The CORNER WORK PLACES

Post 701 –by Gautam Shah

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This is the 5 th article of series: ‘CORNERS’.

Earlier articles were > 672 The CORNER -metaphor / 673 The CORNER in City / 678 CORNERS and Neighbourhoods / 696 CORNERS and Public Spaces.

1 The work place in the corner Wood engraver

A work-nook was the historical culture of work space. The private work area was mainly used for reading and writing, and only occasionally for interaction with others. Work desks were wall abutting storage cabinets with a foldout work surface. The work zone was located in the corner of a large room. In Northern Europe, the desks were placed on a slightly raised platform. The platform and the corner position both helped to keep it protected from cold draughts, in unheated rooms. The corner was the least participating space and so secluded one. In ancient walls load-bearing structures, the corner did not allow any opening. In later periods, when window glasses were clear to provide decent view, the work nooks were placed beside the openings.

2 Newman's desk facing a wall in the Birmingham Oratory Wikipedia Image by Lastenglishking

For personal, reading and writing, a work place in the form of a bureau desk was fairly a functional entity. A visitor, though had to stand or sit on the side. And for a professional like a lawyer or public servant, the interactions with a group of visitors were awkward. And yet the bureau desks remained the only form of work-tables for more than 600 years, till about mid of 20th C.

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The bureau desk, by itself, was fairly compact and a functional entity. It could be placed almost anywhere in a room or shifted around. It did not require any other adjunct pieces of furniture except a seat. Its most important character was its single person’s utility. It was not a participatory entity. The sitting person faced the wall and so lacked the authority.

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5 William Carey Used Desk - Carey Museum - Serampore College - Hooghly

There were other work-tables or platforms in the built spaces. Kitchens had food preparation work-tables or platforms close to cooking fires. These platforms served as dining tables and sleeping beds for servants. But people seating around a table, equally participating in discussions, was more democratic. Such a participatory set-up was inconceivable for the boss who wished to be different from others.

7 ART by Pieter Brueghel the Younger The Village Lawyer Office --There no place for the visitor

Historically, the democratic nature of the kitchen table and the non-participatory bureau desk, both coexisted. The kitchen table mainly used for food preparation and dining had marked positions for house members. At the head side of the table -a chair with handles, was the master’s or president’s chair. The bureau desk, primarily a work-unit, later found a place in the dining pantry areas for storing china and cutlery. This was later placed in bedrooms as a multi-utility storage system.

8 Ancient kitchens had a multipurpose work table

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The bureau desks moved from homes to commercial establishments, as the boss’s place. The bureau desk was a wall abutting unit, and so it was easy to source the services like electricity, telephones etc. It was placed on the inner side of the office room, perhaps, the boss did not like anyone to be on his backside. Such bureau desks were boss’s privilege. The commercial establishments had ill-defined positions for others like assistants, secretaries or visitors.

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9 Antique Office Photographs, ca. 1920s (30)

Forty years ago, a corner office, with two side corner windows was most sought after position by any executive. In the interior side it had furthest location. This was easy to provide in buildings with small foot print, advantageous multi face sites and fewer executives per floor. But in dense urban localities, due to high costs, the executive offices were smaller and large in numbers. Architects were forced to find ways to add more corners to the buildings.

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In early businesses there was a strong hierarchy of work positions based on social connections and seniority of age. One could enter an organization and continue to be promoted till one died. There was no retirement edge. In the meanwhile, an employee is consistently on the move, from a larger desk, position near a window, exclusive telephone connection, a partitioned cubicle to a personal cabin. The moves were not always well marked or visible.

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Multitasking lol

A corner is like a cone of a megaphone, one can express loudly and compel others to listen, like happened in an amphi theatre. The wider end can bring in noise, like the wine glass for eavesdropping. A corner work place, simultaneously works both ways, so it is not a desirable place to occupy.

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One would not want to be cornered, at least willingly, but in the commercial setup, top executives seek it. A corner office was a sought after place. It had prestige and had windows on two exterior walls. Most office work spaces have one window or none at all. Corner offices were called C-suites. Corner offices were furthest on the floor and one had to cross several planned and unintentional hurdles to reach it. To avoid such a situation, the C-suites were stretched right up to the reception area, taking up quarter or more space of the floor. This spread matched the prestige associated with the space, but thetoilers of the office avoided visiting it, unless promoted to it’.

