SUPPORT SYSTEMS -Issues of Design-22

Post 669 by Gautam Shah

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We need supports to move, stand, or even do nothing. We use the support for gaining, sustaining or relieving various biological conditions of the body. We need, physical as well as abstract, supports. We need supports inside our places of inhabitation, and beyond it. We explore our environments for natural supports, and configure supports as we create our habitats.

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Primary supports are required for getting in-out, conducting tasks, closing-opening and shifting the utilities. Supports are also used for expression and communication. Supports govern the reach and work capacity of a person. Supports allow and enhance movement of the body limbs and parts, in wide range of spatial occupations and conduct it at a required pace.

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Built-forms, amenities and facilities offer a complex set of configured supports. Supports are required to initiate an action, for work towards or away from the gravity, overcome impedance of friction, bondage etc., for swaying and stopping it and absorb the bounce-back forces of reaction. Supports help change the body postures for physiological relief, breathing, metabolism, respite from tedium and consistency.

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Support systems are universal, used by persons of different stature, abilities, age profiles and mental conditions. Supports occur in one continuum, employed in unique sequence of activities. For these two reasons, some optimal needs must be realized.

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Amenities and Facilities offer physical and abstract supports. The physical supports as they really exist, we rarely use them. The physical supports through their presence provide assured certainty and adequacy of performance, safety and security. It is psychological reliability that the supports are available, when and where needed. Abstract supports do not exist, but are rather conditions that restrict one to take certain actions. These are socially acknowledged thresholds. Such metaphorical systems also regulate the expressions of the body.

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The supports are required for facilitating Macro movements of the body, like shifting the body or changing the posture whereas Micro movements help in gestures, communication and expression, and to realign the physiological pressures.

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In all work processes, brisk or sedentary, one needs the ability to freely reposition the body. Such movements are postural ones, like the movement of limbs, neck, switching the weight over legs, or wriggling over the bottom. Others are gestural (twitching of lips, eyebrows). The postural or gestural changes occur with supports. These are, access height of the amenity, body position and related reach and work ability, familiarity etc. Assurance of a support allows one to take deliberate risks.

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Body movements endow new work capacities (reach, spread, productivity) besides removing the tedium. Such dynamic posturing increases cognition of happenings around us and encourages concentration by stimulation of muscles, blood circulation, and neurochemical processes. Too many body changes may seem distracting to others.

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Balancing the body

We continuously sway our body due to internal causes (breathing, metabolic activity), and for external reasons (like turning head while observing and communicating, for keeping garments in order). The sway invigorates our body and greater participation in the world around us. For such minor swaying no physical supports are required to initiate or terminate it.

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The postural changeability is both a physiological adjustment and a psychological expression. It is reflected in anxiety and boredom. Postural discomfort also occurs due to inadequacies of utilities. Utilities are exploited (misused) for fidgeting. Fidgeting is now accepted as a mode of tackling and learning. Intentional postural incongruities are natural while executing novel and complicated tasks. But postural stillness does not last very long while handling vibrant conditions.

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Exposure of postural discomfort and related restlessness, if amplified, can become very embracing. Designers need to include supports and barriers for fidgeting to flourish but regulate its exposure. Postural discomfort at some level is unbalancing force and a nearby support is required.

Receptionists are intensely observed persons. This is annoying when waiting seats are in front, a reception table is at eye level and its front is open and no other interests in the space. Similarly ‘open desks’ on stage or in conference rooms, if open at leg level distract the viewers.

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Once, our work tables were ‘wall mounted’, to source various services (drainage, power, structural support), but then concept of island work stations offered multi-directional posturing and access. In offices the open plans were too static. The personal table top computers were too fixed for fidgeting around. The Laptops with wireless data transfer systems and cloud storage not only allow micro body movements, but also posting in variable locations.

Designers are offering amenities and facilities that are not very ‘comfy’ but with ‘bearable discomfort’. That causes, little physical inconvenience, to infuse reach, balance, transitions extra ordinary perception.

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Indian offices, once had stools for peons. The wide foot print (legs tapering outward) offered a stable structure but its small sized seat and taller height, were unnerving, keeping the person alert and ready to standup. Similarly tall bar-stools also do not allow one to settle but allow freedom of movement. Aged people (and pregnant ladies), to get up, derive support from handles and harder, taller and a flatter seat, things contrary to these conditions make life difficult.

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The support systems are required for Active or Passive movements.

Ο Free active movements are used by a person to overcome the effect of gravity, for example, rising from lying to seating position.

Ο Resisted active movements are used by a person to overcome the effects of a manually or mechanically applied force, for example, lifting a load, closing a door, using a knife and fork, or digging with a spade.

Ο Assisted active movements occur with the help of another person or apparatus, like mother assisting a child or by using a chain or rope.

Ο Assisted-resisted active movements are dual efforts. First part of the movement assistance is required to initiate an action, but the other part uses resistance to control the action.

Ο Passive movements are those produced by an external force during muscle inactivity. All joint movements can be performed passively by manual means.

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This is the 22 nd (continuation of old series -new beginning) article on ISSUES of DESIGN

 

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