Post 695 –by Gautam Shah


Glass Building Glass Dome Berlin Reichstag Dome

Masking and Framing of openings, have many diverse purposes but both are substantiated by their edges. Openings have their own definitive closed ended edges, but masking and framing redefines these many times with open-ended edges. The edges, not only isolate a segment of the opening, but always make the view more emphatic and relevant. The edges of the mask, such as, sharp, frayed, fuzzy, angular, curvilinear, etc. create interference, but offer qualitative change. The edges of the frames, such as, inward or outward chamferring, angular or ‘stream-lined’ rounded profiles, strongly vertical or horizontal emphasis, etc. provide a sense of enclosure. Masking and Framing, have some overlapping functions and serve complementary functions.

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Masking and Framing, have been elements of imposition to alter the conditions of the openings. Both have a secondary role of structural support. The structural support becomes real when these are integrated with the openings’ system. But the treatments may remain superfluous impositions. Such impositions include LED insertion within the glazing, or over the surface projection of images (like speech readers used by anchors). Masking and Framing, are made antithetical. These are now eliminated or diffused for simplicity, clarity, minimalism and even delusion.

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Masking has to be a smaller entity than the opening, for it to be meaningful. Masking is inhibiting or a restrictive element that resizes the opening and so controls the view, passage, effects of environment. Masking is both, planned and incidental. Planned masking offer superior conditions and perception, whereas incidental masking has surprises and new lessons. Openings are intentionally masked by architectural elements, items of furniture and furnishings, occupants. Openings get incidentally masked by growth of plants and trees, neighbouring buildings and environmental conditions.

Old Home Window Glass Architecture Within

The sizes of openings are affected by the depth aspect. Visual depth induces a perspective view. Wherever the sides are visible, add to the extent of a visual surface, and creating a frame within frame view. Imposed architectonic elements shield the opening with shadows that are more articulated than the original shadow casting elements. This overshadowing is a type of masking, reducing the apparent size opening. Similar effect occurs with deep-set and square-edged openings.

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The framing, however, became really dominant with the chamferred sides, sills, ledges and lintel bottoms. The chamferring of edges enhances the depth aspect of the opening. It adds to the extent of a visual surface, and creating a frame within frame view. The chamferring increases the view of exterior from inside, and if on inside face, it adds to perceptual illumination.

Window Barcelona Stained Glass Baroque Fanciful

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Framing of opening mainly occurs as a surround element. But the surrounds are rather too thin as jambs, and so need casing and architraves for emphasis. Reshaping of openings in the frontal plane was tried with pointed arches in Gothic period. Real reshaping of the openings and curvilinear bending was tried out in the Baroque and Rococo architecture. With the reshaping and curvilinear bending of the openings, the architectural walls were also reformatted.

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In Art Nouveau style, the openings were reshaped, and to heighten that effect, masking grills were used to de-form the rectangularity. The openings, with some restrains, and the grills, with complete abundance, used free flowing asymmetrical forms. To this vocabulary, glass patterns by way of frosting, etching, grinding and stained colouring were added.

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Early glass for windows was produced as cut bottom of a bulb or cylinder. These had residual ripple patterns, imparting a fuzzy view. The defect was subdued by masking it with translucent sheer curtains and by framing it with a grid of muntins and mullions as in Colonial sash windows.

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High quality modern glass has extra ordinary surface gloss, making it a mirror like a surface. The glossy glass if placed on the edge without sun-shading reflects the surroundings, and also reflecting sunlight as bounce-back, causing a nuisance to neighbouring properties and blinding with the glare the moving vehicles. This is now being controlled through building regulations. The solutions are masking the glass with polymer films or polychrome treatments.

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Openings are occluded by stationary and mobile objects that manifest on the inside and outside. Objects occluding a brightly lit opening are seen as silhouette or outline. A person sited against an opening can see gestures of others, but in reverse direction others fail to perceive the expressions and ignore him/her. For correct modelling some illumination or reflections from other sides are required. But this can also happen if the object has multiple planes oriented differently. The scale of occluding objects is its absolute size and relatively the distance from the opening as well as the perceiver.


Framing and Masking, have relevance of nearness. The framing becomes irrelevant at closer distance. Masking for visual screening is more affective at a distance, but for illumination control, it is affective at all distances.

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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



Post 685 –by Gautam Shah


6 French door in thin wall httpspixnio.como

Walls are chiefly load bearing entities. The thickness is the third dimension to the nominal planner structure. The third dimension has a functional depth, and architectural character. The Architectural expression of the wall-depth modulates the facade and gives a massing flavour. The functional depth frames the view, and regulates the illumination in the interior space.

2 Squared edge openings in Thick walls 32723717541_b24cbfb0ca_z

Openings in thicker walls have external or internal ‘reveals’ surrounding the frame. The bottom section forms the ledge of the sill. Openings placed on the outer face create deep an inner side or intrados (originally intrados meant, the inner curve of an arch or vault). Similarly openings placed on the inner edge form exterior side or extrados (originally extrados meant, the outer curve of an arch or vault).

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The deep interior sides, ifsquare-edged (at a right angle to plane of the window), made the perceived size of the opening smaller, then it actually is. This type of setting on interior sides, was not a major issue, where the room spaces were comparatively narrow, and so reflection from opposite walls was available. The narrow spaces were due to the technological restrictions and for functional requirements, such as in long halls and church buildings. In squared buildings the illumination was balanced from windows in the drum perimeter of the dome.

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The deep exterior sides, if square-edged (at a right angle to plane of the window), made the perceived size of the opening smaller, a desired arrangement to enhance the wall area and de-emphasize the presence of gaps of openings. It reduced the ingress of winds and snow-rainwater. To emphasize the presence of gaps, portals were added as the opening’s treatments.

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The square’ edged openings have high contrasting brightness. Such windows require counter illumination to reduce the glare. To distribute the light better in the interior space, inner sides (-intrados with the window fixed on the outer edge) and an outer side (-extrados with the window fixed on the inner edge) were splayed by chamferring. The angled side surface was further carved, fluted with ornate borders or architraves.

1 3 M thick walls and chamferred internal edges of Guard room at Burg Meersburg on Lake Constance in southern Germany Wikipedia Image by Tobyc75

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Inner vertical sides, window heads and the sill, all were sloped to enlarge the reflective surface area. The chamferred sides on the outer face allowed more light by increasing the sky component, and allowed wider view of the outside.

20 Murals need evenly distributed illuminated wall Basilica di Sant Apollinare in Classe Wikipedia Image by Flying Russian

The effects of square and the chamferred sides of openings were well known to the mural artists (working with different mediums such as tempera, mosaic and frescoes painting), who accordingly composed the stories, shading in the scene, perspective angle, colour’s  hue and tone of artwork.

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14 Romanesque_church. panoramio Wikipedia Image by More pics than views…

In Romanesque and early Gothic architecture the windows were fixed on inner face, creating a plain and undisturbed interior surface. But by the time this was perfected, the Gothic walls were completely diminished, and windows were as wide as the gap between two columns.

Stained Glass in Windows

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Side walls of Gothic buildings became thinner due to the arrangement of flying buttresses and use of load-bearing columns. But the same advantage was not available in case of un-buttressed Front wall. The entrance doors of Gothic churches were flush-set on the inner face, and that allowed better view across and fuller distribution of light. But the doors set deep in the thick walls, needed chamferring with serrated sides.

21 Chartres Cathedral serrated door portal .flickr.comphotos69184488 N061189397807

In Baroque architecture the depth of opening was concealed with the projected facade elements like columns, pilasters, cornices, or pediments. In Italian Renaissance the facade had an applique lattice like a pattern that united several openings. In post medieval period, windows began to protrude out of the buildings, over into the narrow street. Bay and oriel windows, Mashrabiya openings in the middle East, and Zarokhas in India transgressed out, mainly to gain sideways view and air. The multi sided mass of the projection became a personal statement.

8 Deep set openings Hindola_Mahal,_Mandu,_India

In post medieval period, window projections created serious fire hazards and issues of encroachment of public lands. Both of these were corrected through improved fire laws and defined easement rights. Fire laws required windows to be within the wall (without any projections like ledges or hanging shutters). Later the Window tax curtailed the number of openings in a building.

22 Openings

Gothic architecture had already shown how to divide large openings with traceries of mullions and muntins. Large windows in thin walls require framing and masking, but small depth did not allow formation of integrated architectonic elements, or scooping out for niche creation. Architectural add-on elements such as half columns, extrados, porticoes, etc. were additives placed to frame and highlight the opening.

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The surface of the window was strongly stated by articulated divisions, contrasts between glazed and other surfaces like rusticated masonry. Windows were also placed in inward or sunken bays. The mid-wall between the windows was treated as very shallow niche or bordered frame for murals, paintings or placing a fireplace or library cabinet. Building’s facades of thin walls were also undulated by outward bay windows, ledges and other projections.

10 Protected Opening Tim 1965 1601_I_Street_NW_-_Washington_DC_-_window_detail

Thick walls accommodate the shutters of doors and windows within the gap. But shallow window gaps offer no shading. Some form of external shading system is required. Such shading systems have been used for creating architectural facade system, as in Chandigarh Secretariat building.

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Glass curtain walls are thin body construction, often without any projections for solar protection. This now sought through the glass technology, and the ventilation through separate HVAC system. Thin walls save floor space, and so are economic in spite of the compulsory recourse to other compensatory facilities. The nominal architectural play of depth and shadows for 3rd dimensional visual depth is not available with openings in very thin walls. This is now recreated by volumetric play of the building mass, or by variegated surface finishes. For such surface modulation, other means include visual reflectance and glows (illumination from within).

Modern Windows Exterior Building Architecture

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The vividness of stained glass windows or the colourful lanterns of Gothic eras are now recreated through see through LED glass. At another level the touch screen provides the same fare. The mix of the two will become part of architectural and interior face of buildings.

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DYNAMIC CURVATURES -Issues of Design 24

Post 684–by Gautam Shah


13 Barcelone - Detail of a Gaudi building

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.

15 Shadow of a straight line on curved surface Wikipedia Image by Sten Porse

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.

5 SpiderCatenary

6 Manhattan Bridge in New York City with deck under construction from the towers outward

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.

7 Natural or real contours of Materials Arizona mountains

8 Angular or linear formation of Red rocks https pxhere.comenphoto552984

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.

17 Different types of coils

18 Dawn Eases Into Orbit Around The Dwarf Planet Ceres

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.

2 Toaster

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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



Post 683–by Gautam Shah


Design for a Stage Set_ A Dungeon with High Vaults and a Staircase at Right.

A space is either real or abstract. The Real one is contoured in geometry and so well founded. The Abstract one is coalescence of many perceptions, or a fuzzy imagination, and so transient. Spaces have a natural affinity for location and environment. The location related factors are static like the spatial character, size, shape, ergonomic accommodations, and connections with the outside world. These are substantiated by structures, amenities, facilities, utilities, tools and enrichments. The environment endows many variations. As the environment is substantially directional, the orientation becomes a key determinant of the space lay. Other important factors are the energies affecting all things on earth. Gravity endows the stability.


Spaces derive their purpose with the users’ concerns, like: sense of belonging, ownership, access, privacy, security and safety. A space for an individual, becomes functional, by the distance from edges, interpolation (of other spaces), connections and presence or absence of others (beings). A space, is relevant to an individual and groups, by the preferment of the core or verge. The core is intensely purposive to the ‘idea of space’, whereas the verge has many non-spatial connections and so motives are tempered.

36520624965_cfbfd6514b_zTo concern a space, one needs to possess it, by way of perceiving or occupying it. For both of these, one needs to possess it through a position in it. The possession of space is an indication that it is amenable to changes like size, shape nature. The position in a space makes it possible to explore a space consistently and differently. It reveals new potentials of the space. Possession and position are followed by the ‘next move’, the conditioning of the environment.

office-1094826_640Spaces are set of perceptions or experiences. Some are of real conditions, but many others are supplemented by the mind. Perceptions occur from positions in space and sequences of change between positions. Real positioning is framing in time and space, and the abstract one may have cause and effect (cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is totally dependent on the cause). Space positions are taken for greater reach and cognition in space. Positioning is a biological as well as circumstantial conditioning. Spaces are places that reflect the necessity for gaining and maintaining a commandeering position. Positioning in space ultimately gets reflected in the cultural inclinations or biases. People prefer left or right preferences for turning, reading, sleeping or social interacting.


Spaces are occupied for two main purposes, for various actions, and to keep materials and means to conduct the same. Actions are closely connected to spatial features, such as the environmental facilitations, architectonic elements amenities and facilities, and to other people. Activities relate to our being a biological entity like the metabolism, safety, security, privacy, comfort, rest, communication, expression etc. Actions are either routine or unconventional but productive or satiating. Routine activities occur with predictable spatial features, but compulsions of space size and group behaviour dynamics force unconventional settings for the actions.

Routine purposes of spaces are day to day affairs. These are fixed to spatial segments, time schedules, environmental conditions, and utilize the same amenities, facilities, utilities. Spaces used for routine purposes reveal little that is exciting or new, because there is no need or time for exploration. Such spaces are predictable but very productive. The location related attachments are maintained, because these offer some flexibility for the spread of activities. Such segments due to their consistency and permanency are marked or named architectural units (bathing area, hay chopping area, etc.).

Kyoto Houses 353035587_cd41ec24df_z

Unconventional purposes of space emerge due to the compulsory and explorative shifting of activities. Such shifts occur only occasionally, because space-efficiency occurs when wait for the right occasion or search for the right location is minimal. Unusual purposes of space are realized first within the same space segment and when scheduled in the same time section or sequentially. In single room dwellings, tents and non-formal work areas the schedules and space requirements are well matched. But when one or both come under stress, unconventional means are sought or results delivered. Inconvenience of non-functional spatial or environmental features may be ignored, if group behaviour dynamics demand it.

geograph-4053627-by-Ben-BrooksbankActions occur at places from where some degree of command can be continued over a larger domain. These places are geometrically centric and environmentally favourable. Places of actions have strong cultural association, like public versus private, allowable versus sanctimonious spaces, or orientation taboos of directions.


Casual repositioning and deferments of activities are required to relieve the tedium, and for experimentation. Activities due to their scale, required amenities, unfavourable weather or group dynamics require different space spread. Such activities need spatial shifting or time switching, or both.


Customs and taboos result from the local perceptions and experiences, and so same activity could have different time and space setting (ethnic variations) across societies. This is apparent in satiating work like craft, than productive jobs.


Spaces derive their purpose with the postural flexibility (capacity to gain and leave). The number of sub-processes, which can be handled without shifting, depend on the physical reach. The dependence on tools, equipments, structures, amenities, facilities though enhance the spatial purposiveness, do restrict the variations a space can offer. The expectations for the next lot of work, preempt the purposes a space offers


To an outsider, the purposes spaces serve seems intermingled or chaotic, but real users know the order of sequencing. The processes occur in lots or streamlined movement. Spaces with streamlined purposes reflect the high efficiency through optimized postural changes, minimal location shifting, coordinated use of amenities.



Post 619 –by Gautam Shah
















Post 590 by Gautam Shah (12 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)


Spatial Distance means:

1 Size of intervening space, (between people-people and people-objects),

2 Perceptive extent of space

3 Reach in space.

Distance is also formatted by environmental factors, social requirements, psychological make-up, nature of communication, expression, scale and use of spatial objects, and time duration of the affectation. Spatial distance affecting the behaviour is perceived to be in touching, threatening, disturbing or overwhelming. Such interpretations vary with culture.


Spatial Distancing > Wikipedia image by Diliff

 Four distinct zones within which interpersonal transactions normally take place:

■ Intimate distance is used in intimate relationships such as for embracing, kissing, touching or whispering, and ranges from 0 to 450mm. This is an Intimate area close to the body, within which it is possible to have physical touch, non verbal communication and emotional interactions. To gain such an intimate position one needs to be familiar with the other person or coerce. One has to ensure that by being in this zone, no harm occurs to the other person. Even in the intimate space close to the body, the nature and level of intimacy is affected by the attitudes of the persons involved. Here due to the intimate closeness one senses the texture, temperature, moisture, vibrations, energy, etc.

A handshake or hug nominally has no sexual meaning in many cultures. In some cultures privacy achieved by a veil is considered retardant of intimacy. Intimacy could be a display or an expression with physical touch but with no apparent mental feelings.


Falling in Love by Albert Schroder (1854-1939)

■ Personal distance is useful for interactions between good friends, and family members and ranges 450mm to 1200mm. The area immediate to the body marks the Personal Area. It is a zone of regulated and selective participation. Here one can reach out through projection (expression), channels of communication, physically (through body limbs) or stretch out with gadgets (walking stick, stethoscope, etc.). The intimacy is regulated, but not a private affair. One may create screens to achieve it. One can dwell in a culture or state formed of metaphysical elements (beliefs, customs, etc.), to achieve the same.

In case of relationship with objects, declaration of ownership creates such personal space. The strong association to a person is imprinted on the object’s form or position. Chief guests chair, head chair at the end of a dining table are such personal entities.

Flight Delay

Flight Delays > Flickr image by TheeErin

■ Social distance is for interactions between social acquaintances, and its range is from 1200mm to 3.5mt. This defines a zone of Nearness, where position and duration of the eye contact, sound pitch and olfactory sensation become important. This can be a non-committal area where personal involvement can be avoided.

As per the protocol, leaders of the two nations never share a seat, but rather occupy separate seats distanced with a small table or flower vase. Similarly deputies accompanying their leaders, are made to sit at some distance, from where they get a sense of participation but have no chance of intervention. On public platforms one intentionally uses lower sound pitch to draw attention. On very large dining table one can effectively hold conversation with members sitting on the two sides, but not across the table. In gatherings one uses differing sound pitch to reach desired distance.

■ Public distance is mainly for public spaces or non-personal interactions, and is above 3.5mt. These are Reach Zones beyond the anthropometric ambit. One may reach-out with additional reach tools, such as PA system, projection TV, surveillance camera, high pitch sound, extra ordinary (attention catching) movement, gaudy or unusual gesture, posture or dressing. Such zones constitute very specific spaces.

Temples have marked sanctimonious areas. Performance stages have podiums. In such zones intimacy or privacy of personal nature, are not available, yet one can announce it through metaphoric presentations.

Two persons or members of a group can talk in whispers and give out an impression of intimacy in spite of the apparent distance between them. Conversely talk-discussions in high pitch could be used to present bonhomie and thereby a close-knit entity. Politicians and celebrities talk in whispers to state things that need to be made public and talk loudly things that need not be public, both ways they draw the attention. A public orator changes the pitch from normal to very low or high to draw the attention of the audience and thereby register a point.


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 by Georges Seurat


Hall (1959) has stipulated that spatial separation also serves expansive function. He made a study of the spatial relations that seem appropriate to various kinds of interactions. They vary with intimacy, culture, and depend on the possibility of eye contact.


Picnic Kaivopuisto Helsinki > Wikipedia image by JIP at en Wikipedia

‘One can easily distinguish strangers from friends in an airport lounge. Strangers will keep a distance, taking alternate seats wherever possible. Friends tend to form clots, and families even pile one on the top of another. Total strangers will comfortably seat themselves only inches apart if the seats are back to back, but friends and the members of the family never arrange themselves in this way. Eye contact invites interaction and so is sought to the degree that intimacy already exists.’ (Hall E. T. 1959 The silent language).


Revelry at an Inn by Havicksz Steen 1674

There are spatial zones appropriate to various types of interactions. Distances in virtual communication technology mediated interactions are likely to be different. Hall has also shown the cultural variations that South American needs much closer distance for impersonal information than a North American desire or is accustomed to.

Very close (75 to 150mm) Soft whisper, top secret sharing (lovers, mother and infant).


Very close – love – Pixabay image by Adina Voicu

● Close (200 to 300mm) Audible whispers, very confidential talk (related persons).

● Near (300 to 500mm) Soft voice, confidential interaction (public spaces like elevators, coffeehouse, confession).


Sharing personal details with a Doctor > Wikipedia image by Rhoda Baer

● Neutral (500 to 900mm) Soft voice, low volume, personal subject matter (bars, small restaurants, home dining, breakfast table, fast food counters, consulting rooms, reception table).


Luncheon of the Boating party Pierre by Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Wikipedia image

● Normal (1300 to 1500mm) Full voice, impersonal information, interaction with known persons (Home drawing rooms, public dining table, Government officials, meetings of heads of states).


Holyrood Palace Scotland Dining table with non-committal distance (Attr: W. Lloyd MacKenzie via Flickr @

 ● Public (1700 to 2500mm) Slightly over-loud, information for others to hear, public address, seminars, teaching.

● Across room (2500 to 6000mm) Loud voice, talking to a group (Boisterous gatherings, public lounges).

● Hailing privately (6000 to 7500 mm) Indoors, Loud voice departures (neighbourhoods, across the road, noisy workplaces).


Waving off > Wikipedia image

● Hailing public (30.00 mts) Outdoors, Declaratory, Loud voice shouting, departures and calls (Airports, Railway stations).


The receding edge of the table allows Larry King – in Live show to adjust the distance > Wikipedia image by Billyshearso

Impersonal discussion, takes place at 1200 to 1500 mm, encroach the inner distance of this zone, and you or interlocutor will retreat. Move back from the outer distance and you can state what you wish to say by reducing the power of the interlocutor. One can move from impersonal discussion to a focussed or personal matter by reducing the distance. Alternatively change to a non committal mode by increasing the distance. TV anchors do these distance tricks on their show. For an intimate question the anchor pushes forward own body (Larry King of CNN ), but as soon as the question sinks in with the guest, the anchor withdraws not just to the nominal position, but little further backward. These distancing movements allow the guest to deliver the answer more objectively and the camera frames the guest alone for such a ‘heroic effort’. A host may intimidate the guest by doing exactly opposite of this. Smart elders and senior executives are (subconsciously) adapt to this.


Tonight show with Jay Leno -varies the eye level contact  > Wikipedia image by Tina Hager (PD-LAYOUT; PD-USGOV-POTUS; PD-USGOV-WH.)


This post forms 12 th of the Sixteen part of Lecture series on Behaviour in Space that I will be offering for the spring semester starting Jan 2016 (to mid April2016) at School of Interior Design, Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.