MODELLING of OBJECTS in SPACE -issues of design -20

Post 662 -by Gautam Shah


Objects in space, like architectural features, architectonic elements, furniture, furnishings and often occupants, are all moderated by scaling, positioning, contextual setting, distancing angling and sensorial attributes. In modern sense modelling is considered to be gestural and postural positioning of static or dynamic nature where, ‘dressed or configured’ entities and regulated surroundings enact an intended effect.


For a designer the purpose of modelling is to expose objects in a controlled manner. The controlled manner is either obvious or discreet. For a designer modelling offers individual recognition, inter-group relationships, comparison with others, signification and indication.


For modelling all sensorial faculties are stimulated, but visual perception followed by aural and tactile senses are extensively used. Modelling is also considered as the representation of an ‘additional dimension’ in a ‘two-dimensional image’, or revelation of additional information.


Modelling is a term closer to cartooning or cartoon making of the middle ages. Artists used to prepare full size replica-images of objects (trees, furniture, architectural elements) and common figures (saints, gods, angels, grotesque-forms) on starched fabric, paper or parchments, for tracing them out in murals and paintings. These were often leased out to others. But, most important modelling processes that of highlighting the form was not explored here.

Henry Moore Double Oval

Modelling at a very simplistic level has been used as a tool for highlighting individual objects by creating contrasting background, emphasizing the silhouette or by delineating the outer most edge with heavier line. Modelling by scaling is also much used method. Here important objects, story line actors or events are represented in larger scale, frontal position or on higher elevation, centric or perspective a focal point, or with brilliant detailing.

Modernism Concrete Le Corbusier India Ahmedabad

Important features of architecture were emphasized by designing illumination sources like openings and reflective planes. Le Corbusier always used reflective ceilings, walls or curvilinear planes (inside faces of cones, drums) against openings. These not only marked the opening emphatically but created a self-sustaining model. The same techniques were used in paintings. Henry Moore has in his sculptures explored the voids for modelling. Fashion shows for apparel are conducted on long raised walkways that offers bottom-up views for the connoisseurs, but few are inclined for ground level walkways, but rarely for zigzag movements. The later proposal makes it difficult for ‘modelling’.

Fashion Shows

Stage performance shows have audience exposure from limited range of angle, and modelling for such static position events are not very difficult. Media shows and soap-operas require very different norms of object modelling. The purpose of modelling is the view captured through the camera. There are multiple cameras with static or moving stations, different capacities of zooming and depth-width of field; all these need to be instantly fulfilled. But the illumination, positioning, depth, highlights etc. cannot be changed for each shot or frame, rather remains consistent. Instead online editing soft tools are used for the required modelling effects. Studio news casts are very fixed events, and so modelling remains equally static. To add life, live scene merging, morphing, voice-over, scene mixing etc. is used, but with poor results.



Architectural modelling was a style of presentation or a manner of expression through surrogate like scaled model or drawings. But architects have been subtly or explicitly involved in ‘forming’ their work as an intended impression. The designed entity is made to fit in the existential conditions or the interventions (like landscape) stretch beyond the nominal domain. It has many parallels in Art.

Marina Hotel Dubai

Architectural modelling has three basic approaches. At one level the observer moves around an object, for different tasks, in variable environmental conditions, and at varying distances and angles. At another level the objects shift (including other occupants) for the stationary observer. And in some circumstances the observer and observed entity both switch their positions.


Objects are scaled larger then functionally required (e.g. gates and door portals are large, but functional shutters are smaller). Objects are framed by larger but enclosing forms to emphasize smaller entities. Strategically placed openings not only capture a view, but are positioned as an object in the interior space. Top-heavy objects like shading devices, or bottom-heavy objects like pedestals, top-light entities like steeples, and bottom light stilted structures like gazebos or canopies were historical examples, but the language continues. In every building there are few points where modelling is obvious, like entrances, exits, stairs, escalators, receptions. Similarly some large areas like atrium, lobbies, passages, foyers, halls that need elemental modelling to divide-spread attention on multiple focuses. Distancing and angling are explored in public spaces like railway stations, airports, plazas etc. where spaces have multiple height connections.

Volga-Don Canal

Modelling of static objects, where the observer moves around it, is comparatively easy due to the fewer dynamics. First strategy could be to restrict the distance, angle, speed and range of movements of the observers. Second way could be to restrict the schedule of exposure and take advantage of sunlight. Third approach may regulate the encounter by suitable framing and occlusion. Fourth system involves designing a set of experiences to precondition the observer.

Modelling La_ola,_Jorge_Oteiza

In real life experiences we see the architectural entity and the user-beholder, both as dynamic set. We encounter such things, at real level in rides of amusement parks, trains, buses, plazas, planes, helicopters etc. and in hyper reality of games, training consoles, non-invasive medical instruments etc.


Opening systems like windows, skylights, clerestories provide the necessary natural luminescence (brightness or intensity) to show the form, colour and texture of spatial objects. Objects are perceived mainly due to the direction of light and its ever-changing nature. These are often enhanced, contrasted or subdued by reflectance and also by artificial illumination. The size and intensity of the luminescence determine the shadow density and so affect the ‘modelling’.

Sun and shadows Wikipedia Image by Karen Green

The first traces of the word modelling derives from French modelle or modèle, Italian modello or Latin modellus or modulus, as something made to scale, manner or measure architect’s set of designs, likeness made to scale, measure, standard (from root> med -to take appropriate measures). The sense to showcase or display garments or fashion design is comparatively recent’.


This is the 20 th (last) article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN …. but there are many draft articles on PC (Geometry in Design, Tactility in Spaces, Styling the styles, Designing Neighbourhood spaces, Brevity in Design), and that tempts me to continue.




Post 496  by Gautam Shah


In buildings and landscapes we move around with natural care. The care includes maintaining balance, controlling the speed of movement, knowing which of the body limbs are where, the direction of movement, orientation of the body and postural position. We sense our own body movement and external forces that quicken or slow it down, without using other sensual faculties. We sense the position of our body and the direction of movement. We also perceive the spatial position and orientation with three-dimensional references. And yet within that we attain and maintain the postural equilibrium.

Pic from Fickr through Wikipedia by Author : Bengt Nyman

Balance and movement are two interconnected experiences. Balance, equilibrioception, or vestibular sense is the sense that allows an organism to sense body Movement, Direction, and Acceleration. The organ of equilibrioception is the vestibular labyrinthine system found in both of the inner ears. In technical terms, this organ is responsible for two senses of angular momentum acceleration and linear acceleration (which also senses gravity), but they are known together as equilibrioception.

Exercises using the Interim Resistive Exercise Device (IRED) equipment NASA

The vestibular system, in most mammals, is the sensory system which is the main contributor for the sense of balance and spatial orientation. This serves the purpose of coordinating movement with balance. The vestibular system contains three semicircular canals in each labyrinth, generating three-dimensional sense. Perceptions through the vestibular system are very fast and can generate responses to maintain perceptual and postural stability. But yet compared to sensual perceptions like vision, touch and audition, the responses are little delayed.

Performing with mallakhamb India

Kinesthesis is the sense of the position and movement of body parts. Through Kinesthesis, people know where all the parts of their bodies are, how and which-way (direction) they are moving. Kinesthetic sense, provides the parietal cortex of the brain with information on the relative positions of the parts of the body. Receptors for Kinesthesis are located in the muscles, joints, and tendons.


The sense of balance or equilibrium provides information about where the body exists in space. When the vestibular system gets stimulated, in absence of any other perceptions (like seeing, hearing or touching) we still experience the body movement. In space craft, engineers are checked for their sense of perceptivity of balance and equilibrium in darkness and near zero sound environments. We control speed of movement while going down a hill. The sense of going up or down on a clockwise or anti-clock-wise spiral stair is predictable, because we relate to all those experiences in some other references. ‘A person in complete darkness and sitting in a chair will feel that he or she has turned to the left if the chair is turned to the left’. Similarly, the sense of balance tells people ‘whether they are standing up, falling in an elevator, or riding a roller coaster’.

Tapper balancing act on coconut tree .





Most experienced speakers, stage actors and musicians (vocal and instrument players) have an innate or learned capacity to improvise their output immediately on encountering a new space. They readjust -their output according to the audio response from the nature of space.


The Nature of Space is determined by several objective and Subjective factors.


The objective factors are the size, scale, shape and form (hard vs soft surfaces) of the architectural space. Other objective factors include degree of echoes or reverberation in the space, quality of public address system, location and direction of the speaker or musician, etc. The occupancy or crowding in the space, and the nature of garments, furniture and furnishings also affects the perception of sound. The background noise seeping to the speaker or performer’s area and the audience, or to the listener (in small gatherings) could be very different. This means that a performer may not perceive the audience or listener’s environment. Only way to sense this is through the recognition of behavioural responses. Experienced speaker or performer raises the voice and change the tonal quality, and if there is a longer reverberation, the pauses are widened and delivery stretched in time.


Speaker or performer sense the space and focus the address to that part of the audience, where Sound delivery is perceived to be inadequate. The performer use enlarged body language and dress movements to supplement the Sound.



 Post –by Gautam Shah



Peripheral zones of an interior space are aligned to the edge of the space, and therefore away from the core zone. It is this distance, between the core and peripheral sections that qualifies their meaning. Another qualifying mark is their surroundings. Peripheral zones draw a lot of energy from across the edge or defining barriers whereas the core zone is affected only slightly by the enveloping periphery.


Peripheral zones are vulnerable to outside influences due to their closeness with the edge and also their distance from the core section. A core zone is dominated by the domain’s main and common activity, whereas the peripheral zones are distinctive escape areas and so have diverse utility. Peripheral zones derive their functionality from nature of barriers. Peripheral zones emerge as an antithesis or concurrent space segment of the core zone. The peripheral zones are affected differently by the directional and temporal aspects of the environment. A peripheral zone is often relevant only for a while, to an individual, or for an activity.



Once the extent of the peripheral zone was determined by the concern for safety, warmth from the fire, the need for privacy, scale of the task-activity and distancing from elements (to reduce their intensity and reach). The barriers, wherever available, formed the edge sections of the peripheral zone. These were also used for reclining, resting, hanging personal items and for expression (artwork).




Peripheral zones are primarily shaped by the core zone, but are more often affected by the nature of the periphery of neighbouring domains and happenings beyond. The edge areas allow a person to selectively taste the happenings of outside-world even while remaining inside. Peripheral zones are flexible, i.e. can be stretched or contracted from their nominal spread. Domain transgression occurs through the periphery. Peripheral zones are dual faced, so one can orient an activity towards or away from the core area. For any other positioning one may require strong metaphysical reason.


Peripheral zones often develop as an acutely specific zone. Study nooks in bedrooms, coffee rooms with the dining area, hobby zones in kitchens, home offices with vestibules, retiring rooms in private offices, vaults in banks, store rooms with homes and offices, wardrobes, shower stalls, change rooms in boutiques, cashiers’ cabins, pilot or driver’s cabins, reception counter, janitor area, services ducts, podiums in lecture halls, green rooms with a performance stage, ticket booths, telephone kiosks, are all examples of peripheral zones separated from the core zones.


Peripheral areas mark the end of one space entity and beginning of another one. Peripheral zones are thresholds to other space entities, and occur or are perceived to be an intermediate or buffer state. Thresholds are interactive areas, and alter (qualitatively) the elements transiting through it. Their activeness arises from their level of transparency and thickness (mass of the barrier) both of which control (rate, direction) the exchange. Thresholds also occur as an interstice on the overlapping barriers. Here two effects are simultaneously operative.

headquarters-library-building-725x483The space barriers, such as walls, roofs, awnings, curtains, partitions, ceilings, etc. form a focussed space. Yet these barriers also create segments that are more strongly attached to the periphery. The barriers, however, are always prone to change from outside effects. There are two distinct places for group mechanisms -the focal and the peripheral sections.


Lecture halls, bed rooms, modern kitchens are single activity areas, and so focussed units, but road side cafes are peripheral. An older style kitchen sourcing its services off a wall was more peripheral, whereas modern kitchens have island workstations, is more of the core centric arrangement. A drawing room like the dining area is focussed for an activity, but a family room is multi functional and so less focal. Fire was the focus of the primitive home, and TV has become the current focus of home gathering. A physical feed-based work station is peripheral, but a wireless notepad computer offers flexibility of being anywhere.