DISTANCE as an ELEMENT of DESIGN -Issues of Design 26

Post 689 –by Gautam Shah


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There are several ways ‘distance’ impacts a design. The physical distance is essentially scaled to human body measures and work capacities. The sensorial measure of the space is the reach in space. All these, help us to equate the suitability and adequacy of spaces for different purposes.

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The distance, refers to a physical measure, a separation, and perception of proximity or remoteness from an extraneous location.

1 Measure Between

2 Separation

3 Perception

A physical space has filler elements like, people, objects and environmental affectations. These elements have their own sizes and also have medial spaces. The scale of the physical space, and the relationships between objects-objects, people-people and objects-people, are factored by the distance.

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ONE      We measure the space in terms of distances, at realistic level, between ‘us’ and things (A to B). Inversely, we also measure the space for the perceived (likely) distance (B to A) between things and ‘us’. The objective (A to B) and subjective (B to A) assessments, together, provide a comprehensive experience of the space. The spatial experience is a maze of relationships and directions. But a constant reference is provided by the Environmental affectations that mark the time and movement. The environmental affectations cause many aberrations of perception of spatial distances and relationships, due to the mix up of the actual and perceived distances. We can exploit such changes to project or contract our presence in a space.

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TWO    When the perceiver is a separator, if somewhere between the two ends, or objects. Distance comparisons ensue, to find out the disparities. The physical distance on either of the sides defines the nearness or remoteness of a thing in space. It helps to know which one is available, useful, required size, intensity, etc. Such distance assessment is often personal and comparative as it depends on reach capacity, need, experience and group behaviour dynamics.

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THREE    Observing anything in space from an external location, the distance is realized as the degree of clarity. The clarity is governed by physical distance from the location of observation. The same distance, however, gets occluded by the intervening activities (chaos, noise, echoes, bounce-back, reflections, disturbances and intermingling of effects) and the environment (fog, smoke, dust). But these also offer a referential spatial scale. The field of perception increases or decreases with the mediating distance.

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Temporal distance refers to distance in time. Something that is temporally close is something that is near in time, whereas something that is temporally distant is far in time. Temporal distance to imagined future events modulates our evaluative representation of them. The greater the distance, the more likely the event is to be conceptualized in terms of a few abstract features. This is relevant in case of potential dangers or risks because this mechanism cognitively separates us from the reality of likely undesirable eventualities.

Psychologists from Walter Mischel to Nira Liberman and Yaacov Trope have labelled the psychological distance: that is, gaps between you and other people social distance, the present and the future temporal distance, your physical location and faraway places –spatial distance, or imagining something and experiencing it -experiential distance.


When psychological distance is large, we tend to think in more-abstract terms, focussing on the big picture, the desirability of certain options, and why we want them. In contrast, when psychological distance is small, our thinking is more concrete: We focus on the details, the feasibility of options, and how we will use them -Rebecca Hamilton https://hbr.org/2015/03/bridging-psychological-distance


Distancing is a prime mechanism of offense and defence when methods and means of survival are inadequate, or unavailable. The distance operates at real level, as realized by us, and also as we feel the opponent is perceiving it. Shortening the distance serves an offensive role and enhancing the reach, a defensive purpose. The spatial depth is affected by the separation through occlusion or camouflage. It helps in fuzzing the identity and recognition.

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Anything that lies in ‘front’ (of sensorial nodes -eyes, nose, ears) is always at a ‘shorter distance’, compared to askew encounters, which have ‘greater distance’ (straight, up or down level exchanges). Short distance leads to possible physical contact with intimacy and often breach of privacy. Long distanced contact offers wider space for other actions including time for escape.

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The distance, direction and angle of eye contact affect the intimacy and so privacy. Executives want broad and deep tables to ‘keep the distance’ with the visitors. At a meeting or on a dining table, the chief occupies end-position, and with that no one can take frontal confronting stand.

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Any position against a static and closer backdrop is more assuring, then a backdrop whose depth cannot be fathomed. And for the same reason activities on the backside (stage, podium, office table, information kiosk, reception tables) are not desirable. In a space, one looks for anchorage in the presence of people (even, if unknown), architectonic elements, objects and opaque surfaces. Fixed and familiar things in space, even if physically distanced are better as support. Similarly the location and direction of an exit (door or any other egress point), or a path to it, at whatever the distance, are preferred.


For an individual, a space segment that allows one to control the distance from others is a safe, predictable and reassuring territory. Here the occupants and objects have intense relevance to each other. In interpersonal relationships the distance delineates isolation, accessibility, domination, submission, agreement, dissension, insulation, engagement, etc.

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The distance and space, both form the notions of Intimacy and Privacy. One physically manipulates, or sensorially perceives the distance from other beings and objects. The sense of vision, hearing, smelling are dependent on the distance. but touch and taste.

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Intimacy is also a biological need, as it relies on compatibility, sexual needs, glandular secretions, social acceptability, etc. It is an attitude, mental conditioning or mental posture. Intimacy could be one-way feeling that is without reciprocal response. Intimacy is not always a function of physical proximity. One can feel close to a person who is long dead -an illusory presence or through notional links (clothes, odours, recorded sounds, etc.).

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Distance Etymology > Distaunce (13-14 C) =a dispute, controversy, civil strife, rebellion, disagreement, discord, strife. Destance (Old French) =discord, quarrel. Distantia (Latin) =a standing apart. Distantem (nominative distans) = standing apart, separate, distant. Distare =stand apart, from the root ‘sta’ =to stand, make or be firm. Modern Distance =remoteness of space, extent of space between two objects or places, an interval of time (originally distaunce of times).=remote part of a field of vision.

This is the 26th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN


DESIGN, MOTIF, PATTERN -Part 1 -Issues of Design 25

Post 686 –by Gautam Shah



Motifs are self-sustaining elements. Motifs can be linear outlines, solid filled-in planes, solid objects, or fractals. A motif may look like a familiar object, but need not be a representation or symbol. In other words, a motif may not have any abstract conveyance, yet may carry an associated or interpretive meaning. Motifs may have similarities, which are ‘here’ or in some remembrances. Motif recognition is a matter of perception, and so a personal affair. But there usually are many concurrences, and so some commonality is perceived.

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A Motif, as a self sustaining element, is nominally oblivious of the happenings in the surroundings. But motifs have the potential to be part of a pattern, a larger whole. Such a fate is evident, because a motif while retaining its ‘fundamental trope’ subsists through several of the avatars. The changes occur through scaling, orientation, colours, or even some degree of form distortions.

3 motif may seem familiar without being a symbolicimage or a representation

Metal Iron Railings Wrought Iron Ornament

Motifs are impressionistic configurations, captured from the surroundings. The impression is expressed for posterity or communication by in-forming it over a medium or moulding it with materials. In both the cases, the form-shaping motif is affected by the formative materials, specific tools, techniques and the body posture. The motif as the ‘stroke’ matures through several conversions. The process of maturation endows new meanings to the motif. The ‘stroking’ can become extraordinarily florid to turn into a style.


Stylized Motifs have their own vocabulary of placement, associated linkages, scaling and permissible reformations. Such governance remains tied to the materials, craft-processes, associated persons (extended family, cast, creed, locality), and the period. The motifs begin to govern the pattern. The stylized motifs and patterns thereof, have a deep lineage. The stylized motifs, however, change when new materials and tools arrive to reform the techniques. New ‘strokes’ of motif creation offer different set of patterns. The changes first occur in the scale, line formation (thickness and consistency), the fill-in colours and textures, and shape twisting. The original and the differentiated motifs, both form a distinguished motif culture.


green man images

The motif culture can be so overwhelming that other crafts begin to accommodate it. An evolved motif in Embroidery or fabric weaving, may enter diverse fields of jewellery, metal crafts, painting, pottery, interior decoration, architectonic elements etc. A motif in new environment (society, materials, crafts or tools) develops with new forms of ‘strokes’ of motif creation. These occur on sheer strength of the Graphical value. New patterns generated for the graphical value can reflect some links with the original civilization. The trace of the original flavour remains, where the motifs are adopted as a replacement of products, sensorial variation and for political, cultural or social incentive. But where the motif is accepted purely as technological input, a brutal severance from the original connection occurs.

complex pattern out of several motifs chikkamagalur amruthapura kirthimukha india wikipedia image by

Primary motif is a stroke of straight or single curvature. The stroke has two ends, and are the potential connections of first order. Other likely nodes are the tangential or the crossings. Multi-stroke motifs have closed ended or open-ended shapes. Motifs have potential nodes of connections and togetherness. Motifs with geometric strokes such as lines (vertical, horizontal, inclined) or curvilinear seem familiar. In comparison Stylized motifs are re-engineered forms of real objects. A motif cannot be abstracted unless it carries a meaning, as a symbolic representation. The symbolic representation is about ‘abstract or non-tangible concepts’ such as movement, vibrant, static, serenity etc. There is a tendency to find meaningful object in seemingly chaotic situation. In case of motif, the recognition of geometry (form), proximity (relationships), style or an abstract objective, all help in finding motive for it.


The phenomenon of finding meaningful patterns in meaningless noise is called patternicity , and conversely, not perceiving patterns that are present in the visual stimulus is called apatternicity.



A motif coexists with other motifs, and is perceived if within a field of perception. Basic togetherness is of proximity. Other coexistence occur through the incidences of similarity, scaled identity, mirroring images, reverse positioning (upside down), direction, hierarchical order and density of placement define the nearness. Motifs overlap, partially converge, or merely touch at the edge. Such connections ensues pattern making relationships.


A motif establishes several sets of relationships to form a pattern: mutual distancing (density), position from the field edges, and confirmation of the operative environmental forces (gravity, magnetic field, air, temperature stresses). The density is defined by size, scale and form of the motifs. A pattern is recognized through following characteristics: Congruity (rotations, translations, reflections), Similarity (scale, orientation), and Isotonicity (similar interpretive or metaphoric meaning). A motif need not be central to a pattern, but rather recurrent element.

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A motif, its pattern, whatever we visually perceive, is subjective, situational and circumstantial experience. The visual perception is formed by degree of familiarity, need, environmental conditions, foreground-background contrast, the visual frame, context, etc.


In literary narrative, a word or an expression, when used frequently and in synonymical manner, creates a pattern. But since such choices are of the author, it becomes a personal statement, a pattern. An author habitually uses these as an allusion. The motif or pattern, both allegorically indicate a thought, idea or concept. The symbolism behind the motif persists in the cultural setting but for a time. Beyond this the motif however remains simply a crafted stroke.


In oral expressions, speech or music, the Vowels, Consonants, Octave or Sur (Indian) etc. as motif are placed together form a unique note or pattern. And the same conducted with different time interludes, become varied set of speech or music pattern. To this set of variations, the speaker adds phonetic variations, whereas the musician adds own mannerism of playing or singing. The music instrument and the space add peculiar reverberations. The motif and pattern of the sounds change with the ‘playing’ and broadcasting tools, both favouring certain frequency range and tonal (bass-treble) quality.

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‘A form constant is one of several geometric patterns which are recurrently observed during hallucinations and altered states of consciousness Klüver noticed that mescaline produced recurring geometric patterns in different users. He called these patterns ‘form constants’ and categorized four types: lattices (including honeycombs, checker-boards, and triangles), cobwebs, tunnels, and spirals’. (-Wikipedia).



Motifs have a form, often with intelligible process of creation. But we try to interpret and reformat it through logic of mathematics. Man made motifs as repeatable strokes are simple but the ones ‘experienced’ in nature are often inexplicable. Natural motif forms do not exactly replicate. Some believe these can be ‘learnt’ through fractals (fractals are mathematical patterns that are scale invariant). The motif-forms at simple level are like spirals, circles, waves, meanders, crystals, snowflakes, bubbles etc. But complexity arises with sequenced repetition, axial rotation, mirroring or reflection. The motif, as single element may not offer much but as placed in various patterns it gains meaning.



This is the 25th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN


DYNAMIC CURVATURES -Issues of Design 24

Post 684–by Gautam Shah


13 Barcelone - Detail of a Gaudi building

A curvature is the synergetic dynamism of a line and the external forces, unlike a straight line which is the path of a force. Antonio Gaudi stated that ‘The straight line belongs to the man, the curve to God.’ All curvatures on earth manifest under two basic forces, the gravity of the earth and the current stresses resetting the earlier status. The curvature reflects the forces, form and ensuing functions. But Dynamic curvature is a live story, telling us How a form changes under stress. Dynamic curvatures are found in spiral coils, serpents, water ripples, plasticity of wet clays, free movements of flying birds, bending of bamboos, sand-dunes, clouds, etc.

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A line occurs across two things. As per Euclid’s definition ‘The extremities of a line are points’. A ‘line’ in literary sense, had no distinction, It needed an appendage ‘straight or curved’. In this sense a curve is a generalization (stressed or stress-free?) of a line. Historically, the term ‘line’ (perhaps from linen, lino or flex) was used for, rope, hawser, series, row, rule, direction, rope, flaxen cords, thread, cable etc. -many indicating curved forms of line. The difference between a line and curve is of scale.

Curvatures and Streamlined products 1930-1940s

Curvature, in mathematics, is the rate of change of direction of a curve with respect to distance along the curve. At every point on a circle, the curvature is the reciprocal of the radius. For other curves (and straight lines can be regarded as circles of infinite radius), the curvature is the reciprocal of the radius of the circle that most closely conforms to the curve at the given point’.

