Post 647 -by Gautam Shah


Natural and Industrially-produced materials require some form of surface modifications or treatments, before being put to functional use, or for readying them for the next process. Surface modification at a basic stage, consist of cleaning and mechanical scrubbing. The surface modifications are for creating use-worthiness by levelling, texturizing, or for application of additional materials for shielding. The surface modification starts with visual observation and touch-feel experience that no foreign materials have remained on the surface, and all loose (removable) materials are removed. These simple processes ensure integrity of the surface.


The next level of surface modifications are applications like coating, physical-chemical treatments, cladding, mounting, plating, joining, welding, levelling, cleaning, washing, ph balancing, static removal, etc. Surface modifications are intently surface preparation processes and may impart radically different surface qualities such as textures, ionization, etc.


At another level Surfaces Modifications are not attempted, but such situations are negotiated with technologies. These include defining means to override the hindrances of texture, handling issues, electrical and other properties. These technologies also include forming shields around the users, tools and other equipments rather then over objects. The shields are physical layers and non-physical arrangements like restricting the exposure through time-space management.


In early ages, the surface modification and applications were an integrated process for exploiting the surface of any object. Primitive arts and crafts had a comprehensive treatment that consisted of 1: Modification of the surface, 2: Application of surface forming materials, and 3: Rendering new textures and tonal variations or shades. At a later stage an additional treatments for protection of the new surface were devised.


Surface modifications are physical, chemical and mechanical processes.

The Physical processes are mainly used to remove unwanted particles or materials (such as rust, nodules, residual deposits, dust or grease, lubricants, cutting-oils, etc.) adhering to the surface. Rubbing, air-dusting, vacuum cleaning, wiping, water-bathing, etc. remove such adhered materials. The particles have remained on the surface due to the holding by surface texture, bonding or ion attraction, and horizontal storage. Washing with soap or a surface active agent (surfactant) can weaken the ion attraction break the weak molecular bond generate by-products that can be removed easily.


The Chemical processes include acid-alkali treatments and solvent washing. The processes roughen, etch or smoothen the surface. In many instances the resultant by-product is beneficial or neutral, and so allowed to remain on the surface. In other instances a secondary treatment is required just to remove the by-products of the first treatment. Sometimes Surface preparation agents themselves are the primary surface finishes. Such agents cover the surface area as an intermediary film. Such films help in bonding of the final surface finish. Chemical processes also include burnishing, flame-treatments, surface annealing and hardening, cathodic modification, sputtering and material’s depositions.640px-A_brass_utensil

The Mechanical Processes affect the surface superficially. Cleaning of the surface by removal processes include abrading, grinding, rubbing, blasting, planning, chipping, etc. Other mechanical processes alter the surface with newer textures by engraving, patterning, planning, surface deformation, etc.


Surface modifications processes have been used for body painting, pottery, home building, agriculture, mural or wall artwork, adornments, jewellery, ornamentation, household utilities, tools, musical instruments, etc. Surface modifications were explored pattern making, texture creation, personalization, cultural expression, totem, abstract or symbolic representation etc.


Surface levelling is achieved by scrubbing or rubbing off the impurities, removing select protruding sections, or by skinning the entire surface area. In later cases there are chances of removing a seasoned or matured face and exposing a fresh one. Partial scrapping of the surface creates qualitatively unequal zones. This is the reason why over the ages levelling ‘plasters’ have been preferred. The ‘plasters’ can be thin coating, or an application of thicker mass. These were often rendered with patterns and textures or ‘loaded’ with minerals and colourants. Wet surfaces were, either, engraved or embossed with patterns to encourage the penetration of colours, to produce a bas or relief effect, or provide a highlighting boundary to the drawn object. Colours were blown as dry powders or applied as pastes and dabbed (pressed) into the wet plaster.

Gesso, a mixture of plaster of Paris (or gypsum) with size, is the traditional ground. The first layer is of gesso -grosso, a mixture of coarse, un-slaked plaster and size. This provides a rough, absorbent surface for ten or more thin coats of gesso sotile, a smooth mixture of size and fine plaster previously slaked in water to retard drying. This labourious preparation, however, results in an opaque, brilliant white, light-reflecting surface, similar in texture to hard, flat icing sugar.

Other related Blogs



OBJECTS in SPATIAL FIELDS -Issues for Design -14

Post 642 –by Gautam Shah


A spatial field is a definable extent of reality, occupied by: Physical elements such as objects, humans and other beings, Non physical things like environmental effects, air, illumination, etc. and Ephemeral presences like relationships, geometries, remembrances.


Milan Cathedral Roof > Wikipedia image by Jakub Halun


The spatial field consists of:

1 changing environmental conditions;

2 elements that are distanced from other elements, and so have potent relationships;

3 elements that are adjacent and so allow comparisons of scale or contrast, and have implicit connections;

4  elements that are partly concealed by other elements covering up the cuts, corners, edges and such other definitive elements, and have characteristic scale and distance;

5 elements obscuring the presence of other elements.


A Tree obscuring the important junction detail > Pixabay Image by WikiImages Deutsch


Spatial field and Environment are perceptible totality. A spatial field is perceived as a static event but the changing environment make it a dynamic happening.Changes are necessary in the spatial fields for us to see anything at all”. Other dynamics include, eye and body movements, changes in surroundings, movement of the objects, and shifting position of the perceiver.


Spatial field and the Environment Holes in the roof > Flickr image by Hans Splinter

The elements in spatial fields have surfaces with colour and texture. The surfaces also have geometric configurations like convex, concave single or double curvatures. The surfaces have edges at the ends and intermediate breaks. The surfaces, present themselves with inclinations towards or away, in vertical, horizontal and other directions from the perceiver.

House Roofs Roofs Architecture Roofing Red Tile

Multiplicity of forms and Complexity > Roofs MaxPixel image (

The elements in spatial fields have forms. The forms are composed of planes that are representations of solids, pretender fill-in-planes between wire networks, or apparent surfaces that are evident between points. These forms have two distinct qualities: have a gravity-based orientation or references, and are perceived in receding perspective. The second quality is highly dynamic, so offers a taste of reality.


Forms in spatial field > The Willow Tearooms Glasgow designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh > Wikipedia image by Dave souza

The forms can be of lines, such as in wire-frames, within which the surfaces are presumed to dwell, but without the nominative texture or colour. In such hollowed forms, the shadows of the frames complicate the perception of the holistic form.


Roof frame for the Royal Albert Hall > Wikipedia image by KlickingKarl

The forms in spatial fields are compositions of regular or familiar surfaces, so even a partial reveal can disclose the entireness. Where the forms are of continuously and irregularly varying surfaces, then unless entire form is perceptible or from many directions, its totality cannot be known.

The forms in spatial fields often have orientation of sub-segments that depicts a direction or movement. When such directions are congruent, the form gains a momentum. Similar ‘things’ appear to be grouped together. Alternatively we connect several incoherent elements into a form with dominant theme  of the scene.


Building a narrative from Elements > Pixabay image by WikiImages Deutsch

Scene building or Spatial narratives commence from parts. One takes in few particular sets, rather than searching for the wholeness. The scene or the narratives get built when cognized sets and our past experiences come together. “We do not just see, but look”. In a spatial field scene building occurs by moving along a predefined path, by shifting the elements and by delaying, hastening or filtering the environmental effects. Designers build scenes or spatial narratives by framing the vista with opportunistic framing, occluding certain sections and by modifying the foreground-background contrasts.


Modelling the elements in a spatial field > Corridor > Pexels image

Modelling the Elements in spatial field, is posing of objects and people including own self, to make them noticeable. The process first requires the realization and than corrective measures. For realization one needs to perceive the element from multiple cues, which may be similar to many others, close to each other, interconnected, and part of a complex pattern. The corrective measures include perceptual aggregation of a visual scene. Here the edges, if, are breached, need virtual bridges, to form a larger extent and a perceptible whole.


Securing a coherent pattern from multiple elements > Many stories on stairs > L’Arche de la Defense Paris > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Structuring a pattern from multiplicity of elements is a process carried out in many different environmental conditions, referencing cues and positions of perception. Regions of space are natural zones, and elements occurring in them seem related. Such regions of space have similar environmental exposure, form, extent, or belong to the same perspective. Patterns replicate a form in many scaled versions, similarity of placement, orientation and contextual relevance.


Cyclist in foreground against a simpler background forming a silhouette > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier 

Silhouettes in a spatial field are the edges or boundaries of forms. Edges distinctly delineate or separate the foreground (from background). Extreme silhouettes emerge when the foreground (the form) is extensive and without any details, and the background is vibrant. The vibrant background helps in bridging the breaks that may exist in the form. Distinguishing the foreground from the background is a task difficult for scenes that fall in visual (cone) of perception. Nominally we perceive dark colour to be a deeper element and the lighter colour to be a nearer one, but with silhouette formation a reversal is forced, creating a myth. Silhouettes in nature (sun-set or sun-rise) are short lasting, so elements with back-lit fields are perceived to be transient.


Background-Foreground with equal value > Horses in Parc du Chateau de Versailles > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Familiarity in Spatial field is unexplainable connection. Things that are in a foreground are proximate, and so have the first claim of familiarity. The relevance of purpose offers next level of familiarity. But when other elements in the scene compete in terms of size, orientation or distancing, a dilemma occurs.


Recognition due to the elemental familiarity > Petra Jordan > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Stratification of view in a spatial field occurs at many different scales. Stratification is horizontal sectioning and vertical segmentation, and both aided by situation and architectural elements. A person at the interior edge can view the exterior with movement of head and eyes, but from a depth visual limitation is imposed. Similarly skylights allow unchanging sky view whereas a very tall sill level cuts-off the view of the ground.


This is the 14 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN



Post 631 –by Gautam Shah


Balance is an equalizing phenomenon. It manifests in many different forms. It is a state of stability, but ignored as a habit, or nominal happening. Imbalance, however, represents the direction and scale of change. A dynamic balance is cyclical occurrence and may be perceived, if the change of the frame is within perceptive capacities. Static balance is an intermediate or temporary frame of an event or experience.


Strong inclined line of coast and presence of water body in the centre, add to dynamic balance > Puerto de Burdeos Edouard Manet (1832-1883)

Balance is an experience that is a ‘non-changing’ reference in a situation of consistent momentum. It can also be felt while moving along known tracks, such as of perceiver’s sensorial capacities, mental conditioning and collection of past experiences. Prime experience of balance can be subjective, but with repeat experiences become delineative.


The horse Fair > Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)


The fall of Phaeton > Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The balancing mechanisms, in natural systems, are obvious in direction perpendicular to the gravity or other strong forces. In contrived compositions like art, craft, architecture, etc. the change is effected by desire to defy the nature. For these sensorial aberrations are used.


Multiple axis and shifting balance > Cave Painting at Roca dels Moros, Catalonia Spain, Wikipedia image by Enric


Detail of the Ramsund Sigurd stone C. 1030 Swedish art > Wikipedia image by Ann-Sofi Culled

Anything that is lastingly balanced is related to the horizontal, whereas the imbalance is analogous to the vertical. Horizontal can have several stacks of mass and energy along its body, each of which may be dynamic due to the changing environment. These stacks cumulatively represent the supine motion and seem interrelated. Vertical, if it has, differentiated stacks of mass along its body, reflects the direction of likely disturbance or unbalance.


Dissolving Horizontal and Vertical for ephemeral feel > Sunrise impression by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Contrived (man-made?) compositions depend on distribution of mass and energy in real, ephemeral and metaphysical realms. In real sense, the horizontal and vertical are extremes, but do not challenge human body system. Inclined is more persistent and effective, because it has longer length. For an ephemeral feel, the differences between horizontal and vertical are dissolved. Metaphysical flavours are implied by inconsistencies of presentation, typically through thematic narrations. Framing has been used in compositions, to include or exclude such elements thematic narrations.


Ceiling fresco, Marble Hall, Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger 1735 : Harmony between Religion and Science

 In art works foreground and background differences were primarily achieved through scale, but in later periods, proper perspectives and toning down of details of specific and also far-off objects were used to create an equilibrium in the image. Centric and off-centric vertical axises are used to form triangles, with gravity-base as stable pyramidal composition. Centric and off-centric horizontal stratification helped balance formation between solid objects (ground, terrain, humans) and ethereal elements (skies, clouds and angels). To these were added, the inclines for direction, orientation, scaling, distancing and unnerve the serenity. Imbalance was forced by placing ethereal elements below the frame dividing axis.


Contemporary Dance Center Performance Rage Box > Wikipedia image by Michael Muccioli from Bel Air US

Image elements like flora and fauna were placed in their naturally perceived sense of scale, orientation and visual axis. These were too disturbing in any other manner of presentation, except for grotesque or fiendish forms. But surprisingly, their place was more often, above the frame-dividing axis.


Tree Roots > Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Sculptures and artefacts are created as axially balanced or challenged equilibration. These have no permanent framing and are to be experienced from all sides and angles except the bottom (gravity support face). Equilibration through symmetry, imbalance, dynamic and static balance, are caused by distribution of mass, texture, colour, angulation and turnaround of body. These are also achieved by presence (solid) and absence (hollow) of the mass. Mobiles and hangers supported on a pin or hung from thread, are truly equilibrated. These are liberated from the ground side.


Andre Bloc – Sculpture-habitacle Meudon, France > Flickr image by Florent Darrault

Balanced moving or rotating parts, like axle, wheels, bearings, reduce the friction, vibrations and energy requirements. But imbalanced movements help compactors, vibrators, forging and drilling machines. Non synchronized movements are important for bridges to reduce the cyclical or incremental loading. Helicopters and aircraft are considered balanced when achieve consistent balance. Earth orbiting stations are ‘balanced’ when able to synchronize or equilibrate their position with reference to the earth.


Balanced steam Turbine rotor > Wikipedia image by Siemens “Pressebild”

 Architectural balancing is real and also very articulated. The real one deals with physical stability and consistency with movements, whereas the articulated one is a perception created for the age, culture and relevance. Architecture forms its acts of balance and movement from other forms of expressions like literature, performance arts, lifestyle, art, artefacts and sculpture.


Bridge in Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou, China > Wikipedia image ###

Next few articles will examine these acts of balance and movements in formal architecture and vernacular built-forms. First Blog on this topic was published here >



SPACE PERCEPTION -through seeing, hearing and touching

Post 630 –by Gautam Shah


Space perception is realization based on three faculties of Perceptions, namely seeing, hearing and touching. First two of these are bi-nodal, and allow us to perceive an extra dimension of the space, whereas touch is multi-focal, but operates as local sense. The information is received through spatially separated sensors, but complex neural integration allows the three to be perceived in mutually balancing experience. Absence or deficiencies of one or few are substantially overcome through such assimilation. These sensorial experiences (seeing, hearing and touch) persist in a space for a while, and so prolong and reinforce the experience. The experience persists, when the main happening is active, through the fading period, and after the expiry of the original causation.


Earth Sphere, Science city, Kolkata > Wikipedia image by Biswarup Ganguly

Space perception is a process of becoming aware of the relative positions of the own-self, surrounding objects, and environmental effects. Sense of near-far, distance, orientation, datum, are part of space perception. Space perception of objects in movement and changes in the environment offer cues to direction and rate of change. Space perception occurs naturally and virtually. It occurs substantially through making-up by the past remembrances. And so though it is substantially predictive, surprises, deviations and deceptions do occur.


Rainy Day Boston > Visual depth and dimensions of perception > Wikipedia > ART by Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

Space perception offers dimension, orientation and direction to the space. The dimensions are perceived in terms of body sizes and capacities. Orientation suggests the position of the causation in front, back, up, below, or sideways. “The horizontal, vertical, and sagittal planes divide space into various sectors: something is perceived as ‘above’ or ‘below’ (the horizontal plane), as ‘in front of’ or ‘behind’ (the vertical plane), or as ‘to the right’ or ‘to the left’ (of the sagittal plane). The Horizontal and Vertical have universal justification of the gravity, reinforced by the fluid levels. But it is the sagittal plane or the sense of left and right, which is self centred.


Elgin Cathedral ruins Scotland > Pixabay image by misterfarmer Deutschland

The depth in space is a perceived notion. Visually it is sensed by the stereophonic vision and fading over (only larger) the distance. Depth is perceived by scaling in scenic perspective. Visual depth perception is also a process of learning. Seafarers, aircraft pilots, mountaineers, desert travelers have extraordinary sense of space distances. Similarly architects, embroiders, watch repairers have coordinated visual and touch depth perception.


Woman carrying head load looks as big as the tree due to absence of foreground-backgroud clues > Wikipedia image

Aural perception of space dimension, orientation and direction operate differently. The two ears create stereophonic effect for richness of sound, but unlike vision do not lead to distinct direction or orientation of the space perception. The sense of the dimension, though is more accurate, as sound fades remarkably strongly even in the shorter depth. Aural perception has more deviations and deceptions. Depth or distance perception is due to the loudness and pitch, both affect little late (sound of lightening), but reinforce the information offered through the visual perception. Changes in pitch ( Doppler effect) of a moving object, defines the depth.


Pipe organs are conceived in terms of the space, sound and visual placement > Taiwan National concert hall at Taipei > Wikipedia image by : Alton Thompson

Touch perception of objects is governed by recognition of the edges or remarkable intermittent features. Touch perception is texture recognition combined with energy transmission (temperature, electrical, magnetic, vibrations etc.). These operate at touching or very close distance, but are highly variable. The perceiver and the perceived (object or an organism) both exchange the energies to form the perception. The touch perception plays very little role in perception of spatial dimensions in spite of transiting between edge to edge, or other features of the surface.


Streograms are stereophonic image or animations that combine Left and Right frames showing slightly different visual angles to form 3D perception

Clarity and Consistency of visual perception are very important features of experience. It is accepted that visual clarity depends on the distance, quality (angle, strength, contrast, colour) of illumination and physiological condition of the perceiver. Beyond these obvious parameters other factors are foreground-background, glare, framing of the view, other distractions. Consistency of visual sensation derives from field size, movement of the perceiver and within the scene, distractions, aberrations. Clarity and consistency, together depend on subjective aspects, such as the intent and duration of the perception.


Audio perception (and expression) when accompanied by Visual perception, mutually reinforce each other > Wikipedia image

Clarity and Consistency of aural perception occur in terms of the echoes, reverberation, presence-absence of background noise. It also depends on the dominant range of operative frequencies. Clarity is affected when one cannot decode a scrambled or garbled noise. This happens in large halls and open layout offices, where one subconsciously cannot decipher the message, and tries to interpret it. To reduce such irritations, ‘white-sounds’ -a background or masking noise are added to the space. Hospital rooms and commercial spaces with round the clock operations pose different aural profiles at different times of the day-night, ‘white sounds’ reduce such variations. Consistency of level and quality of sounds allows one to ‘fathom’ a space more effectively.


Tactile Floors for Nagoya-daigaku Subway platform > Wikipedia image by LERK

Clarity and Consistency in touch perception are important in space perception, so far these are demarcations of space zones. For persons with imperfect perceptive capacities (blind, deaf, old age, infants, sick) touch becomes an important faculty to reinforce the space extent. The consistency of touch is governed by duration and use of limbs that show better reception to touch.


Polyphemus, the one eyed mythological character was supposed to be an Iron Smith and used the one-eye vision for work accuracy > art by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein 1802

 Peter Zumthor outlines (Atmospheres, p. 29) 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.’


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


Post 627 –by Gautam Shah


A coating is a thin surfacing that is applied or attached to the surface with various degrees of ‘chemical’ integration or amalgamation. Metal coatings are of four types: ‘Organic’ coatings like paints, organosols or other polymeric compounds, Non-Organic coatings of metals, Coatings of metalloids reaching to ceramic states, and Gas reaction-deposition systems.


Horses of Basilica San Marco > Wikipedia image by Author Tteske

Metals need a coating to alter the physical and chemical properties of a surface, such as to endow desired quality of texture, colour, patterns, electrical properties, surface reactivity, strength properties, etc. Often a surface treatment is in preparation for another treatment, as a temporary or permanent application. Maintenance of specific surface properties during sub-processing, transit, fabrication, installation and repairs require special coating systems.


Copper Bronze spouted flagon 320 BC > Wikipedia image by Rosemania

Metal items require some form of ‘surface-deep’ preparatory ‘work’ to receive the coating, but such ‘work’ for small-or-thin-body entities like plates, sheets, foils, wires, threads may involve entire mass of the body. Post such preparatory work, involving heat leaves some stresses in the item. Small or thin body items have uniform stresses. But heavy items and assembled work can have differential stresses, which affects the final coating.


Reclining Figure : Arched Legs 1969-1970 by Henry Moore > Flickr image by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

One of the first Metal coating realized by Man was Patina. Metal rusting is nominally a crust like degradation products, but some metals like Bronze, acquire a surface layer over a period of time. Verdigris is the natural patina. Metal artifacts exposed to different environments such air, sea-water, soils acquire patina, a layer consisting of oxides, carbonates, sulfides, or sulfates. Patinas are products of surface mass degradation, and so etch or reduce thickness of the surfaces. Some patinas, however, curtail further degradation of the surface, and so are encouraged. Patinas are often visually appealing and so desired. Effects similar to patina can be achieved by designed exposure and by treating with various chemicals. Patinas are commonly green, but may vary in colour such as of red, brown, black, blue, or gray. Its surface may be smooth, glossy, or crusty. Newly made objects are deliberately patinated to simulate the antiquity in a process is often called distressing.


Michelangelo’s Pieta in Bronze by Ferdinando Merinelli 1932 > Wikipedia image

Patina over copper alloys, such as bronze, due to the chlorides leads to green, while sulfur compounds are brown. The basic palette for patinas on copper alloys is blue-black due to ammonium sulfide, brown-black with liver of sulfur, blue-green for cupric nitrate, and yellow-brown due to ferric nitrate. For new artefacts accelerated patination carried out by applying chemicals with heat. Colours range from matte sandstone yellow to deep blues, greens, whites, reds and various blacks. Some patina colours are achieved by the mix of pigments and chemicals. The surface is enhanced by waxing, oiling, or other types of lacquers or clear-coats. French sculptor Auguste Rodin used to instruct assistants to urinate over bronzes stored or buried in the yard. A temporary-washable patina, is produced on copper, by the vinegar (acetic acid).


Bronze busts –with and without patina > Wikipedia image by MatthiasKabel

In architecture, metals, like copper, bronze, etc. have been used for a very long time, for wall cladding, door panelling, ceiling tiles, and roof covering. Copper provides excellent corrosion resistance. Copper surfaces form tough oxide-sulfate patina coating that protects underlying copper mass and resists further corrosion. Copper corrosion products are less toxic. Copper sheets have been used in many building to cover rounded domes, and articulated roof surfaces. Architectural copper is, though susceptible to oxidizing acids, heavy-metal salts, alkali, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur and ammonium compounds. Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, has good resistance to atmospheric corrosion, alkali, and organic acids.


Thracian plaque > Wikipedia image by Ivorrusev

Metal to metal cladding systems were precursors to Plating technology. Such dual metal structures were created by beating, rolling, rivetting or co-forming. The chief purpose was to add strength to a weaker metal. Forging a metal over metal in some cases created partial homogeneity. It was easier to forge soft metals like tin, lead and copper over harder metals like Bronze, Iron etc. Tin and lead could be softened through heat and used for coating. Metal coating by cladding or sheathing, were useful for corrosion resistance, wear resistance, improved electrical/thermal conductivity and better handling (touch-feel).


Gold foil processing at a workshop in Kanazawa Japan > Wikipedia image by Eckhard Pecher

Some of the simplest methods of sheathing used Gold, Silver and their amalgams with mercury. Gold, Silver, Tin and mercury based amalgams were used as liquidized coatings, where as Silver and Gold were fused as thin sheets or foils. Tin coatings were used for mirror making.



Post 625 –by Gautam Shah


Craft derives from cræft or -creft meaning something to do or execute with physical strength, might, and prowess (a talent of mental and physical power). Other usage versions (include krab, kraf, kreft, chraft, Kraft, kraptr) relate to something built, made or devised using skill, virtue, dexterity and art. Before the Industrial revolution, the personal strength and prowess (mental talent) were key requirements for creative effort. The crafts were called handicrafts.


Apprentice of Shoe maker 1914 > Wikipedia image

The physical strength required to make things were reduced with the leverage provided by better tools, use of animal power, and rational use of materials. In the First case, tools had calibrated arm lengths, functional shape for handles, harder (or softer) surfaces for desired impact, specific versions tailored for tasks, and rational composition of materials. Over a time, crafts were articulated not by sheer strength, but by mental prowess. Handicrafts became artefacts. The hand and the mind remained the basis for craft for long time. In the Second instance labourious jobs like lifting, pushing and transporting, were done with animal power and pulleys. The animal power offered rudimentary sense of automation to many production processes. In the Third instance, the capacity to search around for quality raw materials and expertise to refine and upgrade the raw materials, crafts offered the objects that were thin, light weight, enduring and better crafting capacity.


Spinning machine which initiated Industrial Revolution at Museum of early Industrialization in Wuppertal (Germany) > Wikipedia image by Markus Schweib

The crafts have been known by the terrain, culture, and artisan. The craft products substantially rely on local materials, and so have regional or local flavour of materials. The terrain also reflects the nature, flora, fauna and climate of the place. The culture with its varying levels of sociopolitical affectations creates local values. These get reflected in the form, fables, symbols and metaphors used in crafts. The culture is also seen in the ethnicity, and what transpires as heritage. An artisan can produce things that are mundane, but if gets opportunity and exposure, in spite of all other factors remaining consistent, new forms arrive. The successful crafts’ products are emulated by other locals, and in this sense craft become regional.


Brother knitting machine – example of Industrial craft > Wikipedia image by Gudde Fog, Denmark

Crafts’ processes have seen substantial redefinition during the period of industrial revolution. The redefinition occurred on two counts, easier movement of goods and people, and industrialized production facilities. Both were based on steam as the efficient source of power. Easier movement of goods allowed massive imports of traditional and exotic raw materials that were cheaper and better. The industrialized production processes were batch and continuous type, faster, non-personal and sharper in precision. The mass-produced items offered cheaper alternative to highly individualized and region specific items. The items were produced with greater use of ‘machine skills’ than ‘human skills’. The craft-person began to migrate to industrial production centres as designers, craft facilitators and as skilled workers. The crafted products of the Industrial era were not handicrafts.


Industrial revolution age Copper pans > Wikipedia image by Jebulon

The dilution of craft, as a product of tradition, heritage, individualized skills and regional ethnicity occurred due to the massive production of industrial goods. People appreciated the stark simplicity with neat functionality, variety, reliability and consistency of quality of industrial products. Unlike these, the crafted products were connoisseurs items. The rarity of a crafted products, however, encouraged, better appreciation of other things of beauty. A debate on physical versus nonphysical heritage revived. The non physical heritages were traditions of story telling, fables, learning and teaching, dance, drama and other form of performing arts, rituals, fairs and festivals, knowledge base and practices concerning nature and living. These cultural heritages were fragile and intangible, and so were, now keenly sought, reenacted and documented. The intangible heritage brought back the mass of inherited knowledge and skills that existed in every culture. The debates created inter-cultural dialogue, and respect for diverse ways of life. Most importantly the cultural heritages were now anchored to places, buildings and artefacts and these reinforced the interest in crafts, craft centres and the artisans.


Kecak – Balinese dance > Wikipedia image by Yves Picq

It was realized that when people migrate to other lands they carry the intangible legacy with them, and find a comfort through the metaphoric link to the place of origin, distanced culture and past. The intangible legacy offered an assurance that these ‘things’ worked in certain environments. To the immigrants it gives strength, a sense of identity and purpose.


Buddhist Monks Cambodia > Wikipedia image by Gunawan Kartapranata