SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design -17

Post 654 -by Gautam Shah


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

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


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





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


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

Palace Mumbai Taj Mahal Hotel Balconies


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

Japan Buildings Asia District Geometry Shiodome640px-Little_Moreton_Hall_(6451326683)


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



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

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



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


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



RHETORIC in DESIGN -issues for design -16

Post 653 -by Gautam Shah


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


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


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

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


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


Visual Literacy

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


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


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

Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco

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

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

Architecture Confluence Lyon Deconstruction

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

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


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


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


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

9Dot puzzle



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




REFERENCING buildings -issues for design -15

Post 649 -by Gautam Shah



Buildings are nominally referenced by way of orientation, alignment, linkages, front-back placement, ground-line (gravity) or datum, framing, etc. Such references site a building location, set a direction, form relationships with surrounding elements, confirm the flow of energies like gravity, magnetism etc. and with it generate the sense of horizontal (parallel to the flow of energy) and vertical (towards-against the flow of energy). In this sense Referencing achieves a sense of balance, stability, steadfastness, belonging, scale, proportion and comparison.



Referencing is recognition of relationship between objects and persons in the context of the environment or the surroundings. Such recognition is a basal instinct. We mainly visually discern the size, direction, distance of objects and comparative details of objects, but these experiences are reinforced through other sensorial references like hearing, smell, touch, tastes etc. We also experience referential effects of energy like gravity, magnetism, electricity, etc.

Tomb Mausoleum India Taj Mahal Agra Architecture

Reference, derives from Middle English referren, from Middle French référer, from Latin referre, formed from the prefix ‘re and ferre’. Other derived words carry the sense of link-to, connect to, to carry back, to deliver, consult, an allusion, signs, indication, mention.


References can take on many forms, including: real and measurable, ephemeral like a thought, metaphysical like an allegory, sensory experience, manifestation of energy, a geometrical pattern, crypto-graphical conversions, or a part of a sequence or order.


In architecture references occur explicitly, subtly and metaphorically. Explicit references are superfluous or add-ons like enrichments, embellishments, stylized forms, with little relevance to functionality. Explicit references denote an overwhelming urge to make the ‘form follows the function’. Subtle references in built forms are innate, with deep rooted cultural connections like customs. The logic is integral in the social fabric, and no justifications are offered or expected. Subtle references in architecture have restricted relevance, available only connoisseurs, experts or practicing colleagues in the field. Subtle references require perception of a whole entity, as available in abstracted orthographic presentations such as plans, sections, elevations. Subtle references often connect to things or incidences that are in different time and space. Metaphoric references relate to abstracted representations. The layers of abstractions or coding are many and their trace complicated, so a metaphor seems to stand alone. Metaphoric references become a language of variegated forms. It is a pattern in its own entirety, like an alphabet where original phones or images have very remote connections.



References have hierarchical structure where parts and components of the entity itself mutually relate, and also associate with other objects in the same or different time and space. Metaphoric expressions in architecture link expressions in other fields, or allude to such thoughts and concepts.

640px-Bourges_Cathedral_exterior_016512px-Yali_pillars_in_a_small_open_mantapa_in_the_Vitthala_temple_complex_in_Hampi_2Architectural references are formed intentionally, accidentally or unknowingly. Intentional references are part of the design creation process, so could be as justification for something that is uncommon. Accidental references are realization on a hind site. These actualize after drawing documentation, graphical representation, scaled-model making or through actual execution. Architectural references unknowingly become relevant, in some other context, because such effects were not perceived, or some unknown connection emerges through other media.



Architectural references are explored to reinforce or dilute a concept, and focus or divert from a composition. References are used to enforce or negate the essential elements of a style or theme. Just as enforcement occurs through repetition, highlight, scaling or linkages, negation needs occlusion, elimination of details and restraint. Holistic compositions though have singular but very emphatic expression, whereas assemblies formed by single person or organization have some basic consistency, with noticeable reference.


Reference in architecture is often literal, and so easily perceptible, like representation of birds, animals, objects, etc. The process of revelation however is made little more complex due to several layers of conversion or negotiations. Grotesque forms, humanoids, demons, devils, beasts, monsters are such conversions, where each representation becomes more complex with age and graphics making technologies. Yet robots remained replicas of humans or animals with head, eyes, hand and legs for several decades. Martians or aliens are still humanoids.


For architectural forms, the domineering factor has been the gravity, and the related sense of horizontality versus verticality. Gravity is part of our being conditioning all our creations, and it has taken years to move away from the gravity related prevalence, in conception of outer space modules. Gravity refers to stability, and anything wider at the base is safer and permanent and so monumental. Similarly, any reverse position is challenging and so celestial. For the same reason Ground-line or Horizon becomes very important base line for a building to relate to. Real or notional reference to ground-line is always assuring.



This is the 15 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

OBJECTS in SPATIAL FIELDS -Issues for Design -14

Post 642 –by Gautam Shah


A spatial field is a definable extent of reality, occupied by: Physical elements such as objects, humans and other beings, Non physical things like environmental effects, air, illumination, etc. and Ephemeral presences like relationships, geometries, remembrances.


Milan Cathedral Roof > Wikipedia image by Jakub Halun


The spatial field consists of:

1 changing environmental conditions;

2 elements that are distanced from other elements, and so have potent relationships;

3 elements that are adjacent and so allow comparisons of scale or contrast, and have implicit connections;

4  elements that are partly concealed by other elements covering up the cuts, corners, edges and such other definitive elements, and have characteristic scale and distance;

5 elements obscuring the presence of other elements.


A Tree obscuring the important junction detail > Pixabay Image by WikiImages Deutsch


Spatial field and Environment are perceptible totality. A spatial field is perceived as a static event but the changing environment make it a dynamic happening.Changes are necessary in the spatial fields for us to see anything at all”. Other dynamics include, eye and body movements, changes in surroundings, movement of the objects, and shifting position of the perceiver.


Spatial field and the Environment Holes in the roof > Flickr image by Hans Splinter

The elements in spatial fields have surfaces with colour and texture. The surfaces also have geometric configurations like convex, concave single or double curvatures. The surfaces have edges at the ends and intermediate breaks. The surfaces, present themselves with inclinations towards or away, in vertical, horizontal and other directions from the perceiver.

House Roofs Roofs Architecture Roofing Red Tile

Multiplicity of forms and Complexity > Roofs MaxPixel image (

The elements in spatial fields have forms. The forms are composed of planes that are representations of solids, pretender fill-in-planes between wire networks, or apparent surfaces that are evident between points. These forms have two distinct qualities: have a gravity-based orientation or references, and are perceived in receding perspective. The second quality is highly dynamic, so offers a taste of reality.


Forms in spatial field > The Willow Tearooms Glasgow designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh > Wikipedia image by Dave souza

The forms can be of lines, such as in wire-frames, within which the surfaces are presumed to dwell, but without the nominative texture or colour. In such hollowed forms, the shadows of the frames complicate the perception of the holistic form.


Roof frame for the Royal Albert Hall > Wikipedia image by KlickingKarl

The forms in spatial fields are compositions of regular or familiar surfaces, so even a partial reveal can disclose the entireness. Where the forms are of continuously and irregularly varying surfaces, then unless entire form is perceptible or from many directions, its totality cannot be known.

The forms in spatial fields often have orientation of sub-segments that depicts a direction or movement. When such directions are congruent, the form gains a momentum. Similar ‘things’ appear to be grouped together. Alternatively we connect several incoherent elements into a form with dominant theme  of the scene.


Building a narrative from Elements > Pixabay image by WikiImages Deutsch

Scene building or Spatial narratives commence from parts. One takes in few particular sets, rather than searching for the wholeness. The scene or the narratives get built when cognized sets and our past experiences come together. “We do not just see, but look”. In a spatial field scene building occurs by moving along a predefined path, by shifting the elements and by delaying, hastening or filtering the environmental effects. Designers build scenes or spatial narratives by framing the vista with opportunistic framing, occluding certain sections and by modifying the foreground-background contrasts.


Modelling the elements in a spatial field > Corridor > Pexels image

Modelling the Elements in spatial field, is posing of objects and people including own self, to make them noticeable. The process first requires the realization and than corrective measures. For realization one needs to perceive the element from multiple cues, which may be similar to many others, close to each other, interconnected, and part of a complex pattern. The corrective measures include perceptual aggregation of a visual scene. Here the edges, if, are breached, need virtual bridges, to form a larger extent and a perceptible whole.


Securing a coherent pattern from multiple elements > Many stories on stairs > L’Arche de la Defense Paris > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Structuring a pattern from multiplicity of elements is a process carried out in many different environmental conditions, referencing cues and positions of perception. Regions of space are natural zones, and elements occurring in them seem related. Such regions of space have similar environmental exposure, form, extent, or belong to the same perspective. Patterns replicate a form in many scaled versions, similarity of placement, orientation and contextual relevance.


Cyclist in foreground against a simpler background forming a silhouette > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier 

Silhouettes in a spatial field are the edges or boundaries of forms. Edges distinctly delineate or separate the foreground (from background). Extreme silhouettes emerge when the foreground (the form) is extensive and without any details, and the background is vibrant. The vibrant background helps in bridging the breaks that may exist in the form. Distinguishing the foreground from the background is a task difficult for scenes that fall in visual (cone) of perception. Nominally we perceive dark colour to be a deeper element and the lighter colour to be a nearer one, but with silhouette formation a reversal is forced, creating a myth. Silhouettes in nature (sun-set or sun-rise) are short lasting, so elements with back-lit fields are perceived to be transient.


Background-Foreground with equal value > Horses in Parc du Chateau de Versailles > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Familiarity in Spatial field is unexplainable connection. Things that are in a foreground are proximate, and so have the first claim of familiarity. The relevance of purpose offers next level of familiarity. But when other elements in the scene compete in terms of size, orientation or distancing, a dilemma occurs.


Recognition due to the elemental familiarity > Petra Jordan > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Stratification of view in a spatial field occurs at many different scales. Stratification is horizontal sectioning and vertical segmentation, and both aided by situation and architectural elements. A person at the interior edge can view the exterior with movement of head and eyes, but from a depth visual limitation is imposed. Similarly skylights allow unchanging sky view whereas a very tall sill level cuts-off the view of the ground.


This is the 14 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN


Links to Blogs on ISSUES of DESIGN


Post 641 –by Gautam Shah


These are 13 articles (already published) in a proposed series of 20 articles.



1 BODY POSTURES – Issues for Design -1

2 INTERVENTIVE SPACES  – Issues for Design -2

3 PERCEPTION through SCALES and CONVERSIONS -Issues for Design -3

4 SPACE PERCEPTION – Issues for Design -4

5 MOVEMENT and BALANCE – Issues for Design -5

6 NON VISUAL LANGUAGE -Issues for Design -6

7 DESIGNERS and QUALITY -Issues for Design -7

8 ANTILIGATURE -Issues for Design -8

9 SCALING the SPACES -Issues for Design-9

10 REAL and VIRTUAL -Issues for design-10

11 METAPHOR Issues for Design -11

12 CONTEXT -Issues for Design -12

13 SOLIDS and VOIDS -issues of Design -13


SOLIDS and VOIDS -issues for Design -13

Post 639 –by Gautam Shah


Solid is a matter of presence, and Void is absence of it. A solid marks its presence by obscuring some other elements, or at least supporting a myth, if anything is behind it. Voids mean nothingness, like a featureless terrain. Voids exist due to the lack of clarity of detail, deficient perception, peculiar framing or reduced background-foreground contrast. Solids depend on the form or shape of things, and how these are perceived. Solids are realized by the bounce back, while voids are for diffusion of energy.


