PETER BEHRENS -Product Designer

Post 710 -by Gautam Shah



Peter Behrens (1868-1940) was a German artist, architect and designer. His creative conceptual clarity, art, products, architecture and typography all have influenced a generation in Europe. He was born in Hamburg. He studied painting at the School of Art in Karlsruhe (1886-1889). He spent the 1890s in Munich as a painter and designer, practicing in than current Jugendstil or German Art Nouveau style. He was actively involved with the Berlin Sezession group of artists, architects and designers in 1893.

Peter Behrens Products

Sezession was an Austrian and German group of progressive artists, who in 1892 (first in Munich and then in Berlin) formed a separate entity, breaking away from the conservative artists. The secession was a space for people from different backgrounds to work together to influence a new culture of German Modernism. The First World War created a negative impact on the Sezession but Hitler’s rule removed it from the scene.

2 Glasgo School of art

Peter Behrens was the co-founder of the Deutscher Werkbund, whose aim was to link industrialists and artists, paving the way for design-led technology.

The Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, German Labour League or German Work Federation was -ˈdɔʏtʃər ˈvɛrkbʊnd) was inspired by the Government, in 1907. Its initial concept was to bring together designers and manufacturers to integrate the traditional crafts and industrial mass production techniques. Its motto was ‘Vom Sofakissen zum Städtebau’ (from sofa cushions to city-building).

It became the most important group of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists, to support the development of modern architecture and industrial design. Werkbund was first led by Herman Muthesius. Other key members included Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarninen. This initiative later led to formation of the Bauhaus School of Design.

Werkbund members believed that unity and beauty of form was essential and saw industrialization as a force that demanded a re-calibration of the German aesthetic standards. They believed that German designers needed to shift their focus toward designing objects that could be mass produced, to object based on its functional logic, and that each object should be honest about its materials. Its mandate was to enhance the quality of German products in world markets, mainly England and United States in pre WW-I period.

3 Henry_van_de_Velde_-_Chair_-_1895

Peter Behrens (with Henry van de Velde and Muthesius) was also part of the original leaders who developed the philosophy of Gesamtkultur #a cohesive cultural vision where design was the central force for fresh, man-made environment. The visual language perceived for Gesamtkultur was bereft of ornamentation, in favour of simple and function. For the cohesive cultural vision and for re-configuring, optimizing and mechanizing their productions, they discussed all areas of design, graphic, typography, products industrial products design, architecture, textiles, etc. Hermann Muthesius had returned from England to Germany with Morris’s Arts & Crafts concepts, but here he was focussing on mechanizing the production with high-quality design and material integrity.

4 Haus Muthesius Musikzimmer

# Gesamtkultur, as a word was coined by 19th C German composer Richard Wagner, who saw his operas as a total work of art, synthesizing music, poetry, drama, theatre, costume, and set design. It is used for a work produced by a synthesis of various art forms.

18 Dining Room set Behrens

19 Behrens

Peter Behrens, began working as a painter, illustrator and bookbinder. He in 1899, under the influence of J. M. Olbrich moved from Art to Architecture. He was a self-taught architect. In 1899 Behrens accepted the invitation of the Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse to be the second member of Darmstadt Artists’ Colony. Here Behrens built his own house as a debut in architecture. He also designed furniture, furnishings paintings etc. for it. This building in Jugendstil style (German equivalent of Art Nouveau style), though Behrens never lived in it, is considered to be the turning point in his life.

5 PeterBehrens-Affiche1901

Behrens became director of the School of Applied Arts in Düsseldorf (1903-1907). At Düsseldorf, Behrens became interested in Theosophist geometry. The curvilinear forms that he once used in own residence were now replaced with the rectilinear geometry. At Dusseldorf Behrens designed a remarkable building, the Crematorium in Hagen (1906), using the plane surfaces and incised linear decoration with experimental cubic symmetry of geometric volume. He also designed several other buildings in now sober and austere style. This included the Exhibition hall for the Northwestern German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg (1905). With new prestige, he began to frequent the bohemian circles and showed interest in subjects related to the reformation of the lifestyles.

6 Musik zimmer Haus Behrens Schiedmayer

Deutscher Werkbund principles of quality, as formulated in 1907 was the first theoretical formulation for pursuit of Quality. These concepts were so remarkable that several decades later QMS ( Quality Management Standards, ISO 9000) of the ISO and the SA (Social Accountability Standards ISO 8000) had similar foundations.

7 La maison de Peter Behrens (Musée_de_la_colonie_d'artistes,_Darmstadt)_(8728647639)

Germany was embracing a new philosophy and visual style for its simplicity and exactness. The new products, with their high level of functional utility and beauty were expected to build a new future for German exports. Behrens, with his multi disciplinary experiences was capable of designing things in diverse fields. As a product designer, in 1898, he designed glass bottles and different types of wine glasses. In 1907, Behrens was invited for the post of an artistic adviser to Germany’s largest electric company AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft, Berlin). He was required to form a monumental image for the prestige of the firm by arranging mass production with artistic expression. His job included design of electrical equipments, fixtures, branding packaging, catalogues, posters, architecture for factories and workshops.

8 Behrens Office

Peter Behrens, in Berlin office, between 1908-1911, designed five large industrial buildings. The Berlin office had during the period apprentices and design assistants like, Walter Gropius 1907-1910, Mies van der Rohe 1908-1910 and 1911-1912, and Le Corbusier, Adolf Meyer and Jean Kramer. Mies worked on interiors of two houses, AEG Small Motors Factory and Assembly Hall for Large Machines. Other works include Berlin Turbine factory, High Voltage Factory, AEG factory complex, two houses Cuno and the Schroeder, Osthaus -the site plan for a group of villas in Hohenhagen, Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen.

9 AEG Turbine factory facade.jpg

22 AEG Voltastraße Alte Fabrik für Bahnmaterial

25 Peter Behrens AEG High Tension Factory, Berlin

The Turbine Factory for AEG, of exposed steel, concrete, and large areas of glass was admired Le Corbusier as the ‘cathedral of labour’, in 1912. The Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen both, were designed in 1910-12.

17 Behrens Peter Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

21 Behrens Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

10 Project Mies

Behrens always made the final decisions and had total control of the design process. The clarity of the volumetric articulations is evidenced by the choice of the points of view. The buildings were always represented in relation to the environment. He showed an ability to express the materials in the facades through the representational graphics and in the reality of built form.

23 Peter Behrens Bau Oberhausen

11 The Mannesmann house

Design is not about decorating functional forms – it is about creating forms that accord with the character of the object and that show new technologies to advantage.’ –Peter Behrens.

13 Crematorium

The transition between this naturalistic period and his later activities, in the Berlin office show a search for new linguistic conventions based on abstraction, anti-naturalism and expressionism with a degree of monumentality. Peter Behrens remained head of the Department of Architecture at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1922 he became a professor of Architecture at the Academy in Vienna, and thereafter little works of consequence emerged. Behrens became associated with Hitler’s urban dreams for Berlin. Hitler also admired Behrens’s Saint Petersburg Embassy.

14 Behrens's Saint Petersburg Embassy

From 1920 and 1924, he was responsible for the design and construction of the Technical Administration Building (Technische Verwaltungsgebäude) of Hoechst AG in Hoechst. In 1926, Behrens designed a home for Englishman Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in Northampton, UK. It is regarded as the modernist house in Britain. In 1928 Behrens won an international competition for the construction of the New Synagogue, Žilina.

12 Peter Behrens Neologic Synagogue in Zilina 1928-1931

15 Behrens Mausoleum 1925, elevation + Plan

Behrens was AEG’s chief artistic advisor from 1907-1914 and is now considered the Father of Industrial Design. He designed several domestic products for use of electricity. The domestic products were conceived for mass production, utility and not have ‘impersonal’ identity. The objects include fan or Ventilatoren in 1908, light fixtures and electric teakettle. The Fan evolved from the first electric fan, created by Schuyler Wheeler in 1886, with variations in speed setting and wind direction. The electric kettle was the first product with immersion heating elements, integrated into the body of the kettle rather than placing it as an adjunct element. The kettles were produced in several shapes (cylindrical, octagonal or oval), materials (chromium and brass), and surface finishes. Of the possible 216 configurations only 30 were produced. He devised, the Sans serif fonts for the reductive graphic style. Behrens is credited with Schrift (1901-7), Antiqua (1907-9) and Medieval (1914), through Klingspor Type Foundry.

26 Behrens 1930 Berlin Bernauer Strasse subway



SPATIAL MEMORIES –Issues of Design 29

Post 707 -by Gautam Shah


10 Liberty Bell 462864892_f2f1d35e70_c

Spatial memories are about experiences, encounters and realizations for a place, location, extent and territorial approach. These, at a simpler level occur as sensorial reminiscences and at complex level are construed as constructions, arrangements, patterns, sequences or projections. In spite of being in a real space, often, many of the elements of memories remain unconnected as these are distanced in time and space. The reminiscences of space experiences are rarely comprehensive. To know and understand a space, some reminiscent cues are explored for reliving, reenacting, enlivening, and rearranging the experiences. Spatial memories help to complete the experience of the space.

1 Spooky Place 2871375188_4cdefc27fc_c(1)

Spatial memories are associated with sensorial experiences and environmental conditions. Both characterize a space as a place, location, the territorial approaches and define its extent or effectiveness. The spatial memories belie or seem intriguing when the sensorial stimuli or environmental conditions are not connected to any real elements. Memories, however, strange, need a trace to the reality. The association with real makes experiences contextual and re-collectible. Environmental conditions in spite of variations offer a base that is substantially consistent. But sensorial stimuli in various combinations, proportions and orientations alter the quality of space. So the sense of space emerges essentially from the sensorial manifestation.

15 lonely-alleyway

Spatial memories get formed on their own, through conditions of exposure such as the duration, intensity, frequency, elements of surprise, novelty, recurrence, familiarity and coincidental happenings. Classicism or styling, are the essential features, often abstracts, drawn form diverse sources, as singular or unified understandings. Styles are often perceived as new realizations and classicism offer deductive reconstructions. Both distinguish themselves on past reminisces, but are used for moving away from it.


Spatial memories are intentionally induced to make spaces memorable. Such memories are induced by enhancing the experiences, replicating certain elements through exact copies or with minor succeeding variants, emphasizing identities of select components, building up extreme surprises, intentional mis-sequencing, contrasting the situations with things in time-space immediacy or with known past events.

2 The Rage of Achilles by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1757, Fresco,

Spatial memories persist through the folklore. The spatial narrative of the physical assets, such as built-forms, estates, lands, assets, products, possessions, etc. consist of measures, scale, description of the structure, functions, congregations, processions, orientation, directions, etc. Whereas the metaphysical things such as dance, drama, ceremonies, require metaphoric connections to subsist. Such symbolic endowments are made part of the physical assets. The connections work two-ways, to arouse spatial memories and to give validity to the symbolic content of metaphysical things.

18 Musical Instruments 29743081007_8d7167d461_c

Memories remain latent, almost on the verge of being forgotten, till a trigger brings them back. The recall, cues are very thin and fleeting but have the potential of developing into a larger affair. The cues need support from the physical forms like art, architecture, performing arts, crafts, music, etc., and from narrations or abstractions that continue to be embedded in our life. The spatial memories have diminishing prospects. As one moves away in time and space, the prospective field diminishes and the chances for recall cues thin out.

11 old-stone-church-architecture-in-cyprus_800

Spatial memories have no permanence, but only changing relevance. One may not derive anything from a fleeting recall but related physical forms and narratives help arrest with some derivative meaning. Spatial memories need confirmation of common experience and becomes a matter of faith. The common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experiences strengthen the bond between the physical forms and narratives.


When one establishes greater details about a thing or happening, it is to broaden the scenario. A broad scenario allows assessment of distances and directions of a thing or happening from other ones. For both the measures are time and space. Spatial memories are affected by the 1 distances, 2 directions, 3 contextual variability. These help, respectively in I orienting own-self intuitively, II way-finding around complex settings, III concentrating on the essentials among chaos. Such abilities are claimed to be automatic recognition of geometrical order between different elements in space. This is pattern forming and recognition.

3 Plague

5 London Travern 11250424876_b5d9697bed_c

Spatial memories have helped us to map our stellar universe, territorial explorations and sensorial escapades. There are many things that change little over millenniums or change too much to keep a match with biorhythms. We memorize the changes in perceptions of size, colour, shape, movement, direction, growth pattern, etc., The capacity to perceive and means of mapping are two important factors for forming the reminiscences. For these known shapes, patterns, motifs and abstractions are morphed over for image building and memorize the changes.

9 Malay

Spatial memories allow one to navigate through hyper and real spatial complex compositions like neighbourhoods, cities, deserts and forests. It is easy to recollect the environment conditions affecting objects. With drugs and hypnosis a person can indicate the location and positions of long forgotten objects or happenings. The space users remember most are the meaning, sense and emotion that an environment helped provide. Built forms, performances or narratives force us to do certain things in some explicable (predestined?) manner, but some of the reminiscences initiate a process of learning.

4 Wayang_Pandawa

There was a time when few things were recorded but many things were remembered. Yet, there is a natural limit to remember. Even with information recording tools, the quantum of things to self-remember have not changed but capacity to remind own-self and others have increased. Libraries, few centuries back were operating more as means of reminders. Similarly many built-forms are now more reminders of spatial experiences, due to the loss of associated meanings of those times.

20 Grains elevator 48397285452_aff6a49934_c

Humans have been remembering things that really mattered to them and forgot the rest. But writing and documenting made things difficult to forget. The collections in no time became so vast that a new branch of reminding was born. Early museums, post archeological discoveries and colonial expropriation of Art pieces, were accused of uprooting history from their natural surroundings. Here the relics were placed without the natural context but often compounded with new interpretations. All studies are manufactured interpretations and have a tendency to go for extremes. These commentaries have a tendency to make past as rosier or worse than it was. Such colourations are circumstantial. Someone has truly said historical interpretation is always contingent upon the audience’.

21 Pergamon_Museum_Berlin_hm

Now the internet is making forgetting a lot harder. The internet and related information technologies of searches are taking the business of reminding to new scales. Forgetting is impossible with consistent reminders. More information is auto connected with links and tags. Spatial memories were enshrined in accessible (stored) knowledge bases, identified relics, manuscript, records, artefacts, arts, fables, folklore, fashions or styles.

17 Remembarances

22 ART by Pieter Brueghel the Elder - The Dutch Proverbs

6 Bharhut_Jetavana

Modern public spaces now have face recognition systems that also trace out the movement in space and nature of engagements with spatial objects. The same systems will perhaps record what we cognize and do so if repeatedly exposed These are also means remembering and learning the spatial behaviour of individual as well as groups.

Houses Street Buildings Old Strait City

8 Metropolitan Museum

Questions that emerge are, if memories reflect the past, are there any equivalent phenomena that connect the future. Future is inevitably bonded to the reality as much as memories are materialities of the past. One can never remember, imagine or construct a thing that is beyond the reality. There is a fear that unless things of the past are preserved, the present will lose the bearing.

12 san-marino-4266959_640

Woman Dresses People Agra Morning Kau Ban Mosque

Physical entities like architecture have the advantage of persistence, in spite of neglect and decadence. Architectural elements are defaced, disfigured or robbed but the space continues. Architecture rarely gets forgotten, but its memories subsist through many means.

14 Sultan

This is the 29th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.



Post -by Gautam Shah



Interior spaces result as an organization of spatial configurations for specific conditions of environment, beliefs and group behaviour dynamics. However, for circumstantial reasons, it is not always feasible to achieve a perfect set in a given space, for the available technology and in required time. To overcome such deficiencies Interior spaces are endowed with make-believe inputs or effects.


The ‘make-believe’ is an economical substitute for the original or hypothetical entity (time, extent, money, effort). The ‘make-believe’ also offers an exciting tool for creation of new experiences.


We strongly associate specific experiences with entities like materials, technologies, spatial scaling such as size, proportions, texture, colour, illumination, frequency and schedules of occurrence etc. or temporal skewing like enhancing or delaying the event. However, for make-believe, such experiences are created by substituting the nominal entities with different materials and technologies, spatial scaling or time skewing. When the predictable effects fail to arrive in the nominal context, or arrive in spite of a different situation a delusion occurs. Make-believe effects are almost magical or ethereal, and defy logic or reason.


For example, our nominal experience tells us that dark spaces are cooler and quieter, and conversely bright spaces are noisier and warmer, but such expectations are sought to be replaced in maze and adventure tunnels of children parks. Night clubs are darker but noisier and prayer areas are brighter and yet quieter.


We are generally conditioned by predictable effects of the traditional or known materials. However, when we discover that any peculiar configuration or additional input creates an experience that is different from the one that is predictable, and we get a tool for a make-believe effect.


Mirrors play a very important role in creation of duplicate spaces. We are conditioned by the fact that load-bearing walls are opaque, so a glass wall seems different. Till recently transparent material like glass was flat and stiff plate, but plastics now allow two way curvatures, and can also be flexible. Rooms other than the nominal square or rectangular shape provide an unusual experience. Echoes and reverberation of sound provide predictable space dimensions, but different perception gives unusual experience of the space. Lights and shadows mould the visible space. Ionized air endows a garden like freshness in an otherwise stifled space. Indian epic Maha-Bharat mentions of a Laksha Griha (literally a house of Lac or wax), a place where solid looking floors were water surfaces, and water surfaces were real floors.


A society by a tacit understanding accepts certain words, signs metaphors, and indications as allowable and non allowable actions (warnings, danger, caution, etc.). When such commonly acceptable norms are displayed, they function almost like a real barricade. Signs like Caution, Danger, ‘Do not trespass’, ‘keep off the grass’, etc. operate as barriers. Metaphysical barricades are indicative and unreal, or make-believe. Make-believe barriers exploit the instinctive associations and conditioning of physiological and mental faculties.


In real life we do use the stage like make-believe and indicative effects. We use these to create situations that are called ‘dramatic or melodramatic’. Discotheques, Night Clubs, Amusement Parks, etc., are places where such make-believe effects are extensively exploited.




Post 704  –by Gautam Shah


This article is compiled from several Internet resources and my own lecture notes on Surface Finishes.

1 Footed Tray with Figures in a Landscape and Symbols of Seven Immortals LACMA

2 Footed Tray

Ryukyuan lacquerware (Ryukyu no Shikki) is the chief craft product of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa Prefecture of Japan). Shikki incidentally, stands for lacquerware. Ryukyuan lacquerware represents a unique form and style distinct from the neighbouring places. These have three distinguishing features: the brilliant red colour of the background, gold patterns and use of inlay of mother of pearl. Many items and techniques of making the lacquerware of Ryukyuan, elsewhere in Japan and China are common. ‘Ryukyuan lacquers, yet, are neither purely Chinese nor purely Japanese’. The craft of making or decorating with lacquer is common in many Asian countries.

3 Red lacquer tray with gold engraving Song Dynasty

The art of Lacquerware came to Japan with Buddhism in mid 6th C from China through Korea. When Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom, the lacquer items also came through trade with China during 14th and 15th C. Ryukyuan artisans over the years while exploiting, both the local and imported materials, matured the lacquerware into an ethnic craft by using Ryukyuan motifs.

21 Bowl with cover from Okinawa, 18th C Mother of Pearl Inlay work Wikipedia Image by Hiart Honolulu u_Museum_of_Art

20 Mother of Pearl

4 Lacquer case

Ryukyu, lacquerware have over the years seen several political upheavals, forcing imposition of new styles, but yet the most popular red lacquerware has survived such vagaries. During the 17th and 18th C, following the invasion of Okinawa by Satsuma the Chinese style black lacquerware production was made mandatory. It resulted in mixing up of Ryukyuan and Chinese styles lacquerware in single pieces.

5 Red Lacquer Cabinet with Butterflies

In Ryukyu, lacquerware like cups and bowls were used for offerings in religion rituals, whereas items such as necklaces and decorative utilitarian articles were offered for political gratification. The descendants of Ryukyu samurai and royalty used the lacquerware in formal places in order to forge a connection between people and the Gods. The royal Sho family of the former Ryukyu Kingdom have a set of lacquerware luncheon-basket, leg bowl and wine cups, cherished as the national cultural asset.

6 Chest with Peonies motifs LACMA

Ryukyu lacquerware, over the ages, have seen several modifications. These were, in earlier periods due to the change in patronage by the rulers and also inclusion of new patterns, materials and techniques in the repertoire. In modern times these have been mainly markets driven changes. ‘Chinkin’, the gold inlayed items had traditional vermilion and additional green lacquer. ‘Raden’ the flaked seashells inlayed articles were produced in red lacquer. In later periods Raden pieces were produced with green turban or marine snail shell over black lacquer. From 18th C other techniques were used, such as Hakue (foil lacquering) and Tsuikin (red lacquerware with raised designs). After the annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879, Ryukyu lacquerware began to be produced by private workshops and companies.

7 Cosmetic box Kamakura period 13th C plover design in Maki-e Lacquer Tokyo National Museum

4x5 original

Hakue consists of painting a design in lacquer with a makizutsu or a kebo brush and then applying gold leaf or gold-silver powder while the lacquer is half dry. Modern method uses gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, aluminum, platinum, and pewter, as well as their alloys. The Maki-e method was initially used to decorate arms like swords, but adopted over lacquered surfaces.

8 Sutra Box Buddhist with Gold Ming Dynasty

Chinkin (Qiangjin in Chinese) technique is submerging or sinking gold as leaf or powder into carved cinnabar red-lacquered surfaces. This required very fine knife engraving work onto a polished surface. Ryukyu craft-persons preferred a variation of relief building the designs with lacquer putty, called Tsuikin, over the original Chinese method of lacquer (tsuishu) carving. Tsuikin, post 18th C is more common method. Thin sheets of Lacquer mixed with pigments are rolled out. From these various motifs are cut and applied to the craft-item. Due to its easy process, the Tsuikin is very popular process. Hananuri uses the contrast between vermilion and black lacquer. Raden uses seashell flake for inlay work. Mitsudae is a method oil painting (with lead-based pigments) motifs like flowers, birds and skies with white, pink and other bright pastel colours or coloured lacquers (iro-urushie).

