REAL and VIRTUAL -Issues for design-10

Post 621 –by Gautam Shah



Human spaces are substantially real and physical, but could also have features that transcend the reality.


Las Meninas (Spanish = The ladies in waiting) ART by Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) >> Las Meninas is composition about Reality and Illusion of relationships between figures. In a large room several figures are spatially morphed including Artist (at a realistic scale), surreal mirrored reflections, and various real figures in their own engagements. The Artist himself looks at the tentative spot the painting observer would be standing.


There are THREE reasons for the later condition.

ONE, human cognition sometimes functions ambiguously.

TWO, the subconscious mind perceives beyond the rationality, restrictive customs and structural limitations.

THREE, we use tools that surpass the reality and present us with novel experiences.


Kaliserpanorama -a multi station viewing utility using stereo slides -patented 1890

ONE: The ambiguities in cognitive processes arise due to the past experiences, expectations and the context. The context for the perception, if environmental, is ever changing. The fixed contexts provided by physical objects or the beings have context of personal relevance. Physical objects in abnormal sizes, scales and distortions, like the grotesque forms disturb that placidity, at least initially.


Manipulated perspective for Door surround in Pezenas France > Wikipedia image by Fagairolles34

TWO: Under stress conditions extra ordinary cognitive feats are possible. We perceive and subconsciously register minute details of events that in normal conditions escape attention. In conscious state many have extra ordinary capacity to hear, smell, feel or observe. During sickness, however, in-coherency results due to time and space mismatch. A cognitive deficit or cognitive impairment describes the characteristic that affect the perception. It also affects, because elements nominally distanced in time and space are virtually juxtaposed in a make-believe world.

A trompe-l'œil painted wall in the Medici palace in Florence, Italy



The apotheosis of St. Ignactius, Church of St Ignazio > Art by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709) > Image by Majanlahti >> > Pozzo dissolved the architectural elements of the nave’s barrel vault while coordinating the storyboard through bright sky and floating figures, creating an ethereal single point perspective. 

Time is seen as a measure of change, and Space is perceived for its consistency (or even lack of it) over a time. When the dream and reality transcend, there is sense of ‘Avidya’ (lack of knowledge), a Maya as the cause of illusion. Avidya includes confusing the mundane reality to be the only reality, and believing it as a permanent feature, though it is ever changing. The effect of Avidya is to inhibit the real nature of things and perceive something else in its place. It is the ignorance or misunderstanding of the nature of reality.

Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco

Flickr image by JAM Project >> Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco, corner of Mullins Street & Market Row, near Abbey’s bookshop and parallel to York St. From the Art & About website: “‘Deconstructing Ways’ creates a parallel world for your imagination to step into.

THREE: To resolve the contradictions of reality and dream, new means were created, such as the ‘unnerving and illogical scenes’, strange creatures, grotesque forms, and queer built-spaces. The methods exposed the truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance. The contempt for accepting literal meanings assigned to objects has been considerable. The Ornamentation, in comparison were more subdued but have too much metaphorical connection with the past, visually very static, and these have restricted the time dynamism. The superfluous, or the applique decorations have been means for camouflage. The shrouded symbolism of decorations and the contempt for the explainable interpretation, led to creation of new space making forms.



Shell service station, Winston-Salem, North Carolina > Wikipedia image building-architecture-city-window-night-design-facade-glass-perspective

The process of de-ornamentation in post industrial period, allowed the much needed exposure for aspects like geometry, functional, structural, and spatial definitions. The new constructs for architecture and products, etc. that followed the de-ornamentation, such as ‘form follows function, purity of form and truth to materials’ became the tenets of modernism.


MUJI Japanese Tableware – 2004 / Masahiro Mori -ceramic designer > Wikipedia image attribution (Mori Masahiro Design Studio, LLC.)

New constructs of modernism were too stiff for many. Deconstructionists moved away from such constricting aspects. They compromised the geometric discipline of the form by abrogating the functional, structural, and spatial aspects. It started with literature, art and then spread to architecture, and performing arts. But in architecture they still had to deliver a building confirming the gravity and other forces. In literature and other arts it had to be a deliverable product or a recognizable entity. It also now endowed that ‘not everything that looks odd is deconstructionism’.


Cleveland clinic Nevada Las Vegas USA by Gehry > Wikipedia image by A. Duarte from Brasilia, Brazil

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Reality, often contrasted with what is imaginary and delusional. The reality and the dream find expression in dominantly a visual realm. All art and magic except the alchemy are visual. Computer mediated, realities have been predominant of visual perception, and to a very small extent of aural experience.



This is the 10 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN


Post 620 –by Gautam Shah



Built form designing begins with a neatly defined geometric shape, and it evolves into a very complex form. The built form becomes an architectural adventure to gain new spaces, experiences and uses. The built forms are transgressed to the exterior for many different purposes. The purposes are to enlarge the interior space, open out the omni present sense of enclosure, bring in airiness of the exterior, enhance the built mass by stretching the internal and external surface areas, add a textural architectonic element, add thresholds or intervening spaces and provision of sideways view, aeration or daylight facilities.


Puerta Principal del Catedral Basilica de Zacatecas > Wikipedia image by Juan Ignacio Chavez

Outward transgressions of the architectural elements occur as overt attachments or integrated additives. The attachments remain overt when these are visually very distinct, over emphatic in scale or treatment, and singular in presence. Integrated additives are multiple in numbers and so schematically well arranged, visually less apparent and diffused in scale or treatment.


Gables at St Mary’s Church in Berlin > Wikipedia image by Bild : Ajepbah / Wikimedia Commons / Lizenz: CC-BY-SA-3.0 DE

Outward Transgressions and Projections are two different entities. The former enlarges the spread to add utilizable space, whereas the later, just stretch the space for weather shading. Transgressions have volumetric mass of space in comparison to Projections articulate buffer or threshold spaces. Projections undulate the surfaces as add-on or engraved-etched elements. Some of the common projecting elements of classical architecture include: Pilasters, engaged columns, entablature, pediments, friezes, rusticated masonry, foliated capitals, lintels, eaves and cornices.




Frauenkirche, Dresden > Wikipedia image by SporkPhotos

Add-on elements are included in buildings for two main purposes: To vary the silhouette or the skyline, and to format terraces, which otherwise would have remained plain planes. Corbusier achieved both simultaneously. A skyline is made of translucent elements like lanterns, chhatris (umbrella shaped pavilions) canopies, cupolas, caboose (usually over inspection or guard’s wagon in railways), spires, gables etc.


Corbusier Terrace > Flickr image by vincent desjardins

Buddhist temple courtyard in Qingyang, Chizhou, Anhui, China

Openings have been the most prolific space transgressing elements in buildings. Openings are stretched outward for view and illumination. The expanded form increases the surface area exposed to the exterior, and adds to the solar gain. In a warmer climate breeze is preferred to solar gain, and so devices like lattices, shading projections and smaller but spaced openings were used. Choice of view to the busy street, water body, or a private garden is preferred to any climatic orientation.

Transgression to courtyards


Transgressed openings have of many forms. Openings stretch outward at floor level, increasing the interior floor space. Little higher from the floor level, allows formation of a raised sill, seat, or platform. High sill openings reduce the net available open gap but provide space for a study or craft console, or storage bureau. The head-side configurations of the projected gaps are different. These terminate at lower, human head or reach to the ceiling level.


Zarokha at Nathmal ki Haveli, Jaisalmer, India > Wikipedia image Attribution Daniel VILLAFRUELA

Zarokhas are outwardly extended opening systems in India. These have derived from Gavaksh or Gokh (niche in the wall for storage or display). A zarokha is often called a baithak, a place for ‘sitting out’, though one remains in the privacy of the interior space. The Zarokha as an ornamental opening has a centric and dominant position in the room space and important part of external facade composition. Zarokhas are placed on terraces, passages, palaces, public buildings, residences, mosques and step-wells.


