PROJECTED OPENINGS in BUILDINGS

Post 679 –by Gautam Shah

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Openings often transgress the nominal edge of the architectural entity. Such outward, and occasionally the inward push occurs on the wall faces, roofs, corners and floors. Outward pushes mainly add to the floor spread. But it also facilitates the side view and breeze from the street. It also offers greater opening size. Outward push of a building element is used to architecturally undulate the surface by projection and its deep shadows. Outward push from the roof has formed interesting silhouettes by varying the skyline. Outward transgressions have occurred in occupy-able buildings like homes, palaces and also in other structures such as fort-walls, gates, estate walls, barricades etc. Inward pushes like chowks or cutouts are basically climatic relievers. But these also serve as space dividers, isolators and privacy-security elements.

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OUTWARD TRANSGRESSIONS: Examples of wall face transgressions are: Oriel, Bay-window, Bow-window, Zarokha and Mashrabiya.

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ORIEL WINDOWS are polygonal bay windows, but with a larger perimeter and so allow wider view of the outside. Oriel windows are usually placed on the upper floors of the building, but siting on ground floors is common. The windows as a projected bay is supported off the base-wall by column, piers, corbels or brackets.

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The word oriel is derived from Anglo-Norman oriell and post-classical Latin oriolum, both meaning gallery or porch, perhaps from classical Latin aulaeum =curtain. Oriels developed in the 15th C, when under the Tudor kings. Merchants and artisans, generally living over the shop in a narrow and tightly-packed town houses, added space by building oriel encroachments. This often resulted in extremely dark streets. Oriel windows were also placed over gateways or entrances to manor houses and public buildings. Oriel windows once again became popular during the revival of Tudor style in the 19th and early 20th C.

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BAY WINDOW forms a projected bay or bow like polygonal shape. Bay windows became popular with Victorian architecture (1870’s). A typical bay window consists of three windows, the middle unit is parallel to the house, and adjoining two units are set at 30 to 45 degree angles. There are three basic types of bay windows. In full bay windows the opening stretches from floor to ceiling level to create a nook in a room. In half or part bay window, the window starts at seat or nominal sill level and reaches head height level or full ceiling level. In the third version the bay is more of a flower box projecting out.

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BOW WINDOWS are curved or polygonal bay windows. Unlike the bay windows, there is no middle window unit, parallel to the room. Instead several small width window units (fixed and shuttered) are joined to form a bow shape. Bow windows first appeared in the 18th C in England, and in the Federal period in the USA. Bow windows are also called compass window and radial bay windows.

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ZAROKHA originated from the Gokh or Gavaksh (Sanskrit), a form of articulated wall niche for storage. It became more of a projection with a seat or a window form. A Zarokha or Baithak (seat) is a raised platform from the room floor. Zarokha is often partly ow wholly latticed. The Zarokha as an ornamental element was part of the architectural composition. In tropical architecture Zarokha compensated the need for an intermediate element like a verandah. The Zarokha and the derivative window forms, as Chhatri (belfry or umbrella), were further refined as pavilions and other roof level facilities.

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MASHRABIYA is a projected window on upper floors, in buildings mainly in the urban setting. Mashrabiya is used in houses and palaces although sometimes in public buildings such as hospitals, inns, schools and government buildings. It is commonly placed on the street side, but occasionally on the internal courtyard ‘sahn’ side. Mashrabiya windows are presumed to have evolved during 12th C in Baghdad. Iraq and Egypt are two countries where many examples survive. Mashrabiyas are enclosed with carved wood latticework. Mashrabiya has been used for correcting the shape of upper floor front rooms. 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. Mashrabiya also has originated from verb Ashrafa =to overlook, ignore or to observe.

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4775158313_71d4c3be87_zProjecting an opening has taken many different forms where glass is used as a supporting or structural entity. It counters the perception that structural entities are nominally opaque. Projected openings have had opaque floors and now replaced with glass. Original intention of projected openings system for stretched or unlimited view is now being re-purposed.

