Post 528 – by Gautam Shah


An interior space is finite and a well-controlled entity. It is a safe place against many of the threats to survival, but for the quality of air. The finite volume depends on outside environment for dilution of contaminants that are generated internally. It depends on controllable openings to filter out the external fouling elements. The interior space is a finite and predictable place and so both the processes can be managed. Indoor air pollution is often 2 to 5 times as bad as outdoor pollution. In few cases it is as worse as 100 times than the outdoors. Same holds true for Humidity, indoor humidity levels are higher then outdoors, except during the rain or just after a downpour, when it can be more for a while. When both, the internal and external environments are not appropriate, one has to rely on electro-mechanical or chemical filters or scrubbers.

Photograph of a model of the ancient city of Linzi in the Museum of the Qi State (The Qi city of Linzi was one of the largest and richest of the Spring and Autumn Period) > Climate dominated dwellings group Wikipedia image by Author Rolfmueller

One of the best and passive way is to continuously refresh the interior environment with the exterior air. Nominally an exterior air has proportionately lesser pollutants due to greater volume and dilution. But that may be highly contaminated at certain times, seasons and places. One of the major fouling factors of external environment is the street level condition. High speed moving traffic, even where non-fossil fuels are used, raises the dust level with air turbulence. Street level doors such as entrance foyers are used as escape points for used air, to reduce the casual intake of street level contaminants.

Jorasanko Mansion – Kolkata where Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was both born and died >Warm humid climate hard surface courtyard. Wikipedia – Flickr image by Author Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

An interior space is perceived to be safe whenever there are excessive external pollution and associated discomfort. The interior space, however, has a finite volume and can support human occupation for a while, before it gets fouled up. One has to depend on dilution exchange with external environment. The external environment can be locally conditioned with use of elements such as green foliage or plants, water bodies, built baffles, better oriented and comparatively taller intake openings.

Passive air movement is one of the best means of diluting the interior pollutants. For air movements, the human settlements are planned with macro wind-breeze movements over the terrain. But, when air movements within the buildings are considered, the scenario changes substantially. The micro air currents that help interior exterior exchange are chiefly governed by pressure-temperature differential across a profile of set of openings. The local pressure-temperature gradients arise due to the colour and texture of surfaces, shapes and sizes of architectural elements, size, shape and level of openings, and shadowing effect of projections. A water body or greenery outside an intake opening adds moisture and cools the temperature of intake air. Similarly a hard and dark surface on outward opening accelerates the ventilation effect.

Fatehpur Sikri, Near Agra India: Daftarkhana (Old Dak Bungalow) High ceiling room of Tropical architecture Wikipedia image by Author Anupamg

Passive air exchange works due to the difference across the exterior and interior air pressures and temperatures. In tropical areas and on warm days the exterior air replaces the interior air, but with few disadvantages. Exterior air is drier and can remove the interior moisture. It is warmer and so warm up the interior temperatures, and the high pressure air current can cause irritating skin sensation and affect the elders’ and infants’ body temperature mechanism. The air exchange can also advantageously reduce the high proportion of moisture, the temperature, and offer skin-feel comfort. For colder climes and colder days the air exchange through openings or leakages can decrease the room temperature, evacuate the moisture and cause localized body cooling through air droughts.

John Looney House Ashville, Alabama (The dogtrot, also known as a breezeway house, dog-run, or possum-trot, is a style of house that was common throughout the Southeastern United States during the 19th and early 20th C.) Wikipedia image by Author Chris

The interior air gets contaminated due to various activities of human (and animals) occupation, and in many instances even without it continues to get contaminated. Building materials, finishes, furnishings generate high volume of pollutants in their latent state. These are in the form of unwanted gases, moisture, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odours, particulate matters, etc.

Indoor air quality control is achieved with reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and microbial impurities. Buildings depend on passive and mechanically powered means to achieve adequate exchange with cleaner air of the outdoors. Screen filters, scrubbers (water, air and active solid particles) and methods of isolation, are chief means of dilution. Proper selection of building materials, surface finishes, furnishing materials, and the maintenance techniques and products go a long way in upgrading the interior air quality. The degradation of building materials and residual products of maintenance increases several times when the surface temperatures are high such as near stoves, heating elements, thin body materials exposed to solar heating.

Low ceiling Rooms > Wikipedia-Flickr image by Author Rob Koopman

High volume rooms (such as with higher ceilings) are preferred in tropical dwellings, because these offer greater volume per (person) occupancy and so higher dilution of contaminants. The high volume also offers greater internal air movement or turbulence for better mixing of fresh air with contaminated air. Low volume rooms (such as with lower or barely adequate ceilings heights) are found in modern multistoried apartments and air-conditioned offices. Such low volume spaces economize on cooling-heating costs, but these are not working or adequately operational the quality of air deteriorates. The mixing effect due to turbulence is not able to ventilate all pockets, such as undersides of desks and cabinets. Such spaces have stagnant, moist and warm air, breeding ground for mosquitoes. Spraying mosquito repellents or insecticides only adds to the pollution.



Post 527  by Gautam Shah



We may conceive a building in complete disregard of its location, as a holistic form, but sooner or later it has to be grounded. The site formats a building form in size, scale, shape and linkages to the surroundings. The siting, however, demands a building to match its topography. It needs an environmental confirmation through placement that includes the alignment, contextual positioning, climatic appropriateness, and access modalities. The orientation defines how the form is perceived through various sensual faculties. The sensual faculties are highly directional and that makes orienting a building an exercise in angle, level (datum) and bearing.

Open Hand monument Chandigarh

Grounding a building makes it an inevitable entity for the location. A holistic form is subjectively conceived and its only bearing is the specificity of a building. It is a conceptual but a transient entity till it is justified on several counts. The form gets a ‘make-over’ with realities of Siting, Placement and Orientation.

Hadrian's Wall west of Housesteads


SITING a building to a very extensive land, substantially occurs on the basis of impressions of first encounter or visit. The land reveals itself primarily from the direction one enters it, and secondarily due to the engaging features beyond its territory. For small urban lots, partly developed plots for landscape design or built spaces such as for interior design, all reveal something how these are connected through the cuts, gaps and openings. These not only stretch the extent of the realm but endow a unique spatial character.

Pan Am Building NewYork

PLACEMENT of a form or conceptual entity onto the site needs alignment and accommodation of the boundaries or edges. The irregularities of the site edges are possibly historical effects that require functional and visual adjustments. The site boundaries or the edges are formed of many neighbouring properties. For contextual positioning, one may confirm the scale, size, shape, and style, or go against it, but it must confirm to the larger discipline of the urban setting. As soon as placement of the conceptual form on to the site emerges, the macro climatic appropriateness becomes relevant. For urban locations the wind directions, dust turbulence, a solar ingress etc., are substantially altered by local conditions. For interior design the glare from glazing of neighbouring buildings, visibility of shop fronts against solar reflections, varying light-shadow on openings and open spaces must be checked.

New housing development area Luanda

A site offers certain Access modalities. These modes define quality of experience to the built-form or an interior form. The modalities are defined by depth, elevation and angle of access. All these can be changed to gain new insights to the site. Sites have had downward, upward, straight, skewed, direct or long-winded entries. The shortening or extension of time and distance is used to add or reduce the introductory interlude to the site.

National Mall Lincoln Memorial

ORIENTATION relates to directional functions of the environment and selective sensorial perception of the designed entity. Orientation works as linear connection to a real or metaphysical thing. Strong presence of an object at a distance creates a point to which things are directed, such as trees, mountains, valleys, chimneys, lighthouses, towers, pylons, forts, etc. Such strong elements in smaller or interior spaces are created to ‘hold inescapable attention’ such as searchlight, throbbing or pulsar lights, signages, brilliant colours, high pitch sounds etc. The environment effects such as solar radiation and breeze are highly directed, which in turn make illumination and climatic comfort a location specific matter. Buildings are not only opened or closed but the form is transgressed inward or outward to manage the gains or losses of it. Projections, galleries, cutouts, chowks, are such transgressions that stretch or shrink the building.

Assisi St Francis Perugia Basilica Of St Francis

Orientation also relates to cardinal points N. S. E. and W. with the solar inclination, magnetic forces and spiritual beliefs. Indian traditional building design canons prescribe rules for placing architectural elements and functions in various corners. Orientation helps to connect the sensorial faculties to stimulative aspects of form. We orient or directionally connect ourselves to sources sounds, visual stimulation, tastes and odours. Spatial arrangements use such linear connections of orientation for creating relationships through proportions, scaling, series, hierarchy etc. Patterns, textures and grains are strongly directional and so used for creating oriented layouts. Other means of the directionality are angles, contours and slopes. Stairs, escalators, elevators, corridors, long passages, boulevards, avenues, walkways, parapets, are all linear elements that establish oriented links.

Paternoster Square


POSTURES and MEANINGS for design

Post 526 by Gautam Shah



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.

PX 96-33:12Postures 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.).


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.


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.


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.



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 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.