SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design-9

Post 617 –by Gautam Shah

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Architectural spaces become relevant through scaling. Scaling creates an organization, where sub-elements are allied to form a holistic domain. The space when interpreted as Large-Small, Wide-Narrow, Tall-Shallow, deep-short, etc. relates to some adjacent reality, or some remembrance. But spaces are perceived in terms task accommodation (functional adequacy), anthropometric needs, sensorial reach capacities, social interactions vibes (privacy, intimacy), degree of objectivity and subjective involvements. Scaled space sizes bring forth proportions, modulation, analogy, sequencing, balance, incidental and regular occurrences, harmonics etc.

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Tashichhoe Dzong at Thimpu, Bhutan > Wikipedia image by Rainer Haebner

 Shape and Scale of a space have no relationship. Exterior or Interior shape of a space entity can mislead the perception of the scale. Similarly a very extensive space will need ‘stepping or connecting elements’ within the perceptible range. Spaces that have been substantively transgressed inward-outward, the shape may have been deformed, but the scale remains a relevant factor.

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Street scene at Ephesus at Anatolia Turkey Wikipedia image by Ad Meskens

Scale is a matter of sensorial experience. Scaling is predictable and manageable in spaces within the known range of perception (visual, aural, touch or proximity, etc.). The strangeness or alienation of a space is reduced by introducing scalable elements such as: repetitions, harmonics, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradations, acceleration deceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, relationships through modulation and proportioning, etc.

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Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London > Wikipedia image by Hans Peter Schaefer

A space is perceived to be small, adequate or large in terms of various tasks, and in terms of responses it offers such as echoes, reverberation, reflection, illumination, glares, depth and width of vision. With the same size and shape of space these elements offer varied experiences, some seeming related and some confounding. Within a space, the size changes (and thereby the proportions) to provide variegated settings for different activities. These changes in a space also cause marked shift in human behaviour. Designers, intentionally avoid as well as include such confirmations and contrasts, but even then surprises do occur. Such spatial manipulations and surprises are further exploited by the users for individualization.

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German Chancellery Berlin > Wikipedia image by Bruckels

Environment is a consistent space modulator. The environment changes the spatial scale on moment to moment basis. Since these both, seem to occur in conjunction, in design, we try to inculcate one with the other. An environment scales the space more effectively in the peripheral areas the core remains less dynamic. Again a design tool to shift the space. Scaling by environment becomes exciting because natural illumination, solar gains, etc., are directional.

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Environmental variations and space scale modulation > Sky Garden atop the ‘Walkie-Talkie > Wikipedia image by user: Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Our perception faculties are directional and nodal. Hearing and vision, are bi-nodal. Vision, smell and taste faculties are frontal, whereas touch is non-local. These variations in perception affect how elements scaling the space are perceived. Shapes like convex, concave or parabolic curvatures modify the movement. Planes that slope away or towards the user, mean opening or closing of the form. Right and left turns have culture specific relevance which may override presumed biological preferences.

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Sydney Opera House > Wikipedia image by Enoch Lau

Directional emphasis for scaling is also very important for orientation. Gravity offers a parallel to the ground plane, the horizontal, and a counter effect as the vertical. The horizontal and vertical make the scaling of space resolutely simpler, and every other scaling to be dynamic or unstable. The stability of gravity and stability of vertical allows forms to be wider at base, the inevitable force for space scaling.

At Absolute level the size is perceived as the difference between the Length and Width of a space. It is seen as a narrow or wide entity. The height confers its own scale of narrowness or broadness to the space. Height accentuates or de-emphasizes the character of the space nominally contributed by the relation between the Length and the Width. The equality of Length and Width of space marks a balance. The orientation of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space.

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Street, Sana’a, Yemen > Wikipedia image by Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia

Narrow spaces have length as the dominant scaling factor. Narrowness of the space could be a carryover of the past experiences or a psychological condition. Narrow spaces have domineering effect of the side barriers, more so if these are opaque, that is without any break or transgression. The scaling elements in such spaces are like, the doors, windows, columns, corners, benches, niches, public address systems, focussed illumination spots, air movement-delivery and ventilation nodes (fans, air conditioners, heaters), stair entrances, junctions (cross corridors, floor cutouts), signboards, parapets, ash trays, etc.

Scaling of narrow spaces can be experienced in art exhibition galleries, which tend to be linear spaces, but similar areas in museums show master pieces for distanced viewing. The hall of mirrors, Versailles is a classic example of long space; opaque on one side and fully windowed on the other side.

Size in a neighbourhood space is perceived in terms of the reach. Whatever is within reach (of touch, vision, hearing or smell) is considered the neighbourhood space. Here the recognition of reach also defines its functional adequacy for interpersonal relationships and related behaviour. Occupation of large public spaces is challenging. One needs points for anchorage, a direction for orientation, presence of other human being (or an animal like a dog) for confirmation, and a ready strategy for exit in any exigency, but all scaled to personal relevance.

A hazy or foggy atmosphere dulls as much as a bright sunny day highlights the spatial elements through enhanced light and shadow differentiation.

Past midnight in absence of nearby background noises, the far-off sounds are acutely heard, increasing the extent of the neighbourhood space.

Hospital wards seem very strange (large) to a patient, in comparison to domestic (small home) spaces, because the space size proportions are different and surfaces are harder and less absorbent (causing reverberation to be different), background noises are less passive, illumination levels are brighter during day and night, furniture and furnishings are unusual, in addition to sickness and weakened mental faculties.

Occupation of domains with unusual proportions (combinations of lengths, widths, and height) and sizes require extra efforts of accommodation.

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Old Roman Theater at Ephesus > Wikipedia image by Eoe gian at En Wikipedia 

Amphi theatre performances require large frill dresses, loud dialogue delivery, spaced out movements -theatrics, real or make-believe sub-zoning of the stage. Large space audiences can be reached through public address system, a large podium, stage setting, colour-light highlighting, etc. People in large spaces like airports and marriage halls reach out to others through wild gestures, shouting etc.

Shape configurations are closed or open ended, and show potential of scaling through distension, contraction, or attachments. The spatial scaling when include such edges formations, the subsets become very complex entities.

This is the 9 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

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One thought on “SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design-9

  1. Pingback: Links to Blogs on ISSUES of DESIGN | Interior Design Assist

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