PETER BEHRENS -Product Designer

Post 710 -by Gautam Shah



Peter Behrens (1868-1940) was a German artist, architect and designer. His creative conceptual clarity, art, products, architecture and typography all have influenced a generation in Europe. He was born in Hamburg. He studied painting at the School of Art in Karlsruhe (1886-1889). He spent the 1890s in Munich as a painter and designer, practicing in than current Jugendstil or German Art Nouveau style. He was actively involved with the Berlin Sezession group of artists, architects and designers in 1893.

Peter Behrens Products

Sezession was an Austrian and German group of progressive artists, who in 1892 (first in Munich and then in Berlin) formed a separate entity, breaking away from the conservative artists. The secession was a space for people from different backgrounds to work together to influence a new culture of German Modernism. The First World War created a negative impact on the Sezession but Hitler’s rule removed it from the scene.

2 Glasgo School of art

Peter Behrens was the co-founder of the Deutscher Werkbund, whose aim was to link industrialists and artists, paving the way for design-led technology.

The Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, German Labour League or German Work Federation was -ˈdɔʏtʃər ˈvɛrkbʊnd) was inspired by the Government, in 1907. Its initial concept was to bring together designers and manufacturers to integrate the traditional crafts and industrial mass production techniques. Its motto was ‘Vom Sofakissen zum Städtebau’ (from sofa cushions to city-building).

It became the most important group of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists, to support the development of modern architecture and industrial design. Werkbund was first led by Herman Muthesius. Other key members included Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarninen. This initiative later led to formation of the Bauhaus School of Design.

Werkbund members believed that unity and beauty of form was essential and saw industrialization as a force that demanded a re-calibration of the German aesthetic standards. They believed that German designers needed to shift their focus toward designing objects that could be mass produced, to object based on its functional logic, and that each object should be honest about its materials. Its mandate was to enhance the quality of German products in world markets, mainly England and United States in pre WW-I period.

3 Henry_van_de_Velde_-_Chair_-_1895

Peter Behrens (with Henry van de Velde and Muthesius) was also part of the original leaders who developed the philosophy of Gesamtkultur #a cohesive cultural vision where design was the central force for fresh, man-made environment. The visual language perceived for Gesamtkultur was bereft of ornamentation, in favour of simple and function. For the cohesive cultural vision and for re-configuring, optimizing and mechanizing their productions, they discussed all areas of design, graphic, typography, products industrial products design, architecture, textiles, etc. Hermann Muthesius had returned from England to Germany with Morris’s Arts & Crafts concepts, but here he was focussing on mechanizing the production with high-quality design and material integrity.

4 Haus Muthesius Musikzimmer

# Gesamtkultur, as a word was coined by 19th C German composer Richard Wagner, who saw his operas as a total work of art, synthesizing music, poetry, drama, theatre, costume, and set design. It is used for a work produced by a synthesis of various art forms.

18 Dining Room set Behrens

19 Behrens

Peter Behrens, began working as a painter, illustrator and bookbinder. He in 1899, under the influence of J. M. Olbrich moved from Art to Architecture. He was a self-taught architect. In 1899 Behrens accepted the invitation of the Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse to be the second member of Darmstadt Artists’ Colony. Here Behrens built his own house as a debut in architecture. He also designed furniture, furnishings paintings etc. for it. This building in Jugendstil style (German equivalent of Art Nouveau style), though Behrens never lived in it, is considered to be the turning point in his life.

5 PeterBehrens-Affiche1901

Behrens became director of the School of Applied Arts in Düsseldorf (1903-1907). At Düsseldorf, Behrens became interested in Theosophist geometry. The curvilinear forms that he once used in own residence were now replaced with the rectilinear geometry. At Dusseldorf Behrens designed a remarkable building, the Crematorium in Hagen (1906), using the plane surfaces and incised linear decoration with experimental cubic symmetry of geometric volume. He also designed several other buildings in now sober and austere style. This included the Exhibition hall for the Northwestern German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg (1905). With new prestige, he began to frequent the bohemian circles and showed interest in subjects related to the reformation of the lifestyles.

6 Musik zimmer Haus Behrens Schiedmayer

Deutscher Werkbund principles of quality, as formulated in 1907 was the first theoretical formulation for pursuit of Quality. These concepts were so remarkable that several decades later QMS ( Quality Management Standards, ISO 9000) of the ISO and the SA (Social Accountability Standards ISO 8000) had similar foundations.

7 La maison de Peter Behrens (Musée_de_la_colonie_d'artistes,_Darmstadt)_(8728647639)

Germany was embracing a new philosophy and visual style for its simplicity and exactness. The new products, with their high level of functional utility and beauty were expected to build a new future for German exports. Behrens, with his multi disciplinary experiences was capable of designing things in diverse fields. As a product designer, in 1898, he designed glass bottles and different types of wine glasses. In 1907, Behrens was invited for the post of an artistic adviser to Germany’s largest electric company AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft, Berlin). He was required to form a monumental image for the prestige of the firm by arranging mass production with artistic expression. His job included design of electrical equipments, fixtures, branding packaging, catalogues, posters, architecture for factories and workshops.

8 Behrens Office

Peter Behrens, in Berlin office, between 1908-1911, designed five large industrial buildings. The Berlin office had during the period apprentices and design assistants like, Walter Gropius 1907-1910, Mies van der Rohe 1908-1910 and 1911-1912, and Le Corbusier, Adolf Meyer and Jean Kramer. Mies worked on interiors of two houses, AEG Small Motors Factory and Assembly Hall for Large Machines. Other works include Berlin Turbine factory, High Voltage Factory, AEG factory complex, two houses Cuno and the Schroeder, Osthaus -the site plan for a group of villas in Hohenhagen, Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen.

9 AEG Turbine factory facade.jpg

22 AEG Voltastraße Alte Fabrik für Bahnmaterial

25 Peter Behrens AEG High Tension Factory, Berlin

The Turbine Factory for AEG, of exposed steel, concrete, and large areas of glass was admired Le Corbusier as the ‘cathedral of labour’, in 1912. The Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen both, were designed in 1910-12.

17 Behrens Peter Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

21 Behrens Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

10 Project Mies

Behrens always made the final decisions and had total control of the design process. The clarity of the volumetric articulations is evidenced by the choice of the points of view. The buildings were always represented in relation to the environment. He showed an ability to express the materials in the facades through the representational graphics and in the reality of built form.

23 Peter Behrens Bau Oberhausen

11 The Mannesmann house

Design is not about decorating functional forms – it is about creating forms that accord with the character of the object and that show new technologies to advantage.’ –Peter Behrens.

13 Crematorium

The transition between this naturalistic period and his later activities, in the Berlin office show a search for new linguistic conventions based on abstraction, anti-naturalism and expressionism with a degree of monumentality. Peter Behrens remained head of the Department of Architecture at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1922 he became a professor of Architecture at the Academy in Vienna, and thereafter little works of consequence emerged. Behrens became associated with Hitler’s urban dreams for Berlin. Hitler also admired Behrens’s Saint Petersburg Embassy.

14 Behrens's Saint Petersburg Embassy

From 1920 and 1924, he was responsible for the design and construction of the Technical Administration Building (Technische Verwaltungsgebäude) of Hoechst AG in Hoechst. In 1926, Behrens designed a home for Englishman Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in Northampton, UK. It is regarded as the modernist house in Britain. In 1928 Behrens won an international competition for the construction of the New Synagogue, Žilina.

12 Peter Behrens Neologic Synagogue in Zilina 1928-1931

15 Behrens Mausoleum 1925, elevation + Plan

Behrens was AEG’s chief artistic advisor from 1907-1914 and is now considered the Father of Industrial Design. He designed several domestic products for use of electricity. The domestic products were conceived for mass production, utility and not have ‘impersonal’ identity. The objects include fan or Ventilatoren in 1908, light fixtures and electric teakettle. The Fan evolved from the first electric fan, created by Schuyler Wheeler in 1886, with variations in speed setting and wind direction. The electric kettle was the first product with immersion heating elements, integrated into the body of the kettle rather than placing it as an adjunct element. The kettles were produced in several shapes (cylindrical, octagonal or oval), materials (chromium and brass), and surface finishes. Of the possible 216 configurations only 30 were produced. He devised, the Sans serif fonts for the reductive graphic style. Behrens is credited with Schrift (1901-7), Antiqua (1907-9) and Medieval (1914), through Klingspor Type Foundry.

26 Behrens 1930 Berlin Bernauer Strasse subway




Post 675 –by Gautam Shah



Industrial Building

Industrial age, from the late 18th C changed the materials of construction and processes. These affected the form, scale and functions of the buildings. Cast-iron, wrought-iron and mild steel were being produced economically and qualitatively. Portland Cement was developed in 1824. First applications of new materials were through older processes, so the change was not noticeable, but did saw the termination of Revival styles. Steel was no longer a stronger cousin of cast or wrought iron. It began to be exploited for its tensile potential. Concrete as Steel-Cement composite offered radically different possibilities.



New Iron Age

New structural configurations emerged for entities like railroads, depots, shopping centres, bridges, warehouses, factories and commercial complexes. During 1850 to 1870 building facades of steel and glass virtually eliminated the masonry walls. This was accompanied with changes in of the fuels for home warming, cooking and lighting. The glass fronted buildings created new architectural exteriors and brightly lit interiors. Buildings now had deeper spaces, and larger footprints.



The glazing for openings was larger, and mullions and transoms became thinner or disappeared. The conspicuous columns and beams on the facades began to recede to the interiors. Factories produced opening systems for commercial spaces, now had standard of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware. These also helped the demand for cheap and quick public housing.


Many older types of openings, typically conservatories, jalousie, bay and bow windows were redefined with better technologies. Till now dwellings, had main facades as a style treatment, and other sides were simpler and less expensive. High rise buildings in dense urban areas were, however, seen from all sides and required equal treatments. The equal treatment on all sides did not respect the climatic orientation or follow the functions inside. The openings’ systems were required to do many different things, depending on the location. Such localization and customization were done by installing new internal treatments to openings.



