BRIGHTNESS and COLOUR

Post 712 -by Gautam Shah

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Brightness and Colour have mutual dependence. Greater brightness leads to sharper visual perception and the colour (spectrum) affects the perceived level of brightness. Physiological and environmental conditions alter the perception of brightness as well as colours. Noon time daylight conditions are accepted as the optimal brightness condition for experiencing the colour. But this condition of high brightness can reduce the contrast between two near by objects and so confuse the colour perception.

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Brightness and colour, both are strongly affected by the immediate past experience. Sudden transition from darkness to brightness or one colour to another affects the pupil dilation.

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Brightness and colour relate to reflection from a surface. The quality of a surface, the texture and its grain orientation vis a vis the directions of illumination and observation, affect the perception. Most of the objects reveal their multiple surfaces concurrently but brightness and colour on each of the face seems different. In this scenario the source of illumination (if solar) and observers both vary their position. As a result colour perception is very dynamic phenomenon. In Architecture or Interior design colour matching or determination of brightness is always worrisome affair.

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Next factor is the context in which objects or scenes are observed. The juxtaposition with a lighter background enhances and darker backdrop setting dulls the perception of brightness and colour.

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Colour perception operates at three basic levels, as the capacity of a surface to reflect light, as emission of light from a hot body and the personal capacity to differentiate various colourations. But the conveyance of the ‘colour related experiences’ is even more difficult. The interpretation of colours varies in different setting of locations, cultures and circumstances. Environment and Terrain are two major factors that alter the colour. Environmental conditions like solar brightness, inclination, orientation, cloud-cast conditions, atmospheric refractions, etc. vary depending on the geographic location. These are further attuned by the surface extent, texture, angle and duration of exposure. The terrain offers very pervasive colour context against which everything is observed. The different terrain effects are really not perceived on the site, but experienced through time-space segmented documents like photographs, paintings, videos or movies.

11 Col-8 Contrasting context Dark brown to Black Edouard Manet Olympia Google Art Project Image 3

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ART by Edward Hopper Daylight and Artificial light depiction

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The conditions at ground level such as surface colour, wetness, snow, vegetation cover, topography, orientation, man-made and natural features, surroundings, density, reflection (albedo), absorption, altitudes etc. determine the colour quality of light. Since all these surface conditions are very localized, the colour variations are conditioned by them. The buildings in surrounding areas, immediate terrain and water bodies have a bearing on the quality of illumination entering a building.

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Illumination in a space is Natural (daylight, chiefly solar origin), Artificial and often combination of both. Daylight has Four important facets, the illuminance, warmth, colour and the variability. Daylight on an outdoor location is a combination of direct sunlight, diffuse sky radiation, and both of these as reflected from the earth and other objects. The brightness and colour of daylight are governed by the sky conditions, like clouds, fog, smoke, atmospheric pollution, morning and evening twilight zones (when the atmospheric scattering of predawn sunlight takes place).

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The solar radiation as received on the surface of Earth varies from place to place, season to season, day to day and even hour to hour. Equatorial regions receive more radiation, than polar regions. Darker surfaces, like the tropical forests reflect very little radiation, 10 %, compared to snow bound high latitude areas, which nearly reflect 80 % of the energy received. Cloudy and dust polluted areas receive less solar energy. Direct sunlight at noon can have illuminance as high as 120,000 lux (Compared to this moon light is <1 lux). Sunlight is a warm colour light, at noon, the colour-temperatures are about 5500°k, bluish-white or ‘cool colours’ and at sunset, these are about 2700-3000°k (degrees kelvin), are yellowish-white through red or called ‘warm colours’.

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The reflected light from the exterior surfaces of buildings, roads and pavements affect the illumination on lower floors of the buildings. These cause minor variations due to movements of people, vehicles, ripples on water bodies and leaves of trees. Upper floors of tall buildings, except in similar localities, receive fairly consistent, but very strong daylight from nominal windows. Such floors with low or no sill windows (glass curtain walls) get varying levels of illumination, often strongly coloured.

