OBJECTS in SPATIAL FIELDS -Issues for Design -14

Post 642 –by Gautam Shah

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A spatial field is a definable extent of reality, occupied by: Physical elements such as objects, humans and other beings, Non physical things like environmental effects, air, illumination, etc. and Ephemeral presences like relationships, geometries, remembrances.

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Milan Cathedral Roof > Wikipedia image by Jakub Halun

 The SPATIAL FIELD

The spatial field consists of:

1 changing environmental conditions;

2 elements that are distanced from other elements, and so have potent relationships;

3 elements that are adjacent and so allow comparisons of scale or contrast, and have implicit connections;

4  elements that are partly concealed by other elements covering up the cuts, corners, edges and such other definitive elements, and have characteristic scale and distance;

5 elements obscuring the presence of other elements.

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A Tree obscuring the important junction detail > Pixabay Image by WikiImages Deutsch

ELEMENTS of SPATIAL FIELD

Spatial field and Environment are perceptible totality. A spatial field is perceived as a static event but the changing environment make it a dynamic happening.Changes are necessary in the spatial fields for us to see anything at all”. Other dynamics include, eye and body movements, changes in surroundings, movement of the objects, and shifting position of the perceiver.

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Spatial field and the Environment Holes in the roof > Flickr image by Hans Splinter

The elements in spatial fields have surfaces with colour and texture. The surfaces also have geometric configurations like convex, concave single or double curvatures. The surfaces have edges at the ends and intermediate breaks. The surfaces, present themselves with inclinations towards or away, in vertical, horizontal and other directions from the perceiver.

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Multiplicity of forms and Complexity > Roofs MaxPixel image (http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/House-Roofs-Roofs-Architecture-Roofing-Red-Tile-565362

The elements in spatial fields have forms. The forms are composed of planes that are representations of solids, pretender fill-in-planes between wire networks, or apparent surfaces that are evident between points. These forms have two distinct qualities: have a gravity-based orientation or references, and are perceived in receding perspective. The second quality is highly dynamic, so offers a taste of reality.

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Forms in spatial field > The Willow Tearooms Glasgow designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh > Wikipedia image by Dave souza

The forms can be of lines, such as in wire-frames, within which the surfaces are presumed to dwell, but without the nominative texture or colour. In such hollowed forms, the shadows of the frames complicate the perception of the holistic form.

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Roof frame for the Royal Albert Hall > Wikipedia image by KlickingKarl

The forms in spatial fields are compositions of regular or familiar surfaces, so even a partial reveal can disclose the entireness. Where the forms are of continuously and irregularly varying surfaces, then unless entire form is perceptible or from many directions, its totality cannot be known.

The forms in spatial fields often have orientation of sub-segments that depicts a direction or movement. When such directions are congruent, the form gains a momentum. Similar ‘things’ appear to be grouped together. Alternatively we connect several incoherent elements into a form with dominant theme  of the scene.

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Building a narrative from Elements > Pixabay image by WikiImages Deutsch

Scene building or Spatial narratives commence from parts. One takes in few particular sets, rather than searching for the wholeness. The scene or the narratives get built when cognized sets and our past experiences come together. “We do not just see, but look”. In a spatial field scene building occurs by moving along a predefined path, by shifting the elements and by delaying, hastening or filtering the environmental effects. Designers build scenes or spatial narratives by framing the vista with opportunistic framing, occluding certain sections and by modifying the foreground-background contrasts.

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Modelling the elements in a spatial field > Corridor > Pexels image

Modelling the Elements in spatial field, is posing of objects and people including own self, to make them noticeable. The process first requires the realization and than corrective measures. For realization one needs to perceive the element from multiple cues, which may be similar to many others, close to each other, interconnected, and part of a complex pattern. The corrective measures include perceptual aggregation of a visual scene. Here the edges, if, are breached, need virtual bridges, to form a larger extent and a perceptible whole.

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Securing a coherent pattern from multiple elements > Many stories on stairs > L’Arche de la Defense Paris > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Structuring a pattern from multiplicity of elements is a process carried out in many different environmental conditions, referencing cues and positions of perception. Regions of space are natural zones, and elements occurring in them seem related. Such regions of space have similar environmental exposure, form, extent, or belong to the same perspective. Patterns replicate a form in many scaled versions, similarity of placement, orientation and contextual relevance.

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Cyclist in foreground against a simpler background forming a silhouette > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Silhouettes in a spatial field are the edges or boundaries of forms. Edges distinctly delineate or separate the foreground (from background). Extreme silhouettes emerge when the foreground (the form) is extensive and without any details, and the background is vibrant. The vibrant background helps in bridging the breaks that may exist in the form. Distinguishing the foreground from the background is a task difficult for scenes that fall in visual (cone) of perception. Nominally we perceive dark colour to be a deeper element and the lighter colour to be a nearer one, but with silhouette formation a reversal is forced, creating a myth. Silhouettes in nature (sun-set or sun-rise) are short lasting, so elements with back-lit fields are perceived to be transient.

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Background-Foreground with equal value > Horses in Parc du Chateau de Versailles > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Familiarity in Spatial field is unexplainable connection. Things that are in a foreground are proximate, and so have the first claim of familiarity. The relevance of purpose offers next level of familiarity. But when other elements in the scene compete in terms of size, orientation or distancing, a dilemma occurs.

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Recognition due to the elemental familiarity > Petra Jordan > Flickr Image by Pierre Metivier

Stratification of view in a spatial field occurs at many different scales. Stratification is horizontal sectioning and vertical segmentation, and both aided by situation and architectural elements. A person at the interior edge can view the exterior with movement of head and eyes, but from a depth visual limitation is imposed. Similarly skylights allow unchanging sky view whereas a very tall sill level cuts-off the view of the ground.

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This is the 14 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

 

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SPATIAL ORGANIZATION of OBJECTS and BEHAVIOUR

Post 600 by Gautam Shah (16 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)

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Objects in space need recast from time to time. Such recast is needed for domestic, commercial and other spaces. The recast interventions by the users themselves are continuous one but in small lots. The user caused changes are experimental and casual but persist to amass as a substantial change over the years in the character or style of the built-space. There are few changes that are beyond the users’ perception, capacity or authority, and so are assigned to professionals as contractual or periodical assignments. The objects’ reorganization in a space by a user, a lay person, relate to the rearrangements or installation of demountable and movable entities. The assignments to professionals, however, are far more encompassing, and may result into re-configuration of the space shell.

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Entrance hall of National Air and Space Museum Washington DC Wikipedia image by Jawed Karim

Space planning needs a recast when changes in building shell or structure (planned or accidental) alters the spatial quality. When key elements of the building or its amenities-facilities are technologically upgraded, it triggers new space planning. Historically buildings have seen major revamps, when gas replaced coal as cooking fuel, and electricity provided the illumination. Similarly piped water supply and organized drainage systems have changed, not only location of toilets within the dwelling, but its internal arrangements. Dining once separated from ‘not so presentable kitchen space‘, however now once again merging due to the efficient and clean cooking processes, smaller families and reduced engagement periods. Offices became ‘open plan’ affair from partitioned cabins, but now internet connections let one operate from home.

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Payment of Tithes (tax) (also known as village lawyer) Art by Pieter Brueghel the Younger 1564-1638

Domestic spaces are continuously improvised by the users, and for the first decade or more, may not require any radical changes. A user -a lay person accepts a ‘reasonable design’ by a professional, and may not engage a professional for any modifications. The changed circumstances or family profile of the user, such as family profile, age, physical abilities, marital status, financial profile, professional activities, new intra-personal relationships and group dynamics, choices and social compatibility, force a redesign of space objects’ arrangements. Built spaces also see major change when ownership changes. Domestic space planning is mainly self authored, and even where a professional is involved, it is controlled. Professional help is, however, actively sought by users, who are highly motivated with income or comparable social tastes and choices.

The user’s understanding of the space is deep, simplistic, devoid of the technicalities, but a subjective one. The user, primarily, relies on spatial rearrangement and micro adjustments of the space entities. Secondly, the user buys ready-made items, gets it produced, or craft it on own. Thirdly, the user exploits the add-ons and enrichments for micro level space making, while imparting a personal flavour. The persistent engagement of the user with the space, however, alters the spatial arrangements.

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Inside of Bomber craft Wk Nr 701152 > Wikipedia image by Dapi89 @ en.wikipedia

Space organization is very encompassing and an adoptive exercise requiring technical skills. Professional designers handle it by developing a holistic strategy or an integrated approach. Designers also have a selfish professional interest of impressing the client and the society at large with an invigorating solution.

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Space with potential > Bell Labs Eero Saarinen Flickr image by soadapop

The control over a space derives from the right to perceive, execute, alter, explore and exploit the organization of objects within a space. For this one may not legally own or be a tenant of the space. A visitor to a space causes a new spatial arrangement by positioning own-self or by being part of a group, at some place. Members of a family or a group get a sense of belonging by such an access. Other way around, people feel ‘at-home’ with object organizations that offer semblances ethnic or cultural familiarity. A sense of equality and pride also occurs when the spatial arrangements are similar as in public housing schemes.

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Egyptian theme at Harrods for branding London > Wikipedia image by Targeman

Commercial spaces see more frequent changes, in terms of the tenants and business styles. Commercial spaces are rejuvenated by the professionals and the changes could be accommodative. The changes are extreme and overhauling, wherever styles or brand images are to be refashioned. Space planning is also affected due to the user related causes such as: new concepts, aspirations, realizations, technology, variations in usage intensities, repairs and maintenance, optimum standards in society. Commercial spaces see major renovations that start with new space planning. Businesses are becoming subsidiaries or franchises of larger entities, and the space planning is a matter of branding.

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GUCCI Hong Kong > Wikipedia image by Kwanyatsw

At domestic level traditions and taboos are followed for placing the objects in space. Commercial spaces and hospitality spaces reflect a mix of local mentality, good practices, and new trends elsewhere. Traditions emerge after years of usage and portray the geographical, historical, cultural, religious and technological preferences. The trends show universal preferences emerging from cross reactions of many art forms. The objects in space and their organization offer several postural and interaction possibilities, affecting the personal relationship as well as group behaviour dynamics.

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India follow strict protocol for seating positions

Space planning and behaviour as political etiquette is a time-tested mannerism formalized in government protocol manuals. It shows how two, equal or unequal status, heads of state or such entourages must meet. It indicates the nature of seats, intervening pieces of furniture, the backdrop for the meet, and enrichments that are appropriate, and ones that must be avoided.

The chairs for personal meeting of two important (equal status) personalities (e.g. Presidents of two nations) are upright single seat units (placed parallel but very slightly angled @140°). But we still find dignitaries taking on micro postures by moving towards or leaning on one hand-rest, sitting cross way (diagonally), leaning forward or backward. The reasons are: one is trying to enlarge or reduce the distance, take postures that imply affability, propriety, esteem, etc. However, the sitting arrangement between two unequals, like a president and a prime minister (or a prime minister and a foreign minister) have two unequal (size, form, style) types of seats. The person with higher status sits in a single seat unit, whereas the other party is made to sit at a right angle, and on a wider seat (double or triple seat sofa or even stiffer – upright seat). The furniture arrangement, the angle and the distance between them are regulated by set of rules or ‘protocol’. In spite of the strict protocols people through micro posturing do subconsciously express their real attitude. The body language is just one facet of behaviour that reveals the nature of the encounter.

Recognition is also important for expression and communication. The deficiencies of personality are made up by the surroundings. Some of the tricks, people consciously or otherwise use to draw recognition are: Standing against a wall but little away from it, occupying a single seat rather then share one, positioning against bland background then any clustered or busy face, sitting in a tall, upright and an uncomfortable chair opposed to an easy and low height seat. A person feels secure if protected from at least one side and can control the distance for group behaviour dynamics.

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Behaviour for respect of age > Bolivian VP with Noam Chomsky in NYC > Wikipedia image by Mathew Straubmuller from Bethesda MD USA

A person must get the benefit of natural attributes of the personality such as age, sex and social stature. One may not feel confident and so secure, if under a continuous gaze or surveillance. Feeling of security is more enhanced in known spaces or spaces with a familiar set-up. Large spaces with adequate points of anchorage or interventions make a person feel secure. People feel secure with exits points like a door, stairs, passages, aisles near them. A view of outside adds to security but the same could also be direction of an unknown threat. Presence of handling, holding or barricading devices adds to security, even if one may not have intention or need for using it.

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Spaces with Potential, Abandoned factory > Wikipedia image by Degrootelulu

Spatial organization of objects is an ever evolving process. Buildings, spaces have had use-specific purpose, with matching architectonic and functional provisions. Structures lasting several decades or centuries, see many reorganizations, but circumspect by the structural elements. Rational Gothic structures offered layouts with minimal occupation by walls and translucent latticed partitions of wood and iron offered visually connected spaces. It was realized that for space organization, functional and perceptual inter-connectivity, were more important considerations, then just the size-volume of the space. Post 20th C. other thoughts were added such as providing for future growth, access for the disabled, safety, security, etc. Corporate organizations replaced the layered system to team or department-based structures which favour classless, transparent or open layouts.

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Accounts branch of Government Printing office in Brisbane 1921 > Wikipedia image

Industrial age offered systems that were less bulky, due to use of electric as the source of energy and newer materials. The facilities and amenities that were structural bearing, now multi became independent, mobile or easily relocatable, multitasking miniatures and affordable. This freed lot of space and reduce the burden on structures. The space organization as a planning rationale for task efficiency emerged in this age. These initiated ‘systems’ for spatial organization. The gadgets were conceived as fitments into a space, with planned connectivity and inter gadget relationships. Women’s hobby magazines of the time took it further, creating ‘work efficiency layouts with behavioural considerations. For example, a window over a cooking range and sink were a result of these attitudes. At industrial level the continuous line production layouts were favoured over batch-based systems. Due to lighter steel roofs with North lights and electric illumination, it was now possible to design ‘mega foot print’ spaces for commercial and industrial purposes. Commercial spaces were redefined with electric illumination, piped heating-cooling equipments, telephony and organized document storage. Space reorganization became a frequent affair but with new departmental stores (1950s) it was even a quicker change.

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Wall dependent office layout of 1900s > Wikipedia image

Early offices had, peripheral or along the wall work tables, storage systems and cubicles or cabins. This gradually gave way to half height partitioned or ‘compartmental office spaces’. But today, according to the International Facility Management Association, 68% of North American employees work in offices with an open floor plan or open seating. Open offices are space inefficient due to the larger area per employee.

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Office with electric illumination > Wikipedia image from National Archives and Records Administration College Park,

 Offices during and immediately after world war-II period had as much 50% of the total space devoted to storage. These were separated from work areas, and manned by store keepers. The store room volume and traffic to it were reduced with several technologies such as document facsimile systems, telecommunication, automated file access including the mechanical card-index sorting machines. Digital documents with computerization solved the problems of file storage, access and transfer. Now the offices were nearly fully ‘human occupied spaces’.

Older employees and traditional businesses like, law, finance and other professionals, who have worked from cubicles, cabins and corner offices, find it difficult to adopt open offices. Open offices are blamed for affecting privacy, client relationships, employee productivity, loss of sense of belonging, and even compromising the morale.

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Personal work area > Wikipedia image by AlainV

 Open office layouts provide a visual cohesiveness and spatial continuity. It also incorporates the concept of compact personal work module, -a work station. Computers had similar work stations or dedicated utility for multi tasking. Earlier crafts’ people like a watch repairer, engravers, a gold smith had such dedicated facilities.

Wireless technology and cloud storage software make it easier for companies to embrace nomadic workstations, says Frank Rexach, a Shanghai-based vice president and general manager at Haworth. Rexach says ‘People don’t want to feel handcuffed to their desk, especially the Millennials’ (= young people who were between the ages of 10 and 20 on September 11, 2001 defined as per Newsweek magazine).

The dedicated work facilities were mainly based on using tapped or sourced connections and exclusive offerings (processing facilities Auto-Cad, audio-video editing, desk-top publishing). With technological advancement these were available on all systems. Mobile phones, Laptops, and tablets were de-linked due to chargeable batteries and wireless connections. The digital processing anywhere allowed work location and schedule of choice. The office space has now turned into a casual place for personal interaction. Of course this function too can be met by video conferencing.

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Unassigned seating in the office > Wikipedia image by Jacob Botter

The office space has become an unassigned seating place. The need to personally interact remained as acute, and perhaps emerged more stronger. The meeting rooms are common or rented facilities. Its interior space has high efficiency ambience but does not match the corporate aspirations of a ‘personal space’. In a different perspective, something similar is happening on educational campuses. The teacher-student relationship is missing on personal contacts. The lecture hall is partly replaced by seminar or workshop rooms.

Just like open office plans, many entities such as the partition less residences, self access retail outlets, libraries and kindergarten rooms have transient furniture elements. Glass curtains walled commercial buildings, etc. are also conceived to be boundless spaces. The boundless spaces are assumed to enhance the intra-personal interactions.

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This post forms 16 th of the Sixteen part of Lecture series on Behaviour in Space that I will be offering for the spring semester starting Jan 2016 (to mid April2016) at School of Interior Design, Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/BoudinRedRoom.jpg >> The Red Room as designed by Stéphane Boudin during the administration of John F. Kennedy

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS and INTERACTIONS

-Post -by Gautam Shah

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Seating arrangements influence the nature of interaction in a group. Space planning is key to design for social interactions. Circular seating provides a better environment for interaction. A hearth has been the focus of circular arrangement. However, in a circular seating arrangement individuals interact more with the person on opposite side rather than adjacent to them. That is why when a person conducts a group, or if there is a designated leader, the circular arrangement becomes a bow. It is observed that in four-person groups (or arrangements), favourable interaction occurs among persons seated closer together rather then facing one another. This could be the reason why young couples prefer to sit at right angle, compared to seasoned couples who prefer to sit opposite to each other.

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It is found that when eye-contact is diffused, a side-by-side interaction is preferred to across-the-table interaction. The eye contact is diffused by distance, strong and focussed lighting below the eye levels, occlusion due to intervening objects like decorative food or flower vases. Diffusion may also happen when the opposite person is socially unknown or repugnant.

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Very large group meeting tables (dining, conference, etc.) are designed to be of large width or with a well. Contrary to this tables are of very small width to provide intimacy, bonhomie and revelry, such as for picnics, outdoor eateries, and reunions. Coffee houses tables are small sized to encourage intimacy.

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Three persons sharing a circular or triangle table is highly awkward arrangement. Similarly tables with a narrowing end create a clumsy situation unless at the wide end a leader (or presentation screen for slide show or video) holds the attention. Larry King live -the famous programme host used a table with tapered shape to position the guest (perhaps depending on the personality) at desired place and thereby control the distance of interaction.

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Nature of interaction is defined by the spatial distancing. The spatial distancing could be the clear distance between the seats and one that can be manipulated by posturing. Seat distances such 450 mm are intimate, over 750 to 1200 mm are personal, over 1200 to 3500 allow social or eye contact, and over 3500 mm one has control over interaction, but beyond 15 mts one needs other means of enlargement  to achieve interaction. Though different cultures and contexts may elicit alternative expectations on distance of interaction.

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The concept of spatial distancing and interaction have different connotations. Chat rooms, bulletin boards email, twitter and Skype etc. allow communication among strangers. Some of these mediums miss the personal feedback or a face-to-face context. Every media set has its own defined or expected culture, and anyone who do not abide by it is considered violating the spatial relationships. The person is considered less sociable than those who do not commit such violations.

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