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10 bureau desks in old offices 170216oldoffice

Cubicles or cabins were interim destinations for the executives on way to the corner-offices. The cubicles or cabins always occupied the peripheral edge, for the window view. When buildings had small footprints or narrow widths, the peripheral preference did not disturb the daytime illumination. But with large space commercial buildings, the low level staff was denied daytime illumination and outside views. The cubicles or cabins were opaque barricaded, for the perceived threat of sound leakage. The corner office had least interior edge exposure and so offered more privacy. The physical isolation had however, no relevance when with telephone one could connect to anyone. The glass partitions dissolved the edge.

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Buildings once substantially depended on natural light and thermal management (heating, cooling, ventilation). The offices had two distinct spatial divisions. The best sections were on the outer periphery occupied by people engaged in core business, whereas the inner areas were of compromised environment and housed the staff engaged in data management and communication.

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The conditions began to change in the corporate world, post WW-II. The Senior positions were filled, not through promotion within, but negotiated migrations of talent. Earlier promotion was accompanied by designated spatial status like cabin or cubicle, but now the demand was freedom to work anywhere and any time, even beyond the spatial boundaries of the ‘work-place’.

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The capacity to work at home, has intensified the urge for social contact with the colleagues. Physical encounters are required, and for this a variety of spaces are required. The need for variety is fulfilled by hired spaces, often away from the town. Little business is talked here, but social assurance is available.

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The changed work-culture attitudes have forced new configurations for interior space planning and forms of architecture. Millennials want no Hierarchy but Holocracy. Holocracy is a decentralized management system with a flatter power structure, where everyone is a leader. It distributes authority and decision-making throughout the organization.

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New offices have corner spaces but used for meeting or relaxation (coffee rooms). The work environment is where people work from any table in the office. At home or coffee shop. Designing open office work-spaces is very different. New offices (not to be confused with open plan office layout) are much smaller, and efficient in space-use than the old offices.

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Offices or Work places have seen revolutionary changes in Form and Functions, because Technological and consequent Social changes demand it. During the last century, the changes have substantially related to the data management modalities. Once upon time, public offices had to allot 40-50% space for storage systems, and substantial proportion of staff was used for fetching, filing, classifying, copying, printing, storing, arranging, retrieving, distributing the data within the office, and dispatching it beyond the office. The data management now relies on remote access and virtual storage systems. The communication was once physical, and required lots of passage spaces, staff, messengers and personal contact.

Corner Desk

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CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH

Post 700 –by Gautam Shah

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01 Chairs By Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a Scottish architect, designer, textile designer, product designer, graphics artist and water-colourist. He lived most of his life in the city of Glasgow. At young age he was afflicted with rheumatic fever, this resulted in a droop on one side of his face. Because of these disabilities, young Charles was encouraged to spend time in the countryside. And love for the countryside and flora was to enliven creativity through his life.

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Mackintosh was a reclusive child who had difficulties in understanding the emotions of others. He used his sketchbooks as a way to withdraw from the world, manage his own outbursts of rage. Mackintosh in his later years became an avid painter of flowers. Macintosh art work of nature in pencil and watercolour was exquisite and botanically accurate. Later in life, disillusioned with several un-built architectural designs, Mackintosh devoted himself as a watercolour artist. With Margaret, his wife, they painted many landscapes and flower studies.

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1 b Fetges CR Macintosh 1927

1 c weathercade Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Wood

‘Art is the Flower – Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful – more lasting than life itself… you must offer real, living – beautifully coloured flowers – flowers that grow from, but above, the green leaf – flowers that are not dead – are not dying – not artificial – real flowers springing from your own soul – not even cut flowers – You must offer the flowers of the art that is in you – the symbols of all that is noble – and beautiful – and inspiring – flowers that will often change a colourless leaf – into an established and thoughtful thing’.

Mackintosh, Charles Rennie, 1868-1928; Wall Panel for the Dug-Out (Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow)

3 Margaret MacDonald Mrs Mackintosh Opera Of The Seas 1903

Mackintosh joined Glasgow School of Art at fifteen and a year started working as a trainee draftsman with John Hutchinson. After that apprenticeship in 1889, he joined Honeyman and Keppie. In 1890 he won £60, as the coveted ‘Alexander Thomson Traveling Studentship for Public Design. He decided to go to Italy and Europe. This changed his life with varied design related experiences. It was here that Charles Rennie Mackintosh met fellow artist and future wife, Margaret MacDonald, who influenced his life intensely. Macintosh, wife Margaret, sister-in-law Frances and her husband Herbert Mac Nair, were known as the The Four or the Spook School’, and the Glasgow Style. They influenced the Glasgow art scene and European design movements such as Art Nouveau and Secessionism profoundly. The Four exhibited widely in Europe, both together and individually, and Mackintosh received commissions for furniture from patrons in Berlin, Vienna, and elsewhere in Europe’.

4 a Galagow School of ART

4 Mackintosh School of Art

Architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a contrast between strong right angles and floral-inspired decorative motifs with subtle curves’. The Glasgow School of Art project, considered to be the first Art Nouveau style building, gave him international reputation. It was constructed in two stages separated by nearly half a decade, allowed lots of improvisation during the second execution. During the period he completed a curious project, the Queen’s Cross Church. It is now restored and houses the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society headquarters.

House for an art lover Glasgow)(3811523958)

Macintosh created a new design paradigm from the natural forms of plants and flowers in an age when most of the modernist designers were trying to rediscover Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other ancient expressions. ‘We must clothe modern ideas with modern dress’. A friend said, ‘the creations of Mackintosh breathe. The interior and exterior spaces designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh sing of serenity, spirituality, and of rigorous attention to detail’. He had a knack of making hard surfaces and tough forms, soft and elegant. His was meticulous, delicate and extremely restrained. The husband-wife partnership created a unified expression. From around 1904, Mackintosh began to adopt more formal, angular geometry, gradually doing away the cursive form of Art Nouveau.

17 a Ruchill Church Mackintosh

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s only other ecclesiastical work was the Ruchill Free Church Halls which were completed in 1899. Significantly, the Free Church did not ask Mackintosh to design the adjacent church building.

‘The architect must become an art worker… the art worker must become an architect… the draughtsman of the future must be an artist…’ Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

50 Queens Church Mackintosh

Church buildings by Mackintosh > Mackintosh designed two religious buildings in Glasgow. Queen’s Cross Church is a former Church of Scotland in Glasgow. The site was on a corner location, with adjoining tenements and a warehouse. The Building started shortly after Mackintosh finished his competition design for the Glasgow School of Art. The design has Gothic features. The window features a blue heart. After being decommissioned in 1970, it serves as headquarters of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. The adjoining church hall provides tearoom facilities with a display many Mackintosh artifacts including replicas of the chairs he designed for the Willow Tearooms.

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Mackintosh works had subtle Scottish flavour, but he consciously adopted freshness that marked his modernism. He was concerned for functional, practical and simplistic features. He never used heavy ornamentation of past styles. Much of his work includes contribution by his wife, Margaret MacDonald whose flowing, floral style complemented the formal, rectilinear architectural work. Unfortunately his work was appreciated only long after his death.

31 Bedroom furniture by Charles Rennie Mackintosh Wikipedia Image by Karora

By 1914 Mackintosh lost hope of ever receiving the recognition that he truly deserved. He became stubborn and uncompromising. His career and health both were low. After the stay in Walberswick, conditions began to improve. This was just before the war (WW-I), but he was called a German spy and for a while put under house arrest. He moved to London, in the early 1920s, to reignite his carrier. Here Macintosh began to concentrate on water colour art. Later they moved to France in 1923-27, where he painted scenes of the French coastline. He painted Port Vendres, near the Spanish border and the landscapes of Roussillon. He sought to capture the harmonious coexistence relationships between man-made and natural elements through architectural landscapes in watercolour paintings.

20 Hill House by Mackintosh

Macintosh was a meticulous person, and his working drawings included exhaustive details for architecture, decoration, and furnishings. His wife, Margaret MacDonald immensely contributed to this documentation. These drawings have helped restore many of the projects with original details. All his major architectural commissions like homes, commercial buildings, interior renovations and churches were between 1895 and 1906. Many of his projects, however, remained on paper.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Kelvingrove Glasgow) (3838792257)

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CHAIRS -1 Floor Seating

Post 699 –by Gautam Shah

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This is the FIRST of series, to form 5-6 articles on CHAIRS, (Furniture through Ages).

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The word Chair derives from the seat for the Bishop to read sermons. From Greek Kathedra καθέδρα (κατά-katá=down + ἕδρα-hédra=seat), to Latin Cathedra, Old French Chaiere-Chaire, Chaise to Chair, it has come to mean both, a sitting entity and a place to worship (the Cathedral). Chairs were few, and meant an office or authority (1300 C), or seat for a person presiding at meeting (1640s).

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Villages in the central mountain areas of Palestine, serving as the seat of political and military power were called Kursy. An Arabic name meaning: seat or chair. This name may have come from Kursa meaning a seat in Hebrew (based on an Aramaic word). Kursi refers to a chair, in Persian and many Indian languages. Kursi refers to the ultimate knowledge of Allah. As the word Kursi in Arabic refers also to (knowledge and scholar).

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Chairs are associated for commanding positions. The presiding person must not only express formality but remain consistent, and chairs just allowed that. Formal postures, though have been gained even without the aid of any device, by sitting on raised platforms or ground. The commanding position is more due to the authority invested with a person through assignment, resources or physical power. The posture for such a sitting position essentially arrests the frivolous movements of the body. The first blocks, stools or chairs were single person facilities and stiff elements.

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13 Scheherazade and the sultan by the Iranian painter Sani ol molk (1849-1856)

Commandeering sitting postures are upright, with straight back and legs. The hands are rested in the lap or on the armrests. Seating aids have been used to rest a limb, part of a body or of the whole body. The Postures with or without a seat, backrest, and other seating aids, however, have no bearing on the climate of the place. Postures have possibly untraceable lineage, but have cultural-religious bearing. Leaders and preachers use squatting, kneeling and crossed leg positions, and so have everyone. These positions use variety of aids to enter, continue or get out of the position. The aids include, hanging ropes and chains, taller armrests, footrests, seats, armpit stands and steps.

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The dress and the posture for seating have a curious relationship, but the dependencies are mysterious. To be on the floor to sit, one needs a loose dress, at least in the lower section of the body. The dress must be gracefully accommodated within the seat-zone. Preachers, to impress a gathering need to reinforce the spoken words with gestures. With floor seating the postural manipulation is limited. Head and hands are the chief tools for gesturing. To impress the back side (far-off) audiences gestures are enlarged, like the head is crowned with turbans, and hands covered in large sleeves.

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Sitting close to the floor as a leader or preacher implies being more in level with the audience, unless the seat is over a raised platform. Sitting at the edge of a raised platform or with some fore space, the nature sitting posture has far-reaching consequences. A person sitting on floor mats, is likely to adopt an manners that requires removing footwear before using the stage.

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Floor-seating cultures also develop other items of furniture for access at low level, like chests over almirah. Till Britishers began to command the upper class society, dining at floor level was common. In cities like Mumbai, many houses began to have two sets of dining facilities. The floor seating, rather sanctimonious, was part of the kitchen or close to it. Guests of other communities were never served food here. The Table-chair dining was part of the drawing room and reserved for ‘special guests’.

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Floor level seating units with or without hand and back support allows some freedom for fidgeting (freedom to shift the body in micro postural adjustments). The fidgeting relates to upper section of the body. The most common ways of sitting on the floor are bending the knees inward or backward. Indian and Mughal kings’ Durbar, and in mosques the formal courts of congregation, the normal etiquette for everyone was to keep the feet tucked under the knees or thighs, and not show them up. The nobles sat on rugs, whereas Kings sat on a raised and stepped Simhasan or throne, but using the same posture.

Knees tied for Sitting posture

One can also keep legs partly folded but standing (beach sitting), with or without support for the back. Legs are stretched flat, as parallel or by crossing them over each other. The floor seats allow several other leg positions, typically South Asian or Buddhist (legs bent backward, and foot palms bent or upright), Namazi Muslim (legs bent backward but projecting on one side), Jain prayer posture left leg bent backward and right leg bent vertical upward) Cross legged with knees and back encircled by a band like a Saurashtra Gujarat, Charan story teller or Lord Ayappa of South India. Feet tucked under the knees or thighs is known as tailor style. Similarly sitting with touching two feet-palms is called Indian Cobbler work position. The Japanese formal sitting positions are seiza and kiza.

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Sitting is supported by buttocks, legs and feet and reinforced by spine. By remaining in un-moving position continuously and monotonously for long hoursreduces the efficiency and increases chances of making mistakes’. Sitting, for a long period in a back bent down position stretches the spine. Such postures need frequent stress relief. Many do ‘stretch their back, while being in their seat. But, if task-work platform is low, deep or non-existent, the freedom to ‘stretch the back‘ may not be used. Another stress relief can be attempted by raising the knees (in seating position) off the ground. But, in formal gatherings, for a preacher or speaker such movements convey insincerity. For floor level seats the movement to standing up and sitting down are more stressful than continuing the sitting.

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FLOORING COLOURS through AGES

Post 698 –by Gautam Shah

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Stone-Paved Street at Dougga

For built environment Flooring Colour, is the most important element of experience. It primarily determines the level of brightness in a room, but has many other subtle affectations.

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The experience of colour, relates to both, Visual and Tactile aspects. The visual component consists of colour, texture and patterns. The tactile component has two relates, the actual feel and the visual recognition.

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The Colours of the Floorings emerge from> the extent, gradient and contours (steps, edges, drops, slopes) of the flooring, angle and tinge (stained or grisaille glass) of illumination and texture (gloss-dull), the expanse and colour of the joints.

Colour and black-and-white

The Patterns in the Floorings derive from> set motifs (images, patterns), recognizable geometry, grain-veins in the floor materials and the composition of joints.

Dark coloured floors cut off bottom-up reflection of radiation, and so are ideal in open-to-sky spaces like Chowks, on window sills, and spaces in front of doors, verandahs. Dark floors, however absorb more radiant heat due to the low reflectivity and get very warm. Dark floors are not preferred in walkways, balconies or on terraces (in tropical climates). A dark floor in water pool heightens the feeling of depth, but can increase the rate of water evaporation due to greater absorption of heat radiation. Very dark and shiny floors show off dust and require frequent cleaning. Dark coloured sills increase the radiant heat inside the rooms. Dark sills in cellars (low illumination areas) reduce the level of reflected component of natural light.

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Light-coloured floors substantially reduce the heat absorption, provided these are maintained clean. Light-coloured floors provide lightness and enhance the space size. White floors have a natural association with aseptic conditions, so are preferred in food preparation zones, health facilities and in sanctimonious areas (temples).

Akshardham Temple New Delhi India

Coloured floors are used for livening up monotonous or drab spaces (very large halls like departmental stores, plazas, courtyards). Coloured floors are used in industrial plants, schools, hospitals etc. to indicate routes and movement areas for goods, vehicles and people.

Salle des Hôtes - Mont St Michel

Historically Flooring colour has been monochrome where good building stones were available. Earliest colouring elements were the mosaics of marble, ceramic and glass. Flooring colours have been exploited in sparsely occupied sections of the building such as corridors, passages, plazas, etc.

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West Asiatic architecture had monochrome flooring of building stone and in some cases of terracotta units. Greeks used only white marbles, but used mosaics to create images on the floors.

Romans began to use colourful marbles as inlay pieces to create borders and central patterns. Thermaes (bathhouses) were perhaps the most garish of all places in terms of flooring colour schemes.

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Byzantine period saw reuse of Roman marble debris. Cut pieces of coloured marbles of Roman columns were used for flooring bands. Contrast and pattern definition was their only intention, rather than a balanced colour scheme.

In Gothic architecture, the colour through the stained glass window was so strong that flooring colour was almost subordinated. The quality of laying and finishing were very refined. Granites were used sparingly, only as part of patterns. Wherever high colour effect was, required floors were covered with carpets, rugs and floor spreads.

English mediaeval period saw the use alternatively placed light and dark shades (black-white) of flooring materials to form diagonal checker board flooring.

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Post Gothic period windows’ glass became light hued, interiors were much more illuminated, interior elements were painted and often gilded. These required a highly polished (glossy- dazzling surface) and a balanced colour scheme.

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Renaissance saw painters and sculptors becoming builders and architects, who were very adapt in use of colour. Marbles were selected in terms of the interior colour scheme. Veins or grain patterns of Marbles and other stones were exploited by selection of the cut section, and their orientation to accentuate the patterns.

Versailles Flooring of Mixed stone colours but well planned pattern

French Versailles had marble and stone floors, but required on one hand frequent scrubbing and polishing and replacement due to the moisture from under-floors. Wood was preferred as a floor finish. Wood was a local flooring material for many years. 15th C onward Europe had supplies of exotic woods of Asiatic origin, later from African and American locations (North and Latin). Rare woods, were appreciated for their wonderful colours, grains and hardness but used conservatively. The woods were veneered thin sections and backed with boards of low-cost local woods, to form a surfacing material.

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TERRITORIES

Post 697 –by Gautam Shah

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A territory is a defended area, marked with body odours or physical intervention (occupation, dis-figuration, scratching), by an animal or group of animals. Biologically this is physically or metaphysically a barricaded zone, against others of the same sex or species. Territory is an identity through perception (visual, aural, olfactory, tactile, etc.) and the physical reach. Territories are zones of offense and defense.

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Territories emerge where the commonalities of concepts, or ideologies are intense in time and space. A territory is an acknowledged area ability, fields of activity or domain of experience. Territories emerge as social groups with compatible manners. Political territories are zones marked by confirmation to an administering power.

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Territories surface because fables, stories, etc. have spatial components that spread across a large terrain. Territories appear as abutting a geographical feature like coast, bank praecipe, etc., and also as intervening spatial occupation within geographical or built marks. Such interposes, however, divides a recognized territory.

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A space zone with finite bounding features may form a territory, unless the users or occupants set in a life style more pervasive for the place or space. Territory formation is continuing process involving sensorial, cultural and social processes. Berlin’s wall created political territories but failed to erase the past connections. It would have taken several generations to severe the social connections, but the architectural or spatial connections are longer lasting.

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A Territory is a continuing process that gets reshaped into multiple sections, but still the holistic nature of the original persists. Inversely, conquest of adjacent territories to form a kingdom has not worked well. The basic need for governance is the reach of control and communication. Invaders like Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, etc. were handicapped on both of these counts due to the horse travel. Europe’s Colonists nations were impaired by armies of local people. WW- I, lessons were of logistics, and Hitler tried to upgrade it, but so did everyone else. To continue to maintain territorial status of a place, one must reach every part of it. Internet allows that reach, conquering many barriers.

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Buildings are domain former. The spatial scale of a built-form combined with the arousal of intense sense of belonging forms a territory. Buildings revered (for style, historical connections) and visited by large number of people form a domain. Buildings become “spatial generators, not only in the immediate vicinity, but also at larger geographic scales”. (From Building to Continent: How Architecture makes Territories > https://architexturez.net/pst/az-cf-185522-1512539002). The street pattern and activities in the surroundings are in confirmation of the building. These are centric territories with focussed physical and visual connection, so the territorial power diminishes when these connections are reconfigured or erased. The convergent connections are part of the ‘ceremony’ for validation of the territory.

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A territory gets confirmed through living or occupation. The life does not permeate the historical remain like Pompeii. How does occupying and living in a space make it a territorial emblem? Is it an acknowledgement of higher order of organization? Is territory a livable space within a larger place?

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The Territory emerged from the Proto-Indo-European root ‘ters’ (‘to dry’), to the Latin word terra (‘earth, land’), and later to the word ‘territorium’ (‘land around a town’). Territory as word, made its debut in Middle English during the 14th C. At this point the suffix –orium, was replaced with –ory both of  them mean place.

Space, place and territory are interdependent but not interchangeable”. (–Space. Place and Territory a critical review on Spatialities –Fábio Duarte.).

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CORNERS and Public Spaces

Post 696 –by Gautam Shah

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This is the 4 th article of series: ‘CORNERS’.

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Public spaces turn impromptu arenas with political, social and cultural interest, accompanied by some economic activities. The spaces manifest as gathering places, where events recur on specific days like full-moon days, low tide days, Sundays or annual days. Such places occur with some preexisting location cues like a built-form or a natural feature. A gathering place is the starting element of a larger concept of a social space. Defined passageways or casual pathways feed these places. The ending faces of such feed points, give unique and lasting shape to the form. The architectural contour may take ages to evolve on its own, or is remastered for a style by a ruler or plutocrat. In both the cases the essence of social place and shape of the form are sustained.

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The words plaza, place and piazza have the same Greek origin, with plaza being the Spanish adaption, place in French, and piazza the Italian one.

3 La piazza vista dalla Torre Grossa Wikipedia Image by Luca Aless

4 France Sarlat La Caneda by Dennis33053

Public spaces subsist on enclosures. Enclosures occur first by barriers of natural elements like terrestrial masses, water bodies, edges of terrain contours, silhouettes. Public spaces are realized as the physical reach, limits of power or sanctimony and the sensorial perceptibility. The public spaces are delineated by the facade planes and mass of the built objects. Facades’ perimeter becomes extensively lineated when the space is multi-angular, and the connecting passages do not abut at right angles. Compared to these, variations in ‘squared public spaces’ are too few, flat and uninteresting from any spatial position and at any time of the day. The multi cornered irregularly, shaped public spaces create vivid spaces. But straight roads converted into public or pedestrian space just by eliminating the vehicular traffic create a static space.

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Squared public space is rarely a natural development. The improvisations touch only the main level, but other floors continue to operate with their unrelated businesses. The public is expected to get the relief of participation by coming here out of their ghettos. The space making barriers of plants and shrubs, architectural contours, or street occupations like stalls or fountains and furniture, forge the visual depth and physical reach, but behind it, the enclosures of the facades remain unchanged. Squared architectural public spaces remain sterile entities, in spite of occupational interventions.

Different Illumination Conditions Change Functional and Visual character

The enclosures of public spaces occur by a mix of circumstances and situations. The variations of sunny and shadowed sections through the day and across the seasons are recurrent, and so taken for granted. But sunny and shadowed zones affect the functional spread, and define the usage schedules of public spaces. These also promote the use of moderating devices like awnings and screens, which in turn create vibrant edges. The varying sunlight brightens up the facades, more so when these are oriented at acute angles. The daylight variations in morning haze and in evening twilight the change the perception. The edges recede or advance, and add new effects of diffused or enhanced silhouettes. Night illumination of public spaces was once spotty, but by contrast highlighted the warmly lit interiors. Modern outdoor illumination of the floor and facades transform the spatial definitions. At night the unseen undulations, angles, depths, reach of interiors, scattered elements of space, all reveal new formations.

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The environmental variations in ‘squared public spaces’ are prosaic and uninteresting, because the spaces, facades remain constant. The illumination is without any variation and consistent from all locations. Lack of angles in the space fail to create dark-light contrasts. There are few surprises. What has been formatted on the ground was perceived through as a ‘site-plan’ or site-model’, always viewed from above. Nowadays ‘walk-throughs’ as 3D modelling are attempted, yet the comprehension is extremely narrow, selective and subjective. The squared public spaces remain naive ‘compositions of horizontal and vertical surfaces which create volumes of vacancy’.

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11 Palacio de Bellas Artes, preeminent fine arts hall in Mexico, Fore areas of Important Public buildings become spaces of gathering Wikipedia Image by ChaneekPhotography

Public spaces are of three basic types: naturally evolved, remastered with buildings or landscape design, and freshly planned. The considerations are visual edges, skyline or silhouettes, spatial interventions through elemental positioning, barriers, scaling, mastering patterns, perspectives, etc. But corners are rarely ‘designed or exploited’, yet they are omnipresent and unassailable. Corners remain, characteristic essence of the space.

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The enclosures, of long walls facades, make the area finite. But the feed streets or lanes serve as reference points and with their depth increase the perimeter. The corners at feed points are inclusive, because here the change is noted, but open to negotiation. The sited elements do not form the public space, but the movement of light, shadows, sources, strengths and spread of illumination, people moving around perceiving the changing orientation of objects, visual changes in colour, texture and scale, all give a temporal scale.

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In this respect, Cullen made a valuable distinction between ‘enclosure’ and ‘closure’. Enclosure, he argued, provided a complete ‘private world’ that is inward -looking, static and self-sufficient. Closure, by contrast involved the division of the urban environment into a series of visually digestible and coherent ‘episodes’ retaining a sense of progression.

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Vertical enclosing elements strongly scale the open spaces. The difference is acutely realized when older open spaces begin to be surrounded by tall structures. It is also true that denser and taller surroundings provide more footsteps. Public buildings like places of religion, court of law, or government offices, older monuments with large fore-spaces are compressed by taller surroundings.

Light Up Public Square

In public spaces, a dramatic change is experienced when architecture and environment, together differentiate the exterior versus the interior. The realization is spatially extreme and temporally sudden, in terms of scale, temperature, and illumination. It is something akin to what Peter Zumthor has described, the transition as an incredible sense of place, an unbelievable feeling of concentration. We suddenly become aware of being enclosed, of something enveloping us, keeping us together, [and] holding us.” Crossing the threshold from outside to inside bring the sudden feeling of being confined, and in reverse direction it is a relief. The thresholds are well marked and easily sensed, though some allow a slowed transition.

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In Western India, areas beyond the Fort gates of towns and cities are impromptu public spaces, formed by traders and others who have no visitation rights. But the gate leads to narrow road branching out at a point called ‘Chakla’. Chakla is a smaller scale public space as commercial hub for the insiders. It was also socially safer.

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Public spaces are more envisioned by the spread of the floor. The floors unless contoured and with patterned colour and textures, do not offer any divisions. The floor patterns have been explored as coalescing and regimenting factor. The imposed geometry of the pattern connects diverse and askew elements in the open space. Floorings are free flow or with bounding the perimeter, but are not the physical edges. Other important elements of floor occupation are the shadows of sunlight and night illumination. Both of these, cast visual and functional zones.

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The terms public space or gathering place is often used for large spaces that are mere cross road junctions. The surrounding areas have high commercial activity. The users are business visitors, tourists or commuters, but no local users. The movements are of Two types: One set is between adjacent feed points generating peripheral traffic, and other consists of cross traffic dividing the space into various sections. The First, creates impinging circumferential pressure on near by buildings, whereas the Second, scales the space, till the density and intensity are low remains low, giving it a perception of ‘manageable zones’.

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Distinct urban connections are desired for public places, but not ones that create the impinging circumferential pressures or divide the space into various sections. The simpleton urban design strategy is to devise ‘traffic free spaces’ by blocking and diverting the movement. The plan should be to favour the local residents over the business visitors, tourists and commuters. In many of the public spaces the local residents are shifted out in favour of non resident visitors.

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‘Piazzas feel like being in human-scaled outdoor rooms; very large courtyards, not like the aforementioned parking, cars and sometimes skyscrapers that are associated with plazas’.

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MASKING and FRAMING of OPENINGS

Post 695 –by Gautam Shah

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Glass Building Glass Dome Berlin Reichstag Dome

Masking and Framing of openings, have many diverse purposes but both are substantiated by their edges. Openings have their own definitive closed ended edges, but masking and framing redefines these many times with open-ended edges. The edges, not only isolate a segment of the opening, but always make the view more emphatic and relevant. The edges of the mask, such as, sharp, frayed, fuzzy, angular, curvilinear, etc. create interference, but offer qualitative change. The edges of the frames, such as, inward or outward chamferring, angular or ‘stream-lined’ rounded profiles, strongly vertical or horizontal emphasis, etc. provide a sense of enclosure. Masking and Framing, have some overlapping functions and serve complementary functions.

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Masking and Framing, have been elements of imposition to alter the conditions of the openings. Both have a secondary role of structural support. The structural support becomes real when these are integrated with the openings’ system. But the treatments may remain superfluous impositions. Such impositions include LED insertion within the glazing, or over the surface projection of images (like speech readers used by anchors). Masking and Framing, are made antithetical. These are now eliminated or diffused for simplicity, clarity, minimalism and even delusion.

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Masking has to be a smaller entity than the opening, for it to be meaningful. Masking is inhibiting or a restrictive element that resizes the opening and so controls the view, passage, effects of environment. Masking is both, planned and incidental. Planned masking offer superior conditions and perception, whereas incidental masking has surprises and new lessons. Openings are intentionally masked by architectural elements, items of furniture and furnishings, occupants. Openings get incidentally masked by growth of plants and trees, neighbouring buildings and environmental conditions.

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The sizes of openings are affected by the depth aspect. Visual depth induces a perspective view. Wherever the sides are visible, add to the extent of a visual surface, and creating a frame within frame view. Imposed architectonic elements shield the opening with shadows that are more articulated than the original shadow casting elements. This overshadowing is a type of masking, reducing the apparent size opening. Similar effect occurs with deep-set and square-edged openings.

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The framing, however, became really dominant with the chamferred sides, sills, ledges and lintel bottoms. The chamferring of edges enhances the depth aspect of the opening. It adds to the extent of a visual surface, and creating a frame within frame view. The chamferring increases the view of exterior from inside, and if on inside face, it adds to perceptual illumination.

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Framing of opening mainly occurs as a surround element. But the surrounds are rather too thin as jambs, and so need casing and architraves for emphasis. Reshaping of openings in the frontal plane was tried with pointed arches in Gothic period. Real reshaping of the openings and curvilinear bending was tried out in the Baroque and Rococo architecture. With the reshaping and curvilinear bending of the openings, the architectural walls were also reformatted.

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In Art Nouveau style, the openings were reshaped, and to heighten that effect, masking grills were used to de-form the rectangularity. The openings, with some restrains, and the grills, with complete abundance, used free flowing asymmetrical forms. To this vocabulary, glass patterns by way of frosting, etching, grinding and stained colouring were added.

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Early glass for windows was produced as cut bottom of a bulb or cylinder. These had residual ripple patterns, imparting a fuzzy view. The defect was subdued by masking it with translucent sheer curtains and by framing it with a grid of muntins and mullions as in Colonial sash windows.

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High quality modern glass has extra ordinary surface gloss, making it a mirror like a surface. The glossy glass if placed on the edge without sun-shading reflects the surroundings, and also reflecting sunlight as bounce-back, causing a nuisance to neighbouring properties and blinding with the glare the moving vehicles. This is now being controlled through building regulations. The solutions are masking the glass with polymer films or polychrome treatments.

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Openings are occluded by stationary and mobile objects that manifest on the inside and outside. Objects occluding a brightly lit opening are seen as silhouette or outline. A person sited against an opening can see gestures of others, but in reverse direction others fail to perceive the expressions and ignore him/her. For correct modelling some illumination or reflections from other sides are required. But this can also happen if the object has multiple planes oriented differently. The scale of occluding objects is its absolute size and relatively the distance from the opening as well as the perceiver.

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Framing and Masking, have relevance of nearness. The framing becomes irrelevant at closer distance. Masking for visual screening is more affective at a distance, but for illumination control, it is affective at all distances.

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