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CORNERS and Neighbourhoods

Post 678–by Gautam Shah

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This is the 3 rd article of series: ‘CORNERS’.

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Neighbourhood is a realm of certain scale, resilient extent, variable sensorial reach, activities, intra-personal contacts, diverse implications and ever-revealing spatial character. Neighbourhoods have no particular pattern or shape. There is no formal arrangement of spatial entities, like buildings and objects. The spatial entities, building and objects remain static, but the mediating spaces carry different personal relevance and meaning. The neighbourhood represents a sentiment of people formed by the spatial character. The character, where small changes are noted and relished.

Lisbon Street Image by Paulo Guedes (1886–1947)

1 The scale in the neighbourhood is defined by the sensorial reach of the person such through the physical reach capacity, vehicles or means of conveyance, routing, climate, obstructions and the linkages such as bridges, access conditions etc.

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2 The extent of Neighbourhood is a resilient factor, because the reach capacities and needs are personal and so different. Senior citizens cover only that distance, which can be traversed back. A road with high density traffic reduces the spread of a neighbourhood.

3 The Sensorial reach is variable as it relates to the perception faculties like touch, smell, taste, see and listen. A child is required to be within the visual field, but a little older one can stretch it to distance of shout call.

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4 Activities in neighbourhoods, have an excuse and purpose, as these manifest due to people, space, and season. These are as casual as calling on new settlers and offering help, introductions and directions, or formal like parties and celebrations.

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5 Intra-personal contacts flourish at spatial locations like shops, corners, seat-out places and near objects in space, but facilitated by the sensorial reach (of touch, vision, hearing or smell). The reach defines the functional adequacy for interpersonal relationships and related behaviour. Intra- personal contacts occur as encounters, of recognition, casual gestural and verbal greetings and durative exchanges. The routes, space use occupation, time schedules are very deliberate. The spatial character of the neighbourhood is formed by the intensity of activities, which in turn foster the intra-personal contacts.

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6 Implications of neighbourhoods are evident with how people realize the spatial features. This is vitalization that formats the space as the place. This is always a synergy, impossible to inculcate through design, or difficult to bring in about by outsiders. Neighbourhoods are about dwellers of the place, and not visitors to market places or parks. The dwellers have certain attributes like age, social status, economic activities, cultural-religion affinity, duration of stay and sense of belonging. These form diverse sets of human interactions and compatibilities.

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7 Neighbourhoods continue to reveal their spatial character. One becomes more comfortable with the functional potential and variety it offers. New sensorial connections emerge from smell of foods, sounds of speech and music, visual accent of colour and texture) and the tactile liaison through handshake, caress or hug. These connections are embedded in the people, environment, built space and objects.

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The essence of a neighbourhood is the spatial character that is natural, and not a designed one. When people begin to associate the spatial configuration as a participatory extension of their home, it offers a wider sense of belonging. Neighbourhoods are vicinity where people, place and the objects have empathetic connections with synergetic interaction system. The shared identity and related spatial significance are not rationally grasped by many, but all do understand the new experiences that continuously evolve here. The neighbourhood as empathy grows over a period of time, maturing as a distinctive personal domain, different from other settlements.

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A neighbourhood is a community place, where the dwellers or ‘locals’ acknowledge the co-residents. This leaves out the gathering or visiting places of ‘non-locals’, and which may be at some distance, like the parks, zoos, markets and malls, etc. A neighbourhood is always a space with uncertain markings. Its extent is fluid, depending on the person’s physical reach capacity, vehicles or means used, routing, climate, obstructions and the linkages such as bridges, access conditions etc. On the other hand gathering or visiting places of ‘non-locals’ are zoned and regulated spaces, strongly defined by barricading elements or contained within set of other places. These places flourish due to the connections with the outside world but neighbourhoods thrive on the internal strengths.

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The neighbourhoods have reach regulated by distance. Reach is accessibility to people and objects through familiarity, reliability, predictability and security. ‘These references have historical traces in the race, cast, craft-activity, food, dresses etc. of the dwellers.

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Observation is participation in a neighbourhood place. A mother will not allow a child beyond visual field or shout-out reach. A youngster reaches out, to go to known places like friends’ house, school, or playground. Buildings and objects on daily routes of travel seem part of the neighbourhood. Objects beyond the cross barriers, such as busy roads, water-bodies, railway-tracks, hillocks etc. are considered parts of other neighbourhoods.

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Historically, small neighbourhood spaces had characteristic commercial component in the form of small stores and services (tailor, barber, laundry) shops. The traders with shop-home combination were also the informal watchdogs (policing) and communicators (gossip). Such places within the neighbourhood formed the loitering places and play areas for children. The commercial component was dissolved with shops and services being pushed to the main roads by zonal regulations. In towered apartments the population density is often great, and shops and services requirements are greater. But these are also pushed away in non-organic layouts. Loitering and play areas for children are vacant lots, used except for few hours. The tall tower dwellers with cars are encouraged to do intensive Saturday-Sunday shopping.

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Every little change is not only noticed, but routinely probed. People recognize the spatial changes. Around the corner or beyond the nominal perspective’ the changes are more apparent. A turn is a reversible change cutting off or initiating the connections. The change is worrisome, both by its presence, if sudden and extensive, or through its absence like when not of expected scale and quality. The neighbourhood fabric is disturbed by faster change in dwellers’ profile, new buildings, zoning laws, access to media and means of communication, rapid changes in urban-architectural character beyond the neighbourhood.

 

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Turning around ‘a corner is a limit of the home precinct for the child, but an additional adventure for a youngster’. To the elders, the corner is interesting from the opposite side, as it allows a wider perspective. Street-corners are good locations to observe and passively participate in social activities. Street corners are not always road junctions, but estate or plot edges that are shaped acute, obtuse or diffused. The old planning dictum to always hold the street Line’ or else time will erase all the spared space on the edge. ‘Put your building right out at the sidewalk, instead of behind one of those dreary concrete plazas’.

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The street corners are the ‘territory break lines’, not just for dogs and gangs, but also for the users. Within the personally ‘felt’ territory or limits, people move around without explanations, embarrassments or fear. Such ‘discretion’ are helped by the multi-angled-toothed layout of the neighbourhood, rather than a long straight street or squared edge layout.

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In Ahmedabad, India the genesis of the neighbourhood was in the ‘Chakla’. It was the first multiple road junction after entering the fort gate. The road from the fort gate was straight, whereas the Chakla had multiple nooks and corners, to be a place for everyone. Neighbourhoods were also formed as the gated communities such as the Pols of Ahmedabad, ‘for the purposes of defence, group preservation, sociality and convenience’. And within the Pol, there were other public or community spaces, in the form of Chowk and Khancho (literally a setback). These were irregularly shaped relief-spaces, identified by the temple or important dweller or the caste-community.

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‘A good city street neighbourhood achieves a marvel of balance between its people’s determination to have essential privacy and their simultaneous wishes for differing degrees of contact, enjoyment or help from the people around’. (p59 The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs).

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An existing convenience store in Toronto, Mimi's Convenience Store

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Corner bars, cafes or grocery stores were places of convenience, and preferred ‘joints’ because of the commanding view they offered. The owners of such commercial entities were not outsiders, but residents who dwelled up-above or on the back side of the ‘joint’. But with zoning regulations, these were pushed out to the main roads on the edge of neighbourhood or exclusive commercial zones. The ‘joints’ of the neighbourhood were not always in the corner, but known as: 7to11, 24×7, Morn-Eve, Bodega (from Latin apothēca, or apothecary =storeroom or wine-cellar), konbini (Japan, approx abbreviation of konbiniensu sutoa =convenience store), Arabe du coin (Paris), packie, delis (delicatessen), dépanneur or dépanner (French) shortened to a dep, party store, offy for off-license shop, sari-sari store (Philippines), milk stores or bars, Mama shop (Singapore).

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