CONTEXT -Issues for Design -12

Post 629 –by Gautam Shah


Context consists of parts that are often remote in time and space, yet emerge to form a whole. Context emerges as a connection, reference, realization, placement, ground, environment, framework, setting, or situation for manifestation of a concept, object or event. The context is seen through some commonality, styling, location identity or pace of occurrence.


Netherlands’s proverbs with scenes illustrating over 100 proverbs > Wikipedia ART by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559

Context manifests as an explicit and implicit placement. In literature it is placed in preceding or following word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, through a reference or hyper link. In spoken delivery, like a speech or recitation, it is immediacy of timing is used to make the context evident. Literary context is enforced through repetition of a word, line, stanza, or use of proverbs, anecdotes, rhyme, synonyms and antonyms. Emphasis by loudness of speech, measured delivery, rhyming, etc. provide a clue to the listener to recollect, or look-out for the contextual setting.


Scott Bradley’s set design for August Wilson’s Fences in the Angus Bowmer Theater > Wikipedia image by The Oregon Shakespeare festival

For performing arts the context becomes an extension for the time and space. Here the context is implicit in temporal (beats) and explicit in spatial (static and dynamic posturing) definitions. These are enriched by delays, distancing, proximity, framing and merging. The settings, lighting, costumes, sound effects, story or narrations provide explicit context.


Outdoor set on Allen Elizabethan stage at Oregon Shakespeare festival > Wikipedia image by Amy Richard

For Graphical presentations, the simultaneity of explicit-implicit contextual reference becomes extraordinarily potent. The contextual information, in Art and Craft works are often unintentional or too casual. The observer places the work into not only a new realm, but through different process of sensorial perception. The complexity of the context is through allegorical representations, where the real meaning is deeply buried under several layers of conversion. In this sense, the context is neither personal nor public, but rather mystical. The titles of works are irrelevant, yet are very potent.


Delhi’s craft museum > Flickr image by chopr

The styles of work or the manner of expression provide a historical connection to the attitudes, choices and conditions of an era. The style of work is contextual as a wider affirmation to colour pallette, theme, manners of representation, inclusion or exclusion of contents, composition, etc. Style of work is a realization and its conscious application. The connection between the original work (prime) and application is strong enough to cause confusion as to which one is reference, and what is the context.


Le Dejeuner (1739) a rocaille  Interior of a French bourgeois family in 18C  > Wikipedia ART by Francois Boucher 1703-1770

Within the works of Art like murals, the story line is repeated in several microcosm images or continued over or several frames. Here the context is provided by elements like the relevance of the theme, background, characters, colours, embellishments, time sequencing of the narration, etc. The decipherable contextual references help devotees to re-live the events and sometimes reinterpret it differently.

Rosace nord de la cathédrale de Chartres

Northern Rose window of Chartres cathedral > Wikipedia image 


Microcosm of Shikhar at AhalyaBai Temple MP India > Wikipedia image by Rakeshnandi1990

Murals and extensive works of art are conceived for the architectural setting, so are inconsideration of natural light and artificial illumination, angle of view, distance of viewing, intervening architectonic elements, and thematic arrangements. The theme and parts have relationships of mutual referencing, and so make sense as a holistic composition. Architectural murals on ceilings, walls and floors have context of scale for the characters, visual perspective of the scene and the white (unoccupied) spaces.


Queen’s apartment in Royal palace of Madrid > Wikipedia ART by Francisco Bayeu y Subias 1734-1795

Architecture is perceived as surfaces, spaces and as composition of architectonic elements. All three individually and collectively are contextual for the functions, style, form, site, cultural, social, political and financial setting. When one or few of these context conditions reestablish their relevance, a revival occurs. The renaissance (literally meaning ‘Rebirth’ in French) was a period of nostalgia for classical antiquity. Renaissance was the context to describe and adopt something from the history. It was largely an explicit context, compared to more subtle and implicit context of the Gothic period. Renaissance saw development of realistic linear perspective by Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) as a context of a window into space.


Framing as a context > adoration of the Magi and Solomon adored by Queen of Sheba > Wikipedia ART by Giulio Clovio 1498-1578 

Ground and gravity are the most important context for a built form. The context of gravity is implicit in the horizontal and explicit in the vertical. The deconstructionist building must conform to the gravity as much as pyramids will do. A catenary structure bows to the gravity. Buildings have the context of the site. The site connects the building to not just the physical elements like the neighbourhood and the services, but also non physical matters like micro climate, local cultural and political conditions and nature of administration.


Gravity defiance > Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for ‘Women’s Bridge) is a rotating footbridge at Buenos Aires Argentina > Wikipedia image

The changes in site conditions make a building irrelevant, but a well-designed building can rejuvenate a dying or stagnant neighbourhood. Old buildings have very fragmented or diffused context, and such sites look more out of context with ‘manicured lawns’.


Interior of the Royal Ontario Museum > Michael Lee Chin Crystal lobby showing merger of Old and New > Wikipedia image by Benson Kua from Toronto Canada

Architecture operates in simultaneity of context where a positive assertion of affirmation, justification, comparison, is juxtaposed with a negative reference by contrast, differentiation, distinction. These occur as contexts of foreground-background, framed-unframed depiction, large-small, light-heavy, visible-diffused image, interior-exterior, dark-light etc.


Indian Village Home setting > Pixabay image by nasircoolboy1

Contemporary architectural creations defy the context of ‘unexplainable’ traditions. These are replaced by being ethically responsible to the surroundings, or designing a form-functionless impressionistic entity.


This is the 12 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

5 thoughts on “CONTEXT -Issues for Design -12

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

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