Voids and Solids -Railway Station > Pixabay Image by MichaelGaida, Dusseldorf / Germany 

Solids are sensed closer and voids rearward. For visual aberration, the solids, however, may be placed at a distance, and voids closer. The solid element forms a frame or reference, submerging the scene, theme or field. And yet solid and void, are not coincidental elements in the time or space. Both could be distanced in space, or occurring as a remembrance in time. A sharper dividing edge enhances the separation between the two. A silhouette in the twilight zone is an example of such separation. Artists highlight the lead character by placing against a dark background or by accentuating outline.

Restaurant Interior Silhouette Eating People

Restaurant > Max Pixel Image

A solid is perceived to be heavier in mass, as a bounded spread, and of darker colour, to add to its weight and presence, whereas the void is lesser mass, infinite extent and of lighter colour. Solids are represented as of static form, but voids are dynamic. This may be due to the tendency of liquids to form a deep vortex towards the gravity. In this sense forms like upside cones, pyramids, gorges, pits, valleys, object with receding centres, etc. represent voids. However, in Hindu philosophy void is equated to ‘Shoonya’ (literally Zero), a state of nothingness and also meaning ‘sky or Heaven’. The sky as space or ‘Avakash’ (Sanskrit-Hindi) is upward.


Scream ART by Edvard Munch (1863-1944)


Nasal Chowk courtyard and Panch Mukhi Hanuman temple Nepal > Flickr Image by Jorge Lascar

Voids occur as interim zones of no occupation between solids. And a void can also be the ‘negative’ space inside a solid. Such voids are formed by the enveloping surface or an enclosure by a wire-frame. Voids are scooped out on removal of solid or mass such as in processes like chasing, carving, engraving, denting, etc. Voids are perceived, like a black-hole, in absence of any definitive cognition from a location. Voids are volume seen through transparent bounding. Voids are, any space entraining, partly or thoroughly, a solid form.


Henry Moore Yorkshire Sculpture Park > Image from >

Solids have characteristic form or shape. These are faceted or rounded surfaces. Faceted solids play up the voids better than rounded ones. Solids cast a shadow on the terrain or other solids, revealing their third dimension. Solids have add-ons or protruding mass created by processes like folding, shaping, forming, layering, plastering, sticking, etc.


Fransworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe > Wikipedia image by Victor Grigas

Solids and Voids are nominally coexisting elements, but may not be coincidental in time or space. One of these could be real and the other an abstract one. Voids are perceived as spaces where a solid has been breached, but trace of pre-existent connection bridge is slightly indicated. Solids are perceived as spaces where a void has been over brimmed.


Silhouette Woman > Pixabay Image by boop_10000 English 

Void is an intervening time or space, appreciated, avoided or ignored, such as the pause in music, speech, writing, lithography or fonts. Just as several notes, as solids, form a sequence, the position of voids can form rhythm structure. If Solids denote the top and Void mean the bottom difference between the two positions is ‘peak to peak’ amplitude. In architecture, music and many other expressions, this is occasionally measurable. The voids or space that exists between matter like atoms and molecules define the attributes of materials. Such voids between solids are intrinsic, but foam materials have designed spaces.


This is the 13 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN



Post 631 –by Gautam Shah


Balance is an equalizing phenomenon. It manifests in many different forms. It is a state of stability, but ignored as a habit, or nominal happening. Imbalance, however, represents the direction and scale of change. A dynamic balance is cyclical occurrence and may be perceived, if the change of the frame is within perceptive capacities. Static balance is an intermediate or temporary frame of an event or experience.


Strong inclined line of coast and presence of water body in the centre, add to dynamic balance > Puerto de Burdeos Edouard Manet (1832-1883)

Balance is an experience that is a ‘non-changing’ reference in a situation of consistent momentum. It can also be felt while moving along known tracks, such as of perceiver’s sensorial capacities, mental conditioning and collection of past experiences. Prime experience of balance can be subjective, but with repeat experiences become delineative.


The horse Fair > Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)


The fall of Phaeton > Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The balancing mechanisms, in natural systems, are obvious in direction perpendicular to the gravity or other strong forces. In contrived compositions like art, craft, architecture, etc. the change is effected by desire to defy the nature. For these sensorial aberrations are used.


Multiple axis and shifting balance > Cave Painting at Roca dels Moros, Catalonia Spain, Wikipedia image by Enric


Detail of the Ramsund Sigurd stone C. 1030 Swedish art > Wikipedia image by Ann-Sofi Culled

Anything that is lastingly balanced is related to the horizontal, whereas the imbalance is analogous to the vertical. Horizontal can have several stacks of mass and energy along its body, each of which may be dynamic due to the changing environment. These stacks cumulatively represent the supine motion and seem interrelated. Vertical, if it has, differentiated stacks of mass along its body, reflects the direction of likely disturbance or unbalance.


Dissolving Horizontal and Vertical for ephemeral feel > Sunrise impression by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Contrived (man-made?) compositions depend on distribution of mass and energy in real, ephemeral and metaphysical realms. In real sense, the horizontal and vertical are extremes, but do not challenge human body system. Inclined is more persistent and effective, because it has longer length. For an ephemeral feel, the differences between horizontal and vertical are dissolved. Metaphysical flavours are implied by inconsistencies of presentation, typically through thematic narrations. Framing has been used in compositions, to include or exclude such elements thematic narrations.


Ceiling fresco, Marble Hall, Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger 1735 : Harmony between Religion and Science

 In art works foreground and background differences were primarily achieved through scale, but in later periods, proper perspectives and toning down of details of specific and also far-off objects were used to create an equilibrium in the image. Centric and off-centric vertical axises are used to form triangles, with gravity-base as stable pyramidal composition. Centric and off-centric horizontal stratification helped balance formation between solid objects (ground, terrain, humans) and ethereal elements (skies, clouds and angels). To these were added, the inclines for direction, orientation, scaling, distancing and unnerve the serenity. Imbalance was forced by placing ethereal elements below the frame dividing axis.


Contemporary Dance Center Performance Rage Box > Wikipedia image by Michael Muccioli from Bel Air US

Image elements like flora and fauna were placed in their naturally perceived sense of scale, orientation and visual axis. These were too disturbing in any other manner of presentation, except for grotesque or fiendish forms. But surprisingly, their place was more often, above the frame-dividing axis.


Tree Roots > Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Sculptures and artefacts are created as axially balanced or challenged equilibration. These have no permanent framing and are to be experienced from all sides and angles except the bottom (gravity support face). Equilibration through symmetry, imbalance, dynamic and static balance, are caused by distribution of mass, texture, colour, angulation and turnaround of body. These are also achieved by presence (solid) and absence (hollow) of the mass. Mobiles and hangers supported on a pin or hung from thread, are truly equilibrated. These are liberated from the ground side.


Andre Bloc – Sculpture-habitacle Meudon, France > Flickr image by Florent Darrault

Balanced moving or rotating parts, like axle, wheels, bearings, reduce the friction, vibrations and energy requirements. But imbalanced movements help compactors, vibrators, forging and drilling machines. Non synchronized movements are important for bridges to reduce the cyclical or incremental loading. Helicopters and aircraft are considered balanced when achieve consistent balance. Earth orbiting stations are ‘balanced’ when able to synchronize or equilibrate their position with reference to the earth.


Balanced steam Turbine rotor > Wikipedia image by Siemens “Pressebild”

 Architectural balancing is real and also very articulated. The real one deals with physical stability and consistency with movements, whereas the articulated one is a perception created for the age, culture and relevance. Architecture forms its acts of balance and movement from other forms of expressions like literature, performance arts, lifestyle, art, artefacts and sculpture.


Bridge in Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou, China > Wikipedia image ###

Next few articles will examine these acts of balance and movements in formal architecture and vernacular built-forms. First Blog on this topic was published here >