EAVES

Post 681 –by Gautam Shah

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Eaves, is a curious word. It has a dilemma hung on it. It is both singular and plural form of the word. It derives from Old English ‘efes’ =edge. It cognates, with words like, Old High German ‘obisa’, Gothic ‘ubizwa’ (hall), Gothic ‘ubizwa’ (porch), Greek ‘hupsos’ (height) and German ‘oben’ (above). Eaves are not just the roof edge up-above, but overhanging edges of a hat or forests.

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Eaves-dropping and eaves-dripping are etymologically related, but serve vastly different meaning. Eaves-dropping is listening to a private conversation, standing under the sill outside the window, and that sill ‘drops’ under the eaves projection. Or is it trying to over-listen idiosyncrasies of eves. Eaves-dripping is the dripping of water falling off the roof edge, and sometimes causing land washout.

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The eaves are projected roof edges or additional structures at a lower level, but both primarily conceived to throw rain water clear of the walls. These were required to protect softer wall materials or the masonry joints, like mud. Eaves help throw rain water away, not only because of the depth of the projection but its angle. These prevent erosion of the footings and plinths.

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Deep eaves shade the walls from sun-rays. The shaded areas of eaves form a buffer air zone to protect the walls from convective heat. Eaves as projections add to the upward load on the undersides. Projected eaves of wood, are fire prone elements. Modern buildings are constructed without any type of overhangs, because it hampers servicing-cleaning of facades, enhances efficiency of disaster rescue and evacuation, and reduces chances of irregular fire-spreads.

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Eaves are formed of cement-concrete, and as framed structures of steel and other metals. The framing is covered with a soffit made of materials of poor fire resistance (less than one hour of fire rating), and therefore is ‘susceptible to ignition by embers and hot gases’. Once the eaves catch fire it spreads to the exterior wall and roof.

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The eaves of any depth (Chhajja, cornice, cap, ledge) form a small to large, functional or decorative overhang as an architectural entity. Eaves and other architectonic elements like lintels, arches, head formations, floor ends, are all variously fudged to create new vocabularies. FL Wright began to open up the interior spaces with clear glass doors and windows as in Prairie houses, by using the darkened space below the elongated eaves. Taking advantage of the dark formation under roof overhangs, Wright began to negotiate the corners with windows, and broke the box like Victorian architecture of the age. He added bands or elongated windows to add to the horizontal effect of the eaves’ roofs.

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According to Japanese mythology a door portal is formed by the Hisashi (usually means eaves), whose character has the meaning ‘a space to see’. It is a connection with the outside. So a door occurs when a horizontal element like the eaves is formed. The essence of a gate comes into being through the eaves. Torii is a metaphoric gate, formed by head bands, the ‘eaves’. The eaves are free floating elements, seemingly have no side supports. The Torii gate has such eaves lines. The Sanchi Stupa Gate also has three emphatic horizontal bands of eaves. The Toran, buntings, streamers, banners, all are forms of the eaves.Gates

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The eaves not only protect but mark an ambulatory pathway around a building. The moya, or main room of the shinden, was surrounded by a secondary roofed veranda, or Hisashi. The moya was not partitioned, privacy being secured by low portable screens. The area surrounding the *moya or core of a temple building was a narrow aisle-like area, usually only one bay wide. It can extend around the moya or on one, two or three sides. The floor of the moya and the Hisashi are at the same level throughout. Hisashi may also refer to an unenclosed veranda or corridor protected by either additional eaves underneath the main roof, or by the extension of the eaves of the main roof over the open Hisashi.

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Eaves-drop or eaves-drip, is the width of ground around a house or building which receives the rain water dropping from the eaves. Projected eaves have been matters of tenancy-rights disputes between neighbours. An ancient Anglo-Saxon law, a landowner was forbidden to erect any building at less than two feet from the boundary of his land, and was thus prevented from injuring his neighbour’s house or property by the dripping of water from his eaves.

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● A proprietor may build as near as he pleases to the confines of his property, provided the eaves drop from his building does not fall on the adjoining property. It is enough, however, that eaves-drop actually falls within the building’s property; and the conterminous proprietor has no right to complain although the water, following the natural inclination of the ground, should afterwards run into his property.

● The Roman law required a proprietor who had no servitude stillicidii to place his building two feet and half within his march.

● In Scotland there is an express statute on the subject; but by custom nine inches, at the least, seem to be necessary for the eaves drop.

-Dictionary of the Law of Scotland, Volume 1 By Robert Bell

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Eaves projections and Fires: The building act of 1707 in London and other towns of England banned the projected wooden eaves to prevent spread of fire along the wall and to the roof structure. A 18″ thick parapet was required and the roof edge was set back. The roof was set back little more to provide drainage of rain water. Parapets over the roofs were made taller, shaped, decorated and pierced.

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PROJECTED OPENINGS in BUILDINGS

Post 679 –by Gautam Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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'M2 Mashrabiya'_at_Al-Sadat_house_in_Cairo

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

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

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CORNERS and Neighbourhoods

Post 678–by Gautam Shah

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

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

Lisbon Street Image by Paulo Guedes (1886–1947)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STONES -materials of sustainability

Post 676 –by Gautam Shah

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Stones are procured through collection off the surfaces and by extraction (mining) from depths of the earth. The stones of both types are abundantly available. Major problems with sustainable stone exploration are the economics of transportation. Other issues are cost of size conversion, surface preparation and quality equalization. In future greater attention will have to be for management of stone-wastes at locations of mining and processing.

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Stones are used for their surface quality and structural properties. And in spite of technologically greater capacity to search over wider and deeper terrains, stones always remain scarce or unviable at many places. At use-points natural stones must arrive in optimum mass-units and in forms that are viable for transport, storage and usage.

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Stone resources are of basic two types: Surface Stones and Extracted Stones.

Surface Stones show many, but qualitative and size variations. Over a geographic region, though the quality is fairly consistent. Quality equalization can only be enforced through region-based sourcing, selection and separation. Surface-collected materials are naturally formed (boulders, pebbles, gravel, sands, etc.) or wastes of stone processing. Such materials are fractured along the plane of shearing force or across the weakest plane, and so show varied structural properties, colour and grain structure (texture) on different faces. These stones are equally weathered on all faces.

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Extracted Stones materials are loaded (buried) with varying depths of overburden, of the same or different nature of materials. The over burdening mass, protects as well as contaminates the stones. The water passing through the organic soil burden is nominally acidic, and so affects the alkaline stone mass. Fresh lime stones are soft and porous, but when exposed to Carbon dioxide begin to change, harden due to the aeration.

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Typically, igneous (granite, trap) and metamorphic rocks (marble, schist, slate) have nearly crystalline compounds, and are not stratified so do not present any layers or strata. Sedimentary rocks (lime stone, sand stone, soap stone, travertine) are formed of uniform constitution, though stratified, often in inclined and curved formations due to movements in the earth mass. Sedimentary rocks show grains intervened by a cementing medium.

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All stones collected from the surface or mined, must go through some primary processing.

■ Subtractive processes remove excess mass for surface cleaning, sizing, cleaving and pattern sculpting. The processes are, chipping, splitting, cutting, dressing, sculpting, engraving, grinding, polishing etc.

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■ Formative processes do not add any mass but change the spatial or physical characteristics of stone such as its sensorial, structural and environmental behaviour. The treatments include impregnation, edge reinforcing, various types of chemical treatments through acid, alkali, solvent and other oxidative compounds, heat and flame treatments, sintering, spluttering, dying, bleaching etc.

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■ Additive processes add to the stone mass. Till very recently technologies involved were of Surface layering by way of coating or cladding. But now ceramic formation, metal alloying and deposition, surface synthesis, surface molecular treatments are being used.

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The sustainability of stone is dependent on basic three aspects: 1 Minimum mass for largest possible surface extent, 2 Reuse of all waste products, 3 New uses for very small sized materials (sand, gravel, pebbles).

1 Stones are valued for their surface qualities, and we need to extend the Surface area. The extended surface reduces the mass / weight of the stone. This can be done by thin sectioning, and by techniques of amalgamation of bits and pieces.

2 Stones have certain structural properties which we can be altered and reinforced. This process starts with new ways of excavation, extraction and conversion of the material. And can be extended to new forms of usage.

3 A new field is emerging on materials’ technology front. This is about creating new materials combinative formations. The formations include various types of composites, geometrical or spatial compositions and combining or ‘synthesizing’ materials of diverse nature. These reconstructive processes include using particulate matter (various grades of fineness such as dust, sands, gravels, pebbles, chips and lumps) as fillers with a matrix of resin or cement. Forming layered composites with sheets or slabs of stone and other materials (polymer sheets, fabrics). Forming amalgamated materials by lamination, co-extrusion, sheet forming, metalizing, ceramic forming, etc. and chemically converting stones into byproducts like minerals and chemicals.

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Sustainable Strategies for Stone

Stone is the least of bio-degrading materials, so not a ‘recoverable or ecological’ material. It can be recycled through reuse processes. Sized blocks of stones for masonry and flooring, have been reused since Egyptian and Roman times. But stone-waste dumps at mine heads and workshops are causing environmental problems.

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Stones are broken or crushed from larger stocks for many purposes like roads, embankments etc. which is an avoidable practice. Stones like gravel and boulders (from river beds and old glaciers’ paths) are some of the toughest stones, left over after natures’ processes. But these rounded stones are not used in masonry work, or broken down to smaller sizes. River and seacoast sands are becoming scarce in supply, and could easily be replaced with ground stone, at least in mass concrete plants.

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INDUSTRIAL AGE BUILDING TECHNOLOGY

Post 675 –by Gautam Shah

Industrial Building

Industrial age, from the late 18th C changed the materials of construction and processes. These affected the form, scale and functions of the buildings. Cast-iron, wrought-iron and mild steel were being produced economically and qualitatively. Portland Cement was developed in 1824. First applications of new materials were through older processes, so the change was not noticeable, but did saw the termination of Revival styles. Steel was no longer a stronger cousin of cast or wrought iron. It began to be exploited for its tensile potential. Concrete as Steel-Cement composite offered radically different possibilities.

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New Iron Age

New structural configurations emerged for entities like railroads, depots, shopping centres, bridges, warehouses, factories and commercial complexes. During 1850 to 1870 building facades of steel and glass virtually eliminated the masonry walls. This was accompanied with changes in of the fuels for home warming, cooking and lighting. The glass fronted buildings created new architectural exteriors and brightly lit interiors. Buildings now had deeper spaces, and larger footprints.

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The glazing for openings was larger, and mullions and transoms became thinner or disappeared. The conspicuous columns and beams on the facades began to recede to the interiors. Factories produced opening systems for commercial spaces, now had standard of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware. These also helped the demand for cheap and quick public housing.

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Many older types of openings, typically conservatories, jalousie, bay and bow windows were redefined with better technologies. Till now dwellings, had main facades as a style treatment, and other sides were simpler and less expensive. High rise buildings in dense urban areas were, however, seen from all sides and required equal treatments. The equal treatment on all sides did not respect the climatic orientation or follow the functions inside. The openings’ systems were required to do many different things, depending on the location. Such localization and customization were done by installing new internal treatments to openings.

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Flooring was another changed entity. It was not possible to procure natural materials for very extensive spaces. So many new cement-based systems, precast and cast-in-situ, were innovated.

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The transition to new age was not smooth. The resistance included, rejection of time tested styling and skepticism for new things. These were arising due to several facts, machine-craftsmanship was poor, no quality-assurance was available, and mass-produced items lacked the personalization or exclusivity. At another, level the resistance was coming from designers’ and builders’, who found their roles changing with ready to use components.

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SIZING and SCALING the SPACES -Issues of Design 23

Post 674 –by Gautam Shah

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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°.

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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.

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

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The CORNER in City

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Post 673 –by Gautam Shah

This is the 2 nd article of the series: ‘CORNERS’.

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A corner has dual identity of being interior and exterior entity. As an inward space segment and an outward surface between two converging surfaces. As an inward segment, it is an awkward or embarrassing location, a closed end, from which getaway is impossible. As an outward entity, it stretches around a junction. This is an opportunity to turn for a significant change. Road corners are rarely sharp as all impediments for smoother movements are ‘ironed out’ with setback of the mass. On roads the corners are preferred for retail businesses like convenience stores due to wider visibility and easier access. In offices occupation of a corner-office is a promotion, because there is nothing beyond it. A corner, inward or outward is a place of manipulation and intrigue. Some ‘cut corners’ for shorter transit, or to gain undue advantage. A child, is punished by asking to move over to the restrictive corner. In warehouses, corners are less accessible, so a dumping place for redundant items.

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City corners are difficult to negotiate, more so, if these are wider or narrower than the right angle. Acute corners are punishments for designers and citizens, but not for the bar owner or the banker. Turning around an obtuse corner is tiring, architecturally and physically. A diffuse corner has perpetual uncertainty, and if it is a polygon or rounded, and it continues to impinge from the site to building.

