It was the present moment. No one need wonder that Orlando started, pressed her hand to her heart, and turned pale. For what more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment? That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side and the future on another. But we have no time now for reflections.(Virginia Woolf, Orlando)How long does the present moment last? Where and when does the past begin and how does the present end? In physics-or more precisely in the special theory of relativity-the present can be defined as the coordinate origin in a spacetime diagram- A n unextended point that separates an observer's past and future light cones. From that point of view, the present has no duration at all; the past instantly assimilates the future without any hesitation in between. However, time perception tells us that we actually experience a 'here and now'. Psychologists believe that the time range we perceive as the present, the socalled specious present, lasts about three seconds-the interval duration after which the brain may be said to reset its attention. This is already infinitely more than no duration at all but this recognition is still not enough to explain concepts like the present time or 'today' as an indicator of the contemporary. In the domain of history, the present seems to be a much more complex construction. When we speak of phenomena as contemporary, we place them in an extended present. We concede that the present encompasses the recent past and the near future- A temporal range that provides a stage for the actions and reactions that shape our world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalARQ: Architectural Research Quarterly
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2019

ID: 55137530