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Reflectance of rooms’ interior surfaces impacts the perception of brightness and colours in a space. The surface reflectance is a function of colour, its texture (matt, dull-sheen, glossy) and the orientation of grains of textures. Extreme levels of brightness, if, are present within the same field of view, can be calibrated by the surface texture and colour. Historic buildings, sites and remains, are conserved with surroundings updated through paved stones of same colour-texture as the original built-form or green lawns. These choices, alter the degree of interior brightness, as well the quality of colour.

Terrain Colours

Similarly cities conserved with enforced thematic colours (blue -Jodhpur, Pink -Jaipur, both in India, white -Santorini, sienna browns -Italian, Piazza del Campo and ), create monotonous colour tonality in interior spaces.

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For artificial illumination sources Brightness and Colour have some sensorial connection. Artificial light sources one commonly accepted rating, the Colour rendering index (CRI). It is supposed to index ‘how the colour will look’. High CRI (nearly equal to daylight in afternoon) will mean colour will look ‘real and right’ and low CRI will mean unreal (weird) and wrong. CRI has limited relevance, if only the illumination source is white (Candles and incandescent bulbs can have high CRI ,but are off-white. The sodium lamps have low CRI but high brightness.

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SEGMENTING the SPACES -Issues of Design 31

Post 711 -by Gautam Shah

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Spaces are divided with partitions and also segmented through ephemeral means. The spatial definitions formed by partitions or physical barriers are permanent units, whereas the segmented spaces are mere recognitions that are transient and symbolic. Spaces need to be divided into smaller parts, as much as combined into a greater whole. The sub-unitized spaces are sometimes recombined by selective dissolution of the partitions and zoned identities are re-comprehended by redefining their purposes.

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The spatial entities have two sets of characteristics. 1 – A space with personal identity is a centred spread. It is focussed to the core and with variable peripheries. 2 – A space with identity of a group is of precise extent. It has an emphatic periphery. In the first instance the spatial quality emerges from the physiological and sensorial reach to others and objects. In the second instance, the group dynamics like customs of social distancing, sensorial responses for interactions and in recognition of age, sex and relationships between the people, define the space.

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The structural divisions in built-forms are finite zones for identity, isolation, privacy, security and environmental exclusivity. But these can be often too large or small. Small spaces need to be enlarged by transgressing to adjoining zones or even outsides, through the openings. These form convergent spaces with the adjoining zones, like verandahs, galleries, bay windows, etc. Large spaces have the scope for inverse or inward transgressions. The inward intrusions change the functional character and sensorial qualities by forming mew peripheries. Where sub-spaces are consistently used, these may be distinguished with built partitions.

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Partitions brand a space for exclusive use, private access and status quo. Once palace and manor kitchens had many roomettes like for cutlery, crockery, linen, cream and milk, bakery items, poultry, meat etc. The primitive cooking place was also meal taking place. These were structured storage units, but now have become segmented parts of kitchens, with better cabinets systems. And nowadays with continuous supply chain system very little storage segments are needed. Dirty kitchens forced dining to separate room. In modern times cooking is no longer dirty and cooking is not necessarily cook’s or housewives’ domain so cooking and dining both impinge on family rooms.

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To coalesce two structured spaces, the prime strategy is to relocate, resize or add openings between two. Next strategy is to combine the functions of two spaces. Family rooms and drawing rooms are no longer separate entities.

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Ephemeral divisions relate to delineation of areas for people, tasks, amenities, facilities, orientation and environmental affectations and sanctimony. Such delineated areas are customary and respected by the members of the family as much as by the community. Some areas are considered sacrosanct and require affirmation to rituals. The tasks conducted here in ephemeral divisions are variable in spread and transient in time. The spread is defined by the physical reach and the tools’ assisted range. Postural capacity and adjustability both rationalize the spread.

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Ephemeral segmentation of space occurs with both, the Time and Space interventions. Time interventions allow use of same space for many different purposes. This avoids the conflicts of privacy, sanctimony, security, territorial ownership or access and sensorial mix-up. The Western Wall, Wailing Wall, Kotel or Buraq Wall, are different ephemeral divisions of Holy place in old Jerusalem. Spatial distancing and time delay allows reenforcement of individual identities but when at excessive scale creates alienation. The appropriate balance can have different meanings for the concerned persons, objects, activities, intentions etc.

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Defined or Abstract, space segments are recognition of the edges. The edges reflect three distinct spatial characteristics, namely, –Edge or Periphery, Core and the Adjunct.

In case of defined or structural divisions of a space, the edge as the barrier has a peripheral character. This is more so when the space spread is large enough to distinguish the core versus the periphery. The adjunct areas here have relevance, wherever the barriers are breached. In case of ephemeral divisions of a space, the edge is not real but just a recognition of extreme part of a spread. All ephemerally segmented spaces have unreal edges that converge with other domains. For segmented or partitioned spaces the periphery becomes the area of connections and variations. Besides the environmental variations and communication, it is also a point of control.

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The housewife chooses a space segment, usually a verge, from where everything can be observed and controlled. The services area, cooking, dining and the entry, form such connected segments. In single room spaces like Bhunga or huts the door is such a control point.

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The core is the place of task-handler, equipment or source+direction of environmental affectations and possibilities of control over other spaces. The core defining elements could even be sited abutting a structural element. Every other section beyond the active core is peripheral. A space gains a personal meaning when the activity conductor is the focus and everything is distanced from it.

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The societal intention of a space is not necessarily circular but rather a concentric one, where the periphery is the greatest distance before becoming irrelevant. The core and periphery are distinguished by the social distancing as a recognition of age and sex of the people. It can be personal at one level and also as accepted tradition or taboo. The personal need for segmenting a space is to accommodate the self, include other people.

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The personal space may not need compartmental divisions except for safety and security against displacement. Personal spaces flourish better with opportunities of interaction and participation in activities of others. This is possible if the spaces are only ephemerally segmented. The public spaces, if extensive, allow several segments to thrive.

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The adjuncts are sub core sections, which impinge the main spread, but in different time and space. The adjuncts spaces have nearly distinct identity and so are separable. Adjuncts share a similar architectural ethos, common sensorial experiences but with variegated environment. Verandahs, chowks, courtyards, terraces are such locations. Off-centric core areas occur for one person or point focussed concentration. These are cornered entities that only flourish with adjuncts acting as escape areas. Performance stages function only with side-wings and backstage support. Public spaces and plazas cannot survive without the adjunct streets. Public buildings exist with attached foyers. Multi-room homes are served by the lobbies.

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This is the 31st article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.

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MAKE-BELIEVE in INTERIOR DESIGN

Post -by Gautam Shah

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Prophet_Noah(Nūḥ)_Miniature_book_(Muraqqa-e_Golshan;1605-1628)

Interior spaces result as an organization of spatial configurations for specific conditions of environment, beliefs and group behaviour dynamics. However, for circumstantial reasons, it is not always feasible to achieve a perfect set in a given space, for the available technology and in required time. To overcome such deficiencies Interior spaces are endowed with make-believe inputs or effects.

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The ‘make-believe’ is an economical substitute for the original or hypothetical entity (time, extent, money, effort). The ‘make-believe’ also offers an exciting tool for creation of new experiences.

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We strongly associate specific experiences with entities like materials, technologies, spatial scaling such as size, proportions, texture, colour, illumination, frequency and schedules of occurrence etc. or temporal skewing like enhancing or delaying the event. However, for make-believe, such experiences are created by substituting the nominal entities with different materials and technologies, spatial scaling or time skewing. When the predictable effects fail to arrive in the nominal context, or arrive in spite of a different situation a delusion occurs. Make-believe effects are almost magical or ethereal, and defy logic or reason.

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For example, our nominal experience tells us that dark spaces are cooler and quieter, and conversely bright spaces are noisier and warmer, but such expectations are sought to be replaced in maze and adventure tunnels of children parks. Night clubs are darker but noisier and prayer areas are brighter and yet quieter.

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We are generally conditioned by predictable effects of the traditional or known materials. However, when we discover that any peculiar configuration or additional input creates an experience that is different from the one that is predictable, and we get a tool for a make-believe effect.

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Mirrors play a very important role in creation of duplicate spaces. We are conditioned by the fact that load-bearing walls are opaque, so a glass wall seems different. Till recently transparent material like glass was flat and stiff plate, but plastics now allow two way curvatures, and can also be flexible. Rooms other than the nominal square or rectangular shape provide an unusual experience. Echoes and reverberation of sound provide predictable space dimensions, but different perception gives unusual experience of the space. Lights and shadows mould the visible space. Ionized air endows a garden like freshness in an otherwise stifled space. Indian epic Maha-Bharat mentions of a Laksha Griha (literally a house of Lac or wax), a place where solid looking floors were water surfaces, and water surfaces were real floors.

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A society by a tacit understanding accepts certain words, signs metaphors, and indications as allowable and non allowable actions (warnings, danger, caution, etc.). When such commonly acceptable norms are displayed, they function almost like a real barricade. Signs like Caution, Danger, ‘Do not trespass’, ‘keep off the grass’, etc. operate as barriers. Metaphysical barricades are indicative and unreal, or make-believe. Make-believe barriers exploit the instinctive associations and conditioning of physiological and mental faculties.

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In real life we do use the stage like make-believe and indicative effects. We use these to create situations that are called ‘dramatic or melodramatic’. Discotheques, Night Clubs, Amusement Parks, etc., are places where such make-believe effects are extensively exploited.

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LINKS to My BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics

Post 705 -by Gautam Shah

BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics

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SOUND and SPACE -issues of design -19

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/sound-and-space-issues-of-design-19/

SOUND and NOISE MANAGEMENT

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/sound-and-noise-management/

SPACE and SOUND REVERBERATION

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/space-and-sound-reverberation/

SOUND, SPACE and PERCEPTION

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/sound-space-and-perception/

SOUND -as we listen

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/sound/

SOME SOUND BITES -Space Perception -I

https://designacademics.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/some-sound-bites-space-perception-I/

523 SOUND MASKING

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/523-sound-masking/

497 AURAL ARCHITECTURE for HEARING-LISTENING

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/497-aural-architecture-for-hearing-listening/

574 SOUND as SPATIAL EVENT

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/574-sound-as-spatial-event/

432 EXPRESSION of SOUND

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/432-expression-of-sound/

393 SOUND and SPACE PERCEPTION

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/393-sound-and-space-perception/

228 SOUNDING BELLS

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/228-sounding-bells/

203 SPACES and SOUNDS

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/203-spaces-and-sounds/

106 SOUND and NOISE

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/106-sound-and-noise/

17 SOUND

https://designsynopsis.wordpress.com/2017/11/02/17-sound/

PERCEPTION of SOUND and SPACES

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/perception-of-sound-and-spaces/

SPACE PERCEPTION -through seeing, hearing and touching

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/space-perception-through-seeing-hearing-and-touching/

NON VISUAL LANGUAGE -Issues for Design -6

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/non-visual-language-issues-for-design-6/

SPACE PLANNING and NON VISUAL CUES

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/space-planning-and-non-visual-cues/

HEARING and interior spaces

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/hearing-and-interior-spaces/

ACOUSTICS in SMALL SPACES

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/acoustics-in-small-spaces/

SOUND and SMALL SPACES

https://talking-interior-design.blogspot.com/2015/08/sound-and-small-spaces.html

LANGUAGE EXPRESSION and SOUND PERCEPTION

https://talking-interior-design.blogspot.com/2014/11/language-expression-and-sound-perception.html

PERCUSSIVE TOOLS

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/percussive-tools/

SPACE PERCEPTION – Issues for Design -4

https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/space-perception-issues-for-design-4/

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DISTANCE MEANINGS -Issues of Design 28

Post 702 –by Gautam Shah

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Distance has TWO fundamental involvements, One, where we judge farness of a perceptible object, and Two, where we gauge the ‘apartness of two things from each other. In both instances the distance is primarily a comparison and so scaled quantity, but it could be the intensity of the subjective sense of perception. Distance tells us about the intervening space. Distance is a measure of how far away an object is from other things. Displacement is magnitude how much an object has been displaced from its original location and in which direction the shift has occurred. In this sense Distance is a scalar whereas Displacement is a vector quantity.

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The word Distāre (Latin) derives from the root ‘sta’ =to stand, make or be firm and also meant to stand apart. Another older variant Distaunce of 13-14 C =a dispute, controversy, civil strife, rebellion, disagreement, discord, strife. Destance of old French =discord, quarrel. Distantia of Latin =a standing apart. Distantem a nominative distans = standing apart, separate, distant. Modern version Distance =remoteness of space, extent of space between two objects or places, an interval of time, remote part of a field of vision.

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Further and Farther are two confusing words. Further is older, and it had originally nothing to do with far. The word far was loaded with -er to become farrer. This was difficult to use orally. There were two other words nearby, fore or forth. In other words, further didn’t originally mean ‘more distant’ but something like ‘more ahead’, or, as the contemporary Oxford Dictionary states it, ‘more forward, more onward’.

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Distance is a measurement in numerical form of how far apart the objects are and also a proportionate measure or ratio. The numerical values are unattached or unconditional (absolute) so in nominal conditions ‘distance from A to B’ and from B to A are the same and interchangeable’.

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Greek Aristarchus (310-230 BC) was the first to estimate the Earth to Sun distance by measuring the angular separation of the Sun and Moon. The first reasonably accurate measurement of the Earth-Sun distance was made by Cassini in 1672. Scientifically accurate distance can be measured, if there is a bounce back (reaction). Apollo missions positioned reflectors to bounce a pulse of a laser. Radiations or physical changes on an interstellar body reach differently to such reflectors on earth and moon, permitting computation of distance.

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Spatial remoteness is a separation of sensorial nature with some emotional flavour. The separation may also indicate the difference or disparity between two real or abstract things, thoughts or cognition. The separation or remoteness allows wider view and adds the capacity to observe issues dispassionately. Meaning of remoteness, indicating the space between things, places or events is of late 14c origin. Remoteness is the figurative sense of aloofness.

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If distance refers to the existence of physical space between two objects, then to measure that one can use the time to transverse the interval. The remoteness or closeness of a thing or happening can be a measure of reach of the human body limbs and sensorial nodes. The reach offers tools for intervention, offense and defense.

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The human reach was reflected in word Distantia (Latin root of distance) which meant standing apart (or away) from quarrels, estrangements, discords or strife. This term Distantia refers to a spatial distance, but also indicate the effects of it.

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A shouting distance, within ear shot, shouting distance, within sniffing distance, under one’s nose, all relate to sensorial capacities, whereas cheek by jowl, hand in hand, near at hand, hand in glove, within striking distance, walking distance, within spitting distance, stones throw away, cheek by jowl, shoulder to shoulder is limbs related distancing characteristics. There are few terms where the distance is traversing in time like the impending disaster, imminent, upcoming event, relapse and longing. Distance is more pronounced when two people turn away from each other. This is an attempt to disorient the sensorial nodes.

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Distances seem finite where the definitive entities like under a single sky or roof, or within a bounded terrain (plaza, public square). Distances are less daunting where destinations are within sensorial reach.

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Relationships involving hate or love are reflected in the intervening distance. Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go (-Lana Del Rey). But, now the relationships are bridged by means of communication and presence through virtual adjacency. In the past when distances were measured in time, such as lunches required or horses feed station on the way. And that is why ‘time was the longest distance between two places’ (Tennessee Williams).The big picture doesn’t just come from distance; it also comes from time’ (Simon Sinek).

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Distance blurs the scene but then everything seems simpler from a distance’ (-Gail Tsukiyama). Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity’ (Robert Morgan). And indeed, Louis L’Amour finds distance lends perspective and I often write better of a place when I am some distance from it. One can be so overwhelmed by the forest as to miss seeing the trees’.

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This is the 28th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.

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MASKING and FRAMING of OPENINGS

Post 695 –by Gautam Shah

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 https://hbr.org/2015/03/bridging-psychological-distance

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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.

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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

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