Post 397 – by Gautam Shah
Space planning achieved through visual means is obvious, as much as it is effective. Non visual sensorial effects are however, difficult to perceive, and so difficult to express, communicate or record. These are though equally effective, but very subtle. At specific positions and in certain circumstances, many of the visual means also provide, non visual sensorial effects. Professional designers, in their conventional space planning, give consideration to parameters like auditory, olfactory, tactile and atmospheric factors such as the temperature and moisture, etc. A lay person finds it very difficult to replicate these in a personal space. The judgements on these counts are speculative, because effective results derive from accumulation of many factors.
A lay person considers non visual sensorial effects, at best as the reinforcing elements to visual means. Other parameters such as the privacy, intimacy, well being, safety, security, seclusion and participation, are achieved through sensible space planning, but need space and time reinforcement through indicative means.
TASKS AND SENSORIAL PERCEPTION
Space planning, relates to managing the tasks. The ability to see is one of the most important requirements of task handling. The critical factors are visibility, legibility and recognition. It also includes differentiation of spectrum variations or in other words the colour perception. Vision also helps to mark a scale for objects (perspective + distance). Persons with deficient or no vision, find it difficult to comprehend the environment. Hearing is critical as it affects our ability to communicate. The important factors in human hearing, are the sound levels (db) related audibility, intelligibility, signal-to-noise ratio, and the capacity to attune the preferred frequencies, selectively (back ground noise and noise annoyance). Perception through touch is locational and varied, which gives a choice as to what should be done and with which part of the limbs (fingers’ tips are more sensitive then any other part) and how close one should be with objects and other people. Perception of taste and smell seem to go together, but smell has a directionality. Taste activates metabolism and other systems. Task handling makes use of perception faculties to be productive, creative and without boredom.
SPACE PLANNING and USE OF NON VISUAL SENSORIAL EFFECTS
Non visual sensorial effects are: mainly Auditory, Olfactory, Tactile and Gustatory.
● Auditory sense (relating to sound) provides the scale of distance, direction, and time. It indirectly reveals the quality of absorption and reflection.
Visual and Auditory senses work in consonance, because both have a sense of scale and direction. In space planning one provides the clue about the other. The selection and placement of furniture, furnishings and enrichments can change the visual space perception, as much as the surface treatments of the same elements can change the audio quality of a space. The purposes of space elements, their placement, composition, shape or size, are not very apparent to a lay person or a casual visitor. However, such effects become apparent as the satisfaction or comfort.
● Tactile sense (relating to touch such as texture, temperature, moisture, electrical charge). It is a pervasive faculty, though some parts of the body are more sensitive. It is locative and part of the defensive mechanism. Tactile sense requires one to be in proximity of the surface, yet the textures, nature of construction (hollow, foamed, micro undulations), etc. prompt an auditory response from a distance, and so preempts the perception.
● Olfactory sense relates to smell or the odours. It is closely related to quality of air and so instinct of survival is intimately linked. It is highly frontal and directional. It also gives the idea of distance. Odours are perceived with air and its movements. Enclosed rooms filter the noise but reduce the chances of fresh air. This creates a ‘smelly’ or stagnant space. A designer has to perceive a space planning layouts with all these overlapping sensorial effects, and also notions people have. Odours are considered as issue space personalization.
Odour control: Odours occur and persist in commercial spaces. Odours are generated by materials, processes and human occupation. Confined spaces such as underground car parks or basements, garbage areas, passages, etc. have poor air-change. Offices where coffee, snack and meals are allowed in work zones have greater degree of air fouling. The odour can be controlled through basic three methods: Greater dilution with fresh air, Finer scrubbing of odours, and Larger exposure to natural sunlight UV rays. Odours from surface finishes, cleaning compounds, treatments applied on furnishings and degeneration of plastics, etc. are controlled best by proper selection rather then any processes. Human skin scales, biologically degenerate very fast, and it is a major problem for spaces with large human traffic. Here again regular vacuum cleaning is the best method, but for this smooth and hard floors, in place of fiber or synthetic carpets are required. Odours of slightest measure are detested by first time visitors. However, masking an odour with deodorant is only delaying the effects of odours.
● Gustatory sense (relating to taste buds) It is closely related to olfactory sense. It provides no sense of scale, distance or time unless with the Olfactory sense.
Atmospheric parameters: For good ventilation and dilution, adding fresh air, is the best technology. Next method is to use various types of non-chemical techniques of scrubbing the air (ion charging, micro filtering, etc.). Ventilation system adjusts the temperature, replenishes proportion of oxygen, removal or addition of moisture, diluting or scrubbing the air to remove odours, smoke, dust and airborne bacteria.
HVAC and other experts take care of these aspects of atmospheric comforts in space planning. The air movement in large spaces have few problems, for example, in humid climates. Very high air movements ruffle the papers, hair and hangings like curtains. These are both visual and noise distractions. There always are few pockets with poor air circulation. Such pockets are more prominent in open office plans which are partly compartmentalized. Open office-plan can be well sustained with a distributed machine aided cooling or heating systems. The floor touching partitions of open office cubicles and comparatively low ceilings hinder air circulation. It creates areas with poor air change, uneven cooling-heating, poor moisture control, inadequate dilution of air borne pollutants and odours. Presence of mosquitoes in the lower sections of cubicles due to stagnancy of air is a great health hazard.