VANDALISM -Issues of Design 27

Post 692by Gautam Shah



Vandalism is willful destruction of property and culture. Property and culture are spacious words. Property includes buildings, structured public assets, art, artefacts etc. Culture covers political, religious, economic and social systems, and institutional arrangements. A property can subsume culture, so any danger to former is a threat to the later. Vandalism is as much a personal act and common act of individuals, as it is conduct emulated by individuals with some commonality, so group-based conduct.

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Vandalism is interpreted as criminal damage, misdemeanor mischievous behaviour, malicious or otherwise trespassing, breach of privacy, felony offense intentional indifference. Vandalism laws are designed to prohibit and discourage the such conduct.


Vandalism is an attempt to change the existing set of things or order. It may not involve annihilation or removal of things. On occasions, the actions are directed to the owner, authority or God. And even if the search for them is solvable, but the vandals may have nothing to correspond except the intense desire to register their presence.

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Destructive actions can be ascribed to anger or envy, or to spontaneous, opportunistic behaviour. The action may be for peer acceptance or bravado in gang cultures. The cause of disgruntlement with a person or society could be absence of a target. Private citizens commit vandalism by willfully damaging or ignoring the damage to the property of others or the common assets.

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Vandalism against the common values of the group or society may arise for not being included or invited. It may be that the opposed values are too prominent and so the target. Values enshrined in properties are challenged when changes for betterment or creative interventions are made without due permission or authorization are made. Values are compromised when subtle or explicit ideological ‘messages’ are conveyed through public expression or conveyance through social media. The vandalism may occur when values conveyed through a declaration may be subjectively interpreted as harmful or annoying.

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In the world of internet and social medial vandalism takes the shape of ethical and revengeful hacking of domains and data there in. It may also include persistent and massive ‘trolling’ through hash-tags.

9 Burning of the Euromaidan headquarters in the Trade Unions Building.

Political vandalism is ideological ingress leading to protests, riots. So far it remains an expression it can be tackled through debate. But it can turn an expression of hatred and intimidation. Vandalism can be perceived as a legitimate act, and a social warning for course correction. So minor action may be ignored.

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In Design and other fields, plagiarism of concepts is equated with vandalism. Similarly altering, correcting, extending, renovation, removal of someone’s creation is always debatable, and borders to an act of vandalism. These include morphing, photo-shopped images, edited videos, etc. Other acts of design barbarism are ‘under or short’ designing a brief, overshooting budget, ignoring the stakeholders, generating non-performing solutions and infringing other professionals’ duties.

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The name Vandals is connected to that of Vendel, a large East Germanic tribe or group of tribes initially from the name of a province in Uppland, Sweden. It is believed that Vandals migrated from here to establish kingdoms in Spain and then North Africa in the 5th C. Renaissance and early-modern writers characterized the Vandals as barbarians who sacked and looted Rome. This led to the use of the term vandalism to describe any senseless barbaric defacing of artwork. The etymology of vandal may be related to a Germanic verb wand -to wander.


This is the 27th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN



DISTANCE as an ELEMENT of DESIGN -Issues of Design 26

Post 689 –by Gautam Shah


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

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

1 Measure Between

2 Separation

3 Perception

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Post 686 –by Gautam Shah

.motifs are strokes

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

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

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

Metal Iron Railings Wrought Iron Ornament

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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



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


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


DYNAMIC CURVATURES -Issues of Design 24

Post 684–by Gautam Shah


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9 Oak Park Il Hills House

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

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4 Dutchess of Hamilton, re-streamlined https

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


SIZING and SCALING the SPACES -Issues of Design 23

Post 674 –by Gautam Shah



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


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


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


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

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



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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



SUPPORT SYSTEMS -Issues of Design-22

Post 669 by Gautam Shah



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


GEOMETRY -Issues of Design -21

Post 667  –by Gautam Shah




A point is the beginning of geometrical order, and the line extends the same. The point connects to another one establishing the extent (depth), and direction of the relationship. There were many types of points, a real end like of needle, spear or arrow head, a distanced object perceived as of zero size like a star or Sun, and an emblematic one like the gravity as the chief focal point of Earth. The observer is the pivot of cognition.


Historically geometry was the relationship between the earthly points (terrestrial locations) and the celestial objects. It has also been about the connect, between ‘me and other things’. Geometry is about relationships between ‘features and the orientation’. It is about recognizing a pattern out of random, and define it for perpetuity.

Landscape Galaxy Milky Way Night Stars Sky Scenic

Geometry (from the Ancient Greek: γεωμετρία; geo =earth, and metron =measurement) is concerned with sizes, shapes, relations of objects, and the attribute of space. A person, who can define-locate objects is a geometer. Geometry was the basic measurable realization of the body limb sizes and work capacities. One of the earliest interests in geometry was land measurements or surveying.

“Geometry will draw the soul towards truth, and create the spirit of philosophy –Plato.” Over the doors to Plato’s academy were the words: Let no one destitute of geometry enter my doors.


Geometry is of geo and metric, or earth measurements. Geometry discovers unmeasured areas by comparing them to areas already measured. Geometry is synonymous with self-knowledge, the understanding of the basic substance of our being (all measures ultimately relate to human body, its sizes and capacities).


The points are real, but the lines are ephemeral entities, construed to be series of points. Points exist in duality, and the connection between the two, is the allegorical line. The reality of line is its start, home or with us and so existential, but the end could be somewhere, and so hypo-real. Between the points of beginning and end, a line has a mid cross over by another immaterial line. This line is the axis across the threshold, forms the realm of this versus that side.


The duality of points, representing Earth and moon, Sun and star, Human and God, Sky and ground, Heaven and hell, Birth and death, form a symbolic reference in one direction, but not the two-way connect. The other end is hyperbolic, and one could not have been without the other. The emergent line, connecting two points, is however invested with another point a fulcrum. It is a value of balanced equality or proportionate inequality. The fulcrum relates to the gravity, so it is more realistic than the ‘connecting line’.


The original figure of Vitruvius was static more like a Vastu Purush figure of India. Leonardo da Vinci rotated it around the navel to form a circle, square and triangles, and balanced equality. Vinci figure accepted the universal positional truths -vertical to the gravity and parallel with the gravity. Corbusier’s Modulor confirmed the proportionate inequality. The fulcrum of balance was universal, though centred to a human belly button. The Modulor also reconfirmed the Vitruvian fact (spread of hand legs) that it is not the size, but the reach (with raised hand) that is sensorially important.

India Dance Warm up

The reach is also the first enaction of Indian classical dance, Allaripu in Bharat Nattyam style. The dance begins as a warm-up exercise, where a dancer standing in the centre of a stage begins with movement of eyes, head, stretching of hands and then feet. This is as if to ‘measure and encompass the stage (or world)’ by front, side, and angle movements.


According to Indian traditions, a point is the Shiva, a Bindu where consciousness (all senses), converges, and from which creation begins. Bindu (centre of the forehead) is the focal point of all perceptions (like two eyes (seeing), two ears (listening), nose (aural) and mouth (taste), and the pervasive sense of touch) converge here to complete the cognition. Hindu ritual design of Yantra and Mandala have a focus. A Bindu is the portal, not an edge of a threshold, but a point. It is beyond or out of the mind, a realm, from where time, space, and causality manifests. Bindu means point or dot; the word is derived from the root verb ‘bhid’ or ‘bhind’, which means to burst, to break through. Piercing, breaking, or bursting through the Bindu is the last stage of attainment. A Bindu is described as the Void or Shiv (the Nucleus) suffuse with the Shakti (Electrons?).


Pattern through Identity constellations-1470610_1280

The prime purpose of geometry was to establish a relationship between various celestial and terrestrial objects. The relationship was a pattern to register the changes occurring in the set. The shape and size of terrestrial neighbourhood objects were important for occupation, possession and planning. Another purpose of geometry was to lay down the linear anomalies between two distanced (beyond the nominal means of perceptions) objects. The laying down process of celestial terrestrial objects was a process of abstraction through scaling.

Star Patterns

There were two problems concurrent with the laying down an observed pattern. The reality of perceiving a pattern includes its third dimension, the vertical. Visualizing a domain in what we today know as orthographic projection was difficult. The Egyptian drew the human figures in multiple parts: Head, lower torso and feet sideways and upper torsos (neck to hip) in frontal view. This was an issue of ‘drawing or laying down’ a pattern, and not for modelling a statue. Statues were free of such dichotomies.

