Post 273 ⇒   by Gautam Shah  →


Open or Closed systems seem to have a very simplistic difference. But, it can have different connotations depending on who considers it. People concerned with buildings, architects, interior designers, structural engineers, builders, promoters and occupants all have completely different understanding of the concept. To compound the problem, many different ideologies from other fields are being implicated here. Some of these include: Components and Systems approach, Holistic or Unified approach, Prefabrication and Modular coordination, Dimensional coordination, Dimensional preferences, System building, Industrialised building, etc.

MODULAR PLANNING Richards and Goddard research labs by L Kahn

MODULAR PLANNING Richards and Goddard research labs by L Kahn

Designers see the space design as bubbles or doodles of function modules each recognised with non-material barriers, and of proportional extent. This is a mental process and manual expression, of the intents. It needs conversion to the site, through drafting tools. To persist with all these ethereal ideas through dimensions, material definitions, style, etc., and more importantly for confirmation by all stack holders is a difficult endeavour. One misses the overall implications of it, as systems thinking. Only clarity that comes through is delineation of space delimiting elements and space servicing elements. The elements that form these two categories are mutually not exclusive, so a cohesive system without gaps, overlaps or repetition must occur.

Holistic form of Building

Here two thinking styles distinctly emerge. Designers evolve holistic design, where, things become parts or components only by the constructors. The monument deifies the designer but fails to recognise or celebrate the user. Other set of designers’ who participate with all stack holders, (interior designers, structural engineers, builders, service providers, promoters and occupants ), create a system or framework for contribution. Buildings with very large footprints and community concerns cannot take any other route. The stress on building of nodes, boundary conditions, connectivity, dimensional and modular coordination (ISO 2848 Modular Coordination -Principles and Rules), is inevitable in Open-ended systems thinking.

Modular Design

All systems are defined by their edge conditions, be it real, virtual or hypothetical. The edges when breach less create a holistic or closed ended entity. But with nodes or the breaches an open-ended system comes into being. A node (Latin nodus =knot) is a connection point, a redistribution point or an end or terminal point.

Clustered Design of Super Computing

Computers operate as a single system linked with other systems, including other computers. However, here the concept of single system goes further, whereby other connected systems mutually share their resources. Unlike grid computers, clustered systems have an intermediate or middleware (hard and soft) that functions in time and space.

Openness is said to be the opposite of secrecy. It is not just free unrestricted access but a synergy for collaborative working. Systems are classified as Open systems, when transition of mass and energy, occurs across the edges, such as water pond, building or earth’s atmosphere. A Closed system has no scope for mass transfer but may exchange energy across the border such as gas in a balloon. A system is called an isolated or insulated system when it is not dependent on exchange of mass or energy. Some take the classification further; a self-sufficient system is one which subsists on its own enthalpy.


This note on Open-ended and Closed ended system was published in one of my Blog >> OPEN ENDED vs CLOSED ENDED SYSTEMS


In an open-ended system, components designed or manufactured by different vendors are used. The success of such a system depends on the adaptation of measures, standards for materials and codes for procedures. Open-ended systems are wasteful because of the built in reserves or additional capacities. The built in capacities in the open-ended systems do facilitate future replacements, improvisations and up-gradations. Open-ended systems generally result from mature and multi trial endeavours. Where large number of people are involved in design and execution and where these processes are likely to take place in different time spans, the system automatically becomes open ended. Open-ended systems are also called ‘open architecture entities’.


In a closed ended system the components are not interchangeable. Components designed for a particular situation are neither usable nor adoptable in another situation. Closed systems are very wholesome or compact compared with open systems, which usually have a skeleton type frame structure (infrastructure) and are loosely held. Closed systems are rigid and not easily improvisable, whereas open systems allow up-gradation. Closed ended system being compact, have no redundancy. Closed ended system become totally useless with even minor changes in their environment or working. Close ended systems generally result from first ever (prime) or unique creative effort. Spontaneous and one man creations tend to be closed systems, unless a conscious effort is made to make it an open system. Closed-ended systems are also called ‘proprietary systems’.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s