SIZING and SCALING the SPACES -Issues of Design 23

Post 674 –by Gautam Shah



Sizing of architectural entities is accomplished in Three manners. 1, as a primary reference, the sizes are perceived in human measures, 2, in a second consideration, the sizes mean physical capacities of human body representing the work capacities, physical reach and sensorial reach of perception, and 3, lastly the sizes are mutually related for proportioning, irrespective of the human relevance.


In the 1st case, the sizes are relative to the human measures, and these had formed the first set of scales in all cultures. The innate reference to the human measures survived, in spite of the standardization to overcome the racial-anthropological variations and cultural preferences. Digitized measures of Metric system completely abstracted the measures, and absolute alienation occurred.


For the 2nd example, the sizes reflect the physical capacities of the body and sensorial reach of perception. Typically, for very long time travel distances were expressed in time, required for walking or running (or number of lunch-rest, feed for horses, required). Wheat and other agricultural products were transacted by numbers or volume capacities like bushel or basket. Displacement (carriage) of goods was in terms of oxen or horse power. Architecturally a wall was measured in terms of (volume x distance) displacement of stones rather than the volumetric measure of the finished structure. The ‘culture of measures was complicated by fractioning or multiplying the ‘measures’ for conversion to the abstract entity like money.


With 3rd instance, the sizes are perceived to be pure numbers. The pure numbers have some basic linear ascending or descending sequences. This character is difficult to understand or justify, and ‘too dry or latent’ to be meaningful. But, it has a mathematical confirmation across many sensorial experiences and presence of physical objects. The mathematical order, however is a confirmation or satiation that occurs after the creation, and is rarely an input for planning.

The sizes are considered as pure numbers to ‘apportion’ physical objects or sensorial experiences, as large, small or equal. Such apportioning of the physical objects or sensorial experiences is intentional or comes as a revelation. But it is an achievement that offers certain applicable aesthetic relationships. Corbusier in his Modulor compared the sizes with pure numbers, and derived a universally applicable set of aesthetic relationships. Vitruvius remained, with the mutual comparison of (human) sizes, but yet had some aesthetic derivations.



Sizes are mutually related as functional or accommodative operants, or are considered as pure numbers with ‘mathematical’ sense, and a comparison ensues. The relationship is basically between ‘this and that’. Here both the entities are physically in the same realm, of identical sensorial realization, or one of it is in a different time or space. In the last case the remembrances or records bring forth the proportions. Proportioning is ordering of an arrangement. It follows some analogy, sequencing, proximity or context. There are two levels of proportions: formed between equals and unequals. Equal entities, even if spread over extensive area, begin to ‘loop in the coexisting things’ into a holistic domain. Unequal things must be contextually together to make a ‘sense of being a system’.


When a space is Sized or dwelled, it confers certain functionality and sufficiency. Comparison is made out in terms of ergonomic suitability and sensorial adequacy. But when a space is Scaled, it forms a comparative order between various constituents. Sizing a space specifies, the nature of cognition, human reach, nature of communication and inverse affectations. The levels of privacy, intimacy, loss of objectivity and subjective involvements that occur in a space, are governed by its size. Scaling a space, offers means of perpetuating the satisfaction that one draws out of natural, created or realized things. Scattered elements manifest may reveal, some day the order of scaling or pattern of arrangement. This is an intellectual confirmation.


Size has a close affinity to the orientation of ‘lay’ of the space. The direction of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space. The orientation gains relevance because it is aligned with our sensorial nodes. The sensorial nodes are highly directional whereas the bi-nodal faculties like eyes and ears help the focussing. Similarly with the sense of direction we perceive the change in speed. The variations in progress and movement both define the ‘lay’ of the space. This experience is true for deaf and blind persons.


Scale is perceived irrespective of the measure, being simply relationship between numbers. To read a measure one must read the object in ‘ortho’ mode (straight, upright, right, correct). A projection system used in maps, architecture etc. where the rays are parallel. So the scaling or proportion system works, but can it work in a perspective mode? A building can have three major planes simultaneously perceptible, but affected by the visual foreshortening. Can the scaled relationships remain valid in perspective perception?



Measurement scaling, from mathematical series, Vitruvian or Corbusier’s Modulor systems were created for built forms and products. At a similar level musical scales and recitation metres have been defined. But can these musical scales and recitation metres be transposed to other scenarios like architecture? Conversely can anyone create musical composition with Corbusier’s Modulor system or use literary recitation metres for building design? Often numerical values are assigned to various types of data like opinions, judgements, and concepts, are these numbers amenable to scaling, and provide any rationale.


Functionality and the Environment are difficult to separate, as one seems to manifest the other. Spaces within the known range (of recognition) are predictable and so manageable. So strangeness or alienation of spaces is reduced by introducing elements that form a scale. Such scaling elements also serve other purposes like repetitions, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradation, acceleration-de-acceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, etc. Such scaling elements also occur naturally, like shadows. In architecture orthographic sciography the relationship is of 45°.


Scaling is a perception of relationships that are not just visual but involving all sensorial faculties. So when due to the environmental conditions or personal sensorial deficiencies, the sense of scaling may get fogged but for only one or few and not all faculties.


This is the 23 nd (in continuation of old series -new beginning) article on ISSUES of DESIGN




SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design -17

Post 654 -by Gautam Shah


An architectural space becomes relevant through the scaling. Scaling creates relational organization, where sub-elements get corollary connection and a holistic domain. A scale is for measurement, comparison, sequencing, progression, de-gression, etc. and so it is crucial factor for equivalence, balance, proportions, parallel, symmetry, analogy, proximity etc.

Dune_de_sable_au_parc_Culturel_De_l'AhaggarSize of a space and Scale of space are two distinct terms. Space size is fundamentally related to the human body, and represents the work capacities, reach distance and spread for the users. Size is a relative or comparative fact, which invests the space with functional and quantitative reference. The natures of cognition, physical extension, communication and exchanges are also functions of the space size. The levels of intimacy, the loss of objectivity and subjective involvements that occur in a space, are governed by its size. The size is seen as the facility of accommodation and also future potential for alternation, improvisation, and personalization.


The Scaling endows qualitative character to the space. Scaled spaces have multiple elements. The scaling occurs as duality, a comparison or juxtaposition between two things, or as numerosity that orders sequencing, arrangements, patterning, array, composition, progression, de-gression etc. Scaling is a factor crucial for acknowledging equivalence, balance, proportions, parallel, symmetry, analogy, proximity etc. At a simple level scaling interprets a space to be Large-Small, Wide-Narrow, Tall-Shallow, etc. Scaling also allows for recognition of the compositional geometry and intrinsic relationships, and for taking cognizance of the space in absence of mathematical tools. The constituent elements of a space are distinctly realized compounding of sensorial experiences (visual, touch, smell, taste, aural) and environmental effects (echoes, reverberation, reflection, illumination, glares, directionality etc.). The synthesis creates a conversionary scale, one that is ever-altering the form, size and functions of the space. Same space is perceived to be of different nature depending on the recent experiences, moods, physiological conditions and concurrence of other feelings.





Size of a space is an absolute factor of utility, like functional adequacy, anthropometric needs and sensorial reach capacities. These factors also show the effort and duration required to possess, occupy, use and even dispose off (de-possess, de-occupy) the spatial entity. Size of a space and the environment are interrelated. For a lay person, spaces within the known size and environment are manageable. Such spaces however, cannot always be created. For managing the strangeness or alienation of an even known space, it needs scaling elements like: repetitions, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradation, acceleration-de-acceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, relationships through modulation and proportioning, etc.


Scaling of a space occurs as duality, a comparison or juxtaposition with another element, or as a composition of multiple elements. But, in both cases, the other element/s need not be present contemporaneously. The other element/s may manifest as remembrance. The spaces can be scaled in hyper-reality. A space of a real world is measured, compared, juxtaposed, interpolated, or judged with an image composed of reality, dreams, desire, myth or mystery.

Palace Mumbai Taj Mahal Hotel Balconies


New built spaces, such as ‘buildings’, are very empty, and go without recognition or serve any exact purpose. Such spaces need to be scaled by elemental interventions of inhabitation. These elements make the spaces functionally purposive and ‘humane’. Such exercises are after the occupation of the space, and so involve the user. Built spaces also have variations of environment and cognition, but in addition, permit personalization.

Japan Buildings Asia District Geometry Shiodome640px-Little_Moreton_Hall_(6451326683)


Personalization of a space adds missing or enhancing elements to mark up, or occlude them to format scaling. The scaling of spaces chiefly occurs by occupancy and installation of amenities and enrichments. For temporary space occupation, the responses to space are perfunctory. It may cause alienation, worries, physical discomfort, and attempts are made to adopt or domesticate the space.



Spaces are scaled to users’ needs based on sex, age, social profile, access through subtle or obvious declarations and exclusive placement. The spatial elements are arranged with visual and aural considerations, grades of proximity, physical distancing, functionality, framing, masking, referencing, matching and contrasting. There are several social phenomena like vulnerability, isolation, privacy, seclusion, participation, groups dynamics, ethos, heritage continuity, etc. that help in spatial scaling.

Street_shops_and_lives_in_BhutanNeighbourhoods’ spaces are scaled to whatever is within reach of access through touch, vision, hearing or smell. The spatial elements are evident with variation of environment, level of cognition, adequacy for occupation and scope for interpersonal relationships.



At Absolute level a space is perceived as the difference between the Length and Width. It is seen as a narrow or wide entity. The height confers its own scale of narrowness or broadness to the space. Height accentuates or de-emphasizes the character of the space nominally contributed by the relation between the Length and the Width. The equality of Length and Width of space marks a balance. The orientation of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space. All these terms also give a sense of direction (long vs short) in the space.


This is the 17 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN



PERCEPTION through SCALES and CONVERSIONS -Issues or Design -3

Post 606 by Gautam Shah 


Our Faculties of Perceptions have inherent limitations. Our capacity of viewing, hearing, tasting or experiencing is within certain range. Beyond this natural range, our body shuts off the mechanism of perception, tones the reception to within the capacity of the body, or convert the sensations to some other form of experience. With certain tools we can enlarge or enhance the comprehension.


Forced Perspective of Gallery at Palazzo Spada Rome by Francesco Borromini 1632 > 8.6 mt long gallery gives illusion of 4 times the length > Wikipedia image by Livioandronico2013

We deal with entities in following order:

  1.  As they really exist in original measures, if in perceptible range.
  2. In their scaled representations, to bring them in a perceptible and manipulable range and for storage.
  3. Experience the imperceptible entities after their conversion to some other form.

Facade of Pantheon Paris -a proposal by Jacques-Germain Soufflo > Wikipedia image


Same Facade of Pantheon Paris with few changes but different light-shade > Wikipedia – Flickr image by besopha

We primarily perceive objects and happenings as they directly affect our sensorial faculties, with whatever their inherent limitations. We experience objects through the sensory affectations like light, colour, sound, temperature, smell, pressure, etc., as caused to our body. But such affectations are very subjective, and not easily accountable to any universal system of measurements. We can, however, emulate the changes elsewhere (as equivalents of physio-chemical-electrical changes in our body) and measure the ‘scale’ sensory affectations. For example, we measure the temperature as it affects the mass of mercury or a metal sensor. This allows measurements of range beyond body’s nominal capacity. Similarly inaudible sounds such as in ‘ultra or infra’ range can also be measured.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI > Wikipedia image by KasugaHuang

Real and Scaled entities need a familiar anchorage to set the orientation or reference. Maps and plans are nominally set to North as upward direction, or building entrance accessed from ‘plan read sides’ such as the bottom-up or right-inward. A sea or vast terrain map, requires a superimposed location matrix of Latitude and Longitude, and often Altitude from the mean sea level. Planetary maps are referenced with some familiar stars or configurations like constellations. Maps are reduced (or enlarged) to include a familiar feature like a coastline.


First Floor Plan of Winn Memorial library Woburn MA USA > Here seen as a flipped over image for a different perception > Wikipedia image

As a designer, a persistent exposure of certain views like plans, elevations, etc. is inevitable. The graphical compositions (of massing of objects, lineal flows, form-shapes, etc.) and their orientation from ‘image-read side’ conditions or rather mesmerizes the designers. To break of this persistency, one needs to re-look at the image by changing its orientation, changing the tonal value of a colour or monochrome image, by altering the scale of the image, by reversing (backside to front) or mirroring the image. Similar conditions arise when dealing with 3D objects like models. Architectural models are small size replicas of larger entities. These are more often than not seen from the top, creating a bias for ‘bird-eye’ view, resulting in articulated detailing of upper sections at the cost of road level specifics. Similarly architectural models deal more with the exteriors, and less to the interior configuration. This is sought to be resolved by placing or inserting ‘scope’ or thin tube-cameras in the lower and interior sections or by CAD aided 3D views.


Model of Marina Bay sands > Wikipedia image by Huaiwei

We record our experiences for posterity over some media, in some scalable version. A scaled and recorded version allow faster access and manipulation while reducing the storage space. A site plan drawn at a smaller scale allows one to comprehend larger extent, or the enlarged detail allows greater attention. Scaling also allows to override or attend to details. Designers are trained to manipulate, arrange, or compose scaled representations, and generally achieve results equal to their real size forms. Small scale models are replicas of the larger-real size object, though with fewer or selective details, and are used for variety of design processes.


For a Designer At any scale Perception remains consistent > Image from Pixabay by geralt

We generate plans and such representations of objects in monochrome colour, not just for the sake of printing economy, but to remove the biassed perception of colours. An ‘equal colour’ image allows for neat spatial experience. Conversely Sciography (=study of shades and shadows cast by simple architectural forms on plane surfaces) is used for accentuating the mass-void configuration. But problems arise due to vastly different results offered by Sciography over coloured versus monochrome objects.


Palais Garnier Entrance > Wikipedia image by Charles Garnier (1825-1898)

Surrogate, Metaphoric and Symbolic Representations: These are perceptions through conversions. Here we deal with complex entities by converting or translating them into Surrogate, Metaphoric and Symbolic representations. Designers work with such representations to achieve their design objectives. We use symbols like parallel line hatching to represent brickwork, trees on a contour map, lightening bar to show high voltage electrical current. Different trades have accepted signs and symbols to represent frequently used objects.


A Thermogram > Wikipedia image by Passivhaus Institute

Graphical Representations: Temperature or heartbeats as represented in a graph chart like a Thermal-gram or a Cardiogram, do not convey anything to a lay person. A written musical scale or stenographer’s phonetic language notes do not recreate the original sound, yet convey the meaning. A graphical representation stands for the original in a restricted sense. Nominally graphical representations are difficult to read, but with frequent exposure, one gains the proficiency to automatically interpret the conveyed information, as if it is the real happening. Such proficiencies are circumstance and person specific, and cannot be replicated everywhere or by everyone. Graphical representations, often create an ‘artistic’, proportionate, or an ‘aesthetic composition’ on their own.


Aviator’s Night vision Imaging system > Wikipedia image by Koalorka at en.wikipedia

In some situations Designers deal with a secondary graphical or scaled formation that represents another graphical or scaled entity. Designers, who deal with a variety of representations, scaled, graphical or metaphoric, are often not aware of the levels of conversions that distance the original. They are also oblivious of the transition from one form of representation to another. It becomes a ‘second nature’ for them. It is only when the desired objectives are not achieved, or when some unusual phenomena are discovered that a designer begins to re-search the process.


This is 3rd article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN