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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The CORNER -metaphor

Post 672 by Gautam Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parthenon Athens Greece (1978) Wikipedia Image by Steve Swayne

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

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

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

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MORPHING the ARCHITECTURAL GEOMETRY

Post 671 by Gautam Shah

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Architectural forms are primarily of neat geometric constitution. Externally these may remain holistic, but internally evolve into a complex entity. The interior morphing compulsions are for new spaces and novel experiences, whereas the gamble on the exterior front relates to new shapes and silhouettes. Internal uses are varied and dependent on the orientation and connection to exteriors, but external side basic demands are for ethereal lightness and grounding to the gravity. On the exterior front, to sustain the neat geometry and maintain the holistic form, several compromises occur. These include lopsided connections with the outside, regimented face on all sides, irrelevant scale and form for the locality and community. Where such liberties are required, these are sought to be covered up with a monophonic applique skin. The skins could be opaque and glossy, or transparent and reflective. The skin is also included with extensive texture of architectonic elements, surface treatments and ornamentation, to camouflage the variations.

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The validation of a holistic entity, on functional, structural or social is not possible, unless wide range of compromises are accepted. Historically, large number of architectural forms start as a composition of several sub entities, but mature into a singular form. This was more plausible where buildings were designed by a master architect, and later handled by expert builder or a strong political patron. The comprehensive forms also emerge when cannons of styling or architectural orders are well established.

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The maturation to a comprehensive form has occurred on the same building during its planning, with later day improvisations, or as a style upgrade across a region. Such changes come through extensive rejuvenation of the shell or as superficial application. Often, there was no conscious effort for a comprehensive form, but rather affirm to a trending ‘style’. The style morphed forms were more unifying with new orders, thematic confirmation, repetition of patterns, axial symmetry, proportions etc. It also gave way for superfluous decorations to be added, by later generations.

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Architectural geometric forms besides being too neat and simplistic have little to offer in terms variations. So on external and internal sides, the form is transgressed. The bloated form causes spatial diversity. The geometric form is stretched outward as projections, galleries, and inward as cutouts, chowks, ducts, etc. The transgressions occur over existing openings or new ones, but all bring in more illumination and visual connections with nature. Later day structural changes are rare, as many were load-bearing entities. Morphing new things over existing structure was an easier strategy.

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The outward push or exterior transgressions of buildings have had two basic purposes. To create a comprehensive architectural entity by stabilization (wider base), stepped form, hierarchical arrangement of constituents, linking of loose elements, balancing the composition, add segments of interest on the side that are deficient, establishing connections to the site topography or neighbourhood, strengthening or recasting the style value, increase the footprint and for adding the mass.

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Building forms are pushed outward to enlarge and reconfigure the shape of interior space. The breach removes the omni present sense of enclosure of interior spaces. The outward transgressions, like verandahs extend the threshold or buffer zones. In many instances it facilitates sideways view, additional aeration and illumination. The outward push of the building mass added surface area, and space for new architectonic elements or units for pattern making.

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The outward push makes an architectural composition multifarious, but it is the inward push that changes the spatial quality and often the raison d’ etre for the adventurous undulation of the outer form. Openings created or reformed for interior space modulation, began to create a visually recognizable entity at twilight and night times against the darker setting of the town. Steeples, lanterns etc. were simultaneous elements of both the exterior and interior transgressions.

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Architectural form transgressions are profuse at roof level. The chief purpose was to pattern a silhouette. In old buildings the silhouette or the edge-line was factored in twilight hours. But after 19th C the street lights and massing of structures in the surroundings began to redefine not only the massing, but the roof edges. Roofs are re-composed with same unitary shapes being replicated at different scales and with siting positions. These at micro level include manipulation of roof edges, parapets, eaves, finials, grotesque, gargoyles pinnacles etc. At macro level, roof elements include Chhatris, belvedere, flying buttresses, spires, roof lanterns, steeples etc.

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To convert a conglomeration of bare geometric elements into a comprehensive building, several levels of changes occur. The changes include confirmation to gravity by way of a wider base for stability, localization (orientation, climate) (position of entrances in North versus South Europe), Real and perceptive structural stability, cultural validity and stake-holders accordance.

