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



SCALING the SPACES -Issues for design-9

Post 617 –by Gautam Shah


Architectural spaces become relevant through scaling. Scaling creates an organization, where sub-elements are allied to form a holistic domain. The space when interpreted as Large-Small, Wide-Narrow, Tall-Shallow, deep-short, etc. relates to some adjacent reality, or some remembrance. But spaces are perceived in terms task accommodation (functional adequacy), anthropometric needs, sensorial reach capacities, social interactions vibes (privacy, intimacy), degree of objectivity and subjective involvements. Scaled space sizes bring forth proportions, modulation, analogy, sequencing, balance, incidental and regular occurrences, harmonics etc.


Tashichhoe Dzong at Thimpu, Bhutan > Wikipedia image by Rainer Haebner

 Shape and Scale of a space have no relationship. Exterior or Interior shape of a space entity can mislead the perception of the scale. Similarly a very extensive space will need ‘stepping or connecting elements’ within the perceptible range. Spaces that have been substantively transgressed inward-outward, the shape may have been deformed, but the scale remains a relevant factor.


Street scene at Ephesus at Anatolia Turkey Wikipedia image by Ad Meskens

Scale is a matter of sensorial experience. Scaling is predictable and manageable in spaces within the known range of perception (visual, aural, touch or proximity, etc.). The strangeness or alienation of a space is reduced by introducing scalable elements such as: repetitions, harmonics, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradations, acceleration deceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, relationships through modulation and proportioning, etc.


Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London > Wikipedia image by Hans Peter Schaefer

A space is perceived to be small, adequate or large in terms of various tasks, and in terms of responses it offers such as echoes, reverberation, reflection, illumination, glares, depth and width of vision. With the same size and shape of space these elements offer varied experiences, some seeming related and some confounding. Within a space, the size changes (and thereby the proportions) to provide variegated settings for different activities. These changes in a space also cause marked shift in human behaviour. Designers, intentionally avoid as well as include such confirmations and contrasts, but even then surprises do occur. Such spatial manipulations and surprises are further exploited by the users for individualization.


German Chancellery Berlin > Wikipedia image by Bruckels

Environment is a consistent space modulator. The environment changes the spatial scale on moment to moment basis. Since these both, seem to occur in conjunction, in design, we try to inculcate one with the other. An environment scales the space more effectively in the peripheral areas the core remains less dynamic. Again a design tool to shift the space. Scaling by environment becomes exciting because natural illumination, solar gains, etc., are directional.


Environmental variations and space scale modulation > Sky Garden atop the ‘Walkie-Talkie > Wikipedia image by user: Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Our perception faculties are directional and nodal. Hearing and vision, are bi-nodal. Vision, smell and taste faculties are frontal, whereas touch is non-local. These variations in perception affect how elements scaling the space are perceived. Shapes like convex, concave or parabolic curvatures modify the movement. Planes that slope away or towards the user, mean opening or closing of the form. Right and left turns have culture specific relevance which may override presumed biological preferences.


Sydney Opera House > Wikipedia image by Enoch Lau

Directional emphasis for scaling is also very important for orientation. Gravity offers a parallel to the ground plane, the horizontal, and a counter effect as the vertical. The horizontal and vertical make the scaling of space resolutely simpler, and every other scaling to be dynamic or unstable. The stability of gravity and stability of vertical allows forms to be wider at base, the inevitable force for space scaling.

At Absolute level the size is perceived as the difference between the Length and Width of a space. 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.


Street, Sana’a, Yemen > Wikipedia image by Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia

Narrow spaces have length as the dominant scaling factor. Narrowness of the space could be a carryover of the past experiences or a psychological condition. Narrow spaces have domineering effect of the side barriers, more so if these are opaque, that is without any break or transgression. The scaling elements in such spaces are like, the doors, windows, columns, corners, benches, niches, public address systems, focussed illumination spots, air movement-delivery and ventilation nodes (fans, air conditioners, heaters), stair entrances, junctions (cross corridors, floor cutouts), signboards, parapets, ash trays, etc.

Scaling of narrow spaces can be experienced in art exhibition galleries, which tend to be linear spaces, but similar areas in museums show master pieces for distanced viewing. The hall of mirrors, Versailles is a classic example of long space; opaque on one side and fully windowed on the other side.

Size in a neighbourhood space is perceived in terms of the reach. Whatever is within reach (of touch, vision, hearing or smell) is considered the neighbourhood space. Here the recognition of reach also defines its functional adequacy for interpersonal relationships and related behaviour. Occupation of large public spaces is challenging. One needs points for anchorage, a direction for orientation, presence of other human being (or an animal like a dog) for confirmation, and a ready strategy for exit in any exigency, but all scaled to personal relevance.

A hazy or foggy atmosphere dulls as much as a bright sunny day highlights the spatial elements through enhanced light and shadow differentiation.

Past midnight in absence of nearby background noises, the far-off sounds are acutely heard, increasing the extent of the neighbourhood space.

Hospital wards seem very strange (large) to a patient, in comparison to domestic (small home) spaces, because the space size proportions are different and surfaces are harder and less absorbent (causing reverberation to be different), background noises are less passive, illumination levels are brighter during day and night, furniture and furnishings are unusual, in addition to sickness and weakened mental faculties.

Occupation of domains with unusual proportions (combinations of lengths, widths, and height) and sizes require extra efforts of accommodation.


Old Roman Theater at Ephesus > Wikipedia image by Eoe gian at En Wikipedia 

Amphi theatre performances require large frill dresses, loud dialogue delivery, spaced out movements -theatrics, real or make-believe sub-zoning of the stage. Large space audiences can be reached through public address system, a large podium, stage setting, colour-light highlighting, etc. People in large spaces like airports and marriage halls reach out to others through wild gestures, shouting etc.

Shape configurations are closed or open ended, and show potential of scaling through distension, contraction, or attachments. The spatial scaling when include such edges formations, the subsets become very complex entities.

This is the 9 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN