WALL STRUCTURES

Post 682 –by Gautam Shah

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Wall structures have been prime structure for community purposes like, flood protection, irrigation, defense, terrain contouring and against erosion of land. These, perhaps preceded the walls erected for construction of dwellings. The builders from ancient times, were innately aware of the difference between a wall carrying side thrusts and bearing vertical loads. And accordingly the forms and techniques of constructions were different. The walls carrying side thrusts followed the natural angle of repose (the steepest angles at which a sloping surface is formed of loose material remains stable). The walls carrying vertical loads were designed with concern for lateral stability, and to a lesser extent worry about load bearing capacity.

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The idea of a column, as a ‘zero-sized’ wall, (like the Stonehenge) and of pillars (obelisks) may have come from tree trunks. Wood scaffolds were used for painting tall cave walls and ceilings. A series of props or poles, were used as piles or spikes for quicker formation of linear structures, such as in under-water constructions, floods, wet soils, or support against sand like loose soils.

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Earthen Wall structures for embankments or dams, for water flow regulation, storage, prevention of land erosion, against flooding, access-way (road) construction, for irrigation or navigation channels were constructed by combination of deposition or cutting-dressing. But the skill rested in exploiting the existing contours of the lands. Such structures were large and affected the entire community. For participation of large number of people, clear perception of the project and its benefit was necessary. It is apparent that such projects were executed during certain season. These were continuing efforts as added upon and improvised by several generations. Such lasting efforts can occur in societies that are politically and socially stable.

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Other walls were erected in the form of city-town walls to protect the community, and monumental structures related to burial facilities. These walls due to their extent gave impression of monumentality, and were gravity-stable and invincible forms against the invaders or marauders. Walls defining passageways are for land mass retention and ceremonial demarcation of walkways. Town walls and monumental walls, both were not ‘load-bearing’ structures. Both also related to access by large number of people, often in processions. The inevitable entry point was well marked in scale and position-location.

16 Passage tomb of La Hougue Bie by © Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Protective walls were often constructed as tall fences. These were made insurmountable by various means like an enhancement of height-width factors. Width was increased by forming a ditch on the face of the wall, and height was added by constructing the wall over a natural steep edge of terrain. City walls in some areas were constructed of tree trunks or wood lattices.

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Palisade in Celtic village Wikipedia image by Zureks

A palisade, was a defensive fence (also called a stake-wall or paling) formed around the military camps by Greeks and Romans. It is formed of wood stakes or tree trunks placed in a line. A groyne is a similar, but low height wall structure, a hydraulic entity for interrupting the free flow of water and restricts the movement of soil-sediments from coastal area.

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A levee, dike, dyke, ditch, embankment, flood-bank or stop-bank, are naturally occurring long ridges or artificially constructed walls to regulate water. These are usually of stone and earth, and follow the course of a river. Levees and other structure require constant care by organized society. Some of the earliest levees were constructed by the Indus Valley Civilization (2600 BC), Egyptians to manage the floods of river Nile, in Mesopotamia and China. The word Levee or F. Lever, literally means ‘to raise’.

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The Greek geographer Pytheas noted in 325 BC, that ‘more people died in the struggle against water than in the struggle against men’.

The word Dyke (dijk) indicates, both trench and bank for water management. The word Ditch derives from dic, dick or dig, meaning to digging a trench and raise the banks with the excavated soil. Such earthworks acted as horizontal walling to deepen water channels, enhance the flow-rate and water carrying capacity. The water channel shaping by the side walling structures provided reliable lanes for waterways. These wall structures were formed to reduce the erosion by water flows, waves and winds.

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The first dikes and water control structures were built and maintained by those directly benefiting from them, mostly farmers. As the structures got more extensive and complex councils were formed from people with a common interest in the control of water levels on their land and so the first water boards began to emerge. These often controlled only a small area, a single polder or dike. Later they merged or an overall organization was formed when different water boards had conflicting interests. The original water boards differed much from each other in the organization, power, and area that they managed. The differences were often regional and were dictated by differing circumstances, whether they had to defend a sea dike against a storm surge or keep the water level in a polder within bounds. In the middle of the 20th century there were about 2,700 water control boards. After many mergers, there are currently 27 water boards left. Water boards hold separate elections, levy taxes, and function independently from other government bodies. -Flood control in the Netherlands Wikipedia

Mycenaean city walls

City walls are elaborate ‘fencing structures built from stronger materials to fortify a territory. The fort walls were symbols of power, so the scale was grandiose. These walls were planned at most select location, adding upon whatever natural defence features were available. Appropriateness of the site also rested on logistics of supply, of which food-fodder and drinking water, even during seizure condition, was very important. Forts housed a populated community and to sustain it, also included structures for defense preparedness and for offense capacity like ditches, gates, embankments, watchtowers, crenelation, etc.

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A moat is a ditch or long pit around a settlement with or without a fence or fortification. Moats were created by reforming the existing terrain features, or dug as a new one. Fortified structures, like castles were once sited over difficult terrains, where some natural features such as hills, elevated lands or rocky landscapes were available for some protection. Moats were additional defence provisions, formed at vulnerable spots. The difficult terrains, however, make it difficult to reform existing terrain, or excavate a new trench. Digging a moat was not only labourious, but the management of the excavated material equally difficult. The excavated stuff was used to back support the fort walls, or raise the level of internal grounds. Moats were formed along with construction of fort walls.

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Some of the earliest defensive walls were linear formations and not any surrounding or enveloping forts. These were long barrier walls with open ends or terminating into hillock or large water body. These linear walls marked a territorial edge or boundary of the kingdom. Such edge walls had to be very extensive to be effective.

Sumerian King Shulgi of Ur, 2038 BC., built a wall that was 250 Kms long, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, to keep the invading Amorites out of Sumerian lands. Great Wall of Gorgan (restored and renovated by the Sasanian Persians in the 5th or 6th C) was 195 Kms long, and included more than thirty forts along its length. Great Wall of China was built as several small independent units, possibly first at vulnerable points, which were ultimately joined together during the Ming Era. It was as a freestanding regional scale defensive structure. Similarly the Anastasian wall (the Long Walls of Thrace) of the Byzantine Empire (469 C) located in modern Turkey was also not anchored at either end to any terminus. All such walls proved to be ineffectual as enemy army marched around the ends. The most known wall structure, Hadrian’s wall of Britain was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian (122 AD) to prevent frequent incursions.

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The CORNER -metaphor

Post 672 by Gautam Shah

This is the 1st article of series: ‘CORNERS’.

A corner is convergence of two lines or surfaces, respectively to a point, or line. It can be an outward entity with crowning vertex, and an inward form of a depressing nadir. A vertex and nadir both are zero measure elements, mere points, abstract representation of a corner. In comparison a corner is far more substantial due to its wedge like spread.

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‘Nature has no corners, you are the vertex or nadir of it’. -unknown.

Terrestrially directions are always well ‘based’, real and cardinal (North, East, South, West), whereas, Corners occur as inter-cardinal ephemeral entities. The spatial sensualities of the human body, format the sense of emplacements and orientation, such as the Left-Right, Up-Down and Front-Back.

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Indian mythological space has 10 corners (four cardinal points + four angular points + up & down). The Kshetrapals (Guardians of the estate), however reside in four corners of the plot. The Global locations are defined through the corner formed by longitude and latitude. The Global Positioning System (GPS) was based on tracing of radio frequency, but now multiple satellites (as many as 24 or more in different types of orbits) work as regional and global location noting system. Besides location, the satellites also define movement and its direction, and altitudes. Currently photographs have embedded information about location (like longitude and latitude through GPS), but in very short future this will be reinforced with information about angle or direction of the shot.

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Estate corners have been assigned specific meaning and preferred tasks in Indian Vastu Shastra (Classical cannons of design-building). East direction should be open, light, bright and clean. West direction is for stability in life. North is holiest or purest direction. It is for wealth and prosperity. Energy flow out so should be lowest in level. NE is for deities to reside. South direction is considered inauspicious for entrance. It is owned by Yam, Hindu deity for death.

Some similar approach is offered in Jewish-Christian traditions. God created all sides, but left the North unfinished, saying, ‘whoever declares own-self to be God, allow the person to finish this corner, and then all shall know the truth’. From that unfinished corner, demons, winds, earthquakes, and evil spirits come forth to the world. From the north shall disaster break loose (Jer. 1:14). Because of the cold North winds, it was identified as the abode of evil spirits.

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Egyptian pyramids and other buildings are squared and well oriented. These have axial depth depicting space sequences. But the Egyptian art has total absence of oblique except for the Ra’s rays, ropes of weighing scale, wide feet and few gestures of the hand. There is a datum line that divides the scene into several strata, but does not become a scaling device. There are vertical elements that frame (a built-frame like mandap or chupah) the important person but it is a planner view. Architecture is gravity stable, with sloping faces of columns, obelisks, pylons, ceremonial ramps, and oblique faces pyramids.

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A corner is a recognizable, and long-lasting point or mark on a property. It is a point, from where a change (of direction) occurs. A corner marked property, has edges that define the exterior versus the interior attributes. It also defines, ours versus others domains. Corners define convex or concave (outward or inward) character of a spatial entity. Corners, if belong to the inside, mark what is included, and if on the outside, define what is excluded. We traverse an estate as a planner entity of corners, and for this, the contoured undulations are not important. A triangle, a three-cornered shape, has three vertices, and it is the minimum entity. Large country surveys are resolved to triangles, as the sharing of vertices, edges, and angles creates a linked universe.

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The prime cornered entity has been the Dice, with its potency to turn the fortunes. The dice, on one its six sides, has 4 dots at corners (like the city cross road diagonals). This was known as quatre (French), and anglicized to cater. Somewhere along the time, the word Cater came to be truncated to ‘cat’, and corners were identified for the cat to be in. No one asked the feline creature, if she preferred, a window sill instead?

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corners

Corners are right angled, acute, obtuse or reflex. Solids have corners with two exterior faces and hollow objects have two interior faces. The outward sides of an acute or right angle corner are difficult to comprehend simultaneously, because one of the side remains concealed, till one turns around. The exterior corner can be grasped fully, if only one moves away from it. Obtuse and reflex corners sometimes defy the perspective view. Solids have impersonal exterior faces, and hollow objects have compassionate interior sides’. Acute corners of an isometric view create visual aberration, where outward and inward corners look identical.

