Post 708 -by Gautam Shah


Building Systems have many elements, real and conceptual. Order, Core, Periphery, are the Real or physical elements, whereas Convergent zones, time-space relevance and Domain identities are the conceptual elements.

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ORDER: Order is an inherent characteristic of all building systems. Order begins to emerge as soon as parts and components are selected for inclusion in a building system. Initially, building systems have order that is alogical and loosely definable, and it may or may not be apparent. But it is noticeable when the system begins to perform. At this stage, in simple system the order is obvious, logical and definable. But in nonphysical systems the order can be elusive due to the scale and complexity. Yet recognition of order in a system helps in many ways:

  • It helps the definition of a system.
  • It endows self sufficiency, so that the system can become an ever replaceable component.
  • It provides nodes for dependency so that the system becomes integrated whole.

cour napoléon du musée du louvre avec pyramide 75001

In all building systems the primary orders are: selection (inclusion and exclusion) of parts, components, etc. and the process of assembly or manufacture. However, in complex systems there are many levels and categories of orders, chiefly selective time-space relevance of components. Some parts and components remain latent, but become relevant in specific conditions.

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Every human effort follows some intrinsic logic’. Parts of an entity, even before being manufactured and even before physically placed together, have some degree of coordination. The coordination begins within the thought processes of the Designer along with the formation of concept for the object.

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Another important characteristic of building systems is their domain or territory. This is very apparent in physical systems, but nonphysical systems seem infinite with no edges. However, metaphysical systems have a zone where they are adequately active in comparison to sections where such systems are diffused, i.e., partially effective.

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Recognition of order in building systems, are both subjective and objective. Subjective involvement allows the system author to see through the nascent logic, or prevent the recognizing the order. Objective evaluation of the system by an uninvolved person rides over personal biases. Objective evaluation by stakeholders can occur for substantially realized or an operational system.

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CORE OR NUCLEUS: Building systems have a strong focus or conceptual foundation from which other subsystems emanate or converge to. In building systems, a focus like core or nucleus is the zone where one establishes conceptual mooring or begin encounters with the system. The core distinguishes two directions: inward and outward.

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The conceptual systems have no edges or definitive extent. So encounters with the atmosphere as a system begins at the surface of the earth, i.e. technically at the optimum sea level. The core in such nonphysical or conceptual systems is a multi faceted and transient phenomena because some of the subsystems verge here for a while or seem to have a bearing here.

In buildings Core or Nucleus is an exclusive zone, less variable. A core zone is a singular entity and contrasted with peripheral areas, which are of many different types.

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PERIPHERY: In building systems the barricades (walls, roofs, doors, windows, etc.) the periphery zones are well defined. The strength of buildings barricades show the holistic character. Sub systems here have some semblances of independence but within the confines of peripheral barricades. The periphery zones or edges are recognized when a subsystem touches other subsystems of neighbouring domains. During rest of the conditions the periphery may not be perceptible. The periphery is well delineated in systems that exchange information or transfer energy at specific nodes and through some protocols.

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CONVERGENT ZONES: Convergent zones are more apparent in conceptual systems as the intervention areas formed by overlapping subsystems and also by gaps or interludes between the subsystems. The convergence and gaps-interludes occur, both in time and space. A loosely conglomerated system like the transit, courier, etc. consist of several modulated units, occurring across different regions, or across technologies. Here planned or recognized gaps and interludes give all subsystems a component like ‘replaceable’ identity. The gaps and interludes are not completely devoid, but are full of metaphysical things, as in case of solar system. Systems flourishing, at different periods or across geographical regions can have concepts, ideas, etc. that are common, making them universal.

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TIME-SPACE RELEVANCE: These are more apparent in very large systems, more so in conceptual systems. These systems have diffused edges and overlapping identities with other systems. It is a selective and subjective perception, because the large system reveals itself in parts. The perception is conditioned by the location and occasion.

Old Architecture Building Facade Window Hauswand

DOMAIN IDENTITY: Domains form a place, a physical or conceptual one. Real domain s have a territory, whereas conceptual ones have extent of effectuality. The conceptual domain is a belief or a conduct to sustain a myth. The acceptance or confirmation of it gives a sense of participation and control but without any distinctive ownership. Physical systems have a finite edge and so reflect an exclusive domain. All Domains are conferred with certain social, cultural and political ideologies. A domain identity marks what is internal and external to a system. It indicates how a system is part of the larger system. It identifies nodes for dependency or connectivity of the system.

This is the 30th article (in continuation of old series -new beginning) on ISSUES of DESIGN.



Post 446  –by Gautam Shah




Traditional building systems are massed in one to one relationships or linear, because we design components that are individually dealt, drawn, built and operated. This makes it easier to deal with subsystems in different time, space by different experts. A systems approach to design, render simple or linear systems. Building systems are conceived as structures with superfluous concern for environment or the occupants. Same building composition is placed on all orientations and site conditions. In many instances the ‘architecture is so much internationalized’ that it is moored anywhere, irrespective of climate, location or terrain. The universalization leads to ‘forms being imposed without concern for the purpose’. The only complexity that descends is in the form, generated by the machine manipulated ‘pursuit of the unusual’.

Mathematical Fractal Complexity Abstraction

‘A complex system is one that by design or function or both is difficult to understand and verify’ (Weng, Bhalla and Iyengar). So perhaps design which needs to be well understood before delivery cannot be a complex system. The need for complexity in building system persists. It is perhaps a pursuit of the unusual. The attitude to conceive a system with all its dependencies requires multi-disciplinary approach, which is sadly absent. Experts arrive to offer solutions to make the concept a workable thing. Only in house experts part of architectural design office are, a structural engineer, and perhaps an interior designer. In interior design office subscribes to furniture designer.

El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe

Complex systems are nested and very effusive. The complex systems are perceived of subsystems, each with unique time and space dependencies. As these dependencies, connections or relations, do not manifest simultaneously one can study them or plan for their hypothetical or real replacement or management. Complex systems have no permanent boundaries, and are difficult to determine. These boundaries, however, can be presumed by the stack holder, who is involved with it. Sadly designers are stake holders in design and execution (delivery) processes but not for the user experience part of it. Complex systems when conceived or analyzed by a team, become open systems, compared to single systems or holistic creations.

Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is an example of a complex emergent structure created by natural processes.

Single or holistic systems are balanced or with thermodynamic equilibrium. But complex systems are continuously varying, as affected by many external energies. Complex systems show a characteristic pattern or order. The order is obvious when the purpose of togetherness of the subsystems is determined or even subsumed.




Bio-mimicry is one such order that is subsumed in buildings. Complex systems often exhibit hysteresis, a phenomenon in which the reaction of the system to changes is dependent upon its past reactions to change. This sort of memory retention or recollection (of previous exposure to magnetism is the working principle in audio tape and hard disk devices or recovery from complicated deformations in the state of substances) is just one facet of system behaviour. It is sought to be seen as simplistic and stand-alone hysteresis.

Falkrik wheel lifting the boat Wikipedia Image Attribution: Famine at en.wikipedia

Memorials are designed as remarkable Places, to serve simpler and fewer functions. Often there is an attempt to de-emphasize the space making elements. With fewer distracting architectonic elements, the attention comes to the site, either integrating or blocking it. The scale is enlarged to make an architecture, or depressed to mark a place.





Post 434 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


There are many ways Design is conducted. The Technique of Design or the Design Process determines the nature of output. There are obvious factors that are common to all design processes such as Nascent effort or routine application, Human and other resources available, Technology involved in design, Presentation tools and methods, Scale of detail, Execution methodology and Operations systems.


Some of the important Design processes are: 1 Holistic approach, 2 Component approach, 3 Redesign or Re-engineering and 4 Concurrent engineering or Simultaneous design.

Air Force Academy Chapel Colorado springs by SOM of USA

COMPONENT APPROACH is one of the oldest approaches used for designing slightly complex entities. Here an entity is perceived, as if composed of several components or subsystems, each of which are optional or replaceable. The components or subsystems are universal as are relevant for other conditions.

Four stroke single cylinder engine components

The design is a continuum, and one improvises it by changing a component its method of joining, placement or context. Component approach (parts to the whole) provides systems that are reliable, and well connected to the existing one. Where situations demand a radically different or a novel solution, parts to the whole design approach are often inadequate.

Ghetto-blaster family of Audio tape decks -replaced by Sony’s Walkman

The component approach requires one to have a complete overview of the functions the parts and the objects are to serve. This also translates into understanding of relationships between various components. Components are mutually related in time and space, and this makes it easier to devise a replacement. Replacement components are superior in form, function and their association with other subsystems. Replacements modify a system forming a new system.

Khajuraho Kandariya Mahadev Indian Temple Components

Components with high degree of mutual connectivity are less affected from conditions beyond their boundaries. Component approach creates systems with some regimen where subsystems have predictable dependency and yet are replaceable.Component approach systems’ are fairly fail-safe because individual segments, parts, or components are continuously and concurrently being evolved in the society.

616px-Republic_F-105B_with_avionics_layout_060831-F-1234S-046Modern day automobiles, computers are examples of Component approach to design. For ages large number of buildings are being created through Component approach. ‘Monuments’ and highly stylized architectural works intentionally and intensively negate the component approach for the sake of Holistic image.




Post 425 –  by Gautam Shah


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

A system is an entity with recognizable parts or subsystems that in some way overlap or interact in time and space. This overlap of functions and degree of interactions project a singular purpose or identity of the system. A system is conceptual totality, but need not be a fathomable entity, like the atmosphere system. Systems have parts or subsystems that may seem to participate with other system. Such transcending parts individually reflect the nature of the systems they subsist on.

Richards Labs Penn L Kahn


Systems are also finite when they exist within an environment of discipline. Such open systems also have nodes where other distinct systems get attached. Many such interconnected systems again serve a singular purpose. Compared with the interconnected or open systems, there could be self-sustaining systems. Such systems are strongly contained, and so are closed systems. Open systems interact with other systems or outside environment, and Closed systems have little interaction with other systems or outside environment. Our body is an open system as it continuously interacts with the environment, where as a watch is nearly self sufficient entity.


Open system have external interactions, such as of information, energy, material and other resources export-import. Open systems retain the enthalpy to be in equilibrium. Open systems are like a digital word processor article or a spreadsheet which are amenable to changes or can be “adjusted’. Some legal agreements could an ironclad or closed document, which once created cannot be changed in any part, and must be redrawn. A quasi-legal agreement could be an understanding, an open document allowing future change or revision.

Emil Bach House FLW

In Architecture, buildings are classifiable into Open-ended and Closed-ended entities. An open-ended form and structure allow extensions or additions. Open-ended structures allow spatially limited or occasional alteration. Open-ended buildings have identifiable subsystems, each of which can be designed, executed, maintained, operated, upgraded, replaced or terminated by different agencies, at different times and circumstances. Open-ended systems inherently have multiple units of modulated sizes, form consistency patterned arrangement and perceptible organization.


Closed-ended structures have a self-sufficient form and singular purpose. Such structures reflect the one master ownership or single intent, and so are monumental, akin to a piece of sculpture. There may be nonfunctional repeat units in the composition for pattern making. A closed system does not transect anything, and may not have nodes of exchange. One need not be aware of the interior of the system, as there are ‘no repairable or serviceable components inside’. Such tags are very common on technical products of proprietary design.

All Gizah Pyramids

Certain forms or shapes are dominantly, either Closed-ended or Open-ended. Forms that are broader at the base, and narrower or pointed at the top, do not allow extension. Pyramid, cone or tower, are closed ended systems. Similarly drum like shapes allow little additions except in the upward direction. Contrary to this, a square or rectangle is very extendible shape in all directions. Old Basilicas and Church buildings have been added upon, but Hindu temple is rather a static form.

Houses of parliament British

Highly articulated buildings like Versailles or British Parliament, are closed ended or static structures. It would be difficult to add upon them in any relevant manner without compromising the integrity of the built-form. Indian Parliament has an annex connected with an access tunnel. Versailles has glass pyramids (closed ended entities) as new extension.

Sansad Bhavan

Architects create monumental buildings by compromising many other functions or requirements. For such purposes the building is conceived with a single form (though transgressed in many ways), single material, or sensuality, nonhuman or disproportionate scale and fewer sub elements. Some explorations towards closed ended architecture or monumental buildings have been deconstructionist, gravity defying and highly dynamic or mobile forms.

Vitra fire station -Zaha Hadid



Post 415 – by Gautam Shah


Zytglogge Movement_from_1530_by_Kasper_Bruner

When a designer conceives an object, it is either as a whole, or as a composition of parts that form the whole. A composition of parts has an inherent but distinct order of coordination within it, whereas objects conceived as a whole may not project such an order.

InSight lander in assembly


Parts of an object, even before being manufactured, and before physically placed together, have some degree of coordination. The process of coordination starts within the thought processes of a designer along with the concept of the object.

IDF Caterpillar D9

In a continuum, designers consciously (intellectually) or subconsciously (intuitively) identify elements relevant for known situations; or inversely identify situations where known elements can be fitted. Elements and situations are mutually relevant to designers. Most universal context, for both, the element and the situation, to be relevant is the user.Mechanized conveyor lines

In a design process, the components, the situation, or the orders of context are initially not obvious, logical or easily identifiable. The design process for a creative lay person and a trained person or the designer is very different. A creative lay person simply goes on creating (assembling, modifying) things without being aware why certain things exist in a certain manner. For a creative person the end is important, means are irrelevant. A trained person or a designer, on the other hand, tries to discover the logic behind it. Selection of an element may be intuitive initially, but there is always a later effort to justify the actions intellectually.

Subcontracting. Bogie-wheel assembly. Facing, counterboring and milling operations are performed on bogie-wheel levers in the machine shop of an Eastern subcontractor. Painesville Machine Company


A designer justifies all the actions like selection, rejection, inclusion or composition of various elements. In doing so the designer refines the intellectual prowess by equipping with an experience that is:

  1. definable
  2. repeatable or recreate-able as a whole or in selective parts
  3. recordable -its perceptive aspects
  4. transferable to another person
  5. increase or decrease its intensity (time scale) and diffuse or intensify its concentration (space scale).


For a designer, knowing means to achieve a specific end are very important. Proper record keeping of all design decision processes helps here. It is very difficult to register dreams, intuitions or inspirations. One needs to recall them in a different time and space context. All intuitions or inspirations however absurd, have some physical context of origin. Designers unlike a lay crafts-person or artist, are trained and disciplined, so record their design related thought processes. Thought processes thin out or obliterate completely with passage of time, so must be recorded as early as possible. Documentation of every aspect of design process is very necessary. Such expertise helps a designer to handle extensive or more complex intuitions or inspirations.

Italy Milan Gothic Travel Tourism Cathedral

Prefabricated house construction




Post 314 – by Gautam Shah 


Buttresses Flying Buttresses Cathedral Gothic

Systems are purposive entities qualifying the togetherness of parts or components and smaller systems. It is a qualification by which the whole is recognized along with its constituents. Systems have sub units that are well orchestrated in time and appropriately placed in space. For every change in the constitution, composition and positional value of any of the sub unit, there is a corresponding change in the system. Some changes, though, are insignificant, and can be ignored.

MicroAirVehicleIn a designed (intentional) system nearly all sub units have a purpose of their in being with the others. In designed system the sub units are selected, prepared, modified, manufactured, for being together in a particular format. In a complex system only a few sub units are relevant to other units. Some sub units occasionally and due to their position remain latent. In a very large system such as of nature, the sub units do not reveal themselves, unless their order is probed. A system composed of apparently irrelevant or latent parts can still continue to be relevant as a whole.


Simple systems have strong edges, and are like buildings, newspaper or a computer programme. Complex systems can have diffused boundaries due to convergence of other systems such as our own body, city administration or internet. Nature’s systems are very extensive spread reaching to infinity, and include atmosphere, planetary or food chain.



A system’s sub units are classifiable as parts, components and subsystems. The components by themselves function as a simple system, and are replaceable entities, though have connection formalities. Subsystems manifest through their order. Order is an inherent characteristic of systems. It is the system organization.

Star system

In designed systems when elements are gathered, an order can be recognized. A budding system can have order that is alogical and loosely definable, and not apparent to others. Just the same as soon as the systems begins to function the order becomes obvious, logical and definable. Recognition of order in a system helps in many ways:

  • It helps the definition of a system.
  • It endows self sufficiency, so that the system can become an ever replaceable component.
  • It provides nodes for dependency so that the system becomes integrated whole.

Paul Klee > Revolution des Viadukts -Abstract system

In all designed systems the primary order is that of assembly or sequence of manufacture. However, in complex systems there are many orders. A system is the web of relationships that creates emergent properties of the whole. These properties of the whole may not be found in any analysis the sub-units.




Post 273 – by Gautam Shah



A systems thinking is way to discipline, an organization. Its a way to look at an entity’s constitution or structural system and a functional or purposive system that is realized only during the operative conditions. A singular system holistically serves an unique purpose, and so its structure and purpose are spatially and temporally one, whereas in multi-lateral systems, the purposes are served at several space nodes and time segments.



Open or Closed systems have between them a very simplistic difference. But, it can have different connotations depending on who considers it. People concerned with buildings, architects, interior designers, structural engineers, builders, promoters and occupants all have completely different understanding of the concept. To compound the problem, many Systems Thinking ideologies from other fields are being implicated here. Some of these include: Components and Systems approach, Holistic or Unified approach, Prefabrication and Modular coordination, Dimensional coordination, Dimensional preferences, System building, Industrialized building, etc.

MODULAR PLANNING Richards and Goddard research labs by L Kahn

MODULAR PLANNING Richards and Goddard research labs by L Kahn

Designers see the space design as bubbles or doodles of function modules each recognized with non-material barriers, and of proportional extent. This is a mental process and manual expression, of the intents. It needs conversion to the site, through drafting tools. To persist with all these ethereal ideas through dimensions, material definitions, style, etc., and more importantly for confirmation by all stakeholders is a difficult endeavour. One misses the overall implications of it, as systems thinking. Only clarity that comes through is by delineation of space delimiting elements and space servicing elements. The elements that form these two categories are mutually not exclusive, so a cohesive system without gaps, overlaps or repetition must occur.

Holistic form of Building


Here two thinking styles distinctly emerge. Designers evolve holistic design thinking, where, things become parts or components only by the constructors. The holistic or monumental form celebrates the designer, but fails to recognize the user. Other set of designers’ who participate with all stakeholders, (interior designers, structural engineers, builders, service providers, promoters and occupants ), create a system or framework for contribution. Buildings with very large footprints and community concerns cannot take any other route. The stress on building of nodes, boundary conditions, connectivity, dimensional and modular coordination (ISO 2848 Modular Coordination -Principles and Rules), is inevitable into Open-ended systems thinking.

Modular Design

All systems are defined by their edge conditions, be it real, virtual or hypothetical. The edges when breach less, create a holistic or closed ended entity. But with nodes or the breaches, an open-ended system emerges. A node (Latin nodus =knot) is a connection point, a redistribution point or an end or terminal point.


Modulated or unitized architecture of Computer system


Computers operate as a single system linked with other systems, including other computers. However, here the concept of single system goes further, whereby other connected systems mutually share their resources. Unlike grid computers, clustered systems have an intermediate or middleware (hard and soft) that functions in time and space.




Openness is said to be the opposite of secrecy. It is not just free unrestricted access but a synergy for collaborative working. Systems are classified as Open systems, when transition of mass and energy, occurs across the edges, such as water pond, building or earth’s atmosphere. A Closed system has no scope for mass transfer but may exchange energy across the border such as gas in a balloon. A system is called an isolated or insulated system when it is not dependent on exchange of mass or energy. Some take the classification further; a self-sufficient system is one which subsists on its own enthalpy.



This following note on Open-ended and Closed ended system was published in one of my Blog >> OPEN ENDED vs CLOSED ENDED SYSTEMS https://interiordesignassist.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/open-ended-systems-vs-closed-ended-systems/



In an open-ended system, components designed or manufactured by different vendors are used. The success of such a system depends on the adaptation of measures, standards for materials and codes for procedures. Open-ended systems are wasteful because of the built in reserves or additional capacities. The built in capacities in the open-ended systems do facilitate future replacements, improvisations and up-gradations. Open-ended systems generally result from mature and multi trial endeavours. Where large number of people are involved in design and execution and where these processes are likely to take place in different time spans, the system automatically becomes open ended. Open-ended systems are also called ‘open architecture entities’.



In a closed ended system the components are not interchangeable. Components designed for a particular situation are neither usable nor adoptable in another situation. Closed systems are very wholesome or compact compared with open systems, which usually have a skeleton type frame structure (infrastructure) and are loosely held. Closed systems are rigid and not easily improvisable, whereas open systems allow up-gradation. Closed ended system being compact, have no redundancy. Closed ended system become totally useless with even minor changes in their environment or working. Close ended systems generally result from first ever (prime) or unique creative effort. Spontaneous and one man creations tend to be closed systems, unless a conscious effort is made to make it an open system. Closed-ended systems are also called ‘proprietary systems’.