Post 717 by Gautam Shah


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A space is an affirmed entity, a domain. Spaces have two segments, the Core and the Periphery. A space domain may or may not have any bounding marks, but the core is distinctly surrounded by the periphery. Real or ephemeral peripheries are existent, as both are intimately tied to the core. But real peripheries have the edge forming barriers. The interaction with neighbouring domains forces the edges to be breached.

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A core zone is too specific for the task and nearly self-sufficient. A core zone demands extreme dedication. Core areas are serene, remain unaffected by the vivid happenings in or across the peripheral zones. Peripheral zones, as aligned to the edge of the space, are distanced from the core zone. It is this distance between the core and peripheral sections that invests distinct identity and meaning to each. Peripheral zones draw lots of energy from across the edge or defining barriers, and so become escape areas. Peripheries serve diverse purposes, but only for a location and occasion. It can never have permanence.

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Peripheral zones are non committal, so preferred places for escape, ideal for personal encounters and casual discussions. In very small domains, a core takes away substantial space, leaving little for the periphery to exist. The core zone than, shifts to the edge, away from the entrance. This helps to form a peripheral zone near the entrance. Small dwellings, temples (Garbha-Griha or inner sanctorum) and Buddhists Chaitya in Ajanta Caves India, have such long front areas. Fireplaces and now TVs have off-centric interest and so form elongated rooms. In absence of a periphery insincere participants have no option but to leave the space.

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Peripheral areas without unfilterable edges are ineffective. Peripheral zones derive their functionality from the nature of barriers. In space domains where the core zone is functionally insignificant for any reason, like airport lounges, the peripheral zones emerge as an antithesis of the core zone. At another extreme, the peripheries with ephemeral edges need an extraordinary strong core zone. Earth has atmosphere as the ephemeral barrier, effective only due to the strong gravity of the core. The core is like a faith in a leader that makes followers to converge to some identity marking the focus.


The spatial connection between the core and peripheral area, is ambiguous one. It is continuously shifting. The core area gets enlarged, so far it retains its centrality. The core zone can stretch its reach through better means of communication and impressions. In religious places like temples and churches core areas are brightest and loudly decorated. But in case of mosques and unity temples or multi-faith Bahai’s the core is intentionally subdued by diffusing its edges and physical characteristics. In airports, lounge and other public spaces, condensate activities like inquiry-information, booking, check-in etc. to the peripheral areas.

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Buildings that are enlarged by additions over their periphery, like industrial complexes or space stations, have interconnected multiple core zones. These formations are very similar to internet service providers’ hubs, connected to each other, by band width capacity (or time measure) rather than spatial distancing.

The peripheral zones are affected by the directional and temporal aspects of the environment. Such affectations are relevant only for a while, for a location and so for an activity and few individuals. The affectations also depend on quality of the external barrier. Peripheral zones are primarily shaped by the core zone, but are more often affected by the nature of neighbouring domains.

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A physical domain is a unique spatial entity where other domains converge onto it. The convergence is experienced as inward and outward transgression at the peripheral areas. The transgressions alter the spatial character to take advantage of the neighbouring or converging domains. Peripheral zones are flexible, i.e. can be stretched or contracted from their nominal spread. Ariel windows, Bay windows, Chhatris, Balconies, Verandahs are typical outward transgressions, whereas, Chowks, cutouts, shafts, courtyards, are examples of inward transgressions. Such transgressions, change the peripheral areas and reposition the core zone.

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One can exploit peripheral zones by facing the core zone or turned around and ignore it. For any other position (sideways), one may require strong metaphysical reason, because a core-zone on left or right side is unbalanced and so unnerving.

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The barriers over the edge peripheral zone are used for resting, reclining, hanging embellishments, storing etc. The edges are thresholds to other space entities and are perceived as intermediate or buffer areas. These areas mark the end of one space entity and beginning of another one.

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Small spaces, where distancing is not effective (other than intimate or body-touch proximity) cannot be any distinct periphery-based activities. Similarly single activity places like personal offices, lecture halls, bed rooms, kitchens, are focussed units and so dominantly core zones. But areas like road side cafes are peripheral. Medieval kitchens with alcove fire places were peripheral. Compared to it modern island kitchens are conceived to be independent-entity, but cannot function without peripheral storage.

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The extent or depth of the peripheral zone was determined by the concern for safety, warmth from the fire, the need for privacy, scale of the task-activity and distancing from inclement elements (to reduce their intensity and reach). Peripheral zones with adequate widths turn into acutely used areas.

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Work stations were supposed to have several modules placed together for multitasking functionality. But once the modules get technologically integrated (such as in music studios for playing-recording-editing consoles), these can be placed anywhere, and so no longer enforce the character of centrality. Once upon a time CAD tools were offered as work stations, but with switchable windows the culture has died. Fire was the focus of the primitive homes, and now TV has become the focus of the family and now individual devices like mobiles have diffused the core or centrality as the focus.

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Peripheral zones are used for acutely specific or single purpose activities such as store rooms, study nooks, hobby areas, coffee rooms, home offices, vaults in banks, wardrobes, shower stalls, change rooms, reception areas, podiums in lecture halls, green rooms, ticket booths, display kiosks.

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Post 712 -by Gautam Shah


1 Col-18 A ray of Light 32215719528_70dbfd2d22

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

Charles Sheeler Whiteness Brightness White Sentinels

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’.

8 Col 1 Street-in-Eguisheim France

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.


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.

Patient recovery post-anesthesia care unit

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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.

11 Compartmental spaces india-rural-home-scenic

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.



Post -by Gautam Shah



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



LINKS to My BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics

Post 705 -by Gautam Shah

BLOGS on Sound, Hearing and Acoustics


SOUND and SPACE -issues of design -19








SOUND -as we listen


SOME SOUND BITES -Space Perception -I






















SPACE PERCEPTION -through seeing, hearing and touching


NON VISUAL LANGUAGE -Issues for Design -6




HEARING and interior spaces










SPACE PERCEPTION – Issues for Design -4




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.

1 Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Far,_far_away_Soria_Moria_Palace_shimmered_like_Gold_-_Google_Art_Project

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.


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.


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.

Super Car Tour

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.



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.

18 640px-Il_Palazzo_Reale_Milano

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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7 626px-Tartini_Square_from_above,_Piran,_May_2009

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


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.

9 Squared edge window_shadow_open_window_window_sill_wood-89674.jpg!d

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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5 Norwich Cathedral 5987419099_94fe78d27d_z

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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13 Exterior flush windows deep set on interior side Santa_Maria_in_Cosmedin-templom_belso

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.

24 Gothic window surfave articulated by Mullions, muntins in tracery 5987964570_01c2171afd_z

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.

16 Chandigarh_Secretariat

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.

14 Gaudi-Casa-Batllo

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.

Curvatures and Streamlined products 1930-1940s

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