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A megaphone, trumpet, bullhorn, etc. are cone-shaped acute corners whereas speakers have a wider cone of an obtuse angle, both are meant to amplify the sound. The conical angle enhances the power of sound and radiate it in desired direction. A ‘listening cone’ for hearing fetal heart sounds of babies, is acute angled, whereas a dish-antenna is an obtuse-angled device that captures sounds (or energy) from a wider source, and concentrate it at the narrow end.

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A plane vertical edge enhances the corner, but if the plane is not a true square or has surface perturbation like single or double curvature then visual distortion is very ambiguous. An outward incline of the edge-plane over a corner push the centre of gravity away from the base, and makes the solid unstable, conversely an inward lean of the edge-plane over a corner is visually depressant, but offers an assuring gravity-stable solid.

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Corners are secluded spaces, ideal for intrigue, but the occupants remain unaware that conversation gets amplified and others can overhear. Secretaries, maids and butlers use reverse wine glass for listening to secrets. A corridor is a good sound transmitting tunnel, unless properly baffled or insulated. A corner protects you from sides, but does not allow any offensive action. Corners have little freedom of movement, and so one cannot hope to play blind-person’s buff.

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A corner entrance offers deepest traversing distance, so on any estate (party-place, banquette hall, game or fun-park, museum). Just like the main course of dinner, the entree is longer lasting and satisfying. Corners are closed and dead, but seclusion of a corner is dissolved by a gap in the end, like a funnel. It drains away the energy, but also acts like a pressure release valve. This technique is well exploited in public spaces like piazzas, plazas, courtyards, etc. The sides of parallel (square or rectangular) remain uninvolved but a cornered entity (parallelogram, triangle or multi-cornered) offers hopes of involvement.

Corners collision in Cities  Image by Peter Alfred Hess  httpswww.flickr.comphotospeterhess19738078021.jpg

Corners were re-realized when ‘perspective machines’ began to offer rational views with regulated corners. For architecture, the corners were  conceived for the perspective, but in paintings, these were exploited to put everything to scale and format a unified composition. The view making corners were most obvious in Greek Parthenon Here, not only the site was cornered, but built-form was also angled, but much later Baroque period created its own multi cornered architecture irrespective of the site.

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Parthenon Athens Greece (1978) Wikipedia Image by Steve Swayne

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Essence of a corner is its end point, and not the sides, inside or outside faces. In a perspective, corners mark the change of plane, but due to the taper, scale the scene. The corners, in perspective exterior or interior ones, all really occur inside a hypothetical cone. Performance stages were once round, but for controlled perception, have turned into wedge form. The tapered form of the stage has several advantages: On solid wall stages tapered shape reinforces the sound delivery like a megaphone, the wedge shape adds to the visual depth, it also allows the sides of the set to be visible from the audience arena. Games have corner shots as penalties. Loneliness is not confined by the sides, but it is just a personal low point, in an empty or crowded space. In a corner, if the change over is spatially distanced or time delayed, it turns into catch-22, a paradoxical situation of opposite set of rules (title of 1961 novel, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller). Corners must be negotiated quickly and decisively, and as in games one must negotiate (‘cut’) it from a distance or get shot by hidden opponent.

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A corner is also a joint, and here two different things have some generative encounter. Joints are conditions of adjacency between two or more objects, which offer some spatial surprises. Many different social and political activities flourish at corners, investing a different meaning to the architectural space.

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The word corner derives from > ‘corne, corner, horn, cornū, cornua, cornere, corniere, corna (horn or hyrne), angle. Use of cater (French quatre =four”), as a verb can be traced to the 16th C as meaning ‘to place something diagonally, move diagonally, place diagonally or cut diagonally’.

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MORPHING the ARCHITECTURAL GEOMETRY

Post 671 by Gautam Shah

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Architectural forms are primarily of neat geometric constitution. Externally these may remain holistic, but internally evolve into a complex entity. The interior morphing compulsions are for new spaces and novel experiences, whereas the gamble on the exterior front relates to new shapes and silhouettes. Internal uses are varied and dependent on the orientation and connection to exteriors, but external side basic demands are for ethereal lightness and grounding to the gravity. On the exterior front, to sustain the neat geometry and maintain the holistic form, several compromises occur. These include lopsided connections with the outside, regimented face on all sides, irrelevant scale and form for the locality and community. Where such liberties are required, these are sought to be covered up with a monophonic applique skin. The skins could be opaque and glossy, or transparent and reflective. The skin is also included with extensive texture of architectonic elements, surface treatments and ornamentation, to camouflage the variations.

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Architecture India Temple Orchha Orchha Fort

The validation of a holistic entity, on functional, structural or social is not possible, unless wide range of compromises are accepted. Historically, large number of architectural forms start as a composition of several sub entities, but mature into a singular form. This was more plausible where buildings were designed by a master architect, and later handled by expert builder or a strong political patron. The comprehensive forms also emerge when cannons of styling or architectural orders are well established.

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The maturation to a comprehensive form has occurred on the same building during its planning, with later day improvisations, or as a style upgrade across a region. Such changes come through extensive rejuvenation of the shell or as superficial application. Often, there was no conscious effort for a comprehensive form, but rather affirm to a trending ‘style’. The style morphed forms were more unifying with new orders, thematic confirmation, repetition of patterns, axial symmetry, proportions etc. It also gave way for superfluous decorations to be added, by later generations.

