Post 292 ⇒   by Gautam Shah  →


Spatial distancing is an important design consideration for individual and groups. Spatial distancing is formed by the sensorial perceptivity, recognition and reaction. All these factors are conditioned by space size, form, physical distancing and environmental conditions. The spatial distancing is sensed by the perceptibility of an object or a person through its virtual proximity, the possibility of physical touch, eye contact, and audio privacy. Visual recognition occurs from familiarity, distance and illumination over the object or person, angle or level difference and the context. Reaction is reflected in distanced or non participating behaviour.

Eye Contact – spatial distancing

Spatial distancing governs both, the individualisation and participation. The need to be alone, be with someone, or part of a group arises from several factors like Personal (psychological and physiological), Intra-personal (communication, expression and exchanges), and Group behaviour mechanisms (sense of belonging, sharing, participation, confirmation).

Group Behaviour Distancing

For an individual, a space that permits one to format a ‘distance’ from others is a private space. For a group, however, a space that allows easy communication and recognition (without any aids or extra strain), is an intimate space.

A person or group carve their own space by different territorial markings. It involves creating and maintaining an exclusive control over a space. The control implies privileges, and may involve actions in its defence. For the individual, territorial control provides security and identity, and is communicated through personalization and definition of the space. For the group, territorial control, is the cause of their being together, and it is expressed through the common behaviour. The territorial markings are of physical, metaphysical, and metaphorical nature, presenting spaces of many different characteristics. Territoriality is a means of distinguishing a space.

Social distancing at a Bus stop

A person through behaviour projects the privacy and intimacy in various forms and proportions, whereas the space facilitates various levels of physical closeness, isolation and insulation. The mental needs ultimately define the degree of involvement. The culture defines the acceptable or inappropriate types of social distancing. The meanings of spatial distancing, in private space like a drawing room and a public space like an elevator, are different in different cultures. Crowded spaces force intimacy of coexistence, which may force an individual to mentally barricade own-self or open-up for interaction.

Intimate spaces and Spatial distancing

Enclosing space forms (corners, cones, concave, narrow lanes) force individuals to be closely spaced, and be intimate enough to form a group. Some environmental and other effects are highly focussed and superior (illuminated spots, under the fan area, a sunny patch, a breezy path), so force many to share the same zone, and so breed intimacy.

Party behaviour -Distancing

A Primary territory refers to a realm associated with an individual who has an exclusive use of it. Secondary territory is like ‘social’ sharing territory, without any personal marking or right to occupancy. These markings are, however, recognisable by others and rarely breached. Public territories are available to all, but with conditions. Interaction territory is a space created and facilitated by others, when people are interacting.

Spatial Distancing -keeping away

Hall argues that there are spatial zones appropriate to various types of interactions that manifest spatial distancing. At very close distance of 75 to 150 mm one can whisper into ears or proceed with touch. At 300 to 500 mm distance one can have extended touch by body limb and talk in soft voice. At 500-900 mm distance one is on the verge of being committal. At a distance range of 1300 to 1500 mm one has a chance of avoiding others and, yet be impersonal, if body posture can be changed. Spatial distancing 1700 to 2500 mm allows choice of changes in body posture and voice levels.

Spatial Distancing -Intimate Care

One can move from impersonal discussion to personal matter by reducing the distance, or to a non personal information exchange by increasing the distance. Impersonal discussion, takes place at 1200 to 1500 mm; cross the inner boundary of this zone and one’s interlocutor will retreat; cross the outer boundary and will advance or subtly change the manner in which to behave adopting the pattern appropriate to the new distance. Spatial distancing functions for same space interactions but not for virtual communication technology mediated encounters.

Gandhi -Virtual distancing but gestures are real



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