Early maps included all geometrically ‘measured’ as well as ‘learnt’ details. The later ones came from travelogue fables and folklore and ingrained in the psyche, and were used to fill-up the large empty mid areas, and seal the edges.


The sense of seeing has developed through Geometry. It was necessary for a laid down pattern to be truly measurable. An unambiguously measurable pattern or lay at a manipulable scale allows interpretation of the structure, its order or arrangement. This was not a new lesson for the masons or astronomers, because they were dealing with an existent reality. For architects and artists perception of a form in visual representation or perspective arrived after years of trepidation. This was the beginning of solid or spatial geometry.

‘Any objectivised or conceptual pattern, if it has a traceable geometrical order, that is the human endeavour’. The basic tools of the masonry are plumb, square, and level. Freemason cult places special emphasis on geometry to endow right-behaviour, rectitude, and truthfulness. –Free-Masons cult


The foundation of solids-based geometry occurred with Euclid. Euclidean geometry relies on two measurable qualities: angle and distance. The angle is absolute, and the distance is relative. The depths, directions and angles, together form a network or web of relationships. Euclidean space is a good approximation, only when gravitational or other forces are not in consideration. So the lines have a straight run, and perceptively run parallel. But beyond Euclidean realm, the lines (longitude) are affected by other forces, and bend or take a twisting route. Lines cross over or meet at an angle.

Perpendicular by chords

Crossing of lines at the right angle, or perpendicular was realized in several ways. Drawing a set of dissecting chords gives an accurate right angle on ground, but the ‘spatial’ perpendicular, going up (the sky) or going down (the well or pit), was possible through a plumb. To stretch the lines to celestial bodies, one had to be knowledgeable about the triangulation. Perpendicular was also a realization that there are cardinal directions.

The word chord is used for bow-string = jayb (Arabic). The jayb is a corruption of Sanskrit jīvā.


The Great Trigonometric Survey of India that began in 1801 measured through the triangulation entire subcontinent traversing all types of terrains. It was one of the first accurate measurements of a section of an arc of longitude, and for measurements of the geodesic anomaly. It named and mapped Mount Everest and the other Himalayan peaks.

The Crossing of lines was used to form grids, for laying of objects equi-distanced like Vedika for Havan, plotting for trees, Mandala for building layouts.


Earliest land maps are of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137, within a square grid of approximately 3 ft. The maps of all the pao (village) were joined together to make a map of the tu (larger district), and these in turn were joined with others to make a map of the hsiang and the hsien (still larger blocks of districts).


Geometry was an important tool for measuring lands, establishing ownership and for laying out linear works like walls of forts, bunds, roads and irrigation canals. Earliest maps were layouts of stars Maps and not lands. Star and Land maps, both were geometrical surrogates, because of the scaling factor and transfer visualization.

Lands measures

In ancient Egypt, ‘a rope stretcher tied to a point was used to reestablish boundaries after the annual floods of the Nile River’. In medieval Europe, village residents including youngsters would walk along the territories ‘to establish a communal memory of the boundaries’.

Earliest Star Map Lascaux Caves

Earliest star maps are of dots dating to 14,500 BC found on the walls of the Lascaux caves that map out part of the night sky, including the three bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair (the Summer Triangle asterism), as well as the Pleiades star cluster. The Cuevas de El Castillo in Spain contain a dot map of the Corona Borealis constellation dating from 12,000 BC.

shipping routes line referencing

A line referencing system (LRS) defines measures from a point of origin. But lines like walls also have mid body relevance of a threshold. A threshold constitutes crossing right angles forming, quadrants each with two sets of values: Left or Right and Up or Below. By using Cartesian coordinate system, we mark a point by how far along and how far up it is. In contrast, by using Polar Coordinates we mark a point, how far away, and what angle it is. Coordinates system for astronomy are latitude, longitude and elevation. Such three-dimensional geodetic coordinates or geographic coordinates are used for marking a location.


Architects abrogate the form for a simpler surrogate like solid to plane, plane to a line and a line to a point. These surrogates, if required are compounded with side views. But with training and experience, designers read the latent dimension (and relevant details) even in absence of ‘side views.


This is the 21 th (continuation of old series -new beginning) article on ISSUES of DESIGN