Post 514  -by Gautam Shah



armarium, arium, almery, almirah, alamari, almarie, wardrobe, cupboard, cabinet, chest, closet, chiffonier, bureau, dresser, panoply.


The word almirah derives from Latin armarium = arma (weapons, tools) + arium =place, a place or device associated with a specified thing or function. Middle English almery and Anglo-French almarie, both are based on weapons or arma. Hindi alamari derives from Portuguese almirah.

Dutch wardrobe Wikipedia image by Author Hajotthu

An almirah was a free standing chest or closet, and a storage place to keep vestments in the sacristy of a church. Almirah in modern sense is synonymous with a cabinet, cupboard, wardrobe, etc. but not with sandook, patara, chest or box. It is closed or a shuttered-storage entity, so cannot be equated with storage with shelves in niche, alcove, bay or recess. There are some doubts if a chest of drawers or bureaus used for storing small things, underwear, make-up things or writing papers and pens, study chests, etc. may also be called almirah?

Sainte-Marie de Corneilla-de-Conflent Wikipedia image by Author Acoma

Almirahs were custom made, from wood by carpenters, for a client and the place, till about the industrial age. Ancient almirahs were heavy and bulky, and difficult to shift around, except within the room or premises. The bulky almirah, when full of stored items, were almost impossible to move anywhere. For planning any shift, it was necessary to open the concealed, secret and multiple locking systems and empty the contents. In the vast premises of church or palace, almirah were nearly immobile safe keeping unit. And yet during invasions, the almirah, in spite of the bulk and weight, were carried off as treasured catch. Almirah were carried away as part of the luggage during immigration. New almirah were created and offered to European brides as part of the dowry.

Armoire de mariage, musée pyrénéen, château fort de Lourdes, Hautes-Pyrénées, France With pediment Head Wikipedia image by Author Père Igor

A Dowry cabinet in German Museum Wikipedia image by Author Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden

There are essentially two classes of Almirahs, fixed and movable. Fixed ones were not bolted or tied to anything but are situationally designed and mounted in a corner, or set inside a niche. The movable ones were placed against a corner or a flat wall. The traditional almirah are of human height with one or two single leaf shutters or with dual doors providing wider access. The almirah have two bottom level drawers opening on the outer face, and sometimes two internal drawers covered by the main shutters. It had secret chambers on the sides of drawers, under the head side, and as a false bottom. Almirahs were also made into smaller height cabinets, or as dual depth cabinets.

Wikipedia image National Museum in Warsaw

Image by Pavel Ševela / Wikimedia Commons.

The inside faces of the doors were simply finished except in the post 18 C periods, when metal hooks and micro shelves began to be included in the door. Early almirahs were all shelves’ arrangement, with no provision of rods or hooks for hanging of clothes. Similarly the door fronts were carved or decorated with veneer or marquetry, but no mirror or painted, etched or engraved glasses were used. The almirahs in renaissance period began to have a top heading of pediments. The solid or square bottom now had round ball or pawed legs. The legs were spaced with an intermediate panel.

Armoire “Chantilly” de style Louis XV, réalisé par les Ateliers Allot Frères. Wikipedia image by Author Allot rené

First almirah were used for storing and protecting the armour (almery and almarie). Religious places like churches used this for storing vestments and ritual vessels. Craft’s person like carpenters, goldsmiths, used it to store delicate proprietary tools. Master muralist stored parchment, fabric and paper-based cartoon roles and studies on canvas. Almirah have compartments some of which were used for storing items of day to day use, and additional secret chambers and drawers for securing jewellery, documents and other valuables, which were rarely opened.

Liège, Belgium Wikipedia image by Kleon3

Wardrobe, spruce, painted. Upper Austria, Linz area, 1790; Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg Wikipedia image by Author Anagoria

Very early Almirahs (pre 7- 8th C) were a simple wood log like raw assembly without any decorative finish or embellishment. The remarkable surface ornamentation was of iron or bronze hardware like hinges, spikes, nails, and locks. The Egyptian Canopic chests are cases used to contain the internal organs that were removed during the process of mummification. These chests, and later a walk-in cabinet like forms were tall wooden shrine-like forms. These were made from wood and coated with gesso, and brightly painted.

Egyptian Box for Ushabtis or Canopic Jars

Coffre à vases canopes de Toutânkhamon, Musée égyptien du Cairo, (Egypt) wikipedia image by personnelle de Gérard Ducher (user:Néfermaât).

The painted wood style continued for several centuries, in absence of any better wood surface finishing methods. Corners and bevels are often decorated with gilding. Flat surfaces were painted with landscapes. Painted wood surfaces were not long lasting. And as a result the emphasis turned to use of good quality of wood and carve it. Woods were explored for the arrangement of grains or natural patterns.

Painted Wardrobe Museum für Volkskultur in Württemberg, Waldenbuch) Wikipedia image by Author Photo: Andreas Praefcke




Post 513  by Gautam Shah


Timber varieties are broadly categorized as Softwoods and Hardwoods, with underlying presumptions that former ones are softer and duller in colour and lighter in weight, whereas the later are harder or tougher and darker in colour and heavier in weight. Softwoods as the name implies are soft grained, but are necessarily not inferior to the commercial quality of hard woods. The tones of sap and heart portions of soft woods are not acutely different from each other.

Wikipedia image by Author Patrick Dinnen (talk)

Hardwood timbers come from deciduous trees that lose the leaves annually or biannually, and Softwood timbers come from conifers, which usually remain evergreen. Hardwood trees tend to be slower growing, and are therefore the timbers are more dense in grain, but not always. Softwood trees grow in large tracts and very rapidly.

Wine barrels Wikipedia image by Author Gerard Prins

Classifying trees as hardwood or softwood is often misnomer definition. As for example Balsa wood is one of the softest timbers, though technically it is classified as hardwood. Likewise, the wood of Yew trees, which though technically a softwood, is tougher than many hardwoods like oak. Wood classification actually depends on the seeds produced by the tree. Hardwood trees have seeds in the form of a shell or fruit. Ancient Greek word shows, that angiosperm =vessel seed or contained in a protective vessel. Softwood trees produce seeds without any cover and called gymnosperm = naked seed.

Timber carving Detail of the Last Supper from Tilman Riemenschneider’s Altar of the Holy Blood, 1501-05, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria Wikipedia image by Author Tilman2007

Softwoods or conifers are less dense and so are easy to cut or drill. Softwoods on being planned and sanded expose tender remnants of food transfer area. Such tender areas contain un-synthesized sugars and starches, which readily absorb and release moisture resulting in swelling and shrinkage. Small amounts of aliphatic compounds, waxy and resinous substances which along with the softness of grain help, at least initially, to provide a very smooth surface texture. The softness of the surface is however, lost with exposure to atmosphere. Examples of softwoods are pine, douglas, spruce, redwood, fir, cedar, juniper, cheal, deodar, larch. juniper, yew and cypress.

Grand Fir (Abies grandis) cross section, Rogów Arboretum, Poland Wikipedia image by Author Crusier

Softwoods are used for roofing trusses, temporary support structures for construction industry, warehousing pallets, packing cases, etc. About 80% of all timber come from softwoods. Softwoods are used as intermediate material for wood composites such as block-boards and production of paper pulp, MDF, etc.

Synagogue Kurkliai Lithunia Wikipedia image

Hardwoods are denser (heavier in weight) and therefore sturdier. Hardwoods are darker in colour, and the heart portion is fairly distinguishable from the sap portion. The denseness results in smooth cut and on planning offers smoother finish. On planing and sanding the hardwood surface shows intermittent branches of pores, the food transfer areas are clearly visible. The pores are very narrow in width and short in length and are full of remains of un-synthesized sugars and starches. The pores in hardwoods are of shorter length but are prominent. The pores on drying tend to shrink in, but being fewer and tightly packed by the surrounding fibres. The effect of moisture transfer is not very acute as with soft woods. Hardwoods being tough-grained, require greater efforts for smoothing but then the surface retains its fairness much longer. Examples of hardwoods are oak, maple, walnut, alder, balsa, beech, hickory, mahogany, teak and sycamore.

Australian Acasia Wikimedia image by Author Forest & Kim Starr

Hardwoods are used in furniture, decks, flooring, and structures that need to last longer. Hardwoods supplies are varied in species, and comparatively smaller in volumes. Hardwoods are more expensive than softwood. Hardwoods are used for production of exotic veneers.

Table surface made of Sheesham Wood Wikipedia image by Author Andy king50

Hardwood or Softwood, both have their unique features. But a wood should have a tight, even grain and colour. Excessive knots or irregular patterns are good for decorative effects but not for structural usage. Similarly wood cracks or splits should be avoided. Woods with resins, gums or tendency to de-colouration (in presence of sunlight or water) need to be carefully used.

Traditional Malay boat building with Neobalanocarpus heimii, is a tropical hardwood Wikipedia image by Author Christoph Swoboda

One of the oldest (since 1906) and popular method of testing hardness of wood is the Janka Hardness Test. The test is the average amount of impact force required to ‘embed a .444-inch (11.27mm) steel ball to half its diameter’. Most of the time, the numbers you’ll see quoted here are referring to side hardness. As per this test the hardest wood is Australian Buloke (Bull-oak) tree, describes as rock like hard. Few of the harder Indian varieties include Sadad (Combretaceae -Rangoon creeper family > Terminalia elliptica) used for ladder steps and thresholds.



Post 512 by Gautam Shah


Spatial behaviours of human beings are in response to the spatial environment and in spite of it. Space is the setting where environment and its cognition occur. Cognition is universal, but has personal endowments and so environment has subjective significance. In a space the spatial features remaining static, environment is continually varying, and so the spatial experience is ever expounding. Environmental conditions and spatial features, manifest in concert. We expect the presence of one to trigger the other. And this becomes a great tool for designing spaces and thereby infuses desired behaviour.

Barber shop Brazil, Wikipedia Image by Author Fabio Pozzebom/ABr

Nature of cognition is one major factor that governs the Space experience. Space experience results from cognitive systems, their capacities, and physiological needs. It is also affected by the inherited (intuitive) and learnt (intellectual) knowledge. Space experience is also formed by the presence of other beings, recognition and acknowledgement.

Texting, a way to keep engaged and be private Wikipedia image Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja Author Jason

As designer, we exploit both, the environmental features and facilitations by space elements, to condition specific behaviour. Space elements such as amenities, facilities, support structures and reach extension tools, along with environmental conditions that offer comfort, security, safety and survival, are used for infusing desired nature of behaviour. The behaviour is intended for place occupation, acclimatization, dimensional accommodation, sensorial and physical reach, and task functionality of a space. The behaviour gets primarily reflected in human body-limb language of postures, gestures, stability and mobility, and secondarily in sensorial vulnerability and degree of congeniality (privacy and intimacy). At another level, the overt expressions like speaking, writings, painting, also reflect the space and environment.

Street Play India, Wikipedia image by Author Jugal Bharali

For a Designer, space, environment and human behaviour indicate how a person will respond to a given space+environment setting. Alternatively one can predict how an individual or group will behave in certain setting. At individual level the human behaviour is governed by age, sex, level of adaptation, familiarity, consistency, variability, limb capacity, body-limb coordination, etc. But the social-contact mechanisms regulate what we share and empathize. The interactions with others depend on the awareness about sex, age, stature, need, social position, degree of familiarity, distance and recognition (through cognition). The behaviour (even of lone beings) and the forms of interpersonal relationships of various races and cultures are different. Here the lifestyle or cultural values that has been passed on from one generation to another as ethnicity or ‘cultural ethos’ play an important role.


Thimpu Bhutan, Wikipedia-Flickr image by Author laihiuyeung ryanne

Behavioural responses nominally occur for the co-occupants that are present, but sometimes through the metaphoric presences. Metaphoric presence of others is reinforced primarily by the historical context (what we have been told or learnt) and associations.


MANAGING FEES -for Building Design practices PART – IV

Post 511 by Gautam Shah



Building Design firms often provide many different design services, such as Architecture, Interior Design, Structure, Interiors, Landscape, etc. And within these broad range of groups, the actual services may relate to New constructions, Renovations, Alterations, Extensions, valuation and project assessment, project feasibility reports, etc. The projects, when handled simultaneously rarely remain within the confines of well-documented definitions. Like some pre-emptive work for interior or landscape design will occur in the architectural scheme. And when the post building construction, other services are prematurely terminated, the ‘pre-emptive’ work will not get paid.

Serpentine BP Pedestrian Bridge by architect Frank Gehry’s Buckingham Wikipedia image by Author Torsodog

The Louvre Museum

These services occur in different schedules, and their scopes are based on very different criteria. Building design fees are chiefly collected on the basis of floor spread or footprint, except in few countries where it may be based on hours spent on it. The floor spread based varies with the type of project. Fees charged for Architectural projects include the construction cost (built-up coast) + some extra for site development design works. Similarly structural design fees are computed on the construction costs, but that may be a small part, in comparison to costs of site development works like land contouring, retaining walls and other support entities. Interior Design fees cannot always be calculated on the basis of carpet area, as lot of materials and objects are retained or reused.

Maggie’s Care Centre, Glasgow, Scotland Wikipedia – Flickr image by Author scarpadog (Jon-Marc Creaney)

In a group or associated practices the savings occur from the seamless handling of a project. This occurs when common entities are detailed or specified just once. Like for Landscape design site structures (pavings, curbs, retaining walls, water-body formations) are specified with architectural details. Electrical layout for architecture and Interior design is nearly identical.

Schönes Deutschland
Das Haus der Deutschen Kunst in München.


Yet, in all these, the most important issue, vis a vis a client that comes through is, What should be, and How to determine the Cost of the job? The term Total Cost of Job nominally means to include all the costs of actually executing the designed job, similar costs of inputs from other design consultants or agencies, and the cost of all the peripheral work executed on the site through or by owners themselves or their agents, during the Currency period of the Design Services. The total Cost of Job will also include the estimated value of the work being preserved or maintained on the site.

interior-of-maintenance-shop Public Domain images by Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

At the start of a design project, the total cost of the job, is not available. As a result some notional figure is determined, to bill the first installment of fees or a lump-sum figure is used for first bill. This figure is determined on the basis of total cost of the job, but more importantly the intellectual rights of design formation. To determine the cost of a job, spread of the job or the built-up area is very useful. Structural engineers often base the fees on RCC (or structural) component of the project or a percentage of fees payable to the architect. Interior designers base their fees on Carpet area, but more surely on Interior Design intervention area, which is more rational or realistic. In spite of this in a group or associated practices it becomes difficult to derive a common fee’s formula.


The Louvre Museum



Post 510  by Gautam Shah



Posturing or posture taking is part of conscious and subconscious behaviour. Postures are body’s individual positions or sequences of behaviours that reflect the subconscious reality and also present intentional or impressionistic expressions. Gestures are accompanied by posturing. Gestures are articulated with the hands, arms or body, and also include small moves of the head, face, eyes and nose (winking, nodding, twitching of nose, or rolling of eyes). Gestures are also, both, speech related and independent of it. Speech-independent gestures reinforce the behavioural expression.

Wikipedia Image source Gossiping. Author DuncanCV

● A wave hello or peace signs are examples of speech-independent gestures. Gestures such as dance Mudra represent very abstracted information that is relevant to a culture specific group. Speech related gestures are used parallel to the speech, to provide supplemental information.

Reagan office staff meeting 1981

Postures are of two types: axially balanced or skewed. Balanced postures are mirror-image (congruent) postures, such as left-right, equally posed with two feet, two hands, etc., or are normal like the frontal face, upright torso, erect neck, straight eye level, etc. Skewed postures reflect a readiness to transfer to another posture, due to shift in interest, boredom or tiredness. Both types of postures could be unstable, and cannot be maintained for a very long period. It requires some relief or support system. The support for balanced posture needs to be subtle, almost imperceptible, but for the skewed or transitory posture a perceptible obvious support system is required.

Oath of the Horatii

Designers design for important poses of behaviour sequences, but designing for postures and relevant behaviour is little difficult, or it is a neglected task. If one provides for some flexibility within the postural pose, it serves two purposes: It accommodates larger number of anthropometric ranges (of percentiles) and allows for postural flexibility. The postural flexibility allows wider range of expressions and wider scope for gestural reinforcements. The postural flexibility relates to minor changes for relaxation, resetting the body rhythms and facility to conduct momentary variations.


A chair that is slightly wider or lower, a bar stool with a foot support ring, a seat with multi flexural (revolving, tilting, rotating) adjustability, TV or monitor swiveling stands are some of the examples that allow flexibility. Office executive chairs allow many postures, due to the width of the seat, height of the seat, height of the handles from the seat, depth of the handles (elbow or arm accommodation), inclination of the back (tilting), height of the back (mid spine, shoulder support, neck and head support), swiveling, etc. Other postural options are provided through combinations of table top height from the ground, and seat level of the chair. The space and its environmental conditions also play their role, like placing a chair close against a wall, against an open space, facing a barrier or an open area, the source of illumination and air handling devices, one sided or multi directional interaction, communication devices being used and duration of work.


People also exploit the seats for varied postural positions such as seating with feet drawn closer to the seat, extending beyond the seat, crossing the legs or feet, feet resting on heels or toes. All these varied positions help to adjust to anthropometric needs, seats related accommodative problems and allow variegated postural positions. Where possible a person would primarily select most appropriate type of seat with reference to the stature of the host or other participants, own social status, own psychological make-up, presence or absence of intervening elements, angle, level and distance of the encounter, level of comfort and formality desired. Next strategy would be for macro or micro shifting of the seat. Where such devices are lightweight mobile, micro shifting for angular and distance adjustments are done, but such choices are usually limited. Other strategies include body or postural accommodation, such as seating by fully drawing back or upright, leaning on, one of the arm resting rather then a balanced posture, keeping arms on armrest, lap or any other front side device, placing the legs under the seat, straight-up, seating frontally but looking sideways.

low stools Image from Flickr by Michael Coghlan



Post 509  by Gautam Shah


Visit to a place, known or unknown, initiates a process of site familiarization. The first encounter with a land, building or any built space, is inspirational and very causative. The place begins to reveal itself in a new format, because the mood of the visitor is different and preceding encounters with other spaces have been different. To some extent the environmental conditions are varied. A prime realization at conscious or subconscious level occurs, How did one enter the place?, and that persists to colour all later experiences. It may, however, change once other features of the place are realized. A place is intentionally revisited from different angles, levels of elevations and in varied diurnal and seasonal environmental conditions, to recognize all its expressions.

Ciudadela Jaca Vista Aerea

A designer visits a place with a purpose and curiosity to learn its size, scale, proportions, a set of perspectives, visual scapes or frames, various visual linkages to close and distant elements, directions (North, South, East, West), contours or gradients, wind movements, solar inclinations, etc. Indirectly, however, one also becomes aware of the North, magnetic and other energy fields, reflected sounds and energies at the place. These experiences, some measurable and others of subjective ‘feelings’ build up identities of the place. When spatial activities are anchored or aligned to such identities, the new pattern of place occupation gets a natural justification. Orientation is judgmental as much as it is a rational process.

Federal Triangle Washington

To orient is to establish a real or ethereal connection with elements of the place. Orientation creates a “fit” that may not be immediately apparent or to others. Very often such “fits” are intended to inspire or compel others to such new possibilities of siting. The prime orientations have been cardinal directions and the rising Sun. Latin word oriens, orientum, mean the rising sun. The word cardinal derives from cardo, cardin, meaning pivotal, serving as a hinge. Muslims orient to Mecca as the pivotal point and hinge around it wherever in the world they are located or move. The rising sun’s rays were welcome to lit the interior’s deep spaces of temples and cathedrals, but as soon as large sized glass windows became possible the orientation was reversed to back lit, God.

La Torre desde Montparnasse, París, Francia, Eiffel Tower surroundings Flicker image by Juanedc

Buildings on open territories are bridged to far off land marks. For Chandigarh the secretariat building was the focus, which had a backdrop of far-off range of hills. Delhi was established with Raiseena hills as the orientation for President’s house (then Viceroy’s mansion). All important landmarks are placed with appropriate siting parameters or intended to be the focal point. Orientation is often considered a tool for taking maximum advantage of the solar radiation. This in turn may sacrifice other directions related factors such as view, noise ingress, privacy besides natural illumination and wind.