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Such a process of confirmation is consciously negated by the deconstructivist. The confirmation to gravity is post conception adjustment, wider base for stability is camouflaged behind reflective surfaces, localization does not exist, elements of real and perceptive stability are defied on the exterior side but are outrageously clumsy on the internal side, cultural validity and stake-holders accordance is given a go, for the ‘universal’ built-form. It is not architecture but a construct like a sculpture. It is an adventurous built-form offering spatial complexity for new experiences, a fresh behavioural setting, but one is expected to search for a functional utility.

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SHADING DEVICES for BUILDINGS

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Post 670 by Gautam Shah

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Openings need additional shading systems primarily because these are thin and more translucent in comparison to any other structural barrier systems, like walls, floors or roofs. Additional shading systems are preferred because the needs are for small period of time, part of a season, occasion or location. The needs for a shading device are people, culture or locality specific. The openings are used for outward and inward view, illumination, breeze and air change. And shading devices achieve needs by blockage, filtration, reflection, redirection or delays.

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Opening systems like Gates, Doors and Windows have three distinct zones: The exterior zone deals with environmental aspects that are spatial extensive, directional, temporal and seasonal, The interim section constitutes the body of the opening, and so its depth is the operative element. The interior segment is in the personal domain of the owner-user, which makes Interior shading devices easy to install, manouevre, change, with variable yet very precise control over the functions. Interiors shading devices are also visible from outside and so some conflicts of approach to design are inevitable. In most likely scenarios the architect is a different person than the Interior designer, who may or may not confirm to the theme of architecture.

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Shading Devices with openings are of many different types. Different types of shading devices improve each other’s functions, often duplicating it. There is a strong demand to rationalize the system with fewer elements, by way of integration, removal of duplication and redundancy. Shading devices offer micro tuning of the environment, catering to local requirements, provide occasional variations and satisfy the urge for personalization.

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● External shading devices are architectural provisions, with varying levels of integration. There is an overwhelming regimen of the building style, location, orientation and shape-form. The provisions are so confirmatory that user is not allowed to make any changes. The provisions, though occur as fixed devices and as manipulable systems, no spatial relocation is allowed.

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External shading devices are of longer lasting materials as these have to bear the elements of environment like Sun, rain, heavy storms, snow, atmospheric pollution. These are termed architectonic element due to the match with architectural language.

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External shading devices are very effective, as they intervene before the radiation, rain, wind etc. enter into a building shell. Such devices de-rigueur have universal design for all faces and floors, but are affective differently at different times of the day or season.

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● Interim shading devices have thickness as the key factor, and are usually thin. Interim systems could have partial spread or have options of folding, collapsing or demounting. These are frugal and likely to be a single purpose entity. Interim shading systems are often spatial provisions of vacuum or gas filled cavities.

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● Internal shading Devices occur in a user domain and so are preferred for the ease of choice, installation, change and manipulation. These provide variable yet very exact control over privacy. The internal shading devices are housed in a protected environment so can be delicate, lighter in weight and occupy a very small thickness.

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Internal shading devices are multi layered to serve diverse purposes, and offer several choices of spread or placement. The space between different layers is intentional, to work as a metaphysical barrier. Internal systems also serve purposes beyond the shading, like sound and thermal insulation of the interior space. These also provide a tactile (soft) surface, colour and textural effect in the interior space. Interim shading devices filter and diffuse the light in inward and outward directions.

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Internal shading devices are predominantly of soft materials such as fabrics, films, sheets, flexible materials like mats, nets, tapestries, or stiffer materials such as reeds, wood slats, etc. Thin and pliable materials allow the assembly to collapse, gather or roll up. Glazing materials offer largest variety of surface treatments, by way of manufactured constitution, integrated and applique surface treatments. Glass surface treatments now include application of films, texturizing, metalizing, micro (nano or molecular level) engraving, enamelling and colouring.

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Shading devices such as Venetian blinds or vertical louvers are not very effective on the internal face of the opening, as the solar gain has already been admitted into the interior space. But interior shading devices offer glare control, and visual comfort. An internal shading device reflects back part of the radiation, but latent heat remains within the interior space.

Shading Devices are single or multi layer systems, acting as a composite or assembly of individual skins. The layers have prearranged sequence, so access to an inner layer becomes difficult. Some can be collapsed or removed. Layers form a planer element with some materials plus cavities as the substantive body.

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Additive or mounting systems are used as optional or occasional facility like storm shutters. Collapsible or folding systems require a volumetric space for parking or resting, which reduces the net area of opening. Pseudo or pretentious shading devices are in the form of furniture elements, furnishings, panelling, partitions and other architectural devices.