11 Golden Gate Bridge. Most suspension bridge cables follow a parabolic, not a catenary curve, due to the weight of the roadway being much greater than that of the cable. Wikipedia Image

Over a longer distance, all lines are parallel or meeting in infinity. The earthly spatial geometry has latitudes as the parallel lines but longitudes converge at poles. Latitude and longitude both at smaller scale are ‘straight’ otherwise curved. Such spatial geometry lines are implied, but their curvatures are real and experience-able. A line, Earth’s horizon is seemingly straight, but in reality a curvature. A plane travels between two points, in shortest and a straight path, but following the curvature of the earth’s surface, an implied line.

12 at Broadway and Cortlandt Streets in New York in 1883, shows a nation exploding with its first communications.

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A line is a connection, where the intrinsic transfer of energy makes it straight, but extrinsic or abutting energy deforms it to a curved line. All types of energy transfers are revealed in the direction. Lines and curves with substance get stressed due to their own weight, and yield to the gravity. Materials yield or resist tolerable deformation. Such visual flections also occur over short distances. Our eye visually bends a straight line, and so facade of the Parthenon required several calibrations. In reality the tops of the towers of a suspension bridge or transmission pylons are further apart than at the bottom, due to a curved surface of the earth.

15 Shadow of a straight line on curved surface Wikipedia Image by Sten Porse

There are many different forms of line. The transition from one to another medium reveals as an angular bent. Water-submerged section of a stick is a visual aberration of a line. Crystals are molecular level entities with the linear-angular structure. If the same are formed over a curved surface such as a liquid droplet, the crystals take the shape of the surface. Gravity has a tendency to distort the way crystals form. Outer space with nearly zero gravity allows creation of complex, three-dimensional proteins. Here the gravity and convective forces do not interfere in crystal formation. It is always advised to aim ‘higher’ to let the ‘bent’ trajectory reach the spot. So nature has both, the lines and curves, the former as intrinsic, and later as the extrinsic effects of forces.

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6 Manhattan Bridge in New York City with deck under construction from the towers outward

Curvatures, like the lines, also have a direction, as measured for the angle of the straight line formed by connecting any two points on the curvature. Such a presumed line could have horizontal, vertical or inclined angle, with reference to the earth. Curves that have a known or mechanical method of origin are Geometric, but if irregular or complex and cannot be defined using any equations, are Phantomastic.

7 Natural or real contours of Materials Arizona mountains

8 Angular or linear formation of Red rocks https pxhere.comenphoto552984

Curved lines come back to their point of origin to form a closed or determinate form (circle, ellipse). Closed curves have no beginning or end, but could be spiral, where the ends merge but in some other time or space. But, it could go to infinity to form an open or indeterminate entity, losing the essence of the curvature to a parabola, and eventually become a straight line.

17 Different types of coils

18 Dawn Eases Into Orbit Around The Dwarf Planet Ceres

Circles have easier sense of movement, but spirals give a sense of completeness, but without any restrain. Spirals are natural shapes in shells, snails, water-whirls, cyclone or tornado. Spirals are boundless and open, going to outward or inward eternity. Spirals arrive back, but bring in positional and temporal change. Spirals represent the notion of growth, evolution and often confusion. Spirals move in clockwise of anticlockwise directions, that perhaps the persistence of initiating and sustaining energy. A spiral as a curve represents time, metaphorically better then lines do. A spiral curve is not a closing circle, but turns around to arrive back at a different elevation (or position). Essences of spiral are the pull and push, and both are linear. Structurally a spiral is linear entity for compression-tension. So spiral, a curve, is a line.

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20 Geological_time_spiral

Curves with a single stroke can have one bridging line passing over any two pints on it, but multi-strokes curves can have as many bridging lines. Single stroke curve, create forms open on a single side, with an area asset on one side of it. Multi-stroke curves, on the other hand, create alternating open side form area assets that alternate on either side of it.21 Optical,_Corrections_in_Architecture_95

Silhouette, outline, skyline, horizon, shadows or contour lines, are all edge lines of real or ephemeral entities. The silhouettes are accumulative projection of several objects. The outlines define extremity of an object, if strong, subdue the object by framing and limiting its extent. Skylines are the human formations, a unique horizon-impression of the urban scape. A horizon is an ephemeral line between the sky and terrain. Shadows follow the object but occluding the details of the object-body. Contour lines are curvilinear, unless of man-made mass like roads and trenches. Borders demarcate the domain differences in terms of social, political, beliefs, but usually reinforced by the terrain. Borders are linear dividers or closed ended protectorates (if, squared framed or full curved forms).

The Lines start and terminate to a point, whereas the Curvatures have uncertainty about their ends. Lines as edges of angular planes show cleaved faces (diamonds, crystals), but curves of a streamlined product have ‘continuity’.

A streamlined shape lowers the friction drag in the medium it moves, air or water. Drag is a force that slows down movement. Many animals, birds, and machines, such as aeroplanes, trains and submarines, have streamlined bodies to reduce friction drag’.

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9 Oak Park Il Hills House

During the Great Depression of the 1930s America had new style of Art-Deco architecture (late), product and graphic design. The Streamline Moderne or Art Moderne, favoured the curvilinear edges, accompanied by horizontal lines (parallel to gravity rather then up against it). Industrial designers stripped the Art-Deco design ornaments to implement the aerodynamic design. Long ribbon windows and cylindrical forms were new vocabulary of the ultramodern. All consumer products such as clocks, radios, telephones, cars, furniture, and other white good appliances were redefined to fit in the new concept. But these were sought to be replaced with modern materials of the age, steel, concrete and glass, and these had angular traditions.

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This is the 24th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN



Post 677–by Gautam Shah



The wall paintings (upper palaeolithic eras) began as a medium of expression -a ‘story’ telling exploit. It was not a decorative art for a place, but a ceremonial craft in a space. The paintings were in deep caves as well as open sites. Bhimbetka, India, sites shows human occupation for more than 100,000 years, but earliest paintings on the cave walls here date back just 30,000 years ago.

Bison Cave of Altamira

Upper Palaeolithic period began roughly around 40,000/60000 years ago and lasted through the Pleistocene ice age, which is believed to have occurred near 8,000 B.C. This period was marked by the rise of Homo sapiens and their ever-developing ability to create tools and weapons.


The cave sites were difficult to access but were perhaps special and visited by several generations. The caves were deep and dark and artists worked with lamps and torch lights. The paintings were made on walls, ceilings and even floors. Many of the locations and surfaces were acutely irregular. Artists had to work in squatting lying position or use elaborate scaffolding to reach the heights. The scale of the job was stupendous. Deep cave paintings have survived, whereas open location paintings have generally been destroyed.


At Bernifal in the Dordogne, the mammoths are painted 20 feet up. Some of the bulls at Lascaux are more than 20 feet long. The big cave vault at Lascaux, known as the Picture Gallery, is more than 100 feet long and 35 feet wide.

Lascaux_painting image by Prof saxx

The cave art consists of simple impromptu works as well as grand executions. The first types were perhaps executed by amateurs or apprentices, and the second by masters. To sustain projects of such scale, the master artists were helped by a retinue of assistants and the community. The assistants helped in erecting scaffolding, preparing the surface to be painted, mixing colours, devising brushes and other colour application tools, feeding animal fats to lighting torches, provisioning food and water.


The cave artists have shown very high degree of professionalism. The compositions, understanding of the animals’ anatomical details, animals’ form, dynamism and movement, all represent a keen sense of observation, experience and discipline.

The limited choice of colours has been overcome by the masterly expression of form. There is consistent economy of line. The textural and tonal qualities do not represent the light and shade, yet suggest the depth through colour differentiation (recognizing the ‘grey tone value’). At places existing substrate textures have been exploited. The scale and distribution of objects within a composition do not follow a visual proportion system, yet prioritize the elements of the story.


Wall painting began as a line drawing. Lines were frequently scrapped through a sharp edged tool. The etched lines perhaps helped in retaining the charcoal or soft stones rubbings. Such art works, as the primary responses were impressed on whatever interior or exterior surfaces that were available. However, it was realized that more permanent work can only be created in a protected space. The caves space and its environment stimulated a spiritual experience for the portrayal. The spaces must have been favoured by several generations, as some of the paintings have been modified repeatedly over thousands of years. The earliest works are refined compared to later works or modifications.


There is nothing to suggest that the art was a setting of a ceremony. There is no depiction of a sacrifice, or a master of ceremonies like a priest, sorcerer or a witch-doctor. The paintings also have no images of the surrounding terrain or the vegetation of the time.


The palaeolithic wall art consists of three main categories of subjects: animals, humans and signs (abstract or unexplained). The animal figures are the most detailed and naturalistic representations, but drawings of humans are rare and perfunctory. ‘In the case of Chauvet, predatory or dangerous animals dominate, while in Lascaux the main representations are of large herbivorous mammals’. At caves across various geographic locations the animals include: woolly rhinoceros, lions, bison, horses, aurochs, bears, reindeer, wisent, and giant deer and hyenas. At places species which were then extinct (as per the time dating technology), are also painted. Some of the most common species such as the reindeer do not find any representation, though bones have been found in the cave. The wall art also includes prints of spray painted hands, with abstract interconnecting lines.


The abstract signs are said to be representing the perception of night skies, of stars etc. Some forms of visual effects of movement or vibrancy (experienced in limited illumination) were perhaps included by use of florescent dyes, and slightly shifted images.



Wall art of upper Palaeolithic age in the early phase did not have any surface preparation except scrubbing off the loose particles and dust. Selected surfaces were away from flowing or leaching water. Early phase drawings were done in line work with charcoal, but compared to this the carbon black, a deposit over an animal fat burning lamp had better binding and colour saturation. Lines were also scratched or etched by a sharp tool and done over with a black colour. Scratching the surface also ensured better colour retention. Later renderings (filling up the colour) with red ochre (Iron oxide from Haematite) and black was done. In the later phase (25000/20000 BC) other colours such as yellow and brown were added to the palette.


In the initial phase dry colours were rubbed over the surface. In the later phase colours were ground with water and additives like blood, urine, eggs and animal fats. The additives improved the bonding, increased the viscosity (to prevent run off the surface) and reduced the drying time (allowing application and rendering effects). Learning also included: how to prepare intermediate shades (orange and browns), prevent algae like growth, avoid colours that fade over an age and moisture bleeding of colours and additives. Colours were mixed Calcium containing water or nodules to improve fixing.


The colours were ground by rubbing them over a rough surface, and also through pestles and mortars. At Lascaux, some 158 different mineral fragments were found. Shells of barnacles and human skulls were used as containers for ground pigment pastes. Colour was applied by brushes, twigs and fingers. Colours were also put on by spraying through mouth and blow pipes made from bird bones, and by daubing with hands, fibrous pads and soft skins. Colours were sprayed over hands as the stencils to perhaps mark the participation or visitation.

altamira Hand spraying but of post original work period


SIZING and SCALING the SPACES -Issues of Design 23

Post 674 –by Gautam Shah



Sizing of architectural entities is accomplished in Three manners. 1, as a primary reference, the sizes are perceived in human measures, 2, in a second consideration, the sizes mean physical capacities of human body representing the work capacities, physical reach and sensorial reach of perception, and 3, lastly the sizes are mutually related for proportioning, irrespective of the human relevance.


In the 1st case, the sizes are relative to the human measures, and these had formed the first set of scales in all cultures. The innate reference to the human measures survived, in spite of the standardization to overcome the racial-anthropological variations and cultural preferences. Digitized measures of Metric system completely abstracted the measures, and absolute alienation occurred.


For the 2nd example, the sizes reflect the physical capacities of the body and sensorial reach of perception. Typically, for very long time travel distances were expressed in time, required for walking or running (or number of lunch-rest, feed for horses, required). Wheat and other agricultural products were transacted by numbers or volume capacities like bushel or basket. Displacement (carriage) of goods was in terms of oxen or horse power. Architecturally a wall was measured in terms of (volume x distance) displacement of stones rather than the volumetric measure of the finished structure. The ‘culture of measures was complicated by fractioning or multiplying the ‘measures’ for conversion to the abstract entity like money.


With 3rd instance, the sizes are perceived to be pure numbers. The pure numbers have some basic linear ascending or descending sequences. This character is difficult to understand or justify, and ‘too dry or latent’ to be meaningful. But, it has a mathematical confirmation across many sensorial experiences and presence of physical objects. The mathematical order, however is a confirmation or satiation that occurs after the creation, and is rarely an input for planning.


The sizes are considered as pure numbers to ‘apportion’ physical objects or sensorial experiences, as large, small or equal. Such apportioning of the physical objects or sensorial experiences is intentional or comes as a revelation. But it is an achievement that offers certain applicable aesthetic relationships. Corbusier in his Modulor compared the sizes with pure numbers, and derived a universally applicable set of aesthetic relationships. Vitruvius remained, with the mutual comparison of (human) sizes, but yet had some aesthetic derivations.



Sizes are mutually related as functional or accommodative operants, or are considered as pure numbers with ‘mathematical’ sense, and a comparison ensues. The relationship is basically between ‘this and that’. Here both the entities are physically in the same realm, of identical sensorial realization, or one of it is in a different time or space. In the last case the remembrances or records bring forth the proportions. Proportioning is ordering of an arrangement. It follows some analogy, sequencing, proximity or context. There are two levels of proportions: formed between equals and unequals. Equal entities, even if spread over extensive area, begin to ‘loop in the coexisting things’ into a holistic domain. Unequal things must be contextually together to make a ‘sense of being a system’.