Rani Rupamati Mosque Zarokha, Ahmedabad India > Wikipedia image by Bernard Gagnon

A typical zarokha, on the interior face, has a raised platform off the floor. The raised platform has one long front and two small width side faces. The face has two or more columns and is surrounded by short height tapering parapets. The projecting platform and the width of the wall, together provide sufficient width and depth for two or more people to share the space. The inner most face of Zarokha is masked by a bamboo strip roll curtain. The outer face of the wall may be open or latticed.

Ellora, cave 16

 A Chhajja is an Indian shading device over any opening, like doors, windows, zarokhas or verandah and may cover plain walls for architectural continuity. Chhajjas reduce the sky component of solar radiation and reduce the glare. Mughal Chhajjas are inclined slabs of stones placed over the lintel stone, but super-loaded with some masonry and parapets. Wooden Chhajjas with intricately carved wood brackets are common in Pol houses of Gujarat. During British Raj Chhajjas of galvanized corrugated sheets supported over a wooden frame became a cheap and lightweight option for Bungalows and Government buildings. Chhajjas work like canvas awnings, but are heavier and more durable.


Bay Window at Casa Pomar – Catlan Modernisme (1904-1906, Joan Rubio i Bellver) > Wikipedia image by Mutari

Bay or Bow windows are common on ground or upper floors. Bay windows are formed of three or five angled planes, whereas a bow window is a polygon or segment of a curve. In full bay windows the opening stretches from floor to ceiling level to add a seamless but shaped space to the room. In a part bay windows have a raised sill with a lower roof at a lintel level or topper blank bay. In the third version there is no bay or bow formation in the interior space, externally a shaped flower box projects out. In case of a bow window there is no parallel to the room, a middle window unit. Bow windows first appeared in the 18 C in England and in the Federal th period in the USA. Bow windows are also called compass window and radial bay windows.


Corner window of Hauenschild palace in Olomouc (Czech Republic) Wikipedia image by Snek01

Oriel windows are a form of polygonal bay windows, but often placed at the corner of a building. Oriel windows, have a larger perimeter and so allow wider view of the outside. The projected bay is supported off the base-wall, or by columns, piers, corbels or brackets.


Mashrabiya is an extended opening system, and was very a common entity in mid East or Arab architecture. Mashrabiyas have carved wood latticework and often stained glass.

Mashrabiyas were placed on street faces of upper floors of urban houses, but occasionally in palaces, public buildings such as hospitals, inns, schools and government buildings. Mashrabiya windows are presumed to have formed during 12th C in Baghdad. Iraq and Egypt are two countries where many examples survive. Such openings were introduced in France from the colonial sources, and called Moucharabieh.


Mashrabiya openings in Muizz street Cairo District > Wikipedia image by Joonas Plaan from Tallinn Estonia

Mashrabiyas are enclosed with latticework of a lathe carved sections called bobbins. Lower sections of the opening are opaque or with denser lattice work. Lattice designs differ from region to region. Mashrabiya work as an independent enclosed balcony or as a space attached to a room. Egyptian Mashrabiyas project out at a slightly raised level, providing for a Dakkah (a Dakkah is also a masonry platform attached to the front part of a house, covered with a rug, it is used for informal talk and tea in Arab rural areas, an arrangement similar to Ota or Otla in a traditional Indian house). Mashrabiyas have been used for correcting the shape of upper floor front room.

The word Mashrabiya has varied origins. It denotes drinking or absorbing. The name perhaps has derived from a wood lattice enclosed shelf located near a window to cool the pots of drinking water. The shelf evolved until it became part of the room with a full enclosure. Mashrabiya also has originated from verb Ashrafa =to overlook, ignore or to observe.


Mashrabiya Opening Old Cairo, Egypt >  Image on Flickr by Sam valadi

Shanashil (shanshool or rushan) is a porch, verandah or gallery like features covered with fine wood lattice work. It is found in old Iraqi houses of Baghdad. It is also a net or wood screen-covered verandah or porch over looking a street or garden.