Fresh into architecture school I thought we would be taught about structure, material, some other technicalities, and then go on presenting and building our designs. Instead the teachers (and books) insisted we should learn to think about space. The concept is abstract and it didn't come easy to me. So, in case you are struggling with it too, here's how I've been learning to disassemble the idea (all in hindsight):
First, we don't create space. Space exists, and it will exist, independent to us. We create place. Place is space with purpose. Then, to create place, what is it that our architects shape?
Most obviously, tangibly, building is about sculpting matter and light. We give form to building materials and compoments, and assemble them in compositions. This is structure of place in a constructive sense.
Secondly buildings sculpt air. We create four-dimensional rhythm, atmospheres and various time-conditions by giving shape to series of built spaces. Only by imagining a box in a void you define at least nine spatial entities and their relationship to each other. This is structure of place in a narrative sense.
Primarily, as a consequence of these two, what buildings do is: they shape life. By fulfilling function, and/or by providing attributes to our action, architecture defines and is actual reality, not a representation. If the characteristics provided are sensitive (...the term here deserves an essay of its own...), a place can become heavy with meaning. This is structure of place in a philosophic, or idealistic sense.
These forms (matter, air, life) are all equally important. If they are aligned, built places can deliver deep, touching beauty, almost equal to a natural phenomenon. This is the absolute potential of architecture. But now you ask: When does it actually come together - become available for experience?