When a space is Sized or dwelled, it confers certain functionality and sufficiency. Comparison is made out in terms of ergonomic suitability and sensorial adequacy. But when a space is Scaled, it forms a comparative order between various constituents. Sizing a space specifies, the nature of cognition, human reach, nature of communication and inverse affectations. The levels of privacy, intimacy, loss of objectivity and subjective involvements that occur in a space, are governed by its size. Scaling a space, offers means of perpetuating the satisfaction that one draws out of natural, created or realized things. Scattered elements manifest may reveal, some day the order of scaling or pattern of arrangement. This is an intellectual confirmation.


Size has a close affinity to the orientation of ‘lay’ of the space. The direction of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space. The orientation gains relevance because it is aligned with our sensorial nodes. The sensorial nodes are highly directional whereas the bi-nodal faculties like eyes and ears help the focussing. Similarly with the sense of direction we perceive the change in speed. The variations in progress and movement both define the ‘lay’ of the space. This experience is true for deaf and blind persons.


Scale is perceived irrespective of the measure, being simply relationship between numbers. To read a measure one must read the object in ‘ortho’ mode (straight, upright, right, correct). A projection system used in maps, architecture etc. where the rays are parallel. So the scaling or proportion system works, but can it work in a perspective mode? A building can have three major planes simultaneously perceptible, but affected by the visual foreshortening. Can the scaled relationships remain valid in perspective perception?



Measurement scaling, from mathematical series, Vitruvian or Corbusier’s Modulor systems were created for built forms and products. At a similar level musical scales and recitation metres have been defined. But can these musical scales and recitation metres be transposed to other scenarios like architecture? Conversely can anyone create musical composition with Corbusier’s Modulor system or use literary recitation metres for building design? Often numerical values are assigned to various types of data like opinions, judgements, and concepts, are these numbers amenable to scaling, and provide any rationale.


Functionality and the Environment are difficult to separate, as one seems to manifest the other. Spaces within the known range (of recognition) are predictable and so manageable. So strangeness or alienation of spaces is reduced by introducing elements that form a scale. Such scaling elements also serve other purposes like repetitions, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradation, acceleration-de-acceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, etc. Such scaling elements also occur naturally, like shadows. In architecture orthographic sciography the relationship is of 45°.


Scaling is a perception of relationships that are not just visual but involving all sensorial faculties. So when due to the environmental conditions or personal sensorial deficiencies, the sense of scaling may get fogged but for only one or few and not all faculties.


This is the 23 nd (in continuation of old series -new beginning) article on ISSUES of DESIGN



The CORNER -metaphor

Post 672 by Gautam Shah

This is the 1st article of series: ‘CORNERS’.


Corners and Angles power cable-power-lines-current-energy

A corner is convergence of two lines or surfaces, respectively to a point, or line. It can be an outward entity with crowning vertex, and an inward form of a depressing nadir. A vertex and nadir both are zero measure elements, mere points, abstract representation of a corner. In comparison a corner is far more substantial due to its wedge like spread.


‘Nature has no corners, you are the vertex or nadir of it’. -unknown.

Terrestrially directions are always well ‘based’, real and cardinal (North, East, South, West), whereas, Corners occur as inter-cardinal ephemeral entities. The spatial sensualities of the human body, format the sense of emplacements and orientation, such as the Left-Right, Up-Down and Front-Back.


Indian mythological space has 10 corners (four cardinal points + four angular points + up & down). The Kshetrapals (Guardians of the estate), however reside in four corners of the plot. The Global locations are defined through the corner formed by longitude and latitude. The Global Positioning System (GPS) was based on tracing of radio frequency, but now multiple satellites (as many as 24 or more in different types of orbits) work as regional and global location noting system. Besides location, the satellites also define movement and its direction, and altitudes. Currently photographs have embedded information about location (like longitude and latitude through GPS), but in very short future this will be reinforced with information about angle or direction of the shot.


Estate corners have been assigned specific meaning and preferred tasks in Indian Vastu Shastra (Classical cannons of design-building). East direction should be open, light, bright and clean. West direction is for stability in life. North is holiest or purest direction. It is for wealth and prosperity. Energy flow out so should be lowest in level. NE is for deities to reside. South direction is considered inauspicious for entrance. It is owned by Yam, Hindu deity for death.

Some similar approach is offered in Jewish-Christian traditions. God created all sides, but left the North unfinished, saying, ‘whoever declares own-self to be God, allow the person to finish this corner, and then all shall know the truth’. From that unfinished corner, demons, winds, earthquakes, and evil spirits come forth to the world. From the north shall disaster break loose (Jer. 1:14). Because of the cold North winds, it was identified as the abode of evil spirits.


Egyptian pyramids and other buildings are squared and well oriented. These have axial depth depicting space sequences. But the Egyptian art has total absence of oblique except for the Ra’s rays, ropes of weighing scale, wide feet and few gestures of the hand. There is a datum line that divides the scene into several strata, but does not become a scaling device. There are vertical elements that frame (a built-frame like mandap or chupah) the important person but it is a planner view. Architecture is gravity stable, with sloping faces of columns, obelisks, pylons, ceremonial ramps, and oblique faces pyramids.


A corner is a recognizable, and long-lasting point or mark on a property. It is a point, from where a change (of direction) occurs. A corner marked property, has edges that define the exterior versus the interior attributes. It also defines, ours versus others domains. Corners define convex or concave (outward or inward) character of a spatial entity. Corners, if belong to the inside, mark what is included, and if on the outside, define what is excluded. We traverse an estate as a planner entity of corners, and for this, the contoured undulations are not important. A triangle, a three-cornered shape, has three vertices, and it is the minimum entity. Large country surveys are resolved to triangles, as the sharing of vertices, edges, and angles creates a linked universe.


The prime cornered entity has been the Dice, with its potency to turn the fortunes. The dice, on one its six sides, has 4 dots at corners (like the city cross road diagonals). This was known as quatre (French), and anglicized to cater. Somewhere along the time, the word Cater came to be truncated to ‘cat’, and corners were identified for the cat to be in. No one asked the feline creature, if she preferred, a window sill instead?



Corners are right angled, acute, obtuse or reflex. Solids have corners with two exterior faces and hollow objects have two interior faces. The outward sides of an acute or right angle corner are difficult to comprehend simultaneously, because one of the side remains concealed, till one turns around. The exterior corner can be grasped fully, if only one moves away from it. Obtuse and reflex corners sometimes defy the perspective view. Solids have impersonal exterior faces, and hollow objects have compassionate interior sides’. Acute corners of an isometric view create visual aberration, where outward and inward corners look identical.


A megaphone, trumpet, bullhorn, etc. are cone-shaped acute corners whereas speakers have a wider cone of an obtuse angle, both are meant to amplify the sound. The conical angle enhances the power of sound and radiate it in desired direction. A ‘listening cone’ for hearing fetal heart sounds of babies, is acute angled, whereas a dish-antenna is an obtuse-angled device that captures sounds (or energy) from a wider source, and concentrate it at the narrow end.


A plane vertical edge enhances the corner, but if the plane is not a true square or has surface perturbation like single or double curvature then visual distortion is very ambiguous. An outward incline of the edge-plane over a corner push the centre of gravity away from the base, and makes the solid unstable, conversely an inward lean of the edge-plane over a corner is visually depressant, but offers an assuring gravity-stable solid.





Corners are secluded spaces, ideal for intrigue, but the occupants remain unaware that conversation gets amplified and others can overhear. Secretaries, maids and butlers use reverse wine glass for listening to secrets. A corridor is a good sound transmitting tunnel, unless properly baffled or insulated. A corner protects you from sides, but does not allow any offensive action. Corners have little freedom of movement, and so one cannot hope to play blind-person’s buff.

Temple corner-1973442_1280

A corner entrance offers deepest traversing distance, so on any estate (party-place, banquette hall, game or fun-park, museum). Just like the main course of dinner, the entree is longer lasting and satisfying. Corners are closed and dead, but seclusion of a corner is dissolved by a gap in the end, like a funnel. It drains away the energy, but also acts like a pressure release valve. This technique is well exploited in public spaces like piazzas, plazas, courtyards, etc. The sides of parallel (square or rectangular) remain uninvolved but a cornered entity (parallelogram, triangle or multi-cornered) offers hopes of involvement.

Corners collision in Cities  Image by Peter Alfred Hess  httpswww.flickr.comphotospeterhess19738078021.jpg

Corners were re-realized when ‘perspective machines’ began to offer rational views with regulated corners. For architecture, the corners were  conceived for the perspective, but in paintings, these were exploited to put everything to scale and format a unified composition. The view making corners were most obvious in Greek Parthenon Here, not only the site was cornered, but built-form was also angled, but much later Baroque period created its own multi cornered architecture irrespective of the site.

Linear perspective study for The Adoration of the Magi, by Leonardo da Vinci, 1481 Uffizi, Florence.jpg

Parthenon Athens Greece (1978) Wikipedia Image by Steve Swayne


Essence of a corner is its end point, and not the sides, inside or outside faces. In a perspective, corners mark the change of plane, but due to the taper, scale the scene. The corners, in perspective exterior or interior ones, all really occur inside a hypothetical cone. Performance stages were once round, but for controlled perception, have turned into wedge form. The tapered form of the stage has several advantages: On solid wall stages tapered shape reinforces the sound delivery like a megaphone, the wedge shape adds to the visual depth, it also allows the sides of the set to be visible from the audience arena. Games have corner shots as penalties. Loneliness is not confined by the sides, but it is just a personal low point, in an empty or crowded space. In a corner, if the change over is spatially distanced or time delayed, it turns into catch-22, a paradoxical situation of opposite set of rules (title of 1961 novel, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller). Corners must be negotiated quickly and decisively, and as in games one must negotiate (‘cut’) it from a distance or get shot by hidden opponent.

Street city corner-road-downtown

A corner is also a joint, and here two different things have some generative encounter. Joints are conditions of adjacency between two or more objects, which offer some spatial surprises. Many different social and political activities flourish at corners, investing a different meaning to the architectural space.


The word corner derives from > ‘corne, corner, horn, cornū, cornua, cornere, corniere, corna (horn or hyrne), angle. Use of cater (French quatre =four”), as a verb can be traced to the 16th C as meaning ‘to place something diagonally, move diagonally, place diagonally or cut diagonally’.

Angular Growth oia-santorini-greece-buildings



MODELLING of OBJECTS in SPACE -issues of design -20

Post 662 -by Gautam Shah


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


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


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


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

Henry Moore Double Oval

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

Modernism Concrete Le Corbusier India Ahmedabad

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

Fashion Shows

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



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

Marina Hotel Dubai

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


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

Volga-Don Canal

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

Modelling La_ola,_Jorge_Oteiza

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


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

Sun and shadows Wikipedia Image by Karen Green

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


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


PERCEPTION of CONTRAST -Issues for design -18

Post 659 -by Gautam Shah


Contrast is a deviation from the expected. It is the realization of a thing against, the obvious, existing, notional or ideological percept. Contrast is seen between nominal or obvious things, versus abnormal or non-perceived conditions. Like a full vs empty streets, clear vs fuzzy, pleasant smell vs unpalatable taste, dark-hot vs bright-cool, vibrating but noiseless; These are some such expectations vs perceptions.


Contrast is a comparison and occurs in some reference. The reference forming nexus is proffered in real or a hyper realm. But the ‘thing’ and its context are not always in the same space or time setting. Contrast makes a ‘thing’ stronger by juxtaposition of some weaker, duller or different elements.


Contrast is detected by two distinctive processes. The perception, is a combined experience of different sensorial faculties. And it is also a process of cognition that defines the strongest experience forming the main object or foreground, and all other as the background. The backgrounds offer the context.


Sensorial faculties have their own scale of strength, and some have bipolarity. Typically eyes and ears continuously back up the space-position details. Similarly nose and tastes buds in the mouth, are closely located, and so show time-simultaneity in definition of edible things. The space-time references are filled in by other senses. Multilateral nodes of touch support such a process.


The foreground-background divergence manifests in time-space reference. The juxtaposition, however, is not in the same space or time setting. The nexus could be in real or hyper a real realm. The hyper realm consists of experiences and resulting expectations. One has seen neither heaven nor hell, but both pose concurrently as extreme contrast. One of the two could be real and other through anecdotical knowledge. Here the contrasts are realized through recall. The contrast is relevant till foreground-background simultaneity remains within a fathomable range of perception. Architectural entities contrast in size, scale, style, placement, orientation, and environmental conditions, thematic content etc.

Chandigadh India


The contrast offers a scale. Objects forming the contrasting zones have shapes, extent, proportion, and indicate a direction. The depth is the obvious phenomenon of foreground-background differentiation. Other two dimensions of the scale are formed by the shape and its extent. The fourth dimension of reality occurs with vivid scenes. Here, if the background is dull or static, the foreground contrasts intensely. And, where the foreground is dull or rapidly varying, the particulars of things and happenings fail to register effectively. The perceiver becomes confused and disinterested, if ‘back and foreground’ elements fail to present relationships in terms of now-then, here-there, far-near etc. In Design, there is always a conflict between context and contrast, requiring equilibrium.