10 Modern Vietnam Banana leaf motif in Gold leaf on a red background 1953

In the Heian period (794-1185), when in Japanese history Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their peak, sacred vessels and other articles used by temples of various faiths were of Maki-e style lacquerware. Similarly aristocrats, samurai families, merchants and artisan classes were using Maki-e style items as status symbol and proud possessions.

11 Dish (Pan)With Dragon amid Clouds LACMA

The lacquerware have evolved with many decorating techniques.

Lacquer as a raw material (resinous exudate or secretion of insects flourishing on certain trees), is not local. The material was brought to Okinawa through trade. Exclusive officers were appointed to supervise the production of lacquerware in the Ryukyu Kingdom.

12 Chest with Cartouche Figures on Donkeys in a Landscape Magnolias Plum Blossoms Peonies Birds and Butterflies LACMA

Local woods of Okinawa, such as Deigo coral tree, Sendan or bead tree, Egokoki, Gajumaru, with uniform grains are used.

13 Seal Box with Lotus scrolls & Eight buddhist symbols Red lacquerincised with Gold Qiangjin style

■ Okinawa islands are part of the northern limit of Black sea current which offers the hardest turban shells. Use of wafer-shin shell, prepared by boiling the shell in water for about a week and then pulverizing it (mijingai-nuri) is a local technique. The mix of pulverized shell and lacquer, after applications are rubbed to make a smooth surface (roiro-togidashi).

19 Korean Box, Lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell

15 Gold Lacquer work Tray Japan 19 C

Ryukyu, lacquerware motifs include papaya, plantain, palm trees, hibiscus chrysanthemums, peonies, and other representations of islands’ coastal zone flora. Similarly local and exotic birds and animals, such as long-tailed hens, wagtails (genus Motacilla), chicken, swallows, wagtails, sparrows, mandarin ducks, peacocks and peonies, and a fictional phoenix is found here. Designs that combine and depict flowers and birds are called kachō-zu. Many non local motifs were included to serve the export markets.

Digital Capture

17 Channapatna India Lacquer coated toys

Lacquer coating is common in many parts of the world. Thin lacquer coatings or as applied in multiple layers, nominally do not crack or peel off the surface. Lacquers with additives like wax or oil as plasticizing agents can be applied on many surfaces.

16 Sake Bowls with Lacquer motifs

Shellacs finishes, were the first true clear coatings. Sankheda (Gujarat India) furniture and Chinese lacquer items are examples of shellac coatings. Shellac is a very effective coating material even in very thin viscosity, as a result its penetration and filling capacity is excellent. It is eminently recoatable so a very level and glossy surface is possible. Modern synthetic version NC (nitro-cellulose) lacquer provides a very clear and superior film compared to a shellac and maleic modified resins. Lacquers are modified with alkyds, other synthetic resins and plasticizer so as to control adhesion, softness, toughness and malleability. At fixed levels of viscosities it is possible to formulate lacquers with variable solid contents by varying the degree of molecular linkages. This property renders lacquer as the most versatile coating material for wood, metal, metal foil, leather, fabrics, fibers, plastics, stones, metals, glass, masonry, paper, ceramics, grasses (cane, bamboo), human hair and skin.

Lacquerware from across the world

Links to My other articles










Post 703 –by Gautam Shah


8 BMW Welt, Munich, Germany Wikipedia Image by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)

In art and design, we deal with forms, as holistic or composed entities. The holistic entities also turn compositions, when these are expressed through contexts like media (frame or the extent), setting (site, environment, landscape, illumination), or referenced (orientation, location, sensorial exposition). The pursuit of creativity is at several stages, in realizing the holistic form or graduating to a state of holism after the composition. The assimilation of several elements into a ‘formal’ composition creates a ‘striking’ arrangement, ‘balanced’ placements and an ‘organization’ with synergy and potency of new possibilities.

10 sage-4331425_640

For holistic forms, the creator, if the scale permits, can roll the entity to have an all-around experience, but the moment it is rested or delivered it gains a setting. For holistic forms that are too large, the roll around occurs over a ground, and that becomes its defacto rest. Holistic forms like sculptures or art installations have no functional livability, but as a static structure must rest and get set. Dynamic entities like balloons, space capsules or stations are rotated axially and sometimes three dimensionally to create a ‘dynamic equilibrium’.

9 Experience Music Project, Seattle,WA,USA Gehry Wikipedia Image by EMP-SFM

For composed entities it is necessary to have a bearing. Primarily it is the ‘ground’ where these sit, tie up or rest. And where such provisions do not exist, the bottom of the composition (closer to the omnipresent gravity) becomes one. Elements of the composition at the lower half of the field are closer to the ground and so perceived to be more static. The stability is also enhanced by elements of composition with mass wider in the lower parts. Inclusion of lighter elements such as air, water, sky, flowers, develops a sense of ethereal floatation. Surreal art has not escaped the gravity.

13A Michelangelo ART Ethereal floatation The Creation of Adam

13 Jeremy geddes defying the Gravity

Holistic or composed entities of art and design can remain personal, if are fleeting expressions. But most other expressions, to reach a wider community, must persist. Grounding is the first step towards the persistence. Grounding is related to the force de majeure, the gravity. Grounding creates a balance. Its lack unnerves our sense of regularity, but its oddity excites us. The balance is about distribution of mass around the vertical and across the perceptible zone. Vertical is the post struggle phase of gaining the equilibrium.

11 When Horses Gallop by Andres Barrioquinto

The height of the vertical is always referenced to the horizontal of the ground. The depth of perception stretches the ground in perspective, and proportionately reduces the vertical.


Some form of equipoise is sought for compositions. The balance with equipoise forms symmetry. For equipoised balance the elements around vertical must remain with it, bearing the same effect of gravity, but their repositioning can cause un-equipoise. The symmetry around the vertical, however, is affected by the position of the vertical in the field of perception.

Delhi, Lotus Temple

7 Holistic form Matrimandir Temple of The Mother Auroville Pondichery India

Symmetry is more apparent in visual fields as two eyes can focus to a single object. Two ears need some attenuation to perceive the balance. For the sensation of touch balanced localization is difficult to achieve. Smell and taste buds have singular identity, but spatially too close for distinctive perception of balance.

15 Paul Klee

The zone of perception varies in extent and over time, mainly due to changes in contextual conditions and environment.

6 46702528731_15c7cc5a6c_c

The holistic entities are of many types, copycats, metaphoric or abstract. Copycats duplicate the original in altered scale, sensory (colour, texture) effects and purposes. The metaphoric expressions could be literal models or images of human or other beings (in natural or grotesque form). The abstract presentations remain obscure for their imagery or meaning.

5 Escultura de Frank Gehry El Peix, fish sculpture located in front of the Port Olímpic, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain 1992

The composed creations, unlike the holistic ones have many elements, some are mutually related, due to the purpose, proximity, similarity, counter balancing, scale, massing, etc. These constituents individually or in combinations evoke the past experiences. The past experiences are subjective and fluid. A composition remains a frame in a time slot of a happening.

14 VR offers a way out of the inhibitions for Surrealist Art Movement relativity-escher



DISTANCE MEANINGS -Issues of Design 28

Post 702 –by Gautam Shah


5 CAIRO 100219-F-5667C-015

Distance has TWO fundamental involvements, One, where we judge farness of a perceptible object, and Two, where we gauge the ‘apartness of two things from each other. In both instances the distance is primarily a comparison and so scaled quantity, but it could be the intensity of the subjective sense of perception. Distance tells us about the intervening space. Distance is a measure of how far away an object is from other things. Displacement is magnitude how much an object has been displaced from its original location and in which direction the shift has occurred. In this sense Distance is a scalar whereas Displacement is a vector quantity.

1 Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Far,_far_away_Soria_Moria_Palace_shimmered_like_Gold_-_Google_Art_Project

The word Distāre (Latin) derives from the root ‘sta’ =to stand, make or be firm and also meant to stand apart. Another older variant Distaunce of 13-14 C =a dispute, controversy, civil strife, rebellion, disagreement, discord, strife. Destance of old French =discord, quarrel. Distantia of Latin =a standing apart. Distantem a nominative distans = standing apart, separate, distant. Modern version Distance =remoteness of space, extent of space between two objects or places, an interval of time, remote part of a field of vision.

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Further and Farther are two confusing words. Further is older, and it had originally nothing to do with far. The word far was loaded with -er to become farrer. This was difficult to use orally. There were two other words nearby, fore or forth. In other words, further didn’t originally mean ‘more distant’ but something like ‘more ahead’, or, as the contemporary Oxford Dictionary states it, ‘more forward, more onward’.

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Distance is a measurement in numerical form of how far apart the objects are and also a proportionate measure or ratio. The numerical values are unattached or unconditional (absolute) so in nominal conditions ‘distance from A to B’ and from B to A are the same and interchangeable’.

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Greek Aristarchus (310-230 BC) was the first to estimate the Earth to Sun distance by measuring the angular separation of the Sun and Moon. The first reasonably accurate measurement of the Earth-Sun distance was made by Cassini in 1672. Scientifically accurate distance can be measured, if there is a bounce back (reaction). Apollo missions positioned reflectors to bounce a pulse of a laser. Radiations or physical changes on an interstellar body reach differently to such reflectors on earth and moon, permitting computation of distance.


Spatial remoteness is a separation of sensorial nature with some emotional flavour. The separation may also indicate the difference or disparity between two real or abstract things, thoughts or cognition. The separation or remoteness allows wider view and adds the capacity to observe issues dispassionately. Meaning of remoteness, indicating the space between things, places or events is of late 14c origin. Remoteness is the figurative sense of aloofness.

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If distance refers to the existence of physical space between two objects, then to measure that one can use the time to transverse the interval. The remoteness or closeness of a thing or happening can be a measure of reach of the human body limbs and sensorial nodes. The reach offers tools for intervention, offense and defense.

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The human reach was reflected in word Distantia (Latin root of distance) which meant standing apart (or away) from quarrels, estrangements, discords or strife. This term Distantia refers to a spatial distance, but also indicate the effects of it.


A shouting distance, within ear shot, shouting distance, within sniffing distance, under one’s nose, all relate to sensorial capacities, whereas cheek by jowl, hand in hand, near at hand, hand in glove, within striking distance, walking distance, within spitting distance, stones throw away, cheek by jowl, shoulder to shoulder is limbs related distancing characteristics. There are few terms where the distance is traversing in time like the impending disaster, imminent, upcoming event, relapse and longing. Distance is more pronounced when two people turn away from each other. This is an attempt to disorient the sensorial nodes.

Super Car Tour

Distances seem finite where the definitive entities like under a single sky or roof, or within a bounded terrain (plaza, public square). Distances are less daunting where destinations are within sensorial reach.

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Relationships involving hate or love are reflected in the intervening distance. Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go (-Lana Del Rey). But, now the relationships are bridged by means of communication and presence through virtual adjacency. In the past when distances were measured in time, such as lunches required or horses feed station on the way. And that is why ‘time was the longest distance between two places’ (Tennessee Williams).The big picture doesn’t just come from distance; it also comes from time’ (Simon Sinek).

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Distance blurs the scene but then everything seems simpler from a distance’ (-Gail Tsukiyama). Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity’ (Robert Morgan). And indeed, Louis L’Amour finds distance lends perspective and I often write better of a place when I am some distance from it. One can be so overwhelmed by the forest as to miss seeing the trees’.

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This is the 28th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.



Post 700 –by Gautam Shah


01 Chairs By Mackintosh

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

1 Tea Room Room_de_Luxe


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

1 a Charles_Rennie_Mackintosh_-_Cactus_Flower

1 b Fetges CR Macintosh 1927

1 c weathercade Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Wood

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

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

3 Margaret MacDonald Mrs Mackintosh Opera Of The Seas 1903

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

4 a Galagow School of ART

4 Mackintosh School of Art

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

House for an art lover Glasgow)(3811523958)

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

17 a Ruchill Church Mackintosh

52 Ruchill Church Hall 17

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

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

50 Queens Church Mackintosh

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

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

31 Bedroom furniture by Charles Rennie Mackintosh Wikipedia Image by Karora

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

20 Hill House by Mackintosh

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

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Kelvingrove Glasgow) (3838792257)



DISTANCE as an ELEMENT of DESIGN -Issues of Design 26

Post 689 –by Gautam Shah


11 544px-An_artist_measures_a_model_of_the_human_body_from_a_distance_Wellcome_V0009476

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


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.

2 motifs


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.

11 complex image goya painting the third of may

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.

screenshot_2018-12-26 fgmpaperiiyr2 pdf

‘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 synergistic 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.

14 Gaudi-Casa-Batllo

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.

10 Puentedelabarra

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.

5 SpiderCatenary

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.

19 City_Hall,_London,_Spiral_Staircase_-_1

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’.

1 Open_area_at_the_Johnson_Wax_Building,_headquarters_of_the_S.C._Johnson_and_Son_Co.,_Racine,_Wisconsin

1930 Living Room

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.

2 Toaster

Futuristic Curves City Hall, San Jose, CA

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