Post 312 –  by Gautam Shah 


Kitchens have been wall dependent facilities in all climates. The kitchen hearths were walled to protect the fire from winds. In warm climates the exterior shading walls were of small height, but in colder regions the interior walls were used. The wall and the chimney provided the latent heat storage capacity, to conserve heat and release it in off hours. The colder region kitchens began to open out (de-walled) when efficient fuels and compact hearths were available. The warm region climate kitchens began to move inside the house for the same reason.

1 Bread baking ART by Anders Zorn (1860–1920)

Kitchens were wall dependent as nearly all the utilities, such as vents, water supply, drainage and storage were wall-mounted. The only facility, to remain free or stand-alone for a long time, was the central preparation platform or table. The table in the centre of a kitchen provided a work surface, where one could sit or stand to knead, chop, mix or serve food. This began to change with improved supply chain offering substantially cleaned, prepared and partly cooked foods. The work on the central platform or table was transferred to cooking area. The compact and cooler (from outside) hearth offered sufficient adjacent space for food preparation.

2 Kitchen range at Canons Ashby House Wikipedia Image by Wehha

3 Restored version of Kitchen, Benjamin Stephenson House, Edwardsville, Illinois Wikipedia Image by Rklawton

The wall adjunct kitchen platform now had smaller but multi facility cooking range and a food preparation area. The cooking range was a ground-based apparatus, fed with coal. The face of the cooking zone was mostly an opaque wall, occasionally carrying an open or concealed chimney stack. The wall was without any opening for view out, illumination, or ventilation. The piped water supply or drainage system, both were casual appendages. The cooking zone was a straight wall aligned arrangement of loosely placed entities, food preparation table or platform, the cooking range, the water supply basin. The storage was on placed on the floor, hung on the walls, or shelved in assigned rooms. The assigned rooms were facilities in larger mansions, to store specific things such as crockery, silver, linen, milk products, meat and poultry items, etc. This was the aspiration everyone had for even the small dwelling. It, however, was translated into compartmentalization of storeroom or pantry. It later became provision of cabinets. Fancy crockery and silver were placed in dining room as show-pieces. The kitchen was wall-full of cabinets.

4 Pantry -geograph-3630614-by-Kenneth--Allen

5 Frying Range Wikipedia image by Rathfelder at English Wikipedia

Restaurants, ships, and commercial or industrial kitchens began to adopt scientific gadgets’ and kitchen systems. The emphasis here was clean-ability, hygiene, maintenance, streamlined layout, ergonomics faster output or efficiency. This was readily adopted in home kitchens. Ladies journals also encouraged two concepts, the efficiency triangle (the limitative distance a housewife should cover between the freeze, hearth and sink) and the view out from cooking or preparation area.

6 Front window in Kitchen

The view out, meant not just breaking open the wall that was abutting the kitchen utilities, but selecting a good view. In the first case it meant rearranging the cabinets, and for second case the house layout had to be redefined. The Kitchen was backyard-connected affair, now had to be relocated for the front street view.

The need for store room diminished for two different reasons, the walled cabinets provided sufficient storage space and the supplies in most of the urban areas were easy to procure, reliable in delivery and partially processed. There was no need to fill up the home with year-long requirements.

8 Cutlery Pantry cabinet

The kitchen was a place for the family, but not yet for formal dinners. A dining room was a ceremonial space, close to the kitchen. The kitchen and dining area were two distinct spatial entities. Very wide twin glass doors between the two virtually merged them. Over the years the need for formal dining area is met by outdoor eating.

9 Julia Child's kitchen at Smithsonian National Museum of American History -Attribution Matthew G



Post 311 – by Gautam Shah 


colour in architecture 1

Colours of Buildings affect many spatial qualities of a built space on both, the interior and exterior faces. Colours used in buildings once were mostly of the natural material surfaces or as applied on it. On exterior face the colour distinguishes a building among many other nearly similar ones. It also emphasizes the architectural elements. In early ages of a street without intensive night lighting, the colour of the building allowed it to be perceptible. Sides of the openings with lighter tones helped the night interior light to have a wider glow. The choices for exterior colours were fewer then on the interior sides. Colours of the naturally available materials were smartly exploited in several buildings across ages and locations. Natural materials like timbers, stones, soils, or materials processed out of these from the local region have phylogenetic relationship. There is an equality of hue and tone across the local materials.



The colour palette began to change with trade across distanced places. The adventitious effect began to occur when minute quantities of materials such as minerals, pigments, and dyes were bought from other regions. The first use of these additives was in the form of painting or colouring of leather, cloth, timbers, art work, ceramics, fabrics and body make-up. The colour schemes of ceramics, paints and fabrics were drastically altered. These colour-effected materials were initially used in palaces or religious buildings. The effects, however, percolated to ordinary buildings and people in different way. Here art and craft objects of exotic colour schemes were used as a rarity and as gesture of modernity.



Knossos Porch ch Exterior colours

Exterior sides of buildings for a very long time (as much as 9th C.) had colours of the natural materials. The surface variation was through the inclusion of architectonic elements, textures and joints’ patterns. Greeks used streaks in natural materials, mosaics and joint’s pattern for surface variations. The Ordinary Romans exploited debris of old buildings for variegated marbles. These colourful marbles were not local as came from distant lands. The Romans, on the exterior surfaces also used calcimine type of water-based coatings with iron oxides as the colourants. Romans created borders and central patterns with mosaics and inlay pieces of colourful stones and glazed ceramics. Byzantinian used marbles from debris of buildings but their intention was contrast and pattern definition, rather than a unified colour scheme.

colour in architecture 2




Interior spaces once had dominantly natural colours of wood, plasters, terracotta, marble, granite and other building stones (like slate, sandstone, quartzite, etc.). These colours were enhanced or supplemented by embellishments made of metal and furnishing fabrics. The interior spaces were stucco or fresco painted. The walls and ceilings had decorations of paintings, murals, carvings, and colourings. The colours of embellishments and decorations though substantially of natural range were much intense tone and purer hues. Interior spaces were protected spaces so lot of non-sun-fast colours and bleeding coatings (water soluble) of natural gums could be used. Ceramics were the next lot of exotic colour materials.

colour in architecture 3

Colours in Egyptian Dendera Temple

In early ages metals like bronze, brass, copper, iron, tin, gold and silver had natural colours. It was not possible to re-colour these substances, except the patina formation on bronze was a controlled process. Metals were ‘colour’ altered by processes such as metallizing, chasing, inlaying. Tin, gold, and silver plating was effective way adding a ‘coloured’ identity. Metal’s own colours or altered with plating were very distinct from the ‘earth’ colours of minerals, glowing hues of dyes or ‘fired’ colours of ceramics. The metal colours were soon challenged by glass. Glass with its impurities had many different ‘Metallic’ shiny colours. These were now pot coloured or stained. The Metals and Glass were successfully coloured in multiple hues at the start of middle ages.

metal-glass facades

FLOORING COLOUR (earlier Blog article)

PATTERNS in FLOORINGS (earlier Blog article)



Post 310 – by Gautam Shah



Habitable spaces are substantially real and physical, but could also have features that transcend the reality. Such conditions occur because the human cognition sometimes functions ambiguously. The subconscious behaviour of humans also expresses itself free from the structural limitations, false rationality, and restrictive customs.


The ambiguities in cognitive processes arise, as the Time and Space that separate most elements as unique happening, get mixed up, to produce incoherent and surprising effects. The elements nominally distanced in time and space are ‘virtually’ juxtaposed in a make-believe world.

1 Spada Gallery Perspective Wikipedia Image by Sailko2 spada

Time is seen as a measure of change, and Space is perceived for its consistency (or even lack of it) over a time. Primitive man, watching a star and noting its almost intangible movement in the sky, or watching own-self getting old, were percepts in time and space. However, to note the difference, two such distinct frames must be juxtaposed.

Star position and Image as reference for detecting movement

In case of stars, the images were shrouded in known forms such as animals, humans or objects, to record the change. The ageing process had to be realized as own image, rather then being told. First image perception of own-self in the still water or over a glossy surface was not magical for the ‘other being there’, but for the perplexity of left and right getting reversed.

Ware-wolf Myth and reality

The magical impact of a powerful representation in painting, a captivating form of sculpture, a transparent glass bead or stone crystals, a shadow or black colour hiding a detail, all were such make-believe situations. It was a new reality. These are replicated and soon the repertoire of make-believe becomes a nominally confirmed technology.

4 Grotesque carving of a house in Crutched Friars, London. Image by Henry Thew Stephenson

Reality is a state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Painting, sculpture, transparencies of crystal, shadows, reflection in water or movement of a star, are real and not imaginary things. Yet, reality, was distinctly contrasted with what is unreal or dreamy and delusional. When the dream and reality transcend there is sense of ‘Avidya (lack of knowledge), a Maya as the cause of illusion. The unreal, was unexplained till it could be recreated, and it becomes real. Dreams and delusions are expressed in many visual ways, art, sculpture, performances, whereas alchemy was ‘magic. To resolve the contradictory conditions of reality and dream, people have created ‘unnerving and illogical scenes’, strange creatures, grotesque forms, and queer built-spaces. These have been ways to expose the psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance. The disdain for literal meanings given to objects is considerable. It forces a compelling image, beyond the ordinary formal organization, and has evoked the empathy of the viewer.


Narcissus Reflection in water

Thinkers, such as Aristotle, Plato, Frege, Wittgenstein, and Russell, have made a distinction between thought corresponding to reality, coherent abstractions (thoughts of things that is imaginable but not real), and that which cannot even be rationally thought.

4 Art_Nouveau_MetzThe real and magic are separated by the superfluous. The superfluous, is the applique carrying its own meaning. It is essentially intended to counter the mundane. It is not deep or thoroughly effective. Sir John Summerson, the architectural historian calls it ‘surface modulation’. He also says ‘Architecture had, with some difficulty, liberated itself from the ornament, but it has not liberated itself from the fear of ornament’.

space and reality

The shrouded symbolism of decorations and the contempt for the explainable interpretation, led to creation of new space making elements. The first attempts were like photograph processing tools of superimposition, merging, morphing, etc. It created visual aberration for depth in space, but a deviation of objects in a time frame, a 4D effect. Films and television provided the impetus to make-believe cognition, beyond the visual frames. This is now further adopted to perceive spatially modulated forms in architecture.

Film effects –Make-believe

What was historically the simultaneity of form and structure, is now form fitted out with a structure. Instead of moving in circles with the old adages of form follows function or the function shaping out a form, both are concurrently perceivable in virtual reality.


Salvador Dali creating own reality

Salvador Dali’s painting called ‘Persistence of Memory’, with melting images of pocket watches was in rejection that time is rigid or deterministic. It suggested the theory of Einstein’s that time is relative, and not fixed. Dali works incorporated optical illusions, negative space, visual puns, and trompe l’oeil visual effects, stereoscopic images. He was among the first artists to employ holography in an artistic manner. Dali had a glass floor installed in a room near his studio. He made extensive use of it to study foreshortening, both from above and from below, incorporating dramatic perspectives of figures and objects into his paintings. Dali’s post–World War II period bore the hallmarks of technical virtuosity and an intensifying interest in optical effects, science, and religion. Dall sought to synthesize Christian iconography with images of material disintegration inspired by nuclear physics.