Contrast makes things conspicuous to attract the senses. And the contrast to be obvious, occurs with some reference. The reference is formed by a ‘thing’ that is stronger by juxtaposition of some weaker, duller or different elements, by its power of persistence in reality, and as a recall. Often clues are included in the composition for the recall. The clues could be similarities, leftover trails of the past happenings or subtle insertions relevant only to the person experiencing it or in that time and space. Other design elements that offer contrast include presence of directions, sequences, repetitions, occlusion by frames, thematic continuities, sensorial consistencies, associated fables and explanations.


A design has internal and external context. Internal contrasts are part of the designed entity, so within the ambit of real experience. External contrasts occur through the embedded or implied metaphoric clues for connection.


Architecture occurs in the context of its terrain, environment and stake holders (humans and tasks) and incorporeal parameters like weather, culture, economics, social and politics. These are universal posers, some find them suffocating in creation of outstanding and long-lasting contrast. So contrast is realized by negation of the contextual elements. Architects resort to attitudes like deconstructivist, monumentalist, eccentricist etc. Architecture has been for a very long time and substantially static formation, but now for evocation of contrast, not only the form is made dynamic but the perceiver-users are made mobile and hyperactive. These experiences began in rapidly changing environmental conditions, unsettled positions of perceptions, gyrating conditions, gravity less conditions, videos and movies.


In art work like paintings aberrations of perception arise from how spaces are postulated by extent and depth, and time is suggested with metaphoric details. The way colours are seen or weights are felt is due to such contrasts. Our past experience and desires make us see or experience things before they happen at closer locations.


A silhouette is a very specific condition of contrast. Here the proportion of dark-light is of course important, but the edge conditions like shapes, arrangement, sizes etc. determine the effectiveness of contrast. Silhouette work in two ways: One due to the stark difference between the background and foreground, and Two due the lack of details in the foreground object. A glare is a form extreme contrast which fuzzes the foreground.

Vatican Silhouette

Camouflage is in a way opposite of contrast. It forms from the skillful exploitation of the contrast, though the resultant scenario is cacophonous. The noise occurs from anomalous conditions between the perception and its cognition. It is also the difference between real experience and the expectations. Camouflage morphs the foreground with background, alternatively the foreground turns fuzzy due to the reflections, multiple impressions, askew positioning, colour intonation, altered scaling etc.


Contrast occurs due to cascade of light, glare, echoes or reverberation, masking (of smell, taste), screening, covering, hiding reflections, and framing.


Cascading Light and camaflauge

Protective scaffolding over Taj Mahal AgraIndia 1943

Uniform colour

This is the 18 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN



SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design -17

Post 654 -by Gautam Shah



An architectural space becomes relevant through the scaling. Scaling creates relational organization, where sub-elements get corollary connection and a holistic domain. A scale is for measurement, comparison, sequencing, progression, de-gression, etc. and so it is crucial factor for equivalence, balance, proportions, parallel, symmetry, analogy, proximity etc.

Dune_de_sable_au_parc_Culturel_De_l'AhaggarSize of a space and Scale of space are two distinct terms. Space size is fundamentally related to the human body, and represents the work capacities, reach distance and spread for the users. Size is a relative or comparative fact, which invests the space with functional and quantitative reference. The natures of cognition, physical extension, communication and exchanges are also functions of the space size. The levels of intimacy, the loss of objectivity and subjective involvements that occur in a space, are governed by its size. The size is seen as the facility of accommodation and also future potential for alternation, improvisation, and personalization.


The Scaling endows qualitative character to the space. Scaled spaces have multiple elements. The scaling occurs as duality, a comparison or juxtaposition between two things, or as numerosity that orders sequencing, arrangements, patterning, array, composition, progression, de-gression etc. Scaling is a factor crucial for acknowledging equivalence, balance, proportions, parallel, symmetry, analogy, proximity etc. At a simple level scaling interprets a space to be Large-Small, Wide-Narrow, Tall-Shallow, etc. Scaling also allows for recognition of the compositional geometry and intrinsic relationships, and for taking cognizance of the space in absence of mathematical tools. The constituent elements of a space are distinctly realized compounding of sensorial experiences (visual, touch, smell, taste, aural) and environmental effects (echoes, reverberation, reflection, illumination, glares, directionality etc.). The synthesis creates a conversionary scale, one that is ever-altering the form, size and functions of the space. Same space is perceived to be of different nature depending on the recent experiences, moods, physiological conditions and concurrence of other feelings.




Size of a space is an absolute factor of utility, like functional adequacy, anthropometric needs and sensorial reach capacities. These factors also show the effort and duration required to possess, occupy, use and even dispose off (de-possess, de-occupy) the spatial entity. Size of a space and the environment are interrelated. For a lay person, spaces within the known size and environment are manageable. Such spaces however, cannot always be created. For managing the strangeness or alienation of an even known space, it needs scaling elements like: repetitions, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradation, acceleration-de-acceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, relationships through modulation and proportioning, etc.

observation-deck-381232_640Scaling of a space occurs as duality, a comparison or juxtaposition with another element, or as a composition of multiple elements. But, in both cases, the other element/s need not be present contemporaneously. The other element/s may manifest as remembrance. The spaces can be scaled in hyper-reality. A space of a real world is measured, compared, juxtaposed, interpolated, or judged with an image composed of reality, dreams, desire, myth or mystery.

Palace Mumbai Taj Mahal Hotel Balconies


New built spaces, such as ‘buildings’, are very empty, and go without recognition or serve any exact purpose. Such spaces need to be scaled by elemental interventions of inhabitation. These elements make the spaces functionally purposive and ‘humane’. Such exercises are after the occupation of the space, and so involve the user. Built spaces also have variations of environment and cognition, but in addition, permit personalization.

Japan Buildings Asia District Geometry Shiodome640px-Little_Moreton_Hall_(6451326683)


Personalization of a space adds missing or enhancing elements to mark up, or occlude them to format scaling. The scaling of spaces chiefly occurs by occupancy and installation of amenities and enrichments. For temporary space occupation, the responses to space are perfunctory. It may cause alienation, worries, physical discomfort, and attempts are made to adopt or domesticate the space.



Spaces are scaled to users’ needs based on sex, age, social profile, access through subtle or obvious declarations and exclusive placement. The spatial elements are arranged with visual and aural considerations, grades of proximity, physical distancing, functionality, framing, masking, referencing, matching and contrasting. There are several social phenomena like vulnerability, isolation, privacy, seclusion, participation, groups dynamics, ethos, heritage continuity, etc. that help in spatial scaling.

Street_shops_and_lives_in_BhutanNeighbourhoods’ spaces are scaled to whatever is within reach of access through touch, vision, hearing or smell. The spatial elements are evident with variation of environment, level of cognition, adequacy for occupation and scope for interpersonal relationships.


At Absolute level a space is perceived as the difference between the Length and Width. It is seen as a narrow or wide entity. The height confers its own scale of narrowness or broadness to the space. Height accentuates or de-emphasizes the character of the space nominally contributed by the relation between the Length and the Width. The equality of Length and Width of space marks a balance. The orientation of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space. All these terms also give a sense of direction (long vs short) in the space.



This is the 17 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN



RHETORIC in DESIGN -issues for design -16

Post 653 -by Gautam Shah


Rhetoric is the ‘art of speaking or writing effectively’. (Webster’s Definition) Aristotle describes it as ‘the ability or means of persuasion’. He describes three forms of rhetoric: Ethos (distinctive spirit of a people or an era), Logos (the logic and supportive evidence behind an argument or a reasoned discourse), and Pathos (represents an appeal to the emotions of the audience, and elicits feelings that already resides in them). Rhetoric is used in literary and verbal expressions, by using things that are familiar, but less acknowledged in common usage. In literary and verbal expressions rhetoric is exploited by construction (of the language form) and reinforced through the means of delivery such as rendering diction and graphics.


Literary and verbal expressions generate instant and consistent impression over their audience or followers. Designed objects like arts, crafts, architecture, graphics, products, etc. however, do not carry an immediate or intense message of persuasion. A design has a persistent delivery, but very variable in content. It gets actualized in many different scenarios.


Emotions through rhetoric ‘have specific causes and effects’ (Aristotle -book 2.1.2–3). Such dialogues however, do not exist between designers and connoisseurs. ‘Aristotle posits that along with the pathos (an appeal to the emotions of the audience), a speaker must also deploy good ethos (distinctive spirit of a people or an era) in order to establish credibility’. Philo distinguishes between two different types of logos 1 Prophorikos (the uttered word) and 2 Endiathetos (the word remaining within). In case of design-objects, the later one is relevant, as the rhetoric of design is always latent or potential.

640px-Henri_Rousseau_(French)_-_A_Centennial_of_Independence_-_Google_Art_ProjectRhetoric is means of expression or conveyance. In Literature and utterances it gets reinforced through linkages or examples, and altered through feedback from the audience. Such immediate response is not possible for Art, craft or architecture, and if any, it arrives as feed-forward in the make up (training and experience) of the creator. The design feed-forward chiefly relies on the visual rhetoric like books, site visits, media images, etc. But, it is impossible to perceive here ‘one cause to one effect pattern’. Other sensorial inputs like touch, smell, taste, aural, etc., historically had alogical legitimacy. Once a design actualizes, the feedbacks may arrive as historical realizations, but in different time and context. So designs can ‘have traceable past, but uncertain future.


It is often claimed that visual literacy is of recent origin, when we ignore the mediums of expression and conveyance, which have been with us since primitive age. Wall murals’ images were visual rhetoric, well ‘read’ and capable of arousing Aristotelian pathos (an appeal to the emotions of the audience). Some examples of visual means are charts, graphs, diagrams, photographs, movies, printed media, etc. but though these arouse the pathos but not always as instant response.


Visual Literacy

The study of visual rhetoric is different from that of visual or graphic design, in that it emphasizes images as sensory expressions of cultural meaning, as opposed to purely aesthetic consideration. (Kress, Gunther, and Theo van Leeuwen. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. New York: Routledge, 1996.).


The Design objects like architecture poses a statement only after their making, or on being used as an ‘artifact. Vitruvius stated that a work of architecture is a matter of ‘invention, arrangement, memory, delivery, and style’, and the process was perceived to be similar, to the Aristotelian way of putting together a speech. Design creation is very circumstantial, meant for a client, functions, site, regulatory framework, financial restraints, etc. It, however, needs to be tempered by arrangement, assimilation or composition of many different elements and considerations. These, together offer a holistic character, but realizable only after the creation. Rhetoric in design, if any, is in the design feed-forward, and after its avatar through the feedback. The feed back spreads over a very long period, sometimes after the original entity is destroyed. The Aristotelian depiction of Rhetoric as ‘the ability or means of persuasion’, for designed objects like architecture remains vague or conjectural.


The ability or means of persuasion were reasonable for artefacts conceived and made by the same person. But modern designers generate designs through surrogates or representations, and transmitted to makers or assemblers as schema or specifications. The communication through a schema is an order for execution, but certainly not for persuasion or concurrence. The instructions, if, any are non-personal and distanced in time. Some designs are too involved with the clients or stake-holders, but many others are panoptic. Designers are self-absorbed to care for persuasion or confirmation of anyone. Rhetoric exists, but as statement of non-confirmation.

Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco

Design disciplines are categorized in four major domains: Graphic Design (Real and abstract -symbols communication), Products Design (objects, artefacts, craft-items), Services Design (software, interaction, stake holders) and Empathetic Design (social concerns).

McKeon, Buchanan state the understanding of design, as of symbols and images1, physical artifacts2, actions and activities3, and environments or systems4.

Architecture Confluence Lyon Deconstruction

Build-Designs are perceived at Two levels. First level consists of assembly of elements like signs, patterns, or images, and the organizational discipline. At another level, there is holistic form that is conceived without any elemental identities.

Kirtimukha_sculptures_on_shikhara_(tower)_of_Amrutesvara_temple_at_AmruthapuraThere are few characteristics common to both the congregated and totalitarian forms. Design, in part or as a whole is an allusion to something separated in time and space, and formed through analogy (comparison) or antithesis (contrast). Antiphrasis is an impressionistic expression to convey non-conventional meaning used for sarcasm. Build-forms or the constituents are given magniloquence by way of exaggerated scale, contrasts, precarious shape and intensive vibrancy.


There are few features that rhetorize composite forms due to multiplicity of constituents elements. The sub-elements occur as microcosm, recurrence, as directional move, evolution-devolution and support-contrast. These rhetoric elements manifest in scaling, sequencing or within a perceptible domain of time or spatial reference.


Design objects like architecture, fashion, products, are created for stake-holders and for personal gratification. Objects for personal gratification often result from intense desire to go out of the box as a non-conformal creative activity. This attitude, though very radical, resulting into unusual approaches and solutions, is tied to reality. All worldly creations are governed by factors like gravity, terrain and environment. Arguments of persuasion, justification or acceptance.


Out of the Box thinking: It is believed, the term for unconventional perspective in thinking, has come from British mathematician Henry Ernest Dudeney. In this, nine dots are to be interconnected by using four lines drawn without the pencil leaving the paper. The puzzle required one to go beyond the dot array boundaries that is move out of the box.

9Dot puzzle

This is the 16 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN