TRANSGRESSING the BUILT FORM

Post 620 –by Gautam Shah

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Built form designing begins with a neatly defined geometric shape, and it evolves into a very complex form. The built form becomes an architectural adventure to gain new spaces, experiences and uses. The built forms are transgressed to the exterior for many different purposes. The purposes are to enlarge the interior space, open out the omni present sense of enclosure, bring in airiness of the exterior, enhance the built mass by stretching the internal and external surface areas, add a textural architectonic element, add thresholds or intervening spaces and provision of sideways view, aeration or daylight facilities.

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Puerta Principal del Catedral Basilica de Zacatecas > Wikipedia image by Juan Ignacio Chavez

Outward transgressions of the architectural elements occur as overt attachments or integrated additives. The attachments remain overt when these are visually very distinct, over emphatic in scale or treatment, and singular in presence. Integrated additives are multiple in numbers and so schematically well arranged, visually less apparent and diffused in scale or treatment.

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Gables at St Mary’s Church in Berlin > Wikipedia image by Bild : Ajepbah / Wikimedia Commons / Lizenz: CC-BY-SA-3.0 DE

Outward Transgressions and Projections are two different entities. The former enlarges the spread to add utilizable space, whereas the later, just stretch the space for weather shading. Transgressions have volumetric mass of space in comparison to Projections articulate buffer or threshold spaces. Projections undulate the surfaces as add-on or engraved-etched elements. Some of the common projecting elements of classical architecture include: Pilasters, engaged columns, entablature, pediments, friezes, rusticated masonry, foliated capitals, lintels, eaves and cornices.

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Frauenkirche, Dresden > Wikipedia image by SporkPhotos

Add-on elements are included in buildings for two main purposes: To vary the silhouette or the skyline, and to format terraces, which otherwise would have remained plain planes. Corbusier achieved both simultaneously. A skyline is made of translucent elements like lanterns, chhatris (umbrella shaped pavilions) canopies, cupolas, caboose (usually over inspection or guard’s wagon in railways), spires, gables etc.

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Corbusier Terrace > Flickr image by vincent desjardins

Openings have been the most prolific space transgressing elements in buildings. Openings are stretched outward for view and illumination. The expanded form increases the surface area exposed to the exterior, and adds to the solar gain. In a warmer climate breeze is preferred to solar gain, and so devices like lattices, shading projections and smaller but spaced openings were used. Choice of view to the busy street, water body, or a private garden is preferred to any climatic orientation.

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Red Fort Delhi India Flickr image by David Gil

Transgressed openings have of many forms. Openings stretch outward at floor level, increasing the interior floor space. Little higher from the floor level, allows formation of a raised sill, seat, or platform. High sill openings reduce the net available open gap but provide space for a study or craft console, or storage bureau. The head-side configurations of the projected gaps are different. These terminate at lower, human head or reach to the ceiling level.

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Zarokha at Nathmal ki Haveli, Jaisalmer, India > Wikipedia image Attribution Daniel VILLAFRUELA

Zarokhas are outwardly extended opening systems in India. These have derived from Gavaksh or Gokh (niche in the wall for storage or display). A zarokha is often called a baithak, a place for ‘sitting out’, though one remains in the privacy of the interior space. The Zarokha as an ornamental opening has a centric and dominant position in the room space and important part of external facade composition. Zarokhas are placed on terraces, passages, palaces, public buildings, residences, mosques and step-wells.

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Rani Rupamati Mosque Zarokha, Ahmedabad India > Wikipedia image by Bernard Gagnon

A typical zarokha, on the interior face, has a raised platform off the floor. The raised platform has one long front and two small width side faces. The face has two or more columns and is surrounded by short height tapering parapets. The projecting platform and the width of the wall, together provide sufficient width and depth for two or more people to share the space. The inner most face of Zarokha is masked by a bamboo strip roll curtain. The outer face of the wall may be open or latticed.

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Chhajjas and Chhatris at Fatehpur Sikri India > Wikipedia image by Olaf Oehlsen Potsdam

 A Chhajja is an Indian shading device over any opening, like doors, windows, zarokhas or verandah and may cover plain walls for architectural continuity. Chhajjas reduce the sky component of solar radiation and reduce the glare. Mughal Chhajjas are inclined slabs of stones placed over the lintel stone, but super-loaded with some masonry and parapets. Wooden Chhajjas with intricately carved wood brackets are common in Pol houses of Gujarat. During British raj Chhajjas of galvanized corrugated sheets supported over a wooden frame became a cheap and lightweight option for Bungalows and Government buildings. Chhajjas work like canvas awnings, but are heavier and more durable.

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Bay Window at Casa Pomar – Catlan Modernisme (1904-1906, Joan Rubio i Bellver) > Wikipedia image by Mutari

Bay or Bow windows are common on ground or upper floors. Bay windows are formed of three or five angled planes, whereas a bow window is a polygon or segment of a curve. In full bay windows the opening stretches from floor to ceiling level to add a seamless but shaped space to the room. In a part bay windows have a raised sill with a lower roof at a lintel level or topper blank bay. In the third version there is no bay or bow formation in the interior space, externally a shaped flower box projects out. In case of a bow window there is no parallel to the room, a middle window unit. Bow windows first appeared in the 18 C in England and in the Federal th period in the USA. Bow windows are also called compass window and radial bay windows.

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Corner window of Hauenschild palace in Olomouc (Czech Republic) Wikipedia image by Snek01 

Oriel windows are a form of polygonal bay windows, but often placed at the corner of a building. Oriel windows, have a larger perimeter and so allow wider view of the outside. The projected bay is supported off the base-wall, or by columns, piers, corbels or brackets.

Mashrabiya is an extended opening system, and was very a common entity in mid East or Arab architecture. Mashrabiyas have carved wood latticework and often stained glass.

Mashrabiyas were placed on street faces of upper floors of urban houses, but occasionally in palaces, public buildings such as hospitals, inns, schools and government buildings. Mashrabiya windows are presumed to have formed during 12th C in Baghdad. Iraq and Egypt are two countries where many examples survive. Such openings were introduced in France from the colonial sources, and called Moucharabieh.

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Mashrabiya openings in Muizz street Cairo District > Wikipedia image by Joonas Plaan from Tallinn Estonia

Mashrabiyas are enclosed with latticework of a lathe carved sections called bobbins. Lower sections of the opening are opaque or with denser lattice work. Lattice designs differ from region to region. Mashrabiya work as an independent enclosed balcony or as a space attached to a room. Egyptian Mashrabiyas project out at a slightly raised level, providing for a Dakkah (a Dakkah is also a masonry platform attached to the front part of a house, covered with a rug, it is used for informal talk and tea in Arab rural areas, an arrangement similar to Ota or Otla in a traditional Indian house). Mashrabiyas have been used for correcting the shape of upper floor front room.

The word Mashrabiya has varied origins. It denotes drinking or absorbing. The name perhaps has derived from a wood lattice enclosed shelf located near a window to cool the pots of drinking water. The shelf evolved until it became part of the room with a full enclosure. Mashrabiya also has originated from verb Ashrafa =to overlook, ignore or to observe.

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Mashrabiya Opening Old Cairo, Egypt >  Image on Flickr by Sam valadi

Shanashil (shanshool or rushan) is a porch, verandah or gallery like features covered with fine wood lattice work. It is found in old Iraqi houses of Baghdad. It is also a net or wood screen-covered verandah or porch over looking a street or garden.

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GLASS in WINDOWS – Part • II

Post 202 – by Gautam Shah 

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Glass has had brilliantly glossy surface. The glossy surface resulted from grinding out the irregularities of surface casting-flattening the blown glass. The glossy surface often called a glassy face, presented variegated glimmers. The glass was produced in small pieces, and was rarely perfectly flat. Its composition within mullions and muntins, as a leaded pane, consisted of several small units, each at slightly a varied angle. It produced a very vivid surface, but one that was more opaque then transparent one.

Leaded Panes

Leaded Panes

Glossy surfaces in architectural exteriors were available on highly polished marbles and granites, but these soon weathered to a matt or dull face on exposure to weather. Ceramic mosaics were the only long lasting glossy surfaces, for the exteriors. On the interior face the glossy face of glass was rarely perceived, as the daylight filtering through it, made the surface gleaming or translucent. The gloss of the glass on the interior face, however, was seen against the polished marbles, granites, wood polishes, ceramic mosaics and gilding or metallizing.

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The glass as Gothic stained glass was placed against the painted dull surface of fresco art work.  Former was back lit surface and the other was front lit by the opposite side openings. Both, the stained glass and the fresco were prone to weather. Stained glass weathered to brittle or crumbling surface and frescoes were susceptible to moist weather. As against both of these surface treatments ceramic mosaics were glossy and longer lasting.

Glass metallic grey surface

Glass metallic grey surface

In architecture on the exterior side, the glass was treated as a mass forming surface rather then the mass dissolving surface. During day time, on the interior face the glass was mass dissolving surface. Perception of night interior glass face, was not overbearing due to lack of high intensity of illumination (in early periods). The low level night interior illumination however was sufficient to highlight all the glassed and trellis opening faces against the dark building mass, over the exterior.

Strong window elements

Strong window elements

The glass-covered faces were of metallic-grey tone, without much tonal variations, except created by the visual aberration of due to multiple reflective and continuously varying tones of the surfaces. The interest, however, was framed by strongly patterned divisions of the window sub-units such as mullions and muntins. The contrast was very marked as the window framing elements were dull and of darker colour, whereas the glass was glossy and vivid.

Glass dissolving the mass on interior side

Glass dissolving the mass on interior side

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The ‘mass’ perception of glass face was very different from all other materials that were used in early architecture. Glass helped dissolve almost indissoluble relation between the mass and gravity. The mass and gravity always occurred in architecture with inevitable simultaneity. A stable built-form was massive, and so perceived to be gravity-compliant, whereas any attempt to transgress the form by puncturing it or through an expansionist modulation was considered defiance of the gravity.

Glass Architecture Gravity defiant & Mass dissolution

Glass Architecture Gravity defiant & Mass dissolution

Glass provided a skin that was ethereal but form constituting. It was light in weight and yet un-massive due to the glossy face. It was ethereal because it allowed the transgression of the other side. The effort to de-mass the built-form through the de-materialization occurred in many different ways. The discernibility of the architectural elements was dissolved through the glossy surface of glass. The light passing through the glass suppressed the darkness that was enhancing the massiveness of corners, edges and ledges.

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