulfil our actual objectives. I walk through countless doors everyday, even if I am at home.

Now you must be thinking what’s the link between doors and handedness? In certain situations, such as when both hands are occupied, we use our arms/elbows/other body parts to open and close doors. However, for the most part, we use our hands to open and close doors.

These are some thoughts and questions I have after reading Science of the Secondary issue: Door:

  • I moved to London ~2 years ago. I realised that even though some doors still have the words “push” and “pull” on them, most of them are quite intuitive — push if there is no handle, pull if there is. I noticed this because it is different in Singapore where almost every door in public places have ‘instructions’ to push or pull.
  • As highlighted in the zine, with the intercom system now, one can push a button to open the door to allow guest in instead of walking to the door. Not only is it a stark difference at how we initially interact with our guests, but the methods in which we interact with infrastructure changes as well. Instead of pushing, pulling, or sliding a door, we press a button. Less force and walking distance are needed — in short, technology is slowly overtaking us.
  • Different styles of knocking emote different tones and messages. Knocking profusely and loudly may indicate urgency, whereas knocking softly may be evidence of not wanting to disturb. At times, people have secret knock codes — knocking in a certain rhythm can mean something, and is occasionally indicative of one’s identity.
  • On handling the door, there are several kinds of handles, including the twist knob and a lever-based door handle, where the former “demands full participation of one’s palm and fingers to operate (Atelier HOKO 2015). HOKO poses the question if we are then intrinsically ‘closer’ to door knobs? Seems like we are. 
  • Our hands no longer interact the same way with the advent of technology, such as automatic doors and sliding doors. Extrapolating that, what if one day we are no longer able to touch and hold material objects? We will have nothing to hold on to.
  • Granted the automatic door changes our interaction between our hands and a door, but going through such a door no less affects our body in a similar way, or perhaps in a more uncontrolled way. We are in less control of the stimuli — light, smell, visibility — that awaits us.
  • Are doors ever made to be permanently locked? Could permanently locked doors be considered things that do not work?


1. Atelier HOKO 2015. Science of the Secondary: Door. Science of the Secondary.

2. Atelier HOKO 2017. Science of the Secondary. Science of the Secondary (available on-line: http://scienceofthesecondary.bigcartel.com/).


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