Flooring was another changed entity. It was not possible to procure natural materials for very extensive spaces. So many new cement-based systems, precast and cast-in-situ, were innovated.


The transition to new age was not smooth. The resistance included, rejection of time tested styling and scepticism for new things. These were arising due to several facts, machine-craftsmanship was poor, no quality-assurance was available, and mass-produced items lacked the personalization or exclusivity. At another, level the resistance was coming from designers’ and builders’, who found their roles changing with ready to use components.








COPPER – 2 Copper Compounds

Post 479  –by Gautam Shah




Once distinctive properties of the pure copper nodules were known, no efforts were spared to reestablish the same results. The intention was to derive a copper material easily and locally, similar to the quality of a pure copper nodule. These search resulted in discovery of many copper-containing substances. The substances were realized while processing the raw materials and finishing copper products. It helped realize many ‘copper like’ materials, but with different properties. It was found that copper became more flexible and easy to work with when heated before hammering, a process of annealing. For example, it was known that beating or forging a copper made it little brittle, but stronger for tool making. It was known that some materials could be heated to very high temperatures, in restricted air or closed environment to extract copper metal, a process of ore smelting.


Copper figure of a bull from the Temple of Ninhursag, Tell al-‘Ubaid, southern Iraq, around 2600 BC. app 600 mm

Egyptians used copper minerals like malachite and azurite for green and blue colouring the murals and also for lip colouring make-up or body colour. Copper Sulphate was used as a mordant in the dyeing to improve colour fastness. It was also used as a topical application for skin deceases and as biocide additive in mural colours. Copper compounds like cupric oxide were used in the ceramics for achieving blue, green or red tints in glasses, glazes and enamels. Chalcopyrite a mixture of pyrite and copper sulfide, is the most common copper ore, and it has been used to extract copper compounds besides the copper metal. Mineral chalcocite, a cuprous sulfide, was used as black powder.





Hathor, Egyptian goddess of the sky, music, dance and art, was also the patron of Sinai, the copper sourcing region for the Egyptians. She was often referred to as Lady of Malachite (the copper mineral). Copper is comparatively environment friendly material. But, historically copper ores were with natural Arsenic. The presence arsenic in copper made it a castable metal and strong enough for weapons and sharp edged tools. Osiris, an Egyptian god, often called the Great Green, is portrayed with green skin. Green malachite was a symbol of joy and the land of the blessed dead was described as the ‘field of malachite.’

Green coloured Osiris tomb of Nefertiti

The smelting process for arsenic containing copper produced poisonous fumes. Tin-bronze was a better choice as it was easier to add tin then control the amount of arsenic. But tin was comparatively rare material. Arsenic copper processing was at peak during Roman times, and its traces have been found in ice layers of Arctic regions.


A mineral is a naturally-occurring, solid, inorganic, crystalline substance having a fairly definite chemical composition and having fairly definite physical properties. At its simplest, a mineral is a naturally-occurring solid chemical. Major categories of minerals are: elements, sulfides, oxides, halides, carbonates, sulfates, phosphates, and silicates. To find a native element in nature, it must be relatively non-reactive and there must be some concentration process. Metallic, semimetallic (metalloid), and nonmetallic elements are known in their native state as minerals. Copper is the only metallic element that has a “reddish” color – it’s actually a metallic orange color. Most metallic elements, apart from gold & copper, are silvery-gray colored. Copper tends to form sharp-edged, irregular, twisted masses of moderately high density. It is moderately soft, but is extremely difficult to break. It has no cleavage and has a distinctive hackly fracture. Such Copper mineralization occurred during the late Mesoproterozoic, at 1.05 to 1.06 billion years ago.” -from Copper skull from the Precambrian of Michigan, USA.





Post 396 – by Gautam Shah 


Smithy is a work-place where metals are worked by heating, casting, and hammering (forging) for quality modification, shaping and joining. Copper, bronze and silver were some of the first metals handled in workshops. Smithy is called a Forge. But bronze is not as malleable as copper or silver, and it was not readily forged or chased, but cast. Copper was shaped by forging. The traditions of metals like bronze and copper helped man to deal with cast iron –a castable metal, and little later wrought iron –a workable metal. The term to wrought derives from work.

typical smithy in Finland

A smithy is also called a forge, as hot shaping or forming is chief the activity here. The metal workshop processes are associated with hearth, a place to hammer, chisel, punch, shear bend a piece of iron, and water or oil for quenching the item.


Metal pieces are heated to a temperature range at which work hardening does not happen. The heated metal piece is held with tongs and taken to the forge. Here the work-piece is held with tongs and other types of holders while forging. The heating and forging sequence is repeated several times, to maintain the temperature. The piece is than taken to a tub of water (or oil) for quenching or rapid cooling.

Iron Forge

Once upon a time forging workshops were independent units, owned by a smith and serving variety of needs of a neighbourhood. These needs were cooking vessels, plates, bowls, spikes, nails, cart axles, horse shoes, agricultural implements, tools, etc. Iron smiths were employed at construction sites to produce architectural entities such as lattices, screens, partitions, fences, stairs, balcony railings, horse appointments, weapons, posts, and building hardware, etc. ‘Locksmiths’ were fine crafts persons, with capacity to devise clocks, locks and other gadgets. Their ability was to rework a smithy item to finer details and embellish it with many different materials and techniques.

Blacksmith at work

Iron Smiths in later part of 18th C also began to work with rolled metal sheets, items such as trunks, cabinets, truck and other vehicles bodies, buckets, vessels, etc. These items of rolled metal sheets were cold-worked, and did not require any forging. Similarly Iron smiths began to be employed on construction work sites for cutting and rivetting rolled steel structural assemblies.

A smithy or forge has following tools and facilities. Some of these are now made from very superior materials and automated.


A Hearth is a place where coal, charcoal or other fuels are burnt. It is designed to contain and control the fire by amount of air, volume of fuel, and shape of the flame or heat spread. The hearth is aided by a Tuyere (a pipe through which air is blown into fire) and Bellows or blower (for forcing air into the tuyere). Bellows were once made of leather, and blowers are fans moved manually or by power. The hearth fire is used for effecting metallurgical changes like hardening, annealing, and tempering, etc.

Working at Anvil

An anvil is a block on which forging is done. It is placed as very steady piece and used as a support for all metal manipulations. Its size and shape vary according to the weight of work piece and nature of operations. Most anvils have a wide base for stability, a body, a flatter main work face, projection called horn, and variety of edge forms, holes and depressions.

Tongs are used for holding, carrying and turning a hot metal piece. Tongs have similar mechanisms, that is long arms but variety of holder mouths. Vices are clamping devices mounted on work bench end.

Chisels are used for cutting and chipping, but separate for hot and cold work. Punches are like chisels but blunt edged for forming holes or depressions. A drift is a large sized wide cone punch used for enlarging punched holes.

Hammers for smithy

Hammers for smithy

Hammers are called a smith’s hand. Hammers have different weights of heads, types of head formations such as pean, eye, cheeks, face, and lengths of handles. A crafts person on own uses lighter to medium weight hammer as other hand is used for holding the iron piece in a tong, whereas an assistant uses both hand for a heavier sledge hammer. Nowadays power hammers are used.

Modern smithy have other facilities like lathes, drilling, shearing, punching machines, cutting saws, grinders and welding equipments.

This article on IRON SMITHY was published on my other Blog >>>



Post 332 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


Mile stones of Human developments are marked by distinctive technological innovations that have given very competitive advantage to several fields. These through wide range of applications changed the course of developments.

History of prehistoric times is perceived in terms material related epochs. The era defining phrases such as Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Steel Age, are material related classifications. These distinctive material phases would not have happened without the fire, the most important of all conversion processes. Fire has been the mother of all the early processes of change. Cooking food with fire was the earliest conversion process. It showed the way to turn clay into ceramics. Conversion processes without the use of fire were as useful, such as agriculture, domestication of animals and construction of an abode.

Creating Fire and then use it for processing

Lighting a fire by Friction

Later periods of history, however, are recognized by different categories of technological achievements. Some of these were Deployment Technologies. A deployment technology shows how to things are formed, assembled, combined, handled or managed. Methods of joining, amalgamation and fabrication helped one to take up risks associated with new conditions and move from speculative conditions to guaranteeing the performance. It forced man to realize that it is advantageous to accept innovations, then to waste time and effort in fine tuning the current technology. Deployment methods are required to scale-up the experiment into an application of wider implications. Deployment methods have been used in executing extra ordinarily large structures like Dolmen or Stonehenge. Gothic structures rationalized the use of materials. The deployment methods were learnt from the nature which later developed in Biometric.

Assembling of different materials

Model of Da Vinci flying machine inspired by Flying Birds

Dolmen -Deployment of Technology

Wherever large deployment of resources by Humans occurs such as building sites, large human settlements, war zones, areas of natural calamities and diseases, recovery and reestablishment efforts were inevitable. These locations and structures thereon had to be abandoned wasting geopolitical advantage, or resurrect them by expending afresh. These Termination Processes (and reestablishment) were very important human opportunities requiring a rethink on relevance of technologies. Such opportunities were once considered unpredictable but modern day activities are planned with concerns like reuse, conservation, preservation, recycling, safe-disposal, cost-benefits, sustainability, etc.

Ecological concerns -Termination technology

Fire fighting -Termination technology

 World war II and later space travel offered challenges for new materials, products, ways of doing things and perspectives of concerns. Some of these are listed here:

Early computing machine

Miniaturization resulted from efficiency concern for mass-weight resulting in energy savings. In certain circumstances the loss of the second (width) and third (depth or height) dimension makes an entity of nearly zero mass such as in embedded transistors in a printed circuit, CCDs, metalized film, etc. Miniaturization has eliminated moving parts and has allowed distributed control systems. The distributed controls create components and subsystems that are replaceable.

Storage Device Pen Drive

Regulated processing conditions the response time, and in many circumstances recovery time. These technologies were used in controlling the reverse action, bounce back or impact absorption, but are used in transfer systems such as elevators, walkway, conveyers, controls for gadgets, vibratory conditions, acoustics, climate control, etc. It was once upon a time based on simultaneous or synchronous movement control, such as a turning shaft moved several sub systems through belts, sprockets, gears and levers. This is now a distributed control system with thyristor resulting in nearly a no-movement device.

Technologies begin to be relevant for a specific purpose, but others perceive it as a platform for a quantum jump. New materials come into being because new conversion processes offer the change. Deployment design is a challenge to use the technologies in different modes but termination processes re-validate the technologies for future.

constant speed propeller

Multi lateral or Multi functional operations are based on concurrent handling of several processes, in time and location. Such plants save space, often operate in inclement environmental conditions, isolation, hazard prone situations and require no ergonomic considerations. Some of the early multi functional technologies were CNC machines, work stations, Robotics, weaving looms, parallel computer processing, multi lateral servers, etc.

Laproscopic Surgery Robot

Convergent technologies combine several time and space relevant technologies. There is an inherent sequencing of processes or layering of applications. It begins as add on technologies to existing systems as and when these are realized or become viable. But soon enough someone somewhere innovates an integrated solution that has the efficiency of integrated working, fewer components, and a compact design. As these are offered as a fit-in replacement, so obviously have a neat and self-sufficient form.

Space vehicle technology that is being absorbed in automobiles

Tools, Handling, Reach capacities have made it possible to deploy new designs. This century some amazing tools like under water and argon welding, flexi drills, pneumatic tools and medical scopes, non invasive testing tools, remote processing and handling systems such drones, molecular level material removal and addition, 3D modelling and printing are available.

Space Foods getting into homes

Cross over absorption of technologies has become possible due to wide spread information dissemination. Innovations in a field have more takers in other fields. Space travel innovations have been very extensively adopted in life sciences, fine chemicals and agriculture. Advances in Bio-science have inspired builders to design biometric architecture. Digital imaging, remote sensing and global positioning have collectively opened many new avenues of knowledge. Miniaturization has brought in drones, bugs, spiders not just espionage tools, but monitors for conditions inside the body, pipes, atomic reactors, mines and architectural models. These are some examples how different technologies overlap to generate a new entity, which in turn is employed in never conceived form. A technocrat needs to be aware of emergent technologies in other fields. Otherwise by the time these percolate to their own fields, the developments outdate them.



Post 307- by Gautam Shah


Yoyogi National stadium – Tensile structure by Kenzo Tange

Roofs as the outer most enclosure system of a building, define the form of an architectural entity. A heavy roof requires equally heavy sub structure, thus creating an effect of ‘solid or monumental building’, whereas a lighter roof system requires a lighter support structure, and seem very delicate or trivial. Roof-structures based on compressive elements are inherently heavier compared to tensile structures.

Circus tent

Roof systems are predominantly Compressive for several reasons. Roofs put up by comparatively non-mobile or stable societies are permanent, static, heavier in weight and well founded to grounds. These buildings have heavy bearing structure with fewer or smaller openings. Heavy roofs have low spanning capacity so interior spaces are small or narrow. The interiors are dark, compartmentalized and isolated from the outdoors. Heavy roof structures are hazardous for earth quake conditions. Construction of a heavy roof requires large manpower, through participation, coercion or money. Heavy roofs are ecologically inferior as there is inherent wastage of materials. Heavy roofs and their heavy support systems, require equally heavy foundation work which is difficult and a time-consuming proposition.

Dome structures Hauz Khas New Delhi India




Roof systems are also tensile structures. These are light in weight, and so often demountable and portable. Such structures are preferred by nomadic or transient people. Light roof structures and their lighter support system, both offer free, open and bright interiors. Open interiors have an immediacy with the surroundings. Some structures are large span entities composed of very few elements, so are extremely adoptable to different internal arrangements. These structures unless well integrated with their support system and properly based to foundations are hazardous in wind storms. These structures with better cover material and appropriate pitch can be used in areas with heavy rainfall. These are ecologically very superior as there is inherent economy of materials and require very little foundation work. Execution is fast.

Thatched roof

Light weight roofing

Roofs have many different formsflat, pitched, vaulted, domed, etc., depending on the available materials and technology, architectural needs, and economic compulsions. Some of the primitive forms of roofs were, Pitched roofs with thatching, Conical roofs of hides, Flat roofs of stone slabs, and Gabled and flat roofs with rafters of dressed timbers. Plants, hides, and stone were the primary materials, gradually replaced with manufactured materials such as terracotta roofing tiles and woven mats. Coatings of primitive waterproofing compounds like tar, pitch, wax and fats continued for a very long period.

Richmond Olympic Oval composite wood beams

In low rain and hot-arid areas like Sind (Harappa) and Egypt flat roofs of heavy clay mass over wood structure were created to form terraces. Tropical countries with seasons of heavy rains had high pitched thatched roofs. Nomadic societies on Mongolia, Indians of Americas and Saharan regions developed demountable and transportable shelter system. These shelters had integrated roof and support system.

Bahai Lotus Temple Delhi India -folded plates

Roof systems occur as the outer most enclosure. An inclined roof has higher surface area, compared to a flat roof. An inclined roof has solar gain during part of the day when its inclined side faces the sun. This can be exploited for various locations. Roof forms are designed primarily to deal with the effects of environment. In high rain and snow fall areas roofs are designed for drainage. Roofs are also sloped to enlarge the roof surface area to receive higher solar insolation or sun light for energy conversion systems like heating pipes, solar power cells etc. Roof slopes are oriented to South or North faces, depending on the Northern or Southern hemisphere, respectively.


Abstract Mumbai Airport Ceiling

ROOFS and FLOORS (earlier article)

 SLOPED ROOFS (earlier article)


Post 290 – by Gautam Shah



Spraying is a method of throwing or projecting atomized liquid by adding several times more volume of gas. Spraying was known to primitive humans as a way of adding air to water for gurgling the mouth, and to project it to a defined place with pressure. The technique was useful to ignite as well as douse the fires, with respectively, oil or water.

Hand Prints by mouth spray -Primitive art

Spraying involves two processes, first atomization of liquid with a gas and secondly pushing through an orifice to exert pressure. The mouth with closing in lips, and caved or hollowed tongue formed a dynamic orifice, whereas the pressure was caused by breathed air. Primitive atomization was also caused by blowing air over a thin body of liquid. Vibrating bristles or shaking fingers dipped with liquid, also causes, the spread.

Mass tone -extensive area – mouth spray -primitive art

Spraying was used for many purposes. Oils were sprayed over fires and cooking foods. Colours were sprayed over body, ceramics, leather and clay floors. Colours were sprayed to achieve even mass tones and diffused edge effects. Colours were sprayed within marked boundaries or stencils.

Spraying with bristles

Stencil Printing

One of the simplest ink spraying tool was an L bent tube, with a small aperture on the outer curve. The tube was thin enough to allow liquid to rise through capillary action, and the other tube was used to blow air. The blown air spayed the rising up liquid. A similar process is used in old style home-use insecticide pumps.

L tube spraying from ink bottle

A varied form of L tube spraying -home insecticide pump


Spraying is used to create instant cooling and spread of oily substances (as carried with water or other solvents or through emulsification). Scents and medicines are sprayed to provide instant effect over a large area. Asthma sprays reach deep sections of throat to provide relief. Skin sprays create a thin coating over bleeding wound or painful muscle.

Wave Sea Foam Water Beach Breakwater Rocks

In India during the colour festival of Holi, coloured water is sprayed with a nozzle drum pump. This simple device is now being replaced with multi nozzle plastic guns. Home bath showers and garden sprinklers distribute the water into very fine strands or droplets.


automatic fire sprinkler

427px-Grinnell_automatic_sprinkler_advertisementShower Casting Vessel Watering Can Sprinkler


Textile plants cotton spinning and weaving sections require high level of humidity. Similarly in very cold weather, chances of humidity being stripped out of the indoor air are very high. This requires addition of moisture in the air. Operation theatres need to be sterilized with formaldehyde vapour. All these spaces use water atomisation technology.

Ultrasonic Humidifier

Mist creators

Spraying mechanisms are used in industrial burners and automobile combustion engines. By spraying fuels in burners, larger volume of oxygen is made available, which in turn minimizes the pollutants. Hot water spraying with heavy pressure is used for cleaning-washing without using any detergents or chemicals in many sensitive production areas like foods and pharmaceuticals. Water-sprays are used in chimney stacks to remove particulate and dissoluble matters. One of the most important uses of spray technology is in agriculture. Spray applications in agriculture include spread of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers.


Aerosol spray cans have become part of our life. These are used for spraying fluids like scents, deodorants, paints, waxes, hair-oils, whipped creams, food dressings, chemicals, medicines etc. These cans or packs have some form of propellant, ‘a general name for liquid chemicals that can readily be vaporized and so used for creating thrust or pressure. In 1939, American Julian S. Kahn received a patent for a disposable spray can, but its commercial success came much later.


It was found that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), used as propellants in aerosol sprays, depletes of Earth’s ozone layer. These were sought to be replaced with mixtures of volatile hydrocarbons, such as propane, n-butane and isobutane. Dimethyl and Methyl ethers. These replacement materials have a disadvantage of being flammable. Nitrous oxide and Carbon dioxide are also used as propellants to deliver foodstuffs (e.g. whipped cream, food dressings). Medicinal asthma inhalers use hydrofluoroalkanes (HFA).








Post 235 — by Gautam Shah



Leather Leather Harness for Horses

Leather has been used by primitive man to cover own-self, protect food items, carry water, form a place of dwelling, to tie materials and make footwear. Raw-hides or untreated skins have a tendency to putrefy very quickly in wet weather, causing foul smell and degeneration of the material itself. In dry conditions, or on loss of moisture untreated skins become very hard, rigid and brittle.


Leather processing is an ancient craft that has been practised for more than 7,000 years. The first lessons were how to turn raw-hides in to a stable product, Leather. For leather making raw-hides must be removed early, cleaned, washed and dried in the sun. There were two easy treatments for making leather into better lasting, soft and a wearable product. The first was to curtail leather’s reactivity with moisture by coating it with oils or wax. Other methods included, salting (to dehydrate) and smoking to retard bacterial activity, and treatment with bark extracts (for tannic acid), and alum.

Leather Boxer_of_quirinal_hands

The hides of mammals, the chief sources of leathers, are composed of three layers: epidermis, a thin outer layer, corium, or dermis, the thick central layer, and a subcutaneous fatty layer.


The corium constitutes the main commercial leather, after the two sandwiching layers have been removed. Fresh hides contain between 60 and 70 percent waters by weight and 30 to 35 percent protein. About 85 percent of the protein is collagen, a fibrous protein held together by chemical bonds. Basically, leather making is the science of using acids, bases, salts, enzymes, and tannin to dissolve fats and non-fibrous proteins and strengthen the bonds between the collagen fibres.

Leather Homo SapiensThe term hide is used to designate skins of larger animals, e.g. cowhide or horse-hide, whereas skin refers to smaller animals (calfskin or kidskin). Fur is a hide or skin of furry or hairy animals. Use of furs precedes use of hides as several species of hominoids including Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis used fur for clothing. Common animal sources for fur include fox, rabbit, mink, beaver, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, chinchilla, and possum. Major sources of leather were hunted animals, but later domesticated cattle and skins of calves, goats, kids, sheep, and lambs, were used. Other sources were horse, mule, pig, kangaroo, zebra, deer, seal, walrus, and reptiles. Skins of ostrich, lizard, eel, and of aquatic creatures such as seal, walrus, whale, and alligator were used.

Leather shoes of Chalcolithic Areni 1 caveLeather cleaning included scrapping the back or underside of all residual tissues, blood, etc. and top side of hair or wool by stone or wooden scrapers. The processes for tanning of leathers were developed at many places, in stone age period. Tanning could take up two years for very thick hides. The dressing of leather involved paring or shaving it to achieve a level thickness. Leathers were surface treated with wax, oils and dissolved gums, often with colourants.

Sumerians in Mesopotamia, during the 5th and 3rd C. BC. used skins for long dresses and diadems for ladies. Egyptians also used leather for clothing including gloves arms, belts and as ornaments. Phoenicians are credited with forming water tubes of leather. Romans and many other in central Asia were using leather footwear, clothing, shields and riding gears such as harnesses. Assyrians used leather for containing oils, and as inflated floats for rafts. In India thinned raw-hides were used as cover for percussion instruments.

Embossed leather royal chairs

Leather bag Water carrier Bhist IndiaBy 1st C Ad a vast variety of hides and skins were produced, many with unique characteristics due to local materials and protected knowledge base. Leathers for parchment or writing media were extremely thinned down and stabilized from raw hides. Skins used for gloves and footwear toppers were soft and supple. Patterned skins of reptiles formed pieces of ornaments. Leather stripes, entwined leather belts, were used for their flexibility and tensile strength. Furs, were prized items for wearing, furnishings and arms covers.



Post 184 – by Gautam Shah



We endeavour to create Single Material Objects. Objects made of single material, whether natural or man-made, have inherent efficiencies. We try to achieve the state of a single material efficiency by integrating or by synthesizing different components.


  • A window consists of a structural frame, shutters, glazing system, mosquito-nets, curtains, weather-sheds, etc. It would be ideal if one integrated system, made up of a single material were to serve all the purposes.


  • Similarly a roof is made of the structural slab, outer side water proofing coat, insulation, and floor finishes, and under side plaster, an acoustic ceiling, etc. It would be very efficient to have one material serving all these functions.Roof – multi layer.

elements of roof

  • A partition is designed to divide a space in terms of visual privacy, safety, stability, sound proofing, fire proofing, heat insulation, provisions for apertures and services, etc. The partitions as a result consist of a structural system and various layers, each designed for specific need. The partition is further coloured and textured for use requirements. The structural elements, layers and the surface treatments can be replaced by a single material-object system. Composite panels for partitioning, is a first attempt in integrating various sub systems.


640px-Back_side_of_National_Parliament_of_Bangladesh_20A single material system capable of serving many different purposes is not easy to devise. Such an event takes years of effort. However, human ingenuity out-paces such attempts, by inventing superior but totally a different entity, for the given situation. The superiority of a newly invented entity may not be due to the unitary structure or the multi purposiveness of the material, but for its multiplex system of simpler and lesser number of elements.



An automobile, a computer or a building, is formed of as many parts, as they consist of different materials. If one can reduce the number of parts, automatically the number of materials used, will come down. If a conscious attempt is made to reduce, the number materials used, then there will be reduction in number of components.


At any cross section of time, we find a large number of materials systems either are overtly attached to other objects, or are in the process of being integrated with them. It is very desirable that an object system in such a situation, be singular in constitution or at least be effective in that manner. Designers aspire to provide a singular object system in place of a multi-component system. In designers’ world, however, there are very few situations where singular object system can satisfy all the demands in a particular time-space profile. Multi-component surface systems are reality.




Post 154 by Gautam Shah


Turkish Handmade Padlocks

Lock is a device that prevents access by those without a key or method to open it. It is nominally a self-sufficient entity, housed in a small chamber that houses its mechanism. Locking devices are of two types: One which can be used to lock and open an opening from same side, and Two which can be opened from either side.

Complex mechanisms under the lid of a safe

Locking devices have been in use for securing the end of the ropes in loops, but lock for security purposes (such as for doors)were perhaps wedges or knots (such as: a thief knot, Gordian knot) on fibre ropes. Egyptians were perhaps the first users of wooden Locks and keys, some 4000 years ago. The first locks were like puzzles that wasted thieves’ time.

Various types of notches or serrations on keys

Early Pin locks had toothed or serrated keys that activated matching levers. Later improvements included increasing the number of pins to increase security, and changing the orientation and profile of the pins. This established the principle of the modern pin tumbler lock.

Viking Age Lock

Key Hole or notch for the key, Guanajuato, Mexico

Locks are mostly mechanical, but now electro-mechanical and electronic locks are available. New locks get a combination of commands through nodes in a printed circuit board, varied electric current, or a digital messaging system which activates the lever system.

An Old Chinese lock

All locks are not intended to prevent unauthorised access through an opening system, but some are used to control the accidental opening or closing of a door system.

PADLOCKS  ⊗ Padlocks are portable locks, with their own body and foldable or a separable locking ring. Padlocks can be used over another ring or shackle, or with a chain to tie up separate objects. Ordinary padlocks are susceptible to direct attack to break the shackle or tie chain, without the use of a key or a combination. Padlocks are used to tie up the wrapped around ropes on goods bundles or packages.

LEVER LOCKS  ⊗  Levers Locks are flat set of grooved or edge shaped devices which can be rotated or pushed by a matching key to operate or activate a mechanism. Insurance companies, police department and other security agencies desire at least a 5-lever lock for external doors of home security system.

Anglo Viking key 900 AD

MORTICE LOCK  ⊗  Mortice (Mortise in American English) is concealed into a cavity (mortice section) in the stile or thickness of the door shutter. A square section pin projects out on one or both the faces to receive the operative handles. Older mortice lock had a large box, but new generation mortise locks are cylinder locks fitted from the front and back. The locking pin could be one or multiple that come out on the side of the door. The locking device is operated through a key, and an additional bolt -a closing device through a set of handles. The locking pin is square ended but the closing pin is tapered on one face for self closing. Night or safety locks have an extra slider which stops the lock being operative with key from outside. Installation of a mortise lock weakens the structure of the typical timber door, but it is stronger and more versatile than a bored cylindrical lock.

CYLINDER LOCK  ⊗  Cylinder locks have the locking mechanism and bolting as two separate systems. Such locks are also available as sets which can be opened by their individual keys and also by a master or common key. Standard cylinder systems include key-in-knob-set cylinders, a rim (also known as night-latch) cylinders. Cylinder locks are small in size and diameter, and are fitted from front and back side of a door shutter, rather than from the edge of a door stile (as in case of mortice lock), so are easier to fit and replace.

ALMIRAH LOCKS  ⊗  Almirah locks are found on commercial Mild Steel sheets (CRCA) cupboards. The Locks are housed in a box fixed on the inside face of a shutter. The closing device has three components, a locking lever that is moved through a handle, and accompanying it is two vertical locking bars that move upward and downward. Such devices are also concealed on a street side of main doors of buildings for additional security purposes.

A wood model showing mechanisms of a Combination lock

COMBINATION LOCK  ⊗  Combination locks are operated by setting a sequence of numbers or symbols, instead of a serrated key in a nominal lock. The sequence is entered by a single rotating dial which interacts with several discs or cams, by using a set of several rotating discs with inscribed numerals which directly interact with the locking mechanism, or through an electronic or mechanical keypad. A combination lock requires a correct permutation and not merely the correct combination of digits. Electronic combination locks are better then their mechanical counterparts. Such locks are used on safes and drawers. Electronic locks work with power-assisted mechanisms. The key combination can be reset, such as for modern Hotel rooms. Floor managers get a combination that can work for all locks of a floor or zone. Such locks are often connected to a central access control system of the plant or building complex, reporting its use.

Electronic Combination lock key-card

  • ‘The first known combination lock was invented in 1206 by the Arab scholar, inventor and mechanical engineer al-Jazari. He documented the device in his book al-Ilm Wal-Amal al-Nafi Fi Sina’at al-Hiyal (The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices). Muhammad al-Astrulabi (ca 1200) also made combination locks, two of which are kept in Copenhagen and Boston Museums. Gerolamo Cardano later described a combination lock in the 16th century. In 1852 a German man by the name of Joseph Loch was said to have invented the modern combination Lock for Tiffany’s Jewelers in New York City. However the rights to his invention were stolen from his business associate who thereby attained all credit of the discovery’.

Bank Safe