Post 576 –by Gautam Shah
A space is recognized and improvised, or designed for a range of behaviour. A lay-person recognizes and improvises, or the expert, who designs it, can only surmise how it will manifest. The stake holders, Designer or the user, are often not aware of the basis of the recognition, improvisation or design, yet all do arrive at common realization.
GRADES of SPACES
The spaces have Two distinctions: Exteriors and Interiors. Exteriors have Two distinct zones: One where the extent is endless and beyond the perception limits -‘the wild exteriors’, and, Two where the edges limit the perception creating ‘neighbourhood spaces’. Interiors have Core and Peripheral zones. ‘Threshold areas’ manifest between the exterior and interior realms.
Exterior spaces have highly variable environment and territorial presence. There is virtual immediacy of the two realms. One cannot conceive the Interior or Exterior alone, without the other being present in time and space proximity. This proximity is however achieved by design, by carrying across the impressions of the other. The Internal and External spaces, can occur as a ‘metaphoric concept’ for the other. The duality of the interior and the exterior is like an antithetic zone to the other.
The heaven and the hell are two surrounds of the earth. Egyptians have dummy doors (drawn or carved) in their tombs. A Garbha Griha in a temple is an inner sanctum. The Japanese gate Mori is placed anywhere, in a vast open land or sea, to mark a divide. Lakshman Rekha was a notional boundary.
■ Wild exterior spaces: Very vast exterior spaces are perceived for the endless sensorial ‘effects’. A ‘beautiful sunset, a valley or seashores’ are markings of a space. Markings denote the natural extent of a wild exterior space, but the same may not be perceptible. These are, though evident through the physical elements like: edges, banks, thresholds, slopes, plains or fences and environmental effects thereon. We perceive only certain range of space. The reach capacities vary with perceiver’s capacity, needs and environmental conditions and so are circumstantial. The behaviour with reference to markings, is perfunctory, as it relates to only the potential –what can one do with it?
A wild exterior space defined by the markings is an infinite realm. It cannot be a setting for personal or interpersonal behaviour. One can perhaps realize a potential to possess it.
These are few quotes taken from historic text documents that describe the markings of Land-Spaces. ● US President Thomas Jefferson insisted that the purchase included ‘all land to the east of the Rocky Mountains and to the north of the Rio Grande’. ● The (Spanish) missions were located in a disputed area; France claimed the Sabine River to be the western boundary of Louisiana, while Spain claimed the Red River was the eastern boundary of Texas, leaving an overlap of 45 miles (72 km). ● ‘From the point on the north bank of Muddy Creek one mile above the junction of Muddy and Indian Creeks, north for 400 yards, then northwest to the large standing rock, west to the large oak tree, south to Muddy Creek, then down the centre of the creek to the starting point.’ ● ‘Lying in Anson County, on the side of the Atkin River, beginning about a mile below the fork of the fourth creek that empties into the said river, above the wagon ford, running up the said creek for complement, including an Indian Camp about eight miles beyond the path that crosses the buffalo licks.’
■ Neighbourhood spaces: Neighbourhood spaces come into being and remain valid in the dual context of interior spaces on one hand, and the wild exterior spaces on the other side. The neighbourhood becomes ‘a place for everything that an interior space cannot offer and an experience that cannot be had in the wild exterior space’. It becomes a place for informal social contacts. Markings here help create anchor points, line-links and extent spreads. These are also definitions to dimension, grade, scale and proportion the space. The elements represent an exclusivity through a change such as a drop in terrain, contours, variation colour or texture, illuminated or shaded objects, etc.
A neighbourhood as an exterior space is finite and predictable. It is both a ‘collection of individuals and a place, the people who live there and the place itself’. Here the social ties develop not just due to people involved, but due to the setting of the place. Neighbourhood spaces have recognizable geometric order or a predictable configuration, purposive locations for anchorage, well-defined zones, distinct routes and paths, good visibility (and other clarity of other sensorial perception) and recognition of the whole and its parts.
Neighbourhood spaces are known through their limiting elements. These elements restrict continuous perception or environmental effects. The bounding elements indicate the purpose of the space, and in many cases even the nature of its ownership, and structure of administration. In the neighbourhood the depth or scale is defined by the reach capacities such as vision, hearing, smell, touch, etc. These elements individually represent varied form of reach, so space definitions here match to the purpose.
– ‘a jungle of apartments where no one knew who was dead or who was celebrating what – but an archipelago of neighbourhoods in which everyone knew each other.’ -Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City.
Neighbourhood spaces have paths and open spaces that both connect as well as separate various habitable spaces. Here it is not the distance but the degree of dependence that forms unified neighbourhood space. The dependence is a need based as much as it is perception based. One may not know or formally meet the neighbour for years, or ever, but the perception someone is staying in vicinity is a great social comfort. Very often even the presence of a man-made object provides the same comfort.
Interior spaces are enclosed entities formed by the edge elements such as shell, roofs, coverings, awnings, curtains, partitions, ceilings, etc. These are spatial definitions that create a dimensioned interior space. “A space created by the enclosure is far more enduring then one defined by bounding”. The enclosures have varied levels of transparencies and the openings within the shell allow connections to the exterior. The transgressions occur as outward push and inward pull of the interior space. The outward push or encroachments are often ‘cost-less’, though may ‘load’ the enclosure (shell) body. It increases the interior volume and permits a restrained exterior experience. The inward intrusions, however, consume interior space or estate and reduce the available enclosed space.
Examples of outward transgressions: Galleries, balconies, Chhatris, campanile, bay-windows, oriel-windows, dormers, Mashrabiya, verandahs, skylights, etc.
Examples of inward transgressions: Cutout, Chowks, courtyards, Liwan, setbacks, cutbacks, shafts, light-wells, etc.
The outward sensorial reach beyond the edge of the interior space does not affect either the wild or neighbourhood exterior spaces, but the interior spaces are affected by the happenings in exteriors. A ‘wild exterior space’ due to its uncertain character and infinite size, cannot be possessed. A ‘neighbourhood space’ lacks the complete settings and environment for all types tasks other then the casual social interaction. But an interior space is controlled and a domesticated entity, and so allows many varied activities. The form and format of the interior space are unitary and consistent, but the subsections show minor, local and temporary or circumstantial variations.
■ Core Zones Interior Spaces: Interior spaces have an insulated and static segment as its core zone. The core zone is nominally centric, but to be focal, extensive and an important point, it may be shifted towards one of the edges. At the core segment metaphysical elements like concepts, beliefs, taboos, etc. that reflect the essence of the inhabitation are stronger.
■ Peripheral Zones Interior Spaces: Peripheral zones abut the built edges of the interior spaces. As the enclosing elements have varied levels of transparencies and the openings within the shell, connections to the exterior are vibrant. These are multilateral entities, reflecting the environmental variations. Where such variations become extensive and a permanent a new spatial entity comes into being. In peripheral zones metaphorical elements like signs, symbols flourish.
For example, cooking-dining, kitchen-bathing, entrance-living room, etc. have been adjunct as well as segregated entities, at different times, and within same era for different social reasons.
The barriers define shape, size and environment of the interior space through their constitution, thickness, mass, volume, size, absorbency and transparency. Thresholds occur at openings, cuts and cleavages of enclosing elements. Enclosing elements have degrees of transparencies and discontinuities and effectiveness of the threshold is determined by its size, shape, location and orientation. The divide, represented by the threshold may not be a clean edge-cut, but could also be an extensively graded formation. Thresholds can have real or hypothetical realms, but usually have abutting structures to create an intermediate climatic zone and intermediate spaces.
A threshold may be an abstract divider in space like the Laxman Rekha but a change marker. Thresholds are marked by change in quality of flooring, illumination, sidewall configurations and by elements like high sill, steps, opening portals and pediments. Architectural attachments like verandahs, canopies, overhangs, otalas enhance the threshold’s functions. In thick-wall structures, openings get a substantial depth creating an interpersonal space as in gates and gateways, or in windows a shading device on external sides or an illumination diffuser on inside. In Kutchh Bhunga houses doors are predominantly South (windward) face and women folk occupy the threshold for craft and household work.
This post forms 6th of the Sixteen part of Lecture series on Behaviour in Space that I will be offering for the spring semester starting Jan 2016 (to mid April2016) at School of Interior Design, Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.