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Thermal management by shading devices: These are designed to take optimum advantage of seasonal angles of a solar incidence. The solar gain occurs primarily in reference to the plane of the window, so an alternate method could be to have a variable plane of the window, but that may not be an appropriate architectural style. However, external shading devices keep the glazing surface in shade to cut off the direct solar radiation.

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Vision management through shading devices: Shading devices as subsystems divide the view out or inwards by framing, masking, modelling. The visual scape is altered through the sill and lintel level and shape, pattern configurations, quality of glazing etc.

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Safety security with shading devices: External shading elements maintain or reduce the size of opening, and so become integrated latticed barriers for safety and security against height related hazards.

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SUPPORT SYSTEMS -Issues of Design-22

Post 669 by Gautam Shah

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We need supports to move, stand, or even do nothing. We use the support for gaining, sustaining or relieving various biological conditions of the body. We need, physical as well as abstract, supports. We need supports inside our places of inhabitation, and beyond it. We explore our environments for natural supports, and configure supports as we create our habitats.

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Primary supports are required for getting in-out, conducting tasks, closing-opening and shifting the utilities. Supports are also used for expression and communication. Supports govern the reach and work capacity of a person. Supports allow and enhance movement of the body limbs and parts, in wide range of spatial occupations and conduct it at a required pace.

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Built-forms, amenities and facilities offer a complex set of configured supports. Supports are required to initiate an action, for work towards or away from the gravity, overcome impedance of friction, bondage etc., for swaying and stopping it and absorb the bounce-back forces of reaction. Supports help change the body postures for physiological relief, breathing, metabolism, respite from tedium and consistency.

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Support systems are universal, used by persons of different stature, abilities, age profiles and mental conditions. Supports occur in one continuum, employed in unique sequence of activities. For these two reasons, some optimal needs must be realized.

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Amenities and Facilities offer physical and abstract supports. The physical supports as they really exist, we rarely use them. The physical supports through their presence provide assured certainty and adequacy of performance, safety and security. It is psychological reliability that the supports are available, when and where needed. Abstract supports do not exist, but are rather conditions that restrict one to take certain actions. These are socially acknowledged thresholds. Such metaphorical systems also regulate the expressions of the body.

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The supports are required for facilitating Macro movements of the body, like shifting the body or changing the posture whereas Micro movements help in gestures, communication and expression, and to realign the physiological pressures.

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In all work processes, brisk or sedentary, one needs the ability to freely reposition the body. Such movements are postural ones, like the movement of limbs, neck, switching the weight over legs, or wriggling over the bottom. Others are gestural (twitching of lips, eyebrows). The postural or gestural changes occur with supports. These are, access height of the amenity, body position and related reach and work ability, familiarity etc. Assurance of a support allows one to take deliberate risks.

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Body movements endow new work capacities (reach, spread, productivity) besides removing the tedium. Such dynamic posturing increases cognition of happenings around us and encourages concentration by stimulation of muscles, blood circulation, and neurochemical processes. Too many body changes may seem distracting to others.

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Balancing the body

We continuously sway our body due to internal causes (breathing, metabolic activity), and for external reasons (like turning head while observing and communicating, for keeping garments in order). The sway invigorates our body and greater participation in the world around us. For such minor swaying no physical supports are required to initiate or terminate it.

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The postural changeability is both a physiological adjustment and a psychological expression. It is reflected in anxiety and boredom. Postural discomfort also occurs due to inadequacies of utilities. Utilities are exploited (misused) for fidgeting. Fidgeting is now accepted as a mode of tackling and learning. Intentional postural incongruities are natural while executing novel and complicated tasks. But postural stillness does not last very long while handling vibrant conditions.

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Exposure of postural discomfort and related restlessness, if amplified, can become very embracing. Designers need to include supports and barriers for fidgeting to flourish but regulate its exposure. Postural discomfort at some level is unbalancing force and a nearby support is required.

Receptionists are intensely observed persons. This is annoying when waiting seats are in front, a reception table is at eye level and its front is open and no other interests in the space. Similarly ‘open desks’ on stage or in conference rooms, if open at leg level distract the viewers.

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Once, our work tables were ‘wall mounted’, to source various services (drainage, power, structural support), but then concept of island work stations offered multi-directional posturing and access. In offices the open plans were too static. The personal table top computers were too fixed for fidgeting around. The Laptops with wireless data transfer systems and cloud storage not only allow micro body movements, but also posting in variable locations.

Designers are offering amenities and facilities that are not very ‘comfy’ but with ‘bearable discomfort’. That causes, little physical inconvenience, to infuse reach, balance, transitions extra ordinary perception.

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Indian offices, once had stools for peons. The wide foot print (legs tapering outward) offered a stable structure but its small sized seat and taller height, were unnerving, keeping the person alert and ready to standup. Similarly tall bar-stools also do not allow one to settle but allow freedom of movement. Aged people (and pregnant ladies), to get up, derive support from handles and harder, taller and a flatter seat, things contrary to these conditions make life difficult.

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The support systems are required for Active or Passive movements.

Ο Free active movements are used by a person to overcome the effect of gravity, for example, rising from lying to seating position.

Ο Resisted active movements are used by a person to overcome the effects of a manually or mechanically applied force, for example, lifting a load, closing a door, using a knife and fork, or digging with a spade.

Ο Assisted active movements occur with the help of another person or apparatus, like mother assisting a child or by using a chain or rope.

Ο Assisted-resisted active movements are dual efforts. First part of the movement assistance is required to initiate an action, but the other part uses resistance to control the action.

Ο Passive movements are those produced by an external force during muscle inactivity. All joint movements can be performed passively by manual means.

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This is the 22 nd (continuation of old series -new beginning) article on ISSUES of DESIGN

 

ARCHITECTURAL vs COMPUTER WINDOWS

Post 668 by Gautam Shah

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The first independent version of Microsoft Windows, version 1.0, was released on 20 November 1985. It was originally going to be called Interface Manager, but Rowland Hanson, the head of marketing at Microsoft, convinced the company that the name, Windows was more appropriate.

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And this was the beginning of unlimited harassment to all architects (and even lay persons), first from the Encyclopaedias and later by search engines. This happened when a nominal word of day to day use, became almost an exclusive intellectual property. Many of the Microsoft ‘windows’ features were already tried out by Apple computers.

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The ‘Windows’ was (or ‘were’, no grammar Nazis have raised the issue) was an opening to look into data. There was earlier a nearly invisible dot as the command ‘prompt’ to interact in dBase and other programme, and it never prompted anything except that the entered command is not right.

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Windows_2.0

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But here the ‘computer industry’ (Microsoft, Macintosh or some less known entity) was offering an Icon like a door within a door. The icons or windows were displayed as tiled on the screen, that is, they could not overlap or overlie another, but icons interacted with others in time and space. There were active and latent icons in terms of time reference. ‘Spatially the icons on a screen were more relevant then others that were not seen’. The icons were perceived to be windows or peep holes that allowed one to see through it.

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For many, the icons are still like the 36th Chamber of Shaolin. One is aware that there is something of higher order inside, but too scared to cross over. The unceasing efforts are to form 36th chamber where ordinary people can enter and learn the “art of self-defense.

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In the movie 36th Chamber of Shaolin, “San Te wants to create a new chamber where he can train ordinary people in the basics of Kung fu so they can defend themselves against their oppressors, the temple officially banishes him in a surreptitious way to allow him to carry out his mission. He returns to the outside world, namely to his hometown, and assists the people.”

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This was a view in a window (like a shop front display), but, it was destined to become (with internet) an architectural entity for viewing out, whatever is happening in the world. The earlier version of Windows was little better than dBase like programmes where the software creator and user both were instilled with unspecified fear ‘do not push a wrong key’. The user was perceived to be an alien, and better remain outside.

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The computers gradually became Janus’s gateway (Janus -a dual headed God of antiquity) with an interior world and an exterior cosmos. This was a virtual window or rather an entire building of its own, which could be shifted around, pushed away to obscurity, shrunk or enlarged.

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Some of the basic functions of a computer system have been storage, processing power and programmes. Now one more is added, the communication or linkage. With live linkage one can source storage (cloud), computing power (parallel server processing) and dynamic programmes (in place of static loads). These make for a ‘home’ out of an architectural ‘house’, where the opening systems (‘windows’ or any other) make connections. So Microsoft windows may need to be renamed “Doors”, as doors are more functional (for passage, delivery and dispatch) than any other openings’ systems.

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The smart ‘Home’ (computer or such devices) will need lot more individualization not through configuration efforts but through commonly shared (floating around) intelligence. These include the languages, intonation, choices, history of preferences, behavioural characteristics, biological patterns and capacities.

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia..