Post 671 by Gautam Shah



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.








REFERENCING buildings -issues for design -15

Post 649 -by Gautam Shah



Buildings are nominally referenced by way of orientation, alignment, linkages, front-back placement, ground-line (gravity) or datum, framing, etc. Such references site a building location, set a direction, form relationships with surrounding elements, confirm the flow of energies like gravity, magnetism etc. and with it generate the sense of horizontal (parallel to the flow of energy) and vertical (towards-against the flow of energy). In this sense Referencing achieves a sense of balance, stability, steadfastness, belonging, scale, proportion and comparison.



Referencing is recognition of relationship between objects and persons in the context of the environment or the surroundings. Such recognition is a basal instinct. We mainly visually discern the size, direction, distance of objects and comparative details of objects, but these experiences are reinforced through other sensorial references like hearing, smell, touch, tastes etc. We also experience referential effects of energy like gravity, magnetism, electricity, etc.

Tomb Mausoleum India Taj Mahal Agra Architecture

Reference, derives from Middle English referren, from Middle French référer, from Latin referre, formed from the prefix ‘re and ferre’. Other derived words carry the sense of link-to, connect to, to carry back, to deliver, consult, an allusion, signs, indication, mention.


References can take on many forms, including: real and measurable, ephemeral like a thought, metaphysical like an allegory, sensory experience, manifestation of energy, a geometrical pattern, crypto-graphical conversions, or a part of a sequence or order.


In architecture references occur explicitly, subtly and metaphorically. Explicit references are superfluous or add-ons like enrichments, embellishments, stylized forms, with little relevance to functionality. Explicit references denote an overwhelming urge to make the ‘form follows the function’. Subtle references in built forms are innate, with deep rooted cultural connections like customs. The logic is integral in the social fabric, and no justifications are offered or expected. Subtle references in architecture have restricted relevance, available only connoisseurs, experts or practicing colleagues in the field. Subtle references require perception of a whole entity, as available in abstracted orthographic presentations such as plans, sections, elevations. Subtle references often connect to things or incidences that are in different time and space. Metaphoric references relate to abstracted representations. The layers of abstractions or coding are many and their trace complicated, so a metaphor seems to stand alone. Metaphoric references become a language of variegated forms. It is a pattern in its own entirety, like an alphabet where original phones or images have very remote connections.




References have hierarchical structure where parts and components of the entity itself mutually relate, and also associate with other objects in the same or different time and space. Metaphoric expressions in architecture link expressions in other fields, or allude to such thoughts and concepts.

640px-Bourges_Cathedral_exterior_016512px-Yali_pillars_in_a_small_open_mantapa_in_the_Vitthala_temple_complex_in_Hampi_2Architectural references are formed intentionally, accidentally or unknowingly. Intentional references are part of the design creation process, so could be as justification for something that is uncommon. Accidental references are realization on a hind site. These actualize after drawing documentation, graphical representation, scaled-model making or through actual execution. Architectural references unknowingly become relevant, in some other context, because such effects were not perceived, or some unknown connection emerges through other media.



Architectural references are explored to reinforce or dilute a concept, and focus or divert from a composition. References are used to enforce or negate the essential elements of a style or theme. Just as enforcement occurs through repetition, highlight, scaling or linkages, negation needs occlusion, elimination of details and restraint. Holistic compositions though have singular but very emphatic expression, whereas assemblies formed by single person or organization have some basic consistency, with noticeable reference.


Reference in architecture is often literal, and so easily perceptible, like representation of birds, animals, objects, etc. The process of revelation however is made little more complex due to several layers of conversion or negotiations. Grotesque forms, humanoids, demons, devils, beasts, monsters are such conversions, where each representation becomes more complex with age and graphics making technologies. Yet robots remained replicas of humans or animals with head, eyes, hand and legs for several decades. Martians or aliens are still humanoids.


For architectural forms, the domineering factor has been the gravity, and the related sense of horizontality versus verticality. Gravity is part of our being conditioning all our creations, and it has taken years to move away from the gravity related prevalence, in conception of outer space modules. Gravity refers to stability, and anything wider at the base is safer and permanent and so monumental. Similarly, any reverse position is challenging and so celestial. For the same reason Ground-line or Horizon becomes very important base line for a building to relate to. Real or notional reference to ground-line is always assuring.



This is the 15 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN


Post 645 –by Gautam Shah


Buildings continue to be relevant for many different reasons. Buildings persist, primarily by changing the functions they serve, secondly by redefining the form, and in rare cases, by altering the surroundings. Buildings are continued by Enabling interventions and Restorative actions. Re-use is a process of re-endowing value to neglected built-forms, which otherwise could see demotion.


Turbine Hall of Bank side Power House Wikipedia image by Cwrcun

Tate Hall (original turbine machine room)

A building and its lands, both are precious assets. Buildings are acquired at a great expense of resources, effort and time whereas the lands, now have new relevance being in central location and good connections. No one wants, either to go wastes. Buildings and the lands must be put to different use. Reuse strategies relate to establishing the lands and building for a ‘purpose other than the original one.

Location is the external realm of the building. It has two facets: the distance or the extent and the stack holders of the building. A building serves certain terrain or physical distance. When these get enlarged due to efficient transport services the usage is increased, but conversely barriers like railway tracks, canals, closure of roads, or loss of visual identity affects the raison d’ etre (reason for existence) of the building. Stack holders become insincere for maintenance when the location begins to deteriorate due to economic, social or political problems, and affects the pride or faith in the building.

Batter sea Power House Station Building being  redeveloped with specific conditions like preservation of four chimney structures > Wikipedia image by > Attribution Nigel Cox

Lands become available for reuse, due to the changes in land zone and occupation patterns, such as residential to commercial or industrial to residential. Lands need re-validation of purpose when new developments like location of an airport, highways, railway tracks, etc. take place in neighbourhoods. Existing lands have an advantage of location and connections.


Arnold Print Works as seen from Marshall street in North Adams, Massachusetts> Wikipedia image by Beyond My Ken


Main Entrance Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA) Wikipedia image by Beyond My Ken

Reuse of lands and built spaces is a form of urban rejuvenation, rationalization of urban density and strategy for sustainable use of resources. Reuse, sometimes deals with issues of conservation and so considered by some, as ‘compromise between historic preservation and demolition’.


One of the Reuse project by Gasometer City, Vienna, Austria. Four disused gasometers were revamped into residential quarters > Wikipedia image by (Andreas Poeschek by CC-BY-SA-2.0-at)

Gasometer A in Vienna,

Internal Courtyard of Gasometer at Vienna > Wikipedia Image by Andreas.poeschek by CC-BY-SA-2,0-at

To use a building for a different purpose, many corrective actions are required. Redefining the form of a building is difficult as it is expected to satisfy, simultaneously, the functional needs and the value system in the society. In the first instance if the owner finds the corrective actions uneconomic, would rather opt for a new entity. In the later case, the changes in the form may make the society apathetic to the building’s revised ‘look’. Often, the cost of renovation, rehabilitation or restorations, are more costly than demolition or building newly.

The preservation of surroundings of buildings requires social, political and financial involvement, which are beyond the reach of the owner or user. It is only for buildings intensively serving social functions or buildings with historical connections that surroundings will be conserved or even redefined. A building, if is a public utility or society’s pride and prestige, its surroundings will be maintained or even resurrected. Changes in the surroundings force functional changes in the building, however, whether one makes the changes to be with surroundings or resists, both ways the building gets altered.

Old buildings become unsuitable for their conceived requirements with passage of time. The building’s own technological validity (of service systems’ and components’), and the circumstantial relevance of the planned usage, both, change, and independently. To these, political conditions and financial consideration (benefit accruing out of it) complicate the assessment.

A building, if it has a form of architectural styling then it is continued as a relic. When it has commemorative connections, in appreciation of its past, the building becomes a monument. Buildings that need to be remembered are restored or preserved to retain their form, but often in complete absence of the original setting. A building that has substantially lost the form and has indistinct connections can be enacted through re-imaging of its setting, like through Sound & light (son et Lumiere) shows on historical sites.


Reused Pillars for Arcade at Adhai Din Ka Zonpada India > Wikipedia image by Billyakhtar

A building as a built-form stays till the structure or parts of it can provide shelter. And even after the loss of its integrity as a shell for shelter, its parts and components are scavenged for reuse. Romans and many others have used refuse in their new constructions. There are unknown costs in managing debris of old buildings, related to handling materials like glass wool, asbestos, and radio active contaminants, and demolition and removal of materials from dense localities.


Asbestos and Lead paints require specific care for removal

Older buildings need substantial review of their functions, due to changes in ownership, reassessment of efficiency, styling and context. As the buildings age, the nominal surface related changes go deeper into the body of structure. Such changes are not easily perceptible, and can grow to very dangerous level. This is a stage when original design documents are not available. The new technology components and systems may not match the existing provisions. Repairs and maintenance schedules can restore parts, components and systems, provided the design is ‘open-ended’. However, holistic creations or ‘close-ended’ entities deteriorate completely without any scope for corrective measures.



Post 615 –by Gautam Shah


Primary instinct for a human effort is to create a Recipe or Process. We tend to perceive an item by hypothetically enacting its process. First step is compilation of a list of physical inputs (ingredients). Second step is forming lists of things to do, how to do and not to do (human interventions). Third step is planning the sequences in time. Fourth step is readying tools required for various processes. A fair mix of all FOUR steps can offer an object, but not a desired entity. The end result is conjectural. In real design work intentions are additionally transmitted through drawing documents and other forms of surrogates.


Oven Cooking > ART by Jean-Francois Miller (1814-1875)

Item or design specifications have been used for execution, manufacturing, fabricating, erecting, for procuring ready-made objects, and also for effecting various services. The term Design here means any scheme, as such orally conveyed, written, drawn, or otherwise implied.

A Design or Scheme specifies aspects like : constituents, processes of combining, synthesizing a coherent entity or system, method of care and handling the men, materials, tools, equipments and the entity itself as it is being created.


Elevator Design by German Engineer Konrad Kyeser (1405) Wikipedia image

When a design (recipe) is specified for a product, and once readied (with reasonable sincerity), a client has to pay even if it fails on acceptability count. As a result, writing Item or Design Requirements is not an assuring process, unless the specifiers have had recent experience, at designing nearly Identical Items, and fully comprehends all aspects of the design problem.


Design confusions > Image attribution: Wiki4des at English Wikipedia

Specifications for a Designed Object

A Designer prepares design specifications, (materials + procedures + conditions of origin), so that the contractor or vendor can provide the stated item. The contractor or vendor gets very exact data, but little freedom to use alternative materials or execute it differently. If there is an uncommon item, the contractor will invariably charge more for the extraordinary effort or customization. This process does not assure that in spite of a sincere execution and diligent supervision a functional product will be delivered. The Item specifications specify ‘physical adequacy of the item while seeking a hypothetical performance’.

A contractor or vendor is better aware of latest materials, processes, technologies and their costing as available in the market, In comparison to any specification formulator like a designer. A contractor or vendor, if allowed to provide, can offer an item that surpasses the one conceived in the ‘item or design specifications’. This cause was identified by US Air-force and made it mandatory to procure entities by PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS, through the ITEM or DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS. A performance specification states the exact requirements of performance of an entity, and no materials + procedures + conditions of origin are given. This is an appreciable method but very difficult to implement. Performance of some of entities cannot be checked-validated over a longer time span (e.g. Operative suitability of a submarine beyond 20 years).

Performance specifications are partially used in many works with item specifications. For example, 6/7 decades back many builders were asked to refer to Standards for Cement, Sand, Aggregates, Water, Mixing procedures and testing methods for quality to be achieved. This is now replaced by pre-mix cement concretes of assured quality. This a way of relying on the performance, than Materials+Processes methods.


Ready-mix Concrete > Wikipedia image by High Contrast

Specifications for acquiring some ready-made objects can be Performance specifications but tend to be even more restrictive. A specifier (buyer-acquirer) of a ready-made item of the market shelves has no way of verifying a product, so relies on average standards followed by the Industry, or match with some ‘super’ supplier’s (top product in the market) specifications. Failing either of the conditions, one, has to pay the extra cost of customizing a regular or standard item. In the later case the assurance nominally available for the regular or standard item are unlikely to be offered for the altered form.



Post 527  by Gautam Shah



We may conceive a building in complete disregard of its location, as a holistic form, but sooner or later it has to be grounded. The site formats a building form in size, scale, shape and linkages to the surroundings. The siting, however, demands a building to match its topography. It needs an environmental confirmation through placement that includes the alignment, contextual positioning, climatic appropriateness, and access modalities. The orientation defines how the form is perceived through various sensual faculties. The sensual faculties are highly directional and that makes orienting a building an exercise in angle, level (datum) and bearing.

Open Hand monument Chandigarh

Grounding a building makes it an inevitable entity for the location. A holistic form is subjectively conceived and its only bearing is the specificity of a building. It is a conceptual but a transient entity till it is justified on several counts. The form gets a ‘make-over’ with realities of Siting, Placement and Orientation.

Hadrian's Wall west of Housesteads


SITING a building to a very extensive land, substantially occurs on the basis of impressions of first encounter or visit. The land reveals itself primarily from the direction one enters it, and secondarily due to the engaging features beyond its territory. For small urban lots, partly developed plots for landscape design or built spaces such as for interior design, all reveal something how these are connected through the cuts, gaps and openings. These not only stretch the extent of the realm but endow a unique spatial character.

Pan Am Building NewYork

PLACEMENT of a form or conceptual entity onto the site needs alignment and accommodation of the boundaries or edges. The irregularities of the site edges are possibly historical effects that require functional and visual adjustments. The site boundaries or the edges are formed of many neighbouring properties. For contextual positioning, one may confirm the scale, size, shape, and style, or go against it, but it must confirm to the larger discipline of the urban setting. As soon as placement of the conceptual form on to the site emerges, the macro climatic appropriateness becomes relevant. For urban locations the wind directions, dust turbulence, a solar ingress etc., are substantially altered by local conditions. For interior design the glare from glazing of neighbouring buildings, visibility of shop fronts against solar reflections, varying light-shadow on openings and open spaces must be checked.

New housing development area Luanda

A site offers certain Access modalities. These modes define quality of experience to the built-form or an interior form. The modalities are defined by depth, elevation and angle of access. All these can be changed to gain new insights to the site. Sites have had downward, upward, straight, skewed, direct or long-winded entries. The shortening or extension of time and distance is used to add or reduce the introductory interlude to the site.

National Mall Lincoln Memorial

ORIENTATION relates to directional functions of the environment and selective sensorial perception of the designed entity. Orientation works as linear connection to a real or metaphysical thing. Strong presence of an object at a distance creates a point to which things are directed, such as trees, mountains, valleys, chimneys, lighthouses, towers, pylons, forts, etc. Such strong elements in smaller or interior spaces are created to ‘hold inescapable attention’ such as searchlight, throbbing or pulsar lights, signages, brilliant colours, high pitch sounds etc. The environment effects such as solar radiation and breeze are highly directed, which in turn make illumination and climatic comfort a location specific matter. Buildings are not only opened or closed but the form is transgressed inward or outward to manage the gains or losses of it. Projections, galleries, cutouts, chowks, are such transgressions that stretch or shrink the building.

Assisi St Francis Perugia Basilica Of St Francis

Orientation also relates to cardinal points N. S. E. and W. with the solar inclination, magnetic forces and spiritual beliefs. Indian traditional building design canons prescribe rules for placing architectural elements and functions in various corners. Orientation helps to connect the sensorial faculties to stimulative aspects of form. We orient or directionally connect ourselves to sources sounds, visual stimulation, tastes and odours. Spatial arrangements use such linear connections of orientation for creating relationships through proportions, scaling, series, hierarchy etc. Patterns, textures and grains are strongly directional and so used for creating oriented layouts. Other means of the directionality are angles, contours and slopes. Stairs, escalators, elevators, corridors, long passages, boulevards, avenues, walkways, parapets, are all linear elements that establish oriented links.

Paternoster Square



Post 456 -Gautam Shah



Stability of a building is checked in terms the Physical condition, Structural integrity, and the stack-holders’ perceptions. The last factor is subjective, but it presents cumulative considerations of several participants. The Physical conditions are checked through the weathered conditions and user-related wear-tear to the building. Structural integrity ensures its capacity to stand-up in equilibrium, by defying, overcoming or consistently being with the gravity, safety and security as a place of habitation and in few instances as a long-lasting entity (of archeological relevance).

1024px-Al_Nouri_MosqueStability of buildings and other structures is an important factor during its lifetime and during construction, repairs-maintenance, alterations, renovations, extensions and demolitions. The stability is mainly related to the gravity disturbing the form. Other factors affecting the stability are the structure’s patterns of load transfer to soil, which could be as whole or local inadequacies. The integrity of the structure against lateral disturbing forces such as earthquake, winds and pressures of heavy blasts. The bearing of loads and their transfer modes, ultimately affect the stability of a building. Vibrations destabilize a structure. Stability of a structure is affected by sudden loading, point loading, and continuous vibrations. The disintegrations caused by these conditions enhance users related, wear-tear and effects of weathering.



Stability of a structure is perceived as its capacity to serve its functions under nominal (designed) load conditions. A stable structure has deformations that are recoverable, and within designed limits. Stable structure could be static or dynamic (like a car) but in equilibrium. A space ship in a no-gravity zone is affected when small perturbations that produce movement in the direction of force. It can continue to move, without missing its state of equilibrium.


DCF 1.0

Change in geometry of a structure or structural components under compression causes buckling. Buckling is non-recoverable condition of structures’ geometry. Such changes destabilize compressive elements such as columns, walls, foundation base and pedestals and parts of beams.




Post 403 – by Gautam Shah


The process of change is both, in the building itself, and the contextual setting within which it exists. The changes in the building shell are real happening in time, though usually ignored in the initial stages. The change in its contextual setting is often subjective perception, and so seems to be unreal. The changes in the building or its surroundings are not noticed, because these occur in small measures and spread over a very long period.


Natural changes occur in buildings irrespective of the intensity of use. Such changes occur in buildings that are over-used, mis-used, under-used or not at all-used. Though, some conditions like over-usage may hasten the pace of change. Natural changes cannot be terminated, but perhaps can be slowed or restricted spatially.


Man-made changes mainly relate to the nature of use. Over-usage reflects the intensity of use, and must be provisioned for in the system. Mis-usage results due to the abuse of the building system. It relates to the social set-up within which the building exists, functional inadequacies and ambiguities about the form. Under-usage and non-use of a building are circumstantial factors, and in that sense the changes may be more for natural reasons, then man-made causes. Man-made changes are involuntary as well as malicious.


 Changes in building can be considered in several stages of perception or recognition.


FIRST Stage occurs immediately on occupation. Buildings where the functions have not been adequately defined, or get substantially compromised during the post planning phase, turn into an irrelevant entity. The greatest threat occurs from fast changing surroundings and external circumstances like the ingress of new technologies.


SECOND Stage occurs when safety and security are under threat due to natural disasters or design inadequacies. Some major programme to replace parts, components and systems can still save the building.


 THIRD Stage arrives much later in life of building. At these stage the original sponsors or owners are no longer the stack holders. New masters possibly have negligible no emotional attachment. The building loses its functional and location related relevance, forcing a financial viability assessment. At this stage the form has been substantially altered and no restoration efforts can reestablish anything even to the original.


FOURTH Stage sets in when many of the systems that support the environment for human occupation become dysfunctional. The building may nevertheless survive and be used for non-habitation purposes like storage.


TERMINAL Stage is, when the shell deteriorates and collapses. Building remains an operational entity so long as the bare minimum space defining or enclosing entity, remains sound. In well integrated buildings the process of deterioration cannot be noticed in isolation. Here the shell and other subsystems are not separable, and so the collapse is unpredictable and sudden. However, in assembled buildings the frame and in-fill elements have distinctly defined roles of structural or nonstructural elements. Here the deterioration is visible, slow to occur and often predictable.


It is very difficult to define the demise of a building. A building dies many deaths, usually very slowly but occasionally suddenly. Parts and components decay at different and an unknown rate. With age the capacity to accommodate the changes becomes smaller and uneconomic. Users and occupants of the buildings are continuously and very closely involved, and so do not realize the changes setting in. The accumulated changes are more apparent to others, which reduces a building’s social prestige and also affects the locality’s standing.