Site Compulsions for Flatiron Building in New York City. Wikipedia Pic by user: Lorax

Orientation is closely related to the shape and size of the place. The sub units within it are aligned to some greater system of exteriors or interiors which endow form characteristics. Buildings in city core areas have very little freedom of form and orientation. Similarly highly “formal” shapes ignore the ‘functional orientation’.

Talladega Superspeedway

Orientation is like a hyperlink, offering an axial connectivity. The axial nature provides very intensive relationship between the source and the object. The link can be extended, both in space and time. It could be straight to be very intensive, go diagonal for extended effect and move zigzag for high diffusion. All three forms are used in built spaces. Formal buildings like a parliament, halls, palaces have very straight linkage. Public spaces like exhibitions, party venues, etc. take a diagonal connection to extend the reach within the site. But zoos, museums, malls, etc. offer a leisurely layout with zigzag movement orientation.

Tarazona Vista

Stairs, escalators walkaways and other concentrated movement facilities use orientation for intensive and diversionary movement. Square stairs have landings for predictable change of orientation. Curved and winding stairs, break the monotony of highly directional movement. Spiral stairs make a person so busy that perception of orientation becomes delusive. Large spirals like Guggenheim Museum create orientation free occupation. Escalators offer free mechanized movement, but are directional like square stairs. Glass bubble elevators in lobbies though open, are designed for vertical movement. Mechanized walkways on airports and road crossings become boring due to consistent directional orientation. Water slides and roller coasters offer experience multi directional orientations. Free fall, flying scooters, buggy jumping and para-gliding offer spatial experience different from downward gravity pull.

Demon Roller Coaster Wikipedia Pic by Author Jonrev at en.wikipedia

The perception of orientation is formed by several sensory faculties. Body fluids and ears recognize any change in the direction of gravity (pull). Visual clues like the source of natural illumination provide location of Sun. Remembering the mode of arrival helps in reestablishing the place in space. Remembering or recollecting the surroundings for odours and sounds helps in location establishment. Many have instinctive capacity of recognizing the North, without the visual clues. One can sense the presence of opening or a crevice through movement of air such as breeze, moisture level and the temperature.




Post 508  by Gautam Shah



A building is a complex system that manifests for a set of Users, within an Environment, and built through many different Components. Users pose a set of demands that are situational and circumstantial. The Environment affects the building, and gets affected by its existence. The Components forming the building have a variable mutual dependency, some of which are rare, but required for assuring the safety and security.


User-related demands and environmental affectations bear upon the building’s fabric, where components show unequal performance. Some of these components are mutually dependent, and have a state of permanency, but many are detachable and so replaceable and up-gradable. Replacement of components occurs during regular maintenance schedules with identical or upgraded units. Alterations and Renovations are considered opportunities for rejuvenating and upgrading the building system. There is distinct effort to improvise the system by replacing subsystems with new technologies. Compared to these changes, for buildings going through Conservation, all components and sub-systems are sought to be continued, by small repairs or replacing with re-manufactured identical elements.


Palace of Sargon Khorsabad Reconstructed image

Building as complex system is agglomeration of various components and subsystems, where the detachable entities can be replaced. The changes are carried out to replace not only the worn out components, but to add more productive components. Components and subsystems are replaced to endow a new image to the building. The technological up-gradation of subsystems or components occurs in many ways.

PV_external_shading_device_in_zero_energy_building_of_Singapore1 Custom-made components and subsystems are replaced by standard systems. These, makes future servicing and replacement much easier.


2 Newer systems are preferred for their efficiency in terms of energy use, out-put of waste products, compactness, fitment rationale, noise and vibrations.

3 Newer systems are multipurpose, and replace several sub-systems that existed as layers or closely placed elements.

Image Wikipedia – Flickr by Author flickr user rick

4 New components and subsystems have different fitment parameters, and so require customized installation yet the replacements always remain detachable.

5 When a building is completely overhauled, it offers a chance to integrate several stand-alone sub-systems by spatial rearrangement or rescheduling.

6 New subsystems have built-in provisions for remote switching, monitoring and synchronized operations, these allow for networking through master control.


7 Older sub-systems and components were support structure and location dependent, requiring walls, external facing, services connections, etc. Newer systems have reduced dependence being lighter in weight, compact in size, energy efficiency, requiring no liquid-solid fuels and no waste output.