POSTURES and MEANINGS for design

Post 526  by Gautam Shah

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Posture is a body position that is taken with or without a support system, but always in consideration of the gravity and any accelerative or de-accelerative momentum of the body. We take postures consciously, fully knowing how it impacts others, subconsciously, reflecting the internalized or suppressed emotions and strains, by exploiting the body support and body-rich mechanisms like chairs, handrails, walking-sticks, etc. and to facilitate gesturing. Postures could be flitting or longer lasting with many sub postures and gestures.

John F. Kennedy meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna.

Postures are fundamental form of visual communication but also expression of biological and psychological activities. Postures also occur as a response to a threat to personal security, survival, intimacy, privacy, etc. Postures occur in response to others present in the vicinity, such as direct one to one interaction or a group of people, elders and other people of deference or juniors, familiarity with people and space, eye level, angles of exposure, occluding features such as glass, curtains, screens, illumination, distance, duration, and possibilities offered by support systems (furniture etc.).

HKUST Library interior waiting room Sofa visitors Wikipedia image by Author Dfoatlamfenddolmaon

Support systems like furniture, offer many possibilities of posturing. Furniture pieces or architectural elements (parapets, railings, steps, ledges, etc.) are designed to facilitate largest number of users (by percentile method of accommodation). And yet some combinations of measures and angles, and quality of resilience of materials changes that facilitation.

Certain postures (where hands are free and upper section of the body or torso can be turned around) allow for greater degree of gesturing, as the head, neck, shoulders, hands and palms have greater freedom. Seating on a tall stool encourages social interaction, but a member may escape the gathering, whereas very comfortable seating makes a person less participating. Gesturing gets a boost when one perceives that such expressions are perceived and acknowledged by others.

Wikipedia image of wartime colloquium at Los Alamos.

A deep chair seat enforces in several different postures. One may push inward to secure the back support, and thereby not only increase the distance from the opposite person but reflect a very relaxed position when attentive posture may be necessary. A short depth chair seat makes a person sit upright shorten the distance from the opposite person, which may perhaps violate the personal intimacy. A chair with slightly a higher seat than required (for the person’s stature) will make the person push leg inward (backwards) and body stoop forward. Contrary to this, a slightly lower seat level makes a person push the feet forward, reflecting informal, nonchalant, or conformist attitude. Dining chairs need to be slightly taller to make the seating formal.

Image by Flickr > Cafetería Faustino – Universidad de Navarra

Similarly the height of the hand-rest and the height of work-surface or table define if you are going to cross the hands, place them on the table, keep them in the lap or use them for gesticulation. A sofa-chair seat angle, if flat makes a person alert and ready to get up quickly (necessary for waiting areas), but an incline inwards adds to comfort as well as lethargy. A senior person prefers others to sit on a flatter seat, so that they are more attentive and subdued in behaviour.

woman wearing kimono performs a tea ceremony.

Readiness to serve or be useful is expressed by standing position. It is more attentive than a seating one. Teachers, receptionists, speakers and others who use both postures and gestures for expression and communication prefer standing position. Bosses and superiors expect a junior or employee to remain standing (to communicate) till asked to a sit-down. A standing position has a center of gravity at a higher level than a sitting position. So where frequent changes in body postures are necessary, a sitting or lower body posture is better. Bar stools and platform both are taller, because transition from standing position is effortless and suits the escapist. A stool with small seat size allows an easy turnaround. A snack-bar stool is designed with a smaller seat that unnecessary seating is not prolonged.

An ideal chair for such a meet is slightly wider to allow sideways posturing, and upright for formal seating that may allow cross leg position. >> Barack Obama and Canadian PM Stephen Harper Wikipedia image

An adequate width of the chair-seat allows one to select one of the hand-rests to lean on, and opt for micro changes in posturing. Contoured seats do not permit such changes. Bucket seats for vehicle drivers and aeroplane pilots are movement-restrictive. Passenger seats are designed, narrow for economy of width and to curtail sideways (and backward) communication. The width and height of the chair define how one can position the legs, such as cross feet or knee. This in turn also governs where we position the hands, such as on the armrest, in the lap or on the sides of the leg.

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One thought on “POSTURES and MEANINGS for design

  1. Pingback: BLOG LINKS on FURNITURE DESIGN | Interior Design Assist

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