Experiments to involve time in built forms helped the emergence of several forms and techniques for manipulation of the reality. Both impinge on each other in various measures.

5 Dr. Rowan Building, Close-up of Terra Cotta Ornamentation Wikipedia Image by Los Angeles

1 Ornamentation had too much metaphorical connection with the past, and very static visual impact, both restricting the time dynamism. For the process of de-ornamentation, geometry, functional, structural, and spatial aspects provided the much needed excuses. The new datum for architecture and products, etc. the ‘form follows function, purity of form and truth to materials’ became the tenets of modernism. Abstracted arts and crafts had no reliance on functionality or the materials, and the confusion continued through the cubism, surrealism and Dada-ism, etc.

7 Kinemax theatre France

2 Deconstructionists attempted to move away from such constricting aspects. They compromised the geometry of form by abrogating the functional, structural, and spatial aspects of construction, in the architecture, literature or stage arts. But in architecture they still had to deliver a building standing with the gravity and other forces and in literature and other arts it had to be a deliverable product or a recognizable entity. So in spite of running away they remained anchored to reality.

6 East face of the Imperial War Museum North by the Salford Quays Wikipedia Image by Photograph © Andrew Dunn,

Dali was not alone in trying to project the persistence of time. Many others have followed the path but differently, characterized by fragmentation, an interest in manipulating a structure’s surface or skin, non-rectilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate elements of architecture, such as structure and envelope.

Wexner Center for the Arts by Peter Eisenman

‘Peter Eisenman’s Wexner Centre for the Arts: Some of the grid’s columns intentionally don’t reach the ground, hovering over stairways creating a sense of neurotic unease and contradicting the structural purpose of the column’.


3 The movements in architecture and products had one major problem, one had to conceive-plan and details the entity to execute it. For developing complex forms, the age-old means of orthographic drawings, model making and perspective like visualizations were now too insignificant tools. It had to wait the arrival of the computer to ‘conceive-plan-detail and visualize’ the complex forms.

Rotating Tower Project Dubai

Virtual reality can operate directly with the brain bypassing the sensorial nodes and functions. A ‘person to brain’ interface helps in executing the tasks by getting around the conscious blocks, such as the phobias, fear of public speaking, inhibitions, and vagaries of awareness and consciousness. A step further would be community based on brain-computer connections. The computer perceives, responds and moulds the interactions between ‘brains’ of the members. The participant may be induced by any number of possible means to forget, temporarily or otherwise, that they are inside a virtual realm.

the garden of earthly delights



Post 309 –by Gautam Shah





First ever human endeavours of unprecedented size and complexity, such as construction of buildings, forts, cities, or palaces, civic facilities like aqueducts, bridges, gates, fighting wars and calamities, writing epics, creating works of art, all have been executed as projects. These projects require strategic planning, research, innovations, procuring and transporting the supplies, storage, human resources, tools and equipment’s deployment. Such projects often lasted for several generations, or were conducted by different people taking over the controls. The three important elements of conducting a project are, namely: Documentation, supervision and feedback system helped the ‘timeless’ continuity by managing the changed circumstances.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon



Historically large projects were initiated by the powerful coterie of rulers who could command large number of workers as believers or slaves. The armed forces were the most organised of groups, and were preferred executioners. Post 14th C Europe and India saw rise of business men, who patronized construction of large projects like palaces, temples, cathedrals. Early 19th C. saw emergence of different class of entrepreneurs who began to build very large Industrial units, warehouses, wharf and rail roads. These industrial age projects, in comparison to any other project in the history, were conceived, executed and made operational in a very compact time frame. The time compression necessitated new methods of project management. The building had to be an economic entity. The style was not shackled by architectural isms, materials or technology. The new breed of industrial project initiators, were joined by new Governments that were turning more democratic. The Government sponsored economic activities were constructions of bus and railway depots, ports, canals, dams, bridges and roads, etc. These Government projects were often designed executed and managed by private agencies.

Industrial plant

Panama Canal under construction 1907

Mexico Cathedral

Earlier Designers were Planners of the project, and to many extent were active participants in execution process. These allowed them to detail and improvise the project during the execution. But during Industrial evolution Projects were planned for production strategies, then designed (Buildings) and executed by different agencies, and ultimately made operational. These processes required new methods of project handling or management.

Ship Yard

Just before and during the world war II, it was necessary to ensure that production of war materials of all forms matched the anticipated demand, and was supplied to the right place at the right time. For this purpose new planning and forecasting methods were required. After the world war, these mathematics based planning methods developed into a new discipline known as OR -Operations Research. OR is a discipline concerned with the planning, assessment and control of operating systems, such as industrial production, commerce, etc. or virtually any human effort. Interest in the methods for design and logic of these systems, rather than in their operations, led to another subject, SE -Systems Engineering.

Decision making in design is covered by SE. Decision making in planning of the construction, execution, implementation, operations and the management thereof, is covered by OR. In reality these two disciplines overlap and merge into an overall systematic approach for Project Management.

As a discipline, Project Management has developed from several different fields such as building construction, mechanical engineering, military projects, etc. Two types of mathematical project scheduling models were developed.

Miami station

The PERT -Programme Evaluation and Review Technique was developed as part of the United States Navy’s (with Lockheed Corporation) for Polaris missile submarine programme, and the CPM -Critical Path Method was developed (jointly by DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation) for managing plant maintenance projects. Other such tools were like: work breakdown structure (WBS) and resource allocation methods.

By the 20th C. project managers began to (time) schedule productions for the rapidly changing markets (choices, technologies). In the 1950s and 1960s project planning methods for time management and cost control through inventory, warehousing, transportation management, were developed. Much of this development was based on the concept of determining a precedence relationship (that is, identifying which work activities must be completed before other work activities).

Gas-Oil Platform Bombay high seas

Business was facing challenges of more complex products and services, demands for better quality products, cost-conscious customers, faster development cycles, stiffer international competition. There was need for joint ventures to share risk and collaboration for leveraging the expertise. Project management was designed to help the business leaders do just that.

.Soyuz Space craft

Enormous projects are often called programmes, divisible into multiple projects. The projects, in turn, can be broken down into smaller sets of activities. These are further dissected into tasks, or work packages. Tasks are assignments for a person, equipment or a facility (department). Project management techniques are applied to planning and managing activities at all such levels.



STAGE CURTAINS – Part 2 -forming the performance spaces

Post 308 – by Gautam Shah



Stage curtains are barriers, used for spatial definitions. Settings are more permanent barriers lasting an act or entire play or performance, whereas curtains as barriers mark temporal divisions that distinguish the physical depth, width, heights, and also pretentious presence of spaces ‘beyond’ the stage. Here a performer projecting different environments on a stage or arena has limited time, space and means. As a result the performance space or the stage is extended beyond its physical limits by exploiting both, the real barriers and indicative barriers. The curtains are also used as gestural break or end of an act. Curtains are soft partitions that occlude the backstage, side-stage and top section of the stage from eye sight. Curtains are also used for projecting an image of slides, movies and in shadow-plays.

3 Roman Theatre Backdrop


Commedia dell’Arte has been depicted as actors in masks performing on temporary stages in market squares in woodcuts, paintings, engravings, and drawings by artists such as Callot, Scarron, and Dujardin. The stages in these depictions often appear to be elevated by six foot tall scaffolding with audience members standing on three sides of the stage. Simple curtains often are depicted hanging behind the actors sometimes painted with an urban background, similar to a backdrop. Sometimes actors were depicted peeking through behind them, and sometimes there would be slits in the curtain indicating doors and windows – Wikipedia (Hildy, Franklin J.; Wilson, Matthew R. (2015). The Rutledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte)


A performance area could be a boundless space. Its extent needs to be defined for several purposes. Audiences need to focus on an act, and so want a performance area within their visual perspective and audio perceptibility. Even with means of electronic sound amplification, the need to synchronize the sound and action, need for focus remains valid.

2 Orange_roman_theatrescaffold stage

A stage as a raised platform, even though not a pointed entity, needs focus, and that focus shifts with the action or the performer. The performer moves around the stage designating transient zones, and orienting own self to various sides except the back. In a Roman Amphi theatre the actors on the front section are active, and by retreating to the backside become inactive. Going back is like going off the stage and act. These enacted clues were often supported by acting and sounds, but not substantiated with physical barriers or stage settings. The Greek theatre was open on three sides but had an architectural backdrop. Street plays, rudimentary story telling performances and public religious and political ceremonies worked with the presence of a backdrop. The backdrop was a strong architectural entity like wall, building facade, or a non-interfering (static) natural entity like mountain, valley, sea shore, river or lake.

3 Ramlila_DasrathaThe strong backdrop was non-disturbing reference but focussing element. Audiences from side edges distracted the actors, or the actors were in a puzzle which section to concentrate. Gradually informal stages (like street plays) began to be covered on sides. The stage became a box. The boxed stage, however did not allow designated entries or exits, such as hell, heaven, another room, street, etc. Side wings are fixed curtains to obscure side sections of a stage. Curtain-covers or head-wings are used to hide the upper section of stage properties such as the hanging gears, ropes and rolled or folded section of the curtains. A second layer was required to arrange a concealed passage on three sides. The second layer over the wings was of both hard settings and soft curtain materials. The second layer was fashioned temporary for the act or scene, whereas the wings were permanent arrangements of the stage

5 Theater_Bielefeld_InspizientenpultThe sets, stage property, curtains, side wings, lighting, audio-video effects, etc. are used for creating a variety of spaces and signify connections. A cleavage in side wings or a gap between two stage properties could signify a door, window, opening, corridor or a passage. The stage thus becomes a place where a multiplicity of spaces ‘Here’ and a series of connected spaces supposed to exist ‘Beyond’ occur. Whatever is lacking in such definitions is further reinforced by the actors. The acting makes the audience feel as if the actor is actually dealing with or reacting to a real barrier. Mime acts are such explorations with unreal barriers. Since it is not possible to accommodate the entire set of physical barriers, only the acute or important sections are highlighted through frames, outlines, edges, cleavages, thresholds

street performance

A fly is a rig system in the upper section of a stage with ropes, pulley, counterweights, battens (for hard and soft flats or barriers). These are automatically or manually operated by crew walking on the hanging cat-walks. These enable crews to hoist (drop and raise) stage components like curtains, lights, scenery, people, equipments, effects, without noise, quickly, and safely. The upper section of the stage, fly-loft is tall enough to stock these properties or there are folding arrangements.

In informal performances, like street drama, where stage and related provisions are not available, the performers have to devise specific means and strategies to convey the effects.


Stage curtains, side wings, scenery flys, all form the soft furnishings of the performance. These are further exploited through colour, texture (of material surfaces, and folds or creases), degree of transparency, horizontal angle of position, vertical inclination and nature of illumination (frontal, backside, top-down or upward, spot or diffused), dynamics of movements and projections.

6 Glenn_Davis_COH_2011_Event_Scenic_Design

adble scenery

A stage sets and curtain barriers are perceived by the audience from a limited and fixed angle view. Curtains as result are made from black, dark, opaque and translucent materials, and with folds, pleats and gathers, but it is the lighting that casts its sensorial effect.

7 New_York_State_Theater_by_David_Shankbone


10 Theatre_Stage_Albert_Hall_looking_stage_left_showing_theatre_curtains_(2016)Curtains are either dropped downward or moved sideways. In smaller theatres curtains have two leaves which part away horizontally. In larger theatres the curtains are suspended from a batten or staff and dropped down. The dropping is quickest way of adjusting a curtain. The curtains are dropped or raised flown in theatre terminology, up to a required height to mask the upper section of the stage. The masking also substantially hides the back stage settings. The main or the first curtain on the audience side is called a grand drape, act curtain, house curtain, house drape or main drape. These are made of heavier fabric. A curtain call is a curtsy or thanks call offered beyond the closed position of the main curtain, in front part of the stage.


8 Tableau_curtain_central_opening_system_-_Grand_théâtre_d'Angers

Main curtains were first drop curtains but these required a heavy bottom staff. As this was hazardous, roll curtains was soon adopted. ‘The curtain was raised after the prologue and remained up throughout the performance, all scene shifting was in view of the audience. It was not until 1750 that an ‘act drop’ was used; previously, even intermezzi were performed in front of a full stage setting’.

9 Mariinsky_Curtain

A single curtain which moves horizontally is called a wipe. A tab or tableau curtain has two overlapping leaves which are lifted from the corners in a diagonal direction, by the stage assistant or conductor (Sutradhar) of the performance. A scrim is a curtain made of a gauze like fabric that seems to be opaque when lit from the front and transparent when backlit. A backdrop curtain is a painted or scenery curtain forming the back surface of the performance area. A cyclorama is a large white curtain that encircles the stage and provides a background.

11 Interview_with_Francis_Ford_Coppola_&_Alden_Ehrenreich_at_SIFF

STAGE CURTAINS Part 1 (Blog published earlier here)



Post 307- by Gautam Shah


Yoyogi National stadium – Tensile structure by Kenzo Tange

Roofs as the outer most enclosure system of a building, define the form of an architectural entity. A heavy roof requires equally heavy sub structure, thus creating an effect of ‘solid or monumental building’, whereas a lighter roof system requires a lighter support structure, and seem very delicate or trivial. Roof-structures based on compressive elements are inherently heavier compared to tensile structures.

Circus tent

Roof systems are predominantly Compressive for several reasons. Roofs put up by comparatively non-mobile or stable societies are permanent, static, heavier in weight and well founded to grounds. These buildings have heavy bearing structure with fewer or smaller openings. Heavy roofs have low spanning capacity so interior spaces are small or narrow. The interiors are dark, compartmentalized and isolated from the outdoors. Heavy roof structures are hazardous for earth quake conditions. Construction of a heavy roof requires large manpower, through participation, coercion or money. Heavy roofs are ecologically inferior as there is inherent wastage of materials. Heavy roofs and their heavy support systems, require equally heavy foundation work which is difficult and a time-consuming proposition.

Dome structures Hauz Khas New Delhi India




Roof systems are also tensile structures. These are light in weight, and so often demountable and portable. Such structures are preferred by nomadic or transient people. Light roof structures and their lighter support system, both offer free, open and bright interiors. Open interiors have an immediacy with the surroundings. Some structures are large span entities composed of very few elements, so are extremely adoptable to different internal arrangements. These structures unless well integrated with their support system and properly based to foundations are hazardous in wind storms. These structures with better cover material and appropriate pitch can be used in areas with heavy rainfall. These are ecologically very superior as there is inherent economy of materials and require very little foundation work. Execution is fast.

Thatched roof

Light weight roofing

Roofs have many different formsflat, pitched, vaulted, domed, etc., depending on the available materials and technology, architectural needs, and economic compulsions. Some of the primitive forms of roofs were, Pitched roofs with thatching, Conical roofs of hides, Flat roofs of stone slabs, and Gabled and flat roofs with rafters of dressed timbers. Plants, hides, and stone were the primary materials, gradually replaced with manufactured materials such as terracotta roofing tiles and woven mats. Coatings of primitive waterproofing compounds like tar, pitch, wax and fats continued for a very long period.

Richmond Olympic Oval composite wood beams

In low rain and hot-arid areas like Sind (Harappa) and Egypt flat roofs of heavy clay mass over wood structure were created to form terraces. Tropical countries with seasons of heavy rains had high pitched thatched roofs. Nomadic societies on Mongolia, Indians of Americas and Saharan regions developed demountable and transportable shelter system. These shelters had integrated roof and support system.

Bahai Lotus Temple Delhi India -folded plates

Roof systems occur as the outer most enclosure. An inclined roof has higher surface area, compared to a flat roof. An inclined roof has solar gain during part of the day when its inclined side faces the sun. This can be exploited for various locations. Roof forms are designed primarily to deal with the effects of environment. In high rain and snow fall areas roofs are designed for drainage. Roofs are also sloped to enlarge the roof surface area to receive higher solar insolation or sun light for energy conversion systems like heating pipes, solar power cells etc. Roof slopes are oriented to South or North faces, depending on the Northern or Southern hemisphere, respectively.


Abstract Mumbai Airport Ceiling

ROOFS and FLOORS (earlier article)

 SLOPED ROOFS (earlier article)


Post 306 –by Gautam Shah




Woods are fashioned to a variety of finishes such as bark stripped, chopped, rough hewn, sawn, planned, sanded, etc. Timbers gain variety of finishes due to planned seasoning, ageing and exposures. Such finishes are valued for certain uses and so re-formed on fresh timbers, or old surfaces are restored-altered for specific effects.Timbers offer surface quality that is end of the grains, and faces towards and away from the core.


Finishes for wood depend on several factors.

Primarily a wood finish depends on its proposed use as a product or composite. The product defines its sensorial and engineering properties. The product also determines, the technology used for sizing and then finishing. The wood for a product is checked, if it is sap inclusive or heart exclusive, type of wood – soft or hard, type of cut – quarter, rift, tangential or slab, etc.

Wood Router

Quality of wood (jungle -often called firewood, commercial or special timbers, etc.) and form of the product requires very specific method and material of applique finishing. The applied finishes are affected by the nature of wood (soft or hard), level of moisture content, direction grain, presence of gum-resins (aliphatic compounds, waxy and resinous substances), and colour. Overt finishes must take care of grain filling, colour correction (by staining-bleaching), and rectification of anatomical anomalies such as straight or cross grain, knots, shakes, pith, etc.


Wood sizing, product shaping and finishing, all are affected by the atmospheric conditions (temperature, moisture, wind, dust). Wood finishing technology is product dependent, which in turn is considered in terms of its economic viability. The time and effort involved in finishing a wood product must match its economic, aesthetic and functional requirements. A low quality wood, a low-cost product, or an engineering-structural item whose sensorial qualities are less relevant must receive appropriate treatment.



Wood products where feel or texture also necessitates visually appealing finish. This process starts with selection wood, grain pattern and its orientation, finishing technique and the coating. In case of restoration and conservation of wood structures and other utilitarian items, one must check the age of wood, decaying agents, presence of moisture, surface contaminants like dust, soot, oil-grease, residues of earlier finishes, burns and marks of singeing, sunken grains, etc. Other important cares include tools and techniques used for surface correction must not physically scrape the surface, chemically affect the surface or leave a residual product. Care is also required that all processes must be reversible (in future if it is realized that this are damaging).

Wood conservation-preservation




Post 305 – by Gautam Shah


Working on Videos

Relationship between a client and a design professional depends how they are introduced to each other, the status of client and design professional, and if it is fresh or renewed contact.

Relationship between a design professional and a client develops very gradually. The Client and professional usually have had some rapport, or social introduction even before a job is discussed. Any premature attempt to formalize the relationship disturbs the rapport. Difficulties occur at both, the client’s end, and the professional’s end, so they need to proceed carefully.


It takes few meetings to formalize any level of relationship. Delays in relationship occur due to both the parties.

A client wants to delay because:

  • The client is unsure, if a design professional is needed.
  • The client is also not certain if the (introduced) design professional is the right person for the job.
  • The client, as an official, may not have the authorization to initiate the retention process for a professional.
  • The client may not have clear land ownership, adequate funds, or capacity to own-operate a project once it is delivered.
  • A shrewd client may wish to negotiate with other professionals.
  • A client may wish to collect many freebies (design ideas), and than perhaps carry on the job on own.


A design professional is in a different setting.

  • A fresh starter -professional, is always very eager to get on with the job, yet such a professional avoids the formalized relationship, so as not to disturb the budding but fragile relationship with the client.
  • An established design professional, on the other hand is not in a hurry to formalize the relationship so early, till all facts about the client are known (status, land entitlement, funding, etc.).

Design professional desire, an early resolution to the dilemma. A relationship can be construed to have occurred when a formal commitment is available. For a design professional, securing a formal commitment (consent) from a client, for a job, is one of the most difficult of tasks. Consent commits a client to pay the design professional for the services to be rendered. The professional also becomes obligated to deliver the expected services.


For a design professional the job has already begun the day the idea of a project is discussed. The design grows to a concept (sketch, doodle or ideation sketch) with investments in labour, stationary, materials, and most importantly the intellectual skills. All this process the client invests in time, remaining worried, if the design professional will at all deliver. When a professional fails to deliver, (even if any advance that may be fully refunded) client’s time and effort are wasted. (both non calculable entities).

On discussion of feasibility of a project, if a client refuses to appreciate the design professionals’ work, not only calculable inputs are lost, but abstract cost of intellectual skills, go uncovered.

Ideally two parties must initiate their relationship with a contract, according to the laws of the land. A contract, is a very formal expression of intent. It is too much to expect a contract level relationship in the initial stage of a job, when the client and the professional hardly know each other, or have fully formed a project. Just the same, even without a contract a relationship must be nurtured. Normally this is not very difficult, when both the parties are willing, enthusiastic and have a mutual faith. A memorandum of understandings (MoU) is a less formal tool, frequently used as a step towards a full legal contract.

At a later stage when problems arise, either of the parties may refuse to even acknowledge the relationship between them. An informal relationship could turn very vicious. The design professional and client, both lose calculable and abstract costs.

It is very natural for clients and professional to be extremely careful about things they say and do in the initial stages of a job. For a design professional who is often operating without formal consent, securing a proof that his involvement has a tacit approval of the client, is very important. The evidence in such a case is usually circumstantial, and generally not tenable in a court of law, unless corroborated by other circumstantial or real evidences.


The best commitment, next only to a legal contract or a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), is payment of a Retainer fee. A retainer fee, however small, signifies establishment of a relationship, between the client and the design professional. Ideally the quantum of a retainer fee should be large enough to cover the labour, stationary, and the cost of patent (original or exclusive) ideas, required to generate a schematic design (or similar a stage, when the first fee becomes due). The cost of patent or unique idea is collected at first go, because a unique idea or a concept once exposed to an outsider like a client loses its originality, and so the value.




Post 304 – by Gautam Shah



Flowing water and rain water are considered fresh, holy and invigorating. This is perhaps due to the aeration process. Aeration occurs in the sky with clouds, falling rain or snow and flowing water. Aeration occurs on land due to vigorous water movements in springs, rivers and water falls. Several atmospheric gases and particulate matter attach to active waters. The aeration, however, reduces dissolved odours, while adds oxygen and other gases. Fresh water is generally characterized by its low concentrations of dissolved salts and other matter. Fresh water has an appeal that includes hardness, colour, taste, odour, and appearance.


Bagmati River at Sundarijal Nepal > Naturally aerated water > Wikipedia image by Sudan Shrestha

Traditionally natural and fresh waters were used or consumed at their spring sources. The process is referred to as taking the waters or taking the cure’. These centres developed as spas or baths. Bathing facilities for treatment of skin and infectious diseases were set up wherever, hot water and springs with high proportion of sulphur, were available.


Geothermal Spa Blue Lagoon Iceland > Wikipedia image by (SketchUp)


The term sweet water describes fresh water in contrast to salt water. Water sourced from a spring that contains various minerals, such as salts and other compounds, is called Mineral water. Mineral water may be effervescent or sparkling due to the dissolved gases. In England, the effervescent mineral water is often called Vichy water, (after the springs at Vichy, France). The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classifies mineral water ‘as water containing at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS), originating from a geologically and physically protected underground a water source. No minerals however, may be added to this water’. In EU (European Union), ‘a water bottled at a natural source and has undergone no treatment or minimal processes to remove iron, manganese, sulphur and arsenic through decantation, filtration or treatment with ozone-enriched air, in so far as this treatment does not alter the composition of the water as regards the essential constituents which give it its properties. No additions are permitted except for carbon dioxide, which may be added, removed or reintroduce by exclusively physical methods. No disinfection treatment is permitted, nor is the addition of any bacteriostatic agents’.


Can of Hartwall salmiakki (ammonium chloride) flavoured Vichy mineral water > Wikipedia image by JIP

Still sources of freshwater, such as ponds, lakes, swamps, and mires are called Lentic systems, whereas running flows of water such as in rocks, aquifers, springs or rivers are called Lotic systems. The fundamental source of almost all fresh water is precipitation from the atmosphere, in the form of mist, rain and snow.


Hot springs at Aachen Germany 1682

Radon is a gas released from the decomposition of Uranium. As a gas it can dissolve and accumulate in the water from underground sources (ground water). The Ground water with dissolved Radon, when used for shower, washing, cooking or gardening, as a gas escapes into the air. Radon is not a concern in open or surface sources of water such as, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs as it gets released into the air. Filters with activated carbon and aeration of water remove the radon.


Purified water Kiosk in Chipata > Wikipedia image by SuSanA Secretariat

There are many other waters that are recognized as special, spiritual or holy. The recognition is due to the location or nature of origin, place-time of use, quality, medium or mode of storage and blessings showered on it. Sources like rivers, lakes and oceans are abundant and have good or consistent quality. Sources like wells, ponds and streams are small and can be used sparingly.


Feet washing Baptist practice > Wikipedia image by Flickr Peter Mackriell

River Ganga in India is a very large water resource of Himalayan glaciers. It is considered nourishing due to presence of minerals and aeration. It has age-old myths about its spiritual powers. Its overuse by a large population along its banks, however, gives it no chance to rejuvenate itself. Physical purity, spiritual cleanliness and the well-being, all manifest together. Temples are sited on river banks, tanks, or at least have an associated well.


Temple tank Nataraja Temple Chidambaram Tamil Nadu India > Wikipedia image by BishkekRocks

Ganga waters (Ganga Jal) or any water can be convoked as Ganga water, by simply reciting the Mantra (couplet) at any place, such as for a morning bath at home and other rituals. A pot, Kumbha or kalash filled with water symbolizes the Ganga water and fulfillment of Peace (Shanti), Happiness (Sukh) and Material things (Samrudhi). It is the first mandala on which deities are invoked. Invoked water is used for Aachaman (in-taking a sip), Ardhya (offering something to water), Mundan or Chudakarana (shaving of head hair and symbolically offering to the holy water), bathing, and immersions of ashes post the funeral. Post ceremonies images and statues of deities are immersed in water. Water is sprinkled on any offering to symbolically purify it. Flowing water of streams or out of a temple sanctorum (Garbha-Griha) are passed through Go-Mukh, a spout in the image of a cow’s mouth.


The Sun rises over the circular mound of creation as goddesses pour primeval water > Wikipedia image

Aachaman is the sipping of water three times, while repeating the names of the Lord. Aachaman is done after answering calls of nature, after walking in the streets, just before and after taking food, at the end of a bath. Jal-Anjali is Palm-full of water offering to the image or direction of the god. Jal-Abhisheka is pouring a pot or Kalash full of water on the head of a revered person or deity in purificatory ceremony. Abhisheka or Prakshala water is considered holy and is not allowed to be drained out, but collected in special vessels and used for irrigation.


Chhath Puja offerings at river Hooghly Kolkata > Wikipedia image by Biswarup Ganguly


Tirtha Empul Temple purification Pool Bali Indonesia > Wikipedia image by Yoshi Canopus

In Catholicism, there are two basic holy waters, one blessed by the priest and the other used during the washing of the priest’s hands at mass. Roman Catholic churches have a special basin -a Sacrarium that leads directly into the ground for the purpose of proper disposal. In the Middle Ages the power of holy water was considered so great that fonts had locked covers to prevent the theft of it for unauthorized magic and witchcraft practices. Catholics dip their fingers in the holy water and make the sign of the cross when entering the church, as a reminder of baptism. In a ceremony called aspersion, dating back to 9th C., holy water is sprinkled with an aspergill or aspergillum (a brush or branch) by dipping into the vessel, aspersorium, on the congregation.


Baptism of Augustine of Hippo at Troyes Cathedral (1549) Wikipedia image

In Ancient Greek religion, holy water called Chernips was formed, when a torch from a religious shrine was extinguished in it. Sikhs use holy water for Amrit Chhakhna (testing the Nectar) ceremony. Buddhists bless the water filled in a new pot by burning and extinction of a candle above the water, to symbolize the coming together of elements of water, earth, fire, and air. Muslims use water for rituals like Ghusal (mouth rinsing) and wudu (body limb cleaning) as ablution.


US President Obama pours water over Friday Buddha at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, Burma, > Wikipedia image by Pete Souza

Five elements Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, Aakash (ether) are perceived by the five senses Hearing, Touch, Sight, Taste, and Smell. Earth has solidity or inertia and can be perceived by all five senses. Water, has cohesion, and can be heard, felt, seen and tasted, but has no odour. Fire, has heat or energy so smell, feel and sight. Air can expand or vibrate and so can be heard and felt. Aakash or ether, has no perception, only abstract presence.


Hands washing for Shinto Temple Chozubachi > Wikipedia image by Chozuya

Zoroastrians see natural water as a pure element, which is never defiled by impure things. It is possible to use pure water only after ablutions have been performed with unconsecrated bull’s urine. Natural water bodies like seas, lakes, rivers are used for reading the Gathas (religious book). Fire temples (Zoroastrian places of worship) have a sacred well in front of the altar containing holy water. Water cannot be prayed to at night time as it goes to sleep.




Post 303 – Gautam Shah


Roof Top Facilities

Railings and Parapets are barricades against height related hazards. Railings and parapets both are important functional and architectonic elements. There are few characteristics and elements common to both. It is their nature of construction that places them in separate categories. Both are height-related hazards barriers, mainly for humans. Railings and parapets are invariably smaller than the human height, because most such elements are used for resting or grabbing with hands. For nominal usage 800-900 mm height is adequate, whereas difficult to negotiate (jump-over) conditions a height of 1400-1500 mm is considered. The later height is used for terraces of multi-story buildings to discourage suicides.

Patan Nepal

Design Parameters > Railings of nominal height ( 800-900mm) must have top 300mm as see-through face, so that children can see out. But if such a separation is likely to provide any toe space to climb up entire face should be see-through. All lattices should have preferably vertical bars and the clear gap must not exceed 100mm. For very tall railings (more than 900 mm) entire face must be of see-through elements and with a squared lattice. The squares in the lattice must not exceed 30 x 30 mm.

13 Guard Rail

Parapets and Railings have sub elements such as: hand rail, Baluster or balustrade, banisters, volute, turn out, goose-neck, rosettes, easing, starting easing, over easing, core rail, newels, fillets, tandem caps, colonnettes.

11 Mathematical Railing Oxford


Railings are translucent or latticed elements, placed at the edges of the floor and terraces. Railings are placed as safety barricade on the sides of stairs, ladders, ramps, and escalators. These are placed to demarcate zones, to segregate movement channels, to regulate queuing people, as barricade for animals, and to prevent crawling infants and children from moving into unprotected areas. Railings are placed near wells, tanks and other water bodies. Railings are placed on inclined or slippery floors to prevent slip-fall. Railings are placed in vast grounds for people or groups to anchor themselves.



Waverley Tram Depot Roof gable edge

The chief element of railings, are top rail, and secondary elements are posts that support the rail and latticed in-fill panels. A rail can be defined as any long member, usually of round section, fixed to posts, for resting hands, or for grabbing as a support. Railings have a top rail or hand rail used for holding, and a foot rail and mid rails. The hand rail in a masonry structure is a wider ‘table’.


Masonry railings are often called parapets. In medieval castles, gapped parapets called crenellations or embrasures were formed to allow guns to fire through. On terraces and galleries of arid climates similar gaps are covered by pierced stones or metal lattice to allow the breeze to pass through at floor level of the terrace. This cooled the terraces faster, and provided comfort for occupants seating or sleeping on the floor. Latticed railing allows children to see through, and so discourage the climb-over.

geograph 2452027-by-Chris-Downer

Poole: wiggly barrier on the Twin Sails Bridge UK


Parapets are opaque structures, often designed as an upward extension of the wall. Classical design of a parapet em-battlement of a coping at the top and corbel below. The top of the parapet often slopes towards the enemy to enable the defenders to shoot downwards, and this incline is called the superior talus. Parapets are placed at roof or terrace edges, or on embankments. Opaque parapets are used for deflecting winds, provide privacy to floor level activities, add weight to the edge to prevent lift-off forces. Parapets serve, besides defence-offence, other purposes, such as: to shield a view, as a noise barrier, barriers against splashes of storm-water, missiles or flying objects. Edge beams are designed as parapets. Parapets that are small in size are called curbs. Curbs are used as dividers.

Glass Parapet >Nottingham Castle Terrace

Essaouria Morocco

Fort walls have em-battlement parapets, which are pierced for styling, view beyond and for throwing defensive projectiles. Palaces and castles have decorative (non-defence) perforated parapets in various shapes such as circles, trefoils, quarter-foils.

The building act of 1707 in London and other towns of England banned the projected wooden eaves to prevent spread of fire along the wall, to the roof structure. A 18″ thick parapet was required and the roof edge was set back. The roof was set back little more to provide drainage of rain water. The parapet which was completely absent in earlier houses began to be treated by crenellation. (During medieval ages, provision of crenels required permission.) The parapet style was continued in Georgian houses giving an appearance of a flat edge roof. The parapets over the roofs were made taller, shaped, decorated and pierced.

crenulations 1

crenulations 2