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Architectural geometric forms besides being too neat and simplistic have little to offer in terms variations. So on external and internal sides, the form is transgressed. The bloated form causes spatial diversity. The geometric form is stretched outward as projections, galleries, and inward as cutouts, chowks, ducts, etc. The transgressions occur over existing openings or new ones, but all bring in more illumination and visual connections with nature. Later day structural changes are rare, as many were load-bearing entities. Morphing new things over existing structure was an easier strategy.

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The outward push or exterior transgressions of buildings have had two basic purposes. To create a comprehensive architectural entity by stabilization (wider base), stepped form, hierarchical arrangement of constituents, linking of loose elements, balancing the composition, add segments of interest on the side that are deficient, establishing connections to the site topography or neighbourhood, strengthening or recasting the style value, increase the footprint and for adding the mass.

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Building forms are pushed outward to enlarge and reconfigure the shape of interior space. The breach removes the omni present sense of enclosure of interior spaces. The outward transgressions, like verandahs extend the threshold or buffer zones. In many instances it facilitates sideways view, additional aeration and illumination. The outward push of the building mass added surface area, and space for new architectonic elements or units for pattern making.

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The outward push makes an architectural composition multifarious, but it is the inward push that changes the spatial quality and often the raison d’ etre for the adventurous undulation of the outer form. Openings created or reformed for interior space modulation, began to create a visually recognizable entity at twilight and night times against the darker setting of the town. Steeples, lanterns etc. were simultaneous elements of both the exterior and interior transgressions.

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Architectural form transgressions are profuse at roof level. The chief purpose was to pattern a silhouette. In old buildings the silhouette or the edge-line was factored in twilight hours. But after 19th C the street lights and massing of structures in the surroundings began to redefine not only the massing, but the roof edges. Roofs are re-composed with same unitary shapes being replicated at different scales and with siting positions. These at micro level include manipulation of roof edges, parapets, eaves, finials, grotesque, gargoyles pinnacles etc. At macro level, roof elements include Chhatris, belvedere, flying buttresses, spires, roof lanterns, steeples etc.

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To convert a conglomeration of bare geometric elements into a comprehensive building, several levels of changes occur. The changes include confirmation to gravity by way of a wider base for stability, localization (orientation, climate) (position of entrances in North versus South Europe), Real and perceptive structural stability, cultural validity and stake-holders accordance.

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Such a process of confirmation is consciously negated by the deconstructivist. The confirmation to gravity is post conception adjustment, wider base for stability is camouflaged behind reflective surfaces, localization does not exist, elements of real and perceptive stability are defied on the exterior side but are outrageously clumsy on the internal side, cultural validity and stake-holders accordance is given a go, for the ‘universal’ built-form. It is not architecture but a construct like a sculpture. It is an adventurous built-form offering spatial complexity for new experiences, a fresh behavioural setting, but one is expected to search for a functional utility.

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ARCHITECTURAL vs COMPUTER WINDOWS

Post 668 by Gautam Shah

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The first independent version of Microsoft Windows, version 1.0, was released on 20 November 1985. It was originally going to be called Interface Manager, but Rowland Hanson, the head of marketing at Microsoft, convinced the company that the name, Windows was more appropriate.

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And this was the beginning of unlimited harassment to all architects (and even lay persons), first from the Encyclopaedias and later by search engines. This happened when a nominal word of day to day use, became almost an exclusive intellectual property. Many of the Microsoft ‘windows’ features were already tried out by Apple computers.

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The ‘Windows’ was (or ‘were’, no grammar Nazis have raised the issue) was an opening to look into data. There was earlier a nearly invisible dot as the command ‘prompt’ to interact in dBase and other programme, and it never prompted anything except that the entered command is not right.

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But here the ‘computer industry’ (Microsoft, Macintosh or some less known entity) was offering an Icon like a door within a door. The icons or windows were displayed as tiled on the screen, that is, they could not overlap or overlie another, but icons interacted with others in time and space. There were active and latent icons in terms of time reference. ‘Spatially the icons on a screen were more relevant then others that were not seen’. The icons were perceived to be windows or peep holes that allowed one to see through it.

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For many, the icons are still like the 36th Chamber of Shaolin. One is aware that there is something of higher order inside, but too scared to cross over. The unceasing efforts are to form 36th chamber where ordinary people can enter and learn the “art of self-defense.

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In the movie 36th Chamber of Shaolin, “San Te wants to create a new chamber where he can train ordinary people in the basics of Kung fu so they can defend themselves against their oppressors, the temple officially banishes him in a surreptitious way to allow him to carry out his mission. He returns to the outside world, namely to his hometown, and assists the people.”

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This was a view in a window (like a shop front display), but, it was destined to become (with internet) an architectural entity for viewing out, whatever is happening in the world. The earlier version of Windows was little better than dBase like programmes where the software creator and user both were instilled with unspecified fear ‘do not push a wrong key’. The user was perceived to be an alien, and better remain outside.

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The computers gradually became Janus’s gateway (Janus -a dual headed God of antiquity) with an interior world and an exterior cosmos. This was a virtual window or rather an entire building of its own, which could be shifted around, pushed away to obscurity, shrunk or enlarged.

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Some of the basic functions of a computer system have been storage, processing power and programmes. Now one more is added, the communication or linkage. With live linkage one can source storage (cloud), computing power (parallel server processing) and dynamic programmes (in place of static loads). These make for a ‘home’ out of an architectural ‘house’, where the opening systems (‘windows’ or any other) make connections. So Microsoft windows may need to be renamed “Doors”, as doors are more functional (for passage, delivery and dispatch) than any other openings’ systems.

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The smart ‘Home’ (computer or such devices) will need lot more individualization not through configuration efforts but through commonly shared (floating around) intelligence. These include the languages, intonation, choices, history of preferences, behavioural characteristics, biological patterns and capacities.

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia..

MANIFESTATIONS of DOOR

Post 663 –by Gautam Shah

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Sequence of Doors Temple of Ramses III

A gap, portal or doorway, door-frame and the shutter, have an individual as well as combinative presence. Presence of one or many in physical, hyper-real or allegorical sense manifests the opening system.

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Door symbolism: A symbolic door is a representation of the nominal door or its important components or essential qualities. Door symbols are abstracted as well as scaled versions. Metaphors are also used to present the physical characteristics, crucial functions, essential qualities and historical associations of the doors. Doors denote a break and so the symbolic presentations are used to indicate the breach-able points or weak spots. In electrical circuit diagrams and pipe layout drawings the door symbols are used to denote a break, open-position or a switch. In communication field a door stands for connectivity with the world so a ‘gateway’ is where traffic converges and redistributes.

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A physical door requires a real gap and a real shutter. The shutters open, close or take up many intermediate positions. Physical doors, however have abstract adornments or attachments that give a deceptive character to the door and belie their reality.

Nara Narayana panel on the eastern wall of the Vishnu temple

A nonphysical door may not have an opening to transit, though the portals distinctively mark the place of opening. A nonphysical door could be unreal or metaphoric. Communication gateways are such doors.

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Notional doors: Over the years, in our minds, a shutter has become so strongly associated as the door that its presence or even notional indication suffices for the opening to be evident. ‘A shutter like configuration, over a barrier satisfies our expectation that there is a way out or in.’ The notional or representational doors, such as the painted doors on Egyptian tomb walls do not take one anywhere, but do satisfy the spiritual needs as an entryway to the other world. Such doors, drawn or carved are of real-functional size as well as of debased scale.

This blind door at Banteay Srei is flanked by colonettes.

A pseudo door exists with inadequate or no opening system. The door has no real gap for transit, no perceptible doorway, or there is inadequate shutter system. The prehensions for a door are at many levels including: functional, perception, size and scale. Such doors also exist without any apparent barrier system.

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A virtual door does not reveal itself physically, but otherwise it is functionally as effective. Modern industrial plants, estates and institutional campuses have ‘open’ gaps or invisible doors with control systems that activate a ‘shutter’ (a control system) when required. Few make-believe door frames or markers are placed to indicate the position and presence of such monitoring devices. Metal detectors’ door frames at airports and public spaces, colour coded markings on the floors, are examples of these.

Many invisible security gate features -Gatehouses to the Deep Water Harbour Wikipedia Image by CaribDigita

Make-believe doors are created to denote an entrance or boundary of an ethereal world. Stage side-wings become exit-entry points. An actor, to enact a departure from the realm, at a certain point on the stage, ceases to act or shows the backside of the body. Door frames standing in a wide terrain or the gate structure such as the Japanese Torii gates standing in wide stretch of water is an entrance.

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Metaphoric doors: Metaphoric doors manifest through signs and symbols. Such doors may not have a functional size, scale and other physical characteristics or functional utility of a nominal door.

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These allegorical forms are used to mark and enhance the essence of a door:

  •       variations in barriers (representing an overlap or a gap or aperture),
  •       a scaled or functionally sized gap,
  •       a passageway (indicating a pathway to or from somewhere),
  •       signs, symbols and graphics to mark linearity (a lead to some place),
  •       frames (to enclose a view and other sensual perceptions),
  •       miniature or micro-cosm frames around the deity.
  •     mythological associations with doors or openings such as: Janus -Roman, Re -Egyptian, Ganesha, Dwarpal or Kshetrapal (the Indian keepers of the gate or estate), Shen Tu and Yu Lei (Chinese guardians -two brothers of the passageway).

Symbolic Door Chinatown San Francisco gateway arch 2010 California Wikipedia Image by chensiyuan

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EXPRESSION and COMMUNICATION -as behaviour in space

Post 587 by Gautam Shah (10 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)

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Behaviour is reflected through intentional and involuntary expressions. Intentional expressions are for informing, recording, recollecting, inciting, convincing, putting forth an argument, generating feedback, showing feelings, ideas, thoughts, opinions, re-experiencing, recollecting, abridgement, elaboration or re-enactment of a happening. Involuntary expressions reflect biological working of the body, deep-rooted prejudices, and learned behaviour. These reflections are often so subtle that neither the person expressing nor the party perceiving it are aware of it.

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Gestures and Postures for expression > Wikipedia image by Sumita Roy Dutta

Expressions occurring through the body’s gestures and postures, are perceived by others, however, one may conceal or suppress such a display. For expression through gestures and postures, main contextual conditions are spatial characteristics (form, shape, size, scale) and environmental effects (illumination, acoustics, climatic comfort and well-being). Other aids include referencing through position, orientation, background vs foreground, angle and nature of perceptibility, degree of sufficiency for various body functions (reach capacity, comfort, metabolisms, etc.). These are used to simplify, amplify, de-intensify, amalgamate, compact, quicken, retard, diffuse, or reschedule, the rate and contents of expression.

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Spatial expression Wikipedia image

One may make an intentional expression by using body gestures and postures but additionally support it by other sensorial means like vocal and touch. Non-personal or absentia expressions through remote means like telephone, broadcasting or publications use various means of emphasis (or even diffusion) (repeat, highlight, placement, emphasis) to support the expressions. Like for example, speaking face to face or frontal-way is a very direct but can be diffused by slightly off-centric or angular dealing. Similarly a superior delivery position, a static and clear background, appropriate lighting, clothes, etc. reinforce it.

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Expressions reflect behaviour. ‘Classical expressions’ occur within geographical, social, political or ethnic groups, due to the very intense, frequent and consistent usage (non varying). These expressions are brief, abstract or metaphoric. Behaviours of communicators are made up of factors like: media used, transactions to be one way or two-way, communication to be ‘one to one’ or ‘one to many’, use of feed-forward and feedback mechanisms, etc. Expression allows a person to organize and rationalize the thoughts. It allows one to emphasize and de-emphasize whole or parts of the content.

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Aesthetic satiation > Wikipedia image by Ducttapeavenger at En wikipedia

Behaviour reflected through intentional expressions becomes means of communication, meant for an audience or personal satisfaction. Expressions for aesthetic satiation are always intentional and occur through representative forms like singing, writing, art, craft, etc.

Expressions for communication must be efficiently conveyed and adequately registered. Intentional expressions get improvised the moment a perceiver shows reactions. The expression, communication and its perception may not happen in same time or space. Expressions for posterity are recorded as writing or image creation, broadcast through a device or recording on a media.

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Expression and communication both must occur under certain protocol and situational conditions. A space is confirmed (accepted) or designed for such purposes. One intuitively exploits the existing spatial assets and environmental provisions, and continuous to modify it. Both need Functional elements, such as: tools, amenities, facilities and structures. The style of architecture and interior configurations inspire many to express and communicate. The Environmental conditions like illumination, acoustics and comfort affect the nature of expression and thereby the communication.

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Christ and the adulteress (by Lucas Cranach the younger 1532) –Expression and communication – Wikipedia image

Expression and communication are personal processes, but occur in consideration of the physical characteristics of participants, such as age, sex, experience, body posture, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance, nature of need, compulsions, disposition, etc. Process of expression is conditioned by the system of cognition. Visual perception is a key element of expression. The originator and the perceiver both remain open (public) or concealed (private), by exploiting means of visual perception such as illumination, brightness, contrast, clarity of colour (hue, tone, texture, etc.), the distance and position (angle) of the expression.

At night clubs and other social gathering places, personal privacy is provided by darkness and preference for black dress. It encourages free expression. Whereas ball room dances and parties are brightly illuminated, so that everyone is able to see others’ expressions. Indian classical music artists prefer audiences to be visible.

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Night Club > Wikipedia image by Dossier

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COMMUNICATION

One of the important purpose expression (intentional or involuntary) serve is of communication. Communication is conveyance -a two-way process between the sender and receiver. Both sides share a modality, and are interdependent. Communication occurs when both, the sender and the receiver are in the same or different time and space. Intra-personal communication, occurs in the same time and space, and allows both the parties to ‘read’ each other. Indirect or remote communication is where the time and location of the sender and receiver are different. The perceiver has no means to know how the expression was created, though the receiver is sometimes able to judge the state of the creator.

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Communication > Wikipedia image by David Shankbone

Communication occurs through direct and indirect channels. Direct channels use verbal, as well as non verbal means, but are under control of the sender and receiver. Indirect channels are not under the direct control of the sender, but are recognized subliminally or subconsciously by the receiver. This includes kinesics or body language that reflects inner emotions and feelings rather than the actual delivered message. The receiver may call it a gut feeling, hunch, intuition, or premonition.

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Non verbal communication include postural, gestural and other (endocrines) features: facial expressions, eye contact, controllable body movements, metaphoric associations, sounds, odours etc. Non verbal communication also occurs through objects and metaphors, like: clothes, hairdo, architecture, interior, furniture, furnishings, arts, crafts, colour combinations, lighting ambience, signs, symbols, graphics, typography, etc.

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Non verbal communication > Wikipedia image by S. Krupp, Germany

Non verbal communication during the interaction operates in the context of: 1- Environment includes elements like furniture, architectural styling, interior decoration, amenities, illumination, acoustics, and temperature; 2- Media and tools available consist of enlarging, focussing, recording, recapitulation manipulation tools. 3- Behaviour expressions of communicators due to their age and sex differences, experiences, physiological facilities, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance, nature of need, inclinations, etc.

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Dance is a metaphoric form of nonverbal communication. It can be abstract form of self-expression, or a very formal vocabulary of movements, steps, postures, mudras, gestures additionally supported by musical rhythm or Tal-beats. Though, all these can become very abstract as there is lot ambiguity about personal meaning.

Verbal communications use the spoken words or language, and written and other textual forms of expressions. Verbal expression is substantially coloured by para-language and prosodic features, like the voice quality, rhythm, meter, intonation, stress, pause, emotion and speaking style. Textual expressions have elements such as presentation style of handwriting, graphics, typography or calligraphy.

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Talk Show Verbal and non-verbal communication > Wikipedia image

Use of expressions in one-way systems of communication is by the originator alone, whereas in two-way systems, both the originator and receiver are involved. In one-way system with a direct channel a lecturer improvises on perceiving the behaviour by the audience. In one-way system with an indirect channel like radio and TV talk shows, such feedback is generated by having a small set of audiences within recording or broadcasting area.

A person looking through a small opening can see the expression of the others but others cannot read the expression of the viewer. Opposite to this stage performers often use larger lip, eye and other facial gestures so that furthest members of the audience recognize the expression. Such expression may look ‘loud’ or abnormal at close distances.

For communication, two way systems with direct channels succeed when expressions of both parties are mutually recognized. But, for this, the communication should occur under certain protocol and situational conditions.

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Lecture Hall > Wikipedia image by Schtone

A lecturer or a performer, is perceived, when on a podium (well positioned), with frontal illumination (well lit), clean and contrasting backdrop (sharp silhouette form), availability amplification devices (sound enhancement by architecture design or electronics), good acoustics (reduction of background noises and reverberation reinforcements), use of gesture enhancing enrichments (robes, sticks, batons, cap, etc.). But for the reverse feedback from the audience following parameters need to be fulfilled. The audience should be at the same level, well lit but slightly from sides (rather then top down), complete absence of background noises on performing stage, minimized movement within the audience (seated rather then standing), non distracting colour of seats (for unoccupied ones).

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Putin and Rauhani > Wikipedia image by Attrb. > Kremlin.ru

In offices and conference rooms bosses want their assistants, secretaries and juniors to seat or stand on the right-side for a right-handed side, but never on front or back sides. For a one to one meeting between two equals separate seats placed an angle of 145º to 160º is considered correct protocol then seating on side by side and on the same seat. A physician wants the patient to sit on the side rather then front. Entry to an office cabin must be from the front corner. Similarly distance is important determinant for communication. In one to one meeting too close a distance leads to intimacy but loss of privacy and objectivity. Too much distance increases dilution of communication and also alienation. This happens over very large dining tables, where to avoid an unwanted neighbour one must talk to the person on the opposite side, but never with due intimacy and privacy.

A flat edge meeting table or dining table does not breed homogeneity as much as a slightly curved table can do it. A square table conference room divides the audience into artificial classes, a round or oblong but a closed-ended table creates an artificial classless unity. UN uses horse shoe (open ended) table for a security council. US president uses an oval shaped office occupying one centre of the eclipse leaving the other free (and so often challenged by the person who can dare to stand there and communicate from that much distance). Moreover the US president has an advantage of a secure back drop compared to the possible challenger, whose back is open and vulnerable.

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Wikipedia image Oval office

Two way systems with indirect channels are like telephones, where one may not be able to judge the behaviour of a person at the other end. Chat rooms of social media sites also function similarly. Interactive TV and radio programmes like breakfast shows have partial two way systems. Here the programme conductor controls the participants’ feed-in.

Behaviour is intentionally reinforced by using personal means like postures, gestures, voice modulation, dressing, make-up, and also by using architecture and spatial elements. During interactions when one may not immediately recollect or be aware of the correct words, one uses gestural and postural behaviour to reinforce the vocal message. Similar reinforcement is required for expression in a foreign language, or audiences of different localities. Such accented use of gestures and postures can be ‘loud or gaudy’ for certain social events, but can be subdued by extending the period of expression enactment. Architectural elements like a flat wall, a strong column, convergent space form or pattern help focus the expression, but articulated elements like stair, ramp, exterior view, or a complex pattern, as backdrop diffuse the impact.

A mobile in pocket is a great assurance. A TV or radio creating some background noise serves warmth of a family. A picture of a loved one or family portrait in a hotel room or space module replaces the loneliness. People keep memorabilia for a very long time. Life-place memorial evoke the same sentiments.

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This post forms 10 th of the Sixteen part of Lecture series on Behaviour in Space that I will be offering for the spring semester starting Jan 2016 (to mid April2016) at School of Interior Design, Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.

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FLOORINGS

Post 586 by Gautam Shah

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Floorings, by virtue of their sheer extent are the most effective components of interior space definition. Floorings are important for visual and tactual appeal. Floorings are visually perceptible because the common sources of natural and other illuminations are from the top. Tactile appeal emerges when visual details of the floorings are not registered. And there are several circumstances when visual recognition fails to occur such as very vast extent, deficient illumination, uniformity of colour, pattern and texture, a higher floor from the eye-level and physiological deficiency of visual perception.

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Velodrome for cycling > Doubly curved flooring surface  > Wikipedia image by Nicola

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Cycle skating ramps > Wikipedia image Joshua Sherurcij at en.wikipedia

Floorings take on a very prominent role in: sparsely furnished and lightly occupied rooms, corridors and yards. Floorings are strikingly evident when observed from a higher elevation, such as upper level galleries, landings and platforms. Flooring pattern and colour become less evident on a very glossy surface. Reflections over a glossy surface of the flooring contribute to the height aspect of the space, but due to shortening of the depth aspect, add to the ambiguity. Floorings gain importance in tall spaces, rooms with invisible or non interesting ceilings (due to height, darkness and lack of captivating features), and in rooms with floors or levels rising upward (allowing larger floor area to be visible). Floorings provide some functional surfaces that are horizontal (parallel to gravity), in a straight gradient (ramps), variable gradients (roller skating), moulded to single curvature (ice skating) or double curvatures (Velodrome). Floorings in similar situations, however, could be ‘non-functional’ that is ‘decorative’. Such exceptional conditions occur in prosceniums, road verges, canal sides, faces of inclined walls or piers. Floorings are required to absorb or reflect energies like light, heat, sounds, vibrations etc.

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Pavement of Praca de Pedro IV in Lisbon > Wikipedia image by Roede

Visual floors have colour, pattern and texture through body surface, joints, inclination and stepping. Floorings that provide a pleasant and novel visual experience affects us more. Visual characteristics are used for connecting various architectural entities (buildings abutting a street or plaza), uniting diverse architectonic elements (like columns, gaps, openings), to impose a matrix of scale or discipline, (create passages, marked paths, territorial definitions). Flooring patterns are used to form segregated lots for different levels of accesses or purposes. Floorings with graphic patterns, motifs and symbols become part of road signage systems.

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Brick pavement in Piazza del Campo Siena > Wikipedia image by Zyance

Flooring is a very tactile component, unlike a wall finish or a ceiling. Tactile floors offer feeling of warmth, cold, hardness or softness. The presence or absence of texture makes for shiny or dull floors leading to safe, easier or difficult movement. Tactile flooring is used for movement of people and goods, sleeping, resting, bathing, washing, storing, food preparation, and handling and processing of materials.

Floorings are broadly classified for the degree of hardness, resiliency, resistance to scratching, staining and water or moisture absorption, capacity to conduct electrical charge, spark erosion etc.

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Stone ballast-packing against railway track > Wikipedia image by LooiNL

Simplest floorings are the natural finish over the surface of the material. These may need, levelling, dressing, wetting, curing, cementing perhaps compacting such as in clay-soil courts, sports tracks, playgrounds, cricket pitches etc. Natural Materials include, clays, soils, sands, stones, gravels, Kankar, minerals, burnt ceramics (Surkhi), Pozzolana, animal excretes and plant decompositions. Cementing compounds are water, oils, bitumen, tars, pitches, synthetic polymer binders, lime and Portland cement.

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Clay court for tennis > Wikipedia image by sk4t

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Cobble stone floor Place de la Bastille Paris > Wikipedia image by Tangopaso

Gravity laid floorings are simply laid, relying on the pull of gravity for stability. The largest and flat surface is placed touching the plane of gravity. In blocked or unitized floorings the stiffness, thickness and close fitments add to the stability. Examples of gravity laid floorings are: cobbles, brick lays, gravels, sand spreads, carpets, rugs, floor spreads, Daris, Chattais, woven mats, feet dusters, wooden boards, synthetic flooring mats, plastic and rubber tiles and rolls.

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Gravity laid carpeting in Lloyds Building > Wikipedia image by Lloyd’s of London

Cast in-situ floorings provide very extensive and a uniform surface. Cast in situ floorings are created by liquidized mass such as plasters, pastes, coatings and homogenization. The conversion processes are evaporative drying, oxidization, calcification, chemical bonding, polymerization, heat, radiation and moisture induced changes. Cast in-situ floorings are like concrete, cement cast floors (IPS), cow dung, Surkhi and lime combinations, synthetic or culture marble systems, fiber glass and other resin-fiber matrix spray-able composites, organo plastics, epoxy coats, PU coats, rubber coats, tar-bitumen roads.

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Operation theatre Flooring coating > Wikipedia image by Pfree2014

Mechanically fixed floorings are keyed to the substrate or the structure. Usually when floor finishes are incapable of staying in place due to the thin mass, lighter weight, reduced gravity (on sloped surfaces), presence of other pulling forces, small extent or spread requires some mechanical or adhesive fixing. Mechanical fastening is achieved by nut-bolt, nails, screws, rivets, cleats and seam formation. It is also done with friction, suction, surface tension, magnetic pull, electro static attraction etc. Examples of tied floors are bus and boat decks, stage wood floors, claddings, panellings, stair carpets.

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Dull and glossy floors > Pixabay image by Pashminu

Adhered floorings, at a simple level are affixed to the substrate. At complex level a layered composite system is formed by multi-layering over a substrate. Adhered finishes are superior as the entire surface is affixed, and so allows greater distribution of uprooting stresses. Pozzolana, lime, cement, are traditional binders whereas modern age adhesives are polymer and elastomeric compounds. Coatings like paints, organosols and other liquidized compounds are used. Adhered floorings can be categorized into three types: 1 Coatings create an extensive surface, 2 Films and sheets offer large tracks of surface, and 3 Blocks and units form a larger unit. The adherent besides fixing may provide padding, resiliency, insulation, electrical discharge, green or tacky bonding for easy removal. Typical adhesive bonded floorings are, Woven and non woven carpets, fabrics, mats, ceramic, mosaic metal, and synthetic tiles, metal or polymer sheets and foils, paints and coating systems.

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Spray-on composite flooring > Wikipedia image by Maurits90

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