Post 597 –by Gautam Shah (15 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)
Human behaviour, at realistic level is governed by how a habitable space allows various tasks. For conducting work-tasks and other tasks such as social interactions, expression and communication a space needs many provisions. Amenities, Facilities and Utilities endow a sense of belonging while achieving functionality, but Enrichments invest the space with personalization.
Behaviour in habitable space often revolves around the amenities. Areas near the attached amenities attract all the activities. Due to this, users seem to move from one amenity to another. All the intermediate space patches and time interludes between the amenities become sections for secondary behaviour.
Amenities are attached to a building shell. The linkage is for structural support through a wall, floor or roof, or for functional support for sourcing a ‘supply or disposal utility’. One of the largest sections of amenities, are for environmental control, such as projections, wind towers, air ducts, sun shades, pergolas, grills, etc. Some of the amenities are conceived to be architectonic elements for enhancing the architectural language.
Amenities could be both, structurally integrated solutions which are difficult to remove without damage to the building shell; and mounted entities that may perhaps be replaced but require an identical or matching solution for the sake of design integrity. Relocatable amenities are sometimes considered as facilities. Amenities are also subsystems, part of a larger system -the building. Such subsystem amenities have well-defined relationships or connectivity.
The structural elements of a building also serve the function of an amenity. An amenity nominally is static, but could also be a mobile, which then is called a utility. A static amenity can have some degree of internal variability like a louver in a window or an elevator in building. The static amenities are designed to take advantage of the location, orientation, connections, etc. Static amenities use their mass for their relevance and so are heavy. Static amenities consume little operative power, and in most cases have no outputs except for disposal or extinction. Non static, dynamic or mobile amenities are difficult in terms of managing the inputs (power, etc.) and outputs (residues, effluents and disposal or extinction).
Environmental amenities relating to the climate (Sun, Wind) operate only for a part of the season, day or hour. Such amenities are also designed to be architectonic elements. Fixed amenities are difficult to reestablish elsewhere or everywhere due to their dependency on connections (power, water supply, entry), forcing one to customize the living around the amenities or accept the inherent deficiencies.
In buildings such attached amenities are platforms for cooking, fireplaces, window ledges, door thresholds, otalas, steps, open to sky Chowks, cutouts, seats along the walls, etc. These are areas with very focussed behaviour, surrounded by a loosely defined zone but worthy of many ‘free’ activities. Amenities are dependent on strong structural elements of the building, often touching the exterior, this creates planning where amenities and related activities to the peripheral areas of the space.
Facilities are unattached entities and so demountable and relocatable. The word facility is often used synonymously with an amenity. A space occupier makes some rearrangements to all the facilities designed and sited by an expert. Such personal manipulations are intentional or experimental, either of temporary or permanent nature. Change in form and location of various amenities is also occasional and seasonal. A space grows with age and reflects not only the taste but turmoils and compulsions of the user. The size, shape, location of different facilities is as important as their interrelationships. The siting of a facility in reference to the spatial quality and architectural ambience reflect the concerns for environmental conditions.
Facilities have ergonomic characteristics to enhance the human capabilities. A facility is conceived to satisfy the largest section of users via the ‘percentile method’, though leaving the users at the top and bottom highly dissatisfied. This causes behavioural problems that are very acutely displayed in public expressions.
Largest section of facilities consists of various devices for carrying out tasks. These task devices support the body or its parts, facilitate and extend the reach and aid the body movements and motions. Support devices provide a base for utilities like chopping and ironing boards. Posture taking devices like for seating and resting, are created with anthropometrics, but their styling affects the human behaviour. Storage systems are work-organizers and do not affect the human behaviour.
Utilities different from amenities and facilities. The utilities include tools and equipment that are handy, though some require a base support for efficient working. Support dependent utilities are often nearly fixed devices. Sourced utilities are tied, requiring linkages for input-output like power or effluents. These are relocatable within a range. Hand-free utilities require very little manual manipulation for operations. Utilities become multipurpose because every variation in its support system gives it a new purpose. So it is, said creativity comes through the crafts-person or technician, and not from the utilities. Majority of the utilities and facilities are preferential to right-handed people in terms controls and operations.
Enrichments are means of personalization of a space. Installation or removal of the enrichments does not affect the utilitarian value of a space. Enrichments serve a decorative and metaphoric purpose. Enrichments are extremely personal and frequently replaceable, so are transient entities. Some functional entities like bolsters, cushions, dusters, etc. are accepted to be items for comfort but are accepted as enrichments. Enrichments are items of expression through their shape, form, scale, colour, texture, patterns, composition, symbolism, position or location, relationship with other objects.
The schema for enrichments originates through several sources like media, inter-personal interactions, print media, TV, cultural heritage, caste, religion, locale, region, pride, leisure time, motivation and competition. It is also supported by desire to add-on the convenience offered over industrially produced standard goods, love for artistic intervention or crafty manipulation, experimentation, innovation, improvisation, upgrade, repair etc.
Enrichments are brought in by a person, members of the family or leaders of a group. The theme, as a result inevitably has one or singular ’authorship’ and consistency of concept. This reflects in the unified effort. There is a continuous thread of concept, form, colour pallet, patterns, placement, symbolism, etc. Occasionally radically different types of enrichments also manifest in such spaces, but over a period of time things gets acceptance. Where a next generation inherits the space entity, their responses are nearly confirmatory, and something of the past survives or is consciously continued. When a person or family migrate to new environments, the new place carries the imprints of the old, in many instances more intensely. Where space designing is outsourced to professionals a new vocabulary of enrichment arrives, but these too get domesticated or personalized. Such personalization occurs through re-siting, re-orientation, and new contextual composition. In few instances it may awaken new lifestyles, but something of the past always reappears.
Enrichments affect the behaviour very mildly but persistently. The cumulative change over a period of time is far greater in content and extent. The enrichments reflect the personalization, so are very comforting and assuring. It represents the author and an age, and reminds the contribution of the author or the era. Enrichments take away the loneliness and boredom. Enrichments add to the micro levels of comfort without destroying the standard scheme of the space. Enrichments customize a space circumstantially, according to local environmental needs, personal choices and tasks. Enrichments are self-created and self-installed so their repair, alterations and replacement are within the personal ambit of skills and time management. Enrichments are demountable and transferable, so remain personal assets.
This post forms 15th 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.