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 system, 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 >



CONTEXT -Issues for Design -12

Post 629 –by Gautam Shah


Context consists of parts that are often remote in time and space, yet emerge to form a whole. Context emerges as a connection, reference, realization, placement, ground, environment, framework, setting, or situation for manifestation of a concept, object or event. The context is seen through some commonality, styling, location identity or pace of occurrence.


Netherlands’s proverbs with scenes illustrating over 100 proverbs > Wikipedia ART by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559

Context manifests as an explicit and implicit placement. In literature it is placed in preceding or following word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, through a reference or hyper link. In spoken delivery, like a speech or recitation, it is immediacy of timing is used to make the context evident. Literary context is enforced through repetition of a word, line, stanza, or use of proverbs, anecdotes, rhyme, synonyms and antonyms. Emphasis by loudness of speech, measured delivery, rhyming, etc. provide a clue to the listener to recollect, or look-out for the contextual setting.


Scott Bradley’s set design for August Wilson’s Fences in the Angus Bowmer Theater > Wikipedia image by The Oregon Shakespeare festival

For performing arts the context becomes an extension for the time and space. Here the context is implicit in temporal (beats) and explicit in spatial (static and dynamic posturing) definitions. These are enriched by delays, distancing, proximity, framing and merging. The settings, lighting, costumes, sound effects, story or narrations provide explicit context.


Outdoor set on Allen Elizabethan stage at Oregon Shakespeare festival > Wikipedia image by Amy Richard

For Graphical presentations, the simultaneity of explicit-implicit contextual reference becomes extraordinarily potent. The contextual information, in Art and Craft works are often unintentional or too casual. The observer places the work into not only a new realm, but through different process of sensorial perception. The complexity of the context is through allegorical representations, where the real meaning is deeply buried under several layers of conversion. In this sense, the context is neither personal nor public, but rather mystical. The titles of works are irrelevant, yet are very potent.


Delhi’s craft museum > Flickr image by chopr

The styles of work or the manner of expression provide a historical connection to the attitudes, choices and conditions of an era. The style of work is contextual as a wider affirmation to colour pallette, theme, manners of representation, inclusion or exclusion of contents, composition, etc. Style of work is a realization and its conscious application. The connection between the original work (prime) and application is strong enough to cause confusion as to which one is reference, and what is the context.


Le Dejeuner (1739) a rocaille  Interior of a French bourgeois family in 18C  > Wikipedia ART by Francois Boucher 1703-1770

Within the works of Art like murals, the story line is repeated in several microcosm images or continued over or several frames. Here the context is provided by elements like the relevance of the theme, background, characters, colours, embellishments, time sequencing of the narration, etc. The decipherable contextual references help devotees to re-live the events and sometimes reinterpret it differently.

Rosace nord de la cathédrale de Chartres

Northern Rose window of Chartres cathedral > Wikipedia image 


Microcosm of Shikhar at AhalyaBai Temple MP India > Wikipedia image by Rakeshnandi1990

Murals and extensive works of art are conceived for the architectural setting, so are inconsideration of natural light and artificial illumination, angle of view, distance of viewing, intervening architectonic elements, and thematic arrangements. The theme and parts have relationships of mutual referencing, and so make sense as a holistic composition. Architectural murals on ceilings, walls and floors have context of scale for the characters, visual perspective of the scene and the white (unoccupied) spaces.


Queen’s apartment in Royal palace of Madrid > Wikipedia ART by Francisco Bayeu y Subias 1734-1795

Architecture is perceived as surfaces, spaces and as composition of architectonic elements. All three individually and collectively are contextual for the functions, style, form, site, cultural, social, political and financial setting. When one or few of these context conditions reestablish their relevance, a revival occurs. The renaissance (literally meaning ‘Rebirth’ in French) was a period of nostalgia for classical antiquity. Renaissance was the context to describe and adopt something from the history. It was largely an explicit context, compared to more subtle and implicit context of the Gothic period. Renaissance saw development of realistic linear perspective by Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) as a context of a window into space.


Framing as a context > adoration of the Magi and Solomon adored by Queen of Sheba > Wikipedia ART by Giulio Clovio 1498-1578 

Ground and gravity are the most important context for a built form. The context of gravity is implicit in the horizontal and explicit in the vertical. The deconstructionist building must conform to the gravity as much as pyramids will do. A catenary structure bows to the gravity. Buildings have the context of the site. The site connects the building to not just the physical elements like the neighbourhood and the services, but also non physical matters like micro climate, local cultural and political conditions and nature of administration.


Gravity defiance > Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for ‘Women’s Bridge) is a rotating footbridge at Buenos Aires Argentina > Wikipedia image

The changes in site conditions make a building irrelevant, but a well-designed building can rejuvenate a dying or stagnant neighbourhood. Old buildings have very fragmented or diffused context, and such sites look more out of context with ‘manicured lawns’.


Interior of the Royal Ontario Museum > Michael Lee Chin Crystal lobby showing merger of Old and New > Wikipedia image by Benson Kua from Toronto Canada

Architecture operates in simultaneity of context where a positive assertion of affirmation, justification, comparison, is juxtaposed with a negative reference by contrast, differentiation, distinction. These occur as contexts of foreground-background, framed-unframed depiction, large-small, light-heavy, visible-diffused image, interior-exterior, dark-light etc.


Indian Village Home setting > Pixabay image by nasircoolboy1

Contemporary architectural creations defy the context of ‘unexplainable’ traditions. These are replaced by being ethically responsible to the surroundings, or designing a form-functionless impressionistic entity.


This is the 12 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN


Post 625 –by Gautam Shah


Electric Kettles by Peter Behrens --Industrial Craft

Craft derives from cræft or -creft meaning something to do or execute with physical strength, might, and prowess (a talent of mental and physical power). Other usage versions (include krab, kraf, kreft, chraft, Kraft, kraptr) relate to something built, made or devised using skill, virtue, dexterity and art. Before the Industrial revolution, the personal strength and prowess (mental talent) were key requirements for creative effort. The crafts were called handicrafts.


Apprentice of Shoe maker 1914 > Wikipedia image

The physical strength required to make things were reduced with the leverage provided by better tools, use of animal power, and rational use of materials. In the First case, tools had calibrated arm lengths, functional shape for handles, harder (or softer) surfaces for desired impact, specific versions tailored for tasks, and rational composition of materials. Over a time, crafts were articulated not by sheer strength, but by mental prowess. Handicrafts became artefacts. The hand and the mind remained the basis for craft for long time. In the Second instance labourious jobs like lifting, pushing and transporting, were done with animal power and pulleys. The animal power offered rudimentary sense of automation to many production processes. In the Third instance, the capacity to search around for quality raw materials and expertise to refine and upgrade the raw materials, crafts offered the objects that were thin, light weight, enduring and better crafting capacity.


Spinning machine which initiated Industrial Revolution at Museum of early Industrialization in Wuppertal (Germany) > Wikipedia image by Markus Schweib

The crafts have been known by the terrain, culture, and artisan. The craft products substantially rely on local materials, and so have regional or local flavour of materials. The terrain also reflects the nature, flora, fauna and climate of the place. The culture with its varying levels of sociopolitical affectations creates local values. These get reflected in the form, fables, symbols and metaphors used in crafts. The culture is also seen in the ethnicity, and what transpires as heritage. An artisan can produce things that are mundane, but if gets opportunity and exposure, in spite of all other factors remaining consistent, new forms arrive. The successful crafts’ products are emulated by other locals, and in this sense craft become regional.


Brother knitting machine – example of Industrial craft > Wikipedia image by Gudde Fog, Denmark

Crafts’ processes have seen substantial redefinition during the period of industrial revolution. The redefinition occurred on two counts, easier movement of goods and people, and industrialized production facilities. Both were based on steam as the efficient source of power. Easier movement of goods allowed massive imports of traditional and exotic raw materials that were cheaper and better. The industrialized production processes were batch and continuous type, faster, non-personal and sharper in precision. The mass-produced items offered cheaper alternative to highly individualized and region specific items. The items were produced with greater use of ‘machine skills’ than ‘human skills’. The craft-person began to migrate to industrial production centres as designers, craft facilitators and as skilled workers. The crafted products of the Industrial era were not handicrafts.


The dilution of craft, as a product of tradition, heritage, individualized skills and regional ethnicity occurred due to the massive production of industrial goods. People appreciated the stark simplicity with neat functionality, variety, reliability and consistency of quality of industrial products. Unlike these, the crafted products were connoisseurs items. The rarity of a crafted products, however, encouraged, better appreciation of other things of beauty. A debate on physical versus nonphysical heritage revived. The non physical heritages were traditions of story telling, fables, learning and teaching, dance, drama and other form of performing arts, rituals, fairs and festivals, knowledge base and practices concerning nature and living. These cultural heritages were fragile and intangible, and so were, now keenly sought, reenacted and documented. The intangible heritage brought back the mass of inherited knowledge and skills that existed in every culture. The debates created inter-cultural dialogue, and respect for diverse ways of life. Most importantly the cultural heritages were now anchored to places, buildings and artefacts and these reinforced the interest in crafts, craft centres and the artisans.


It was realized that when people migrate to other lands they carry the intangible legacy with them, and find a comfort through the metaphoric link to the place of origin, distanced culture and past. The intangible legacy offered an assurance that these ‘things’ worked in certain environments. To the immigrants it gives strength, a sense of identity and purpose.

Local Store


METAPHOR -Issues for Design -11

Post 623 –by Gautam Shah



Metaphors in design occur in many different forms. These are of statements main two classes, explicit or implicit in nature. The explicit statement, has a holistic form, a direct representation or substantially analogical one. But architectural forms, except for abstract monuments and sculptural structures, need to be used as interior spaces. These requirements force the forms to be functional. The form here becomes an analogical metaphor. For architectural metaphors of explicit type, ‘A is used in place of B’, but such transportation cannot be without enhancing the scale. Architectural structures are far larger than things that they represent. This is, however, done by maintaining same context, endowing same functionality, or keeping semblance of size, scale, proportion and other sensorial qualities. The explicit metaphor could be personal interpretation of the creator, or by the perceiver. It is an identity equalization with something known, comparable or a conventional element.


Longaberger HQ in Newark Ohio > Wikipedia image by Derek Jensen (Tysto

Architecture also connotes composition of multiple elements. These architectonic elements remain modest in scale to be within the range of perception. Modest scaling also allows the elements to be abstracted more effectively. As an implicit presentation, the abstracted architectural metaphors need no corresponding equalization, confirmation, or functionality. The implicit metaphors in architecture (and other expressions like arts, etc.) derive from an assortment of experiences, and so their roots need not and cannot be traced. These implicit metaphors as abstract images are placed with known vocabulary of the distance, orientation, juxtaposition, scale, etc.

Crazy hill of San Francisco

Crazy hills San Fransisco > Flickr image by Hakan Dahlstrom


The word Metaphor derives from metapherin, metaphorá, metaphero (Greek) = to transfer, metaphora (Latin)= carrying over, 16th C métaphore (Old French), and from –meta =after, with, across & –phero =to bear or to carry. A word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing, and is used to designate another. A metaphor is transferring meaning from one object or saying to another. Metaphor is analogical bridge to something that is ‘distanced, not of this space or time’.

Metaphor relies on association, comparison or resemblance. ‘A metaphor expresses the unfamiliar (the tenor) in terms of the familiar (the vehicle)’. Metaphor is like a carrier for clarity, to enhance clarity of a concept by going beyond the concrete or real world association. To take an expression metaphorically is a way to take it figuratively, to reinterpret it and to construe it in a manner that departs from, but remains informed.


When we consider a building, built-form, structure or architecture as abstract tenure then some need to justify it by borrowing or implanting few realistic attributes. Architecture employs ground and figure to denote, respectively the tenor and the vehicle (cognitive linguistics uses the terms, target and source respectively). Newer architectures have metaphors, justified by a fairly explicit statement. Compared to these other traditional creations (where the form has been oft repeated) have an implicit declaration, and for that reasons are taken for granted. Architectural metaphors are intentionally made implicit, when one is afraid of alluding to attributes. This happens when one wants to distance from highly styled or overused elements.


Remains of Rummu quarry immersed in water -Part of Music Video > representing loneliness-desolation > Wikipedia image by Janno Kusman as flickr user jannok

A metaphor is not language, it is an idea expressed by language, an idea that in its turn functions as a symbol to express something’. –Susanne Langer.


The form of a Church as a cross, Hindu Temple as a Mandala, Garbha-Griha (the inner chamber of a Hindu temple) as the womb, dualities of Janus, loads over head or shoulder of Atlantis, all are holistic metaphors, but shrouded into years of interpretations. Decorative motifs, grotesque forms, contrived architectonic elements, abstract human or animal forms, are symbolic, yet distinctly functional elements in limited sense. Wide-base structures like Pyramid, Eiffel Tower, Electric Pylons, and tapering column structures like Pylons. Obelisks, Pillars, Stambha, are gravity compliant entities, long-lasting and so stable. Intervening elements in buildings like Verandahs, vestibules, corridors, passages, denote metaphoric links or connections between out side and inside.


Adi Niwas -First residence of Gandhi in Sewagram, Maharashtra India  as Ashram > Wikipedia image by Muk.Khan


Sabarmati Ashram of Gandhi at Ahmedabad India > Wikipedia image by Nichalp

 Ashram is a form of Hermitage, a place for ‘Spartan’, celibate or ascetic life. The image relates to minimum space, a cell, in Buddhist stupa or monastery. Gandhi established several ones like Phoenix Ashram at Durban in South Africa, Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad in India, Sevagram Ashram Wardha Maharashtra, India. All these had few common features Verandah and sloped roofs. When architect Charles Correa was designing a Gandhi Memorial at Sabarmati, the theme of the verandah and sloped roofs emerged metaphorically.


Gandhi Memorial at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad by Charles Correa > Wikipedia image by Hardik jadeja

The architectural form, which is explicit in the initial stages, evolves inconsistently over the ages, but with several orders of conversions, the form and its meaning, both become implicit expressions. It is like pictorial language Hieroglyphics where the objects expressed one thing in terms of another, but with transformations make their interpretations sometimes easier, but mostly difficult.


Buckminster Fuller’s House Dymaxion  built by Butler brothers Kansas city > Wikipedia image by Daderot

Architects have used different expressions to show their process of form perception. But there is a wide deviation of between perception and conception of the form. These metaphoric quotes are naturally out of the context of time and space. 1. A house is a machine for living in -Corbusier. 2. It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve -the curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the body of the beloved woman.- Oscar Niemeyer. 3. Life is chaotic, dangerous, and surprising and buildings should reflect that. –Frank Gehry


HSBC Hong Kong HQ building by Norman Foster > Wikipedia image by WiNG

Can metaphors be used to widen experiences that are otherwise mainly visual? Modern gadgets like Remote controls, switch-gears, driving wheels or mobiles beyond visual experience now offer sounds, vibrations, warmth, presence or absence of gravity, pressure-feel of acceleration-deceleration to reinforce or alter the cognitive experience. As designers, ‘we can influence perception by stimulating the viewer’s five senses to invoke broader conceptual associations’.


Cornell University Campus Doha Qatar > Wikipedia image by vobios

A metaphor is ‘used to draw a comparison between two distinct objects, whereas a symbol is used a stand-in for a much more complex, and generally more abstract, idea’. Symbols carry a wide range of concepts through their own compositions. Symbols also carry different meaning across generations, and culturally mean different things to different people. Any attempt to derive a meaning through their surviving trace of the context does not work. One may not bother about interpreting the meaning of a symbol as it could have turned very abstract, but a metaphor to remain relevant must be very explicit or supported by ‘explanations’.


 To create Modern day metaphors, one of the most useful tools has been digital morphing. It allows the scaling and merging with the existing conditions by selective stretching, inflating, shrinking etc. These are attempted, more in films and other visual mediums, than in architecture. Architects try to liberate their creations by adopting Deconstructivism. Games have adopted the technology more cautiously.


Architecture im Video game -Minecraft > Pixabay free image by allinonemovie

The American aesthetician Kendall Walton calls (modern audio-video) games, ‘generators of fictional or make-believe content. The game is governed by complex, tacit, mutually understood rules or norms, principles of generation, that render what’s fictional in the game, what players of it are supposed to imagine in playing it, a fixed function of the actual states and behaviours of various things and people they perceive, manipulate, and otherwise interact with as they play it’.



Screen shot from computer game ‘The whispered World’ > Wikipedia image : Attribution: Daedalic Entertainment GmbH

The Props, as Walton calls them, or enriched interfaces, are here means of imagination deriving their instrumental value or interest from the intrinsic value or interest of the fictional content they help generate. Some games, though allow manipulation of such interfaces such as change of the stadium in cricket or football game or war zones, culture and technological standards of warriors, climate conditions of the scenario. Modern day drafting tools that allow the ‘form generations’, also allow surface sensuality manipulations. Some degree of ‘form reformationis allowed though tied to the wire framing or connected point networks. The freedom to transgress or fly-out beyond, without the umbilical interface will arrive someday.


Ballistic Arcade developed by GRIN and Triotech Amusement > Wikipedia image attribution: Triotech Amusement ( )


This is the 11 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

REAL and VIRTUAL -Issues for design-10

Post 621 –by Gautam Shah


Human spaces are substantially real and physical, but could also have features that transcend the reality.


Las Meninas (Spanish = The ladies in waiting) ART by Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) >> Las Meninas is composition about Reality and Illusion of relationships between figures. In a large room several figures are spatially morphed including Artist (at a realistic scale), surreal mirrored reflections, and various real figures in their own engagements. The Artist himself looks at the tentative spot the painting observer would be standing.

There are THREE reasons for the later condition.

ONE, human cognition sometimes functions ambiguously.

TWO, the subconscious mind perceives beyond the rationality, restrictive customs and structural limitations.

THREE, we use tools that surpass the reality and present us with novel experiences.


Kaliserpanorama -a multi station viewing utility using stereo slides -patented 1890

ONE: The ambiguities in cognitive processes arise due to the past experiences, expectations and the context. The context for the perception, if environmental, is ever changing. The fixed contexts provided by physical objects or the beings have context of personal relevance. Physical objects in abnormal sizes, scales and distortions, like the grotesque forms disturb that placidity, at least initially.


Manipulated perspective for Door surround in Pezenas France > Wikipedia image by Fagairolles34

TWO: Under stress conditions extra ordinary cognitive feats are possible. We perceive and subconsciously register minute details of events that in normal conditions escape attention. In conscious state many have extra ordinary capacity to hear, smell, feel or observe. During sickness, however, in-coherency results due to time and space mismatch. A cognitive deficit or cognitive impairment describes the characteristic that affect the perception. It also affects, because elements nominally distanced in time and space are virtually juxtaposed in a make-believe world.


The apotheosis of St. Ignactius, Church of St Ignazio > Art by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709) > Image by Majanlahti >> > Pozzo dissolved the architectural elements of the nave’s barrel vault while coordinating the storyboard through bright sky and floating figures, creating an ethereal single point perspective. 

Time is seen as a measure of change, and Space is perceived for its consistency (or even lack of it) over a time. When the dream and reality transcend, there is sense of ‘Avidya’ (lack of knowledge), a Maya as the cause of illusion. Avidya includes confusing the mundane reality to be the only reality, and believing it as a permanent feature, though it is ever changing. The effect of Avidya is to inhibit the real nature of things and perceive something else in its place. It is the ignorance or misunderstanding of the nature of reality.

Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco

Flickr image by JAM Project >> Deconstruction Ways by Isidro Blasco, corner of Mullins Street & Market Row, near Abbey’s bookshop and parallel to York St. From the Art & About website: “‘Deconstructing Ways’ creates a parallel world for your imagination to step into.

THREE: To resolve the contradictions of reality and dream, new means were created, such as the ‘unnerving and illogical scenes’, strange creatures, grotesque forms, and queer built-spaces. The methods exposed the truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance. The contempt for accepting literal meanings assigned to objects has been considerable. The Ornamentation, in comparison were more subdued but have too much metaphorical connection with the past, visually very static, and these have restricted the time dynamism. The superfluous, or the applique decorations have been means for camouflage. The shrouded symbolism of decorations and the contempt for the explainable interpretation, led to creation of new space making forms.


Shell service station, Winston-Salem, North Carolina > Wikipedia image 

 The process of de-ornamentation in post industrial period, allowed the much needed exposure for aspects like geometry, functional, structural, and spatial definitions. The new constructs for architecture and products, etc. that followed the de-ornamentation, such as ‘form follows function, purity of form and truth to materials’ became the tenets of modernism.


MUJI Japanese Tableware – 2004 / Masahiro Mori -ceramic designer > Wikipedia image attribution (Mori Masahiro Design Studio, LLC.)

New constructs of modernism were too stiff for many. Deconstructionists moved away from such constricting aspects. They compromised the geometric discipline of the form by abrogating the functional, structural, and spatial aspects. It started with literature, art and then spread to architecture, and performing arts. But in architecture they still had to deliver a building confirming the gravity and other forces. In literature and other arts it had to be a deliverable product or a recognizable entity. It also now endowed that ‘not everything that looks odd is deconstructionism’.


Cleveland clinic Nevada Las Vegas USA by Gehry > Wikipedia image by A. Duarte from Brasilia, Brazil

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Reality, often contrasted with what is imaginary and delusional. The reality and the dream find expression in dominantly a visual realm. All art and magic except the alchemy are visual. Computer mediated, realities have been predominant of visual perception, and to a very small extent of aural experience.


This is the 10 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN