Postby Gautam Shah




The space and environment mould each other, and jointly define a process of perception. Perception of space and environment helps to know about position, context, constancy of things, and features, postures, and gestures of inhabitants’. Perception of space and environment helps in improvising our expression and communication, and thereby our behaviour. Here two processes are considered vital: How a person will perceive others, and How others will sense the person?



The position of a person, in terms of the body posture, visibility, stability or consistency and the background context, etc., are issues how others sense him or her. Similarly a person trying to project self must be aware of the perceiver’s distance, angles of connection, social dependency and postural condition. The process of perception is a two-way affair.


Position of a person or object relative to the source of illumination is a very important consideration for Space Planning.


In a dwelling, head of the family occupies the head position at the dining table. This position at the far end of the room, is often set against a window. The window from this perspective illuminates everything (people and objects) during daytime, such as breakfast and lunch periods. The head of the family gets a well-illuminated view and so feels commander of the situation. At the same time, however, other participants on the dining table see (in the reverse position) the head of the family against a brightly lit window. This occludes perception of details of the body posture and facial gestures. As a result of this family members derecognize and ignore the head of the family. Wife of the head of the family, if she occupies the opposite chair, or if the kitchen is in that direction, she too disregards the position and cold-shoulders the person.


zrh_lx_swiss_lounge_bar_areaThis daytime happenings, change considerably at supper time, as the ‘backbite window’ illumination is replaced with artificial lighting. Nominally the situation should stand corrected (if not reversed), but attitudes formed during daytime persist at other times.


In a related space planning setting, the person in charge of cooking has to face the platform, and therefore show the backside to the dining table sitters. And this becomes cause of devaluation of the ‘person in charge of cooking’. This is now being corrected with island cooking facilities, or cooking and dining being placed at a right angle. Correct direction of lighting vastly improvises the situation.


Position of a person relative to the source of illumination also holds true in conference rooms, executive cabins, reception areas, lecture rooms, press conference rooms, etc. Natural or artificial illumination -as singular source and that too from the backside must be avoided, and if inevitable, reinforce it with lighting from other directions. One of the simplest ways is to envision how the situation manifests from every single position.


Side illumination eliminates many of the anomalies of perception and recognition but not all. To create good diffusion, the source for side illumination needs some depth from the seating -standing position. In small rooms this is not possible, so it requires reinforcement with lighting from other directions.


Exclusive illumination from top, through spot light or skylight creates under the chin shadows. This can be corrected by counter illumination from other directions. Light colour floors and table tops can counter the effects of top -down lighting. TV studios use light colour or reflective table tops, but avoid showing them in a visual frame by positioning the participants on a raised platform, and cameras at a slightly lower level then the table tops.