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Corners in architecture occur not just at street junctions, but also at plot or estate edges of a road. That is why the first dictum of Urban Design has been to ‘always hold the street Line. This simply translates that ‘if the road does not abut the property at a right angle, than make the building front face follow the street line’. It declares put your building right out at the sidewalk instead of behind one of those dreary concrete plazas.

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In spite of such dictum, design-colleagues, Town Planners merrily cut angular roads through a right-angled grid (Paris, Barcelona, New York), or create grids of odd angles (Delhi, Washington). Unplanned or organic city plans have buildings and roads corner that reflects a mutual respect, matured over age. And to be one up, the architects chop their buildings at acute angles.

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Corners become important urban design for several reasons:

1 Cities and towns have street corners, and buildings confirm or negate their presence.

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2 Buildings are designed with own corners, which may match or differ from the street-line.

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3 Buildings are well distanced from the street or have substantial interventive mass to dissolve the bearing of the street.

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4 Historical buildings miss the original context of the site, by surviving and yet being relevant.

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The basic question remains, Why are corners so important in a city scape? Corners develop in historic or organic city layouts. The street and the building imbibe each other to coincide their characteristics. Corners, for graduated vision and movement on a turning point, are diffused through rounding or addition of a flatter edge. Corners of iron-grid planning, at right angles, are predictable and boring, requiring several corrective measures. The measures include special building laws for negotiating the right angle, wider pavements to accommodate around the corner movement and formation of unique junction identity by road-scape elements like lampposts, curbs, dividers, barricades, road signage, etc. Some cities have tried corrective cut corners, but creating confused architectural shaping and space management of the plot.

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Regimented design of cities is sought to be relieved by an angular road, as a variation of the theme’. The overlaid pattern cuts the plot as ‘non-squared front face’, but all other three faces -the sides and front remain squared. This creates a dilemma, How to align a building? Deep plot holders prefer to design a building parallel to the sides, as it is economically viable. The front side is left open to ‘corrupt the street architecture’, or stepped-serrated. Wide plot holders place the building in alignment with the street, as the adjustments for space sacrifices are small on shorter sides.

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A typical urban building will have one major face over the street, with the other 3 sides tucked into invisible alleys or buffering margin spaces. Corner locations are preferred, as the site offers the road (read -open) exposure on two faces. Corner buildings are highly visible. A corner building has 2 main facades facing the street. Acute corners are dissolved through special town planning provisions or design. Corners are rounded, setback, fluted-serrated or have ‘stand-alone’ forms like drums, tall towers, angled cubes, or ‘oriel’ openings. Buildings are designed to match the site corner, but can also have corners that are designed to mismatch the site. A building can gain a visible corner, if the adjoining structure has a setback.

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Corners are created through multiple folds or serration to increase the perimeter. The increased perimeter through serration offers several ‘corner offices’, commercially a viable proposition. Vertical serration creates taller image, but horizontal bands soften the corner. All types of bands and serrations increase the joints to be maintained.

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Sears Tower (1973, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), has upper floors with recessed spaces that intentionally maximized the number of corner offices as prime aerial real estate and expansive views to attract business tenants.

 

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In Ahmedabad, India, till 2001, balconies (projected galleries beyond the allowable foot-print) of buildings were considered as extra over the nominal ‘foot print’ spread. Builders created balconies all over the serrated perimeter, and added 20 to 40 % extra built space. Post earthquake of 2001, projected galleries were disallowed. This forced the building to be ‘strait jacketed with simpler plainer facade’.

Facade perimeters are manipulated to add to visibility from multiple directions. These occur as outward or inward bow. Such classical shaping at plan level is now being replaced with facades that undulate in a vertical axis or become ever variable.

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The corner is tackled by forming the street level floors, podium-mass (one to several floors tall) to follow the street foot print or town planning provisions. A tower like structure rises above it, but of a smaller footprint and of different shape. The tall tower often requires upper floor setbacks to confirm the height versus the width of the adjacent street equation.

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Design of Barcelona by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà is characterized by a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues. The city blocks have chopped corners forming octagonal units. The angled or chopped corners were formed to allow broad intersections with greater visibility and fluid traffic. Cerdà had ‘steam trams with broad turning radius in mind’. Trams were, though never installed.

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