MODELLING of OBJECTS in SPACE -issues of design -20

Post 662 -by Gautam Shah


Objects in space, like architectural features, architectonic elements, furniture, furnishings and often occupants, are all moderated by scaling, positioning, contextual setting, distancing angling and sensorial attributes. In modern sense modelling is considered to be gestural and postural positioning of static or dynamic nature where, ‘dressed or configured’ entities and regulated surroundings enact an intended effect.


For a designer the purpose of modelling is to expose objects in a controlled manner. The controlled manner is either obvious or discreet. For a designer modelling offers individual recognition, inter-group relationships, comparison with others, signification and indication.


For modelling all sensorial faculties are stimulated, but visual perception followed by aural and tactile senses are extensively used. Modelling is also considered as the representation of an ‘additional dimension’ in a ‘two-dimensional image’, or revelation of additional information.


Modelling is a term closer to cartooning or cartoon making of the middle ages. Artists used to prepare full size replica-images of objects (trees, furniture, architectural elements) and common figures (saints, gods, angels, grotesque-forms) on starched fabric, paper or parchments, for tracing them out in murals and paintings. These were often leased out to others. But, most important modelling processes that of highlighting the form was not explored here.

Henry Moore Double Oval

Modelling at a very simplistic level has been used as a tool for highlighting individual objects by creating contrasting background, emphasizing the silhouette or by delineating the outer most edge with heavier line. Modelling by scaling is also much used method. Here important objects, story line actors or events are represented in larger scale, frontal position or on higher elevation, centric or perspective a focal point, or with brilliant detailing.

Modernism Concrete Le Corbusier India Ahmedabad

Important features of architecture were emphasized by designing illumination sources like openings and reflective planes. Le Corbusier always used reflective ceilings, walls or curvilinear planes (inside faces of cones, drums) against openings. These not only marked the opening emphatically but created a self-sustaining model. The same techniques were used in paintings. Henry Moore has in his sculptures explored the voids for modelling. Fashion shows for apparel are conducted on long raised walkways that offers bottom-up views for the connoisseurs, but few are inclined for ground level walkways, but rarely for zigzag movements. The later proposal makes it difficult for ‘modelling’.

Fashion Shows

Stage performance shows have audience exposure from limited range of angle, and modelling for such static position events are not very difficult. Media shows and soap-operas require very different norms of object modelling. The purpose of modelling is the view captured through the camera. There are multiple cameras with static or moving stations, different capacities of zooming and depth-width of field; all these need to be instantly fulfilled. But the illumination, positioning, depth, highlights etc. cannot be changed for each shot or frame, rather remains consistent. Instead online editing soft tools are used for the required modelling effects. Studio news casts are very fixed events, and so modelling remains equally static. To add life, live scene merging, morphing, voice-over, scene mixing etc. is used, but with poor results.



Architectural modelling was a style of presentation or a manner of expression through surrogate like scaled model or drawings. But architects have been subtly or explicitly involved in ‘forming’ their work as an intended impression. The designed entity is made to fit in the existential conditions or the interventions (like landscape) stretch beyond the nominal domain. It has many parallels in Art.

Marina Hotel Dubai

Architectural modelling has three basic approaches. At one level the observer moves around an object, for different tasks, in variable environmental conditions, and at varying distances and angles. At another level the objects shift (including other occupants) for the stationary observer. And in some circumstances the observer and observed entity both switch their positions.


Objects are scaled larger then functionally required (e.g. gates and door portals are large, but functional shutters are smaller). Objects are framed by larger but enclosing forms to emphasize smaller entities. Strategically placed openings not only capture a view, but are positioned as an object in the interior space. Top-heavy objects like shading devices, or bottom-heavy objects like pedestals, top-light entities like steeples, and bottom light stilted structures like gazebos or canopies were historical examples, but the language continues. In every building there are few points where modelling is obvious, like entrances, exits, stairs, escalators, receptions. Similarly some large areas like atrium, lobbies, passages, foyers, halls that need elemental modelling to divide-spread attention on multiple focuses. Distancing and angling are explored in public spaces like railway stations, airports, plazas etc. where spaces have multiple height connections.

Volga-Don Canal

Modelling of static objects, where the observer moves around it, is comparatively easy due to the fewer dynamics. First strategy could be to restrict the distance, angle, speed and range of movements of the observers. Second way could be to restrict the schedule of exposure and take advantage of sunlight. Third approach may regulate the encounter by suitable framing and occlusion. Fourth system involves designing a set of experiences to precondition the observer.

Modelling La_ola,_Jorge_Oteiza

In real life experiences we see the architectural entity and the user-beholder, both as dynamic set. We encounter such things, at real level in rides of amusement parks, trains, buses, plazas, planes, helicopters etc. and in hyper reality of games, training consoles, non-invasive medical instruments etc.


Opening systems like windows, skylights, clerestories provide the necessary natural luminescence (brightness or intensity) to show the form, colour and texture of spatial objects. Objects are perceived mainly due to the direction of light and its ever-changing nature. These are often enhanced, contrasted or subdued by reflectance and also by artificial illumination. The size and intensity of the luminescence determine the shadow density and so affect the ‘modelling’.

Sun and shadows Wikipedia Image by Karen Green

The first traces of the word modelling derives from French modelle or modèle, Italian modello or Latin modellus or modulus, as something made to scale, manner or measure architect’s set of designs, likeness made to scale, measure, standard (from root> med -to take appropriate measures). The sense to showcase or display garments or fashion design is comparatively recent’.


This is the 20 th (last) article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN …. but there are many draft articles on PC (Geometry in Design, Tactility in Spaces, Styling the styles, Designing Neighbourhood spaces, Brevity in Design), and that tempts me to continue.



SOUND and SPACE -issues of design -19

Post 661 -by Gautam Shah


Philharmonie im Gasteig, München Wikipedia Image by Andreas Praefcke

A space is perceived through three main senses -seeing, hearing and touching. The three senses mutually compensate and reinforce the perception. The perception occurs through coordinated stereo perception of sensory elements like two eyes and ears, and spatially distributed elements for touch. All three senses, scale the extent and depth of space. Physiologically, hearing diminishes with distance; seeing fades with reduction of illumination and touch becomes ineffective with the loss of tangency. Psychologically, however, the all three experiences remain associated with places, spaces, seasons, moods and people. The three senses format the perception of space. The space experience gets reinforced by the lingering effects like echoes, reverberation, and afterimages.

A group of musicians; representing the sense of hearing

Sound dwells in two distinct entities: space and time. The realm of a sound originator -the speaker, a singer, perceives substantial sound from the same space –the vicinity. The world of listeners is spatially separated and distinct, but has slight time delay. This duality is negotiated with some form of calibrations to arrive at common perception. The musicians and speakers tune and improvise once inside a space and begin to deliver. Oftentimes, we shout in to the telephone, believing the reception at the other end is equally bad. Similarly pauses in speech or music by the sound originator, if occupied by other ’disturbances’ (echoes, reverberated sounds, background noises, local absorption), the equation between the listener and sound maker fails. This is one of the reasons why it is nearly impossible to faithfully record a real out of the door profile of sound. What we listen in a place is ‘a convolution between the original sound and response of the room.


Sound is a spatial entity. Sound-spaces are associated with shapes, sizes, materials and memories. In outdoor unbounded spaces the environmental elements like terrain, components of atmosphere and vegetation are modulators of the sound. In the long run these elements format the quality of speech and singing of people of the locality are affected by the surroundings. In ethnic societies the diction gets reinforced, whereas with migrants, it persists in traces for several generations.

The sense of Hearing in ART

The sound is also a temporal phenomenon, a dynamic happening. The sound-happening persist for a very long time and spreads through cutouts, chowks, openings like doors and windows, gaps, cleavages, holes and cracks. Sounds have an eerie feeling in empty spaces due to unpredictable time delays, amplification and directionality. The time-sound response in such spaces fudges the scale and materials. Cluttered spaces have loss of detail due to subjugation of background noises. The connect with external noises provide eventual reference to the personal domain.


Sound in architecture is heard through the physical presence and sensitivity. Sound induces emotional connect and sensual responses. Inside or outside, materials, scale, memory and familiarity, all create a ‘sense of sound. The sound acquires a personal identity. Sound is both a ‘tangible and intangible sensational atmospheric quality’. It allows the individual to physically hear, as well as feel and sense the characteristics present in architecture. So, Sound like the illumination helps in cognition of the spatial information, and these processes occur concurrently and reinforcing each other. Hearing and seeingenable us to communicate, to orient ourselves, and to recognize danger.

Familiar Spaces Hunter's home, by Henry Voordecker

Peter Zumthor outlines that, “Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sound, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere. That has to do with the shape peculiar to each room and with the surface of materials they contain, and the way those materials have been applied.” (Atmospheres, p. 29).

Peter Zumthor

The simultaneity of images and sounds is most important aspect of communication for cinema, advertisements, multi-media presentations, games, products, telephony etc. to construct or mask the reality. Typically pressing buttons needs concurrency of tactile, audio, and visual experiences, and these may not be real or life-like but one that arouses satisfaction of an action happening. In certain aural-visual environments like games, films, TV programmes, telephony, medical examination equipments, the visual data is too consistent, but is variegated by addition of sounds as feedback or feed forward clues. Similarly addition of beats or predictable rhythms adds measurable familiarity.

Marionettes from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, New York, USA production of Cinderella Samba

Sound is transitory, so the rate of fading and its directionality, as ‘aural impressions’ must become elements of design. But rarely architectural spaces are created for the ‘sound-scape’. Many sound-space installations are created, some in bounded and many in open areas. Bounded spaces are handled with uncertain volumetric maneuvers and surface manipulations’, or with gadgetry to alter the quality of sound production. Open spaces are more scary as the volume is not maneuverable and surfaces beyond the echo-reverberation range. Here too, the gadgetry is used to alter the quality of sound, but effects are sporadic.

Instrument Musical Clarinet Sound Music

A street or neighbourhood reveals itself more at night. The sounds impinging into the interior space with little variations of illumination (of moon light, street light glow, and vehicles head lights) bring forward the depth of the spatial surroundings. But human settlements are designed for visual and aural spaces of day-time only. The public spaces turn unfamiliar (and unfriendly) at night. At night the aural space seems more holistic then visual space, because sound seems to transcend many obstacles or barriers.

Lonely Place 2


This is the 19 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN