Post 37 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 7 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Size and Shape of a space are two independent qualitative factors. A space can have many different shapes irrespective of the size, and so it is an absolute function. The size can manifest in many different forms but remains relative to the human body. The size makes a shape is relevant when it adequately relates to the human body, or it has only symbolic value.

Regatta sailing into Venice dwarfing the buildings > Wikipedia image by Rob Young from UK

Shape and Size have concurrent spatial relevance. Spatial relevance is checked in terms of utility (functional adequacy), ergonomics requirements, past experiences and sensorial reach capacities. Shape is often equated with form. And if the ‘form follows the function’ then shape has purposes that are utilitarian, depictive or symbolic.


Shapes of Spaces emerge due to the edges or barriers and stresses like gravity affecting the field. Our perception faculties are directional and nodal. Hearing and vision, are bi-nodal. Vision, smell and taste faculties are frontal, whereas touch is non-local. Faculties of perception and the shape of space have an immediate connection. Balanced or equilateral spaces, such as a square, round, or a triangle, are difficult to occupy at their nominal centres. For such balanced spaces, a non-centric location seems more efficient for occupation. A square or a circle subsist on their own and seem to survive in all types of conditions and times. Irregular shaped spaces need a strong orientation force to sustain the deviation.

Irregular shape spaces > Dinan Old Town > Flickr image by Paul Tomlin

Monuments designed for posterity (historic buildings, memorials), government buildings, institutions associated with discipline (army training, hospitals, research laboratories) overwhelmingly have cubical shapes or regular forms.

Closed in overhead forms like domes, pyramids, tents, etc. seem to provide greater cover and so protection compared to regular cubical or flat roofs. Sloped roofs and floors not only indicate an orientation but enforce concentration (or dissipation). Slopes indicate a gradual change and so have been used to tie up different domains. Stepped forms show a sequential change and mark different but connected domains. The nature of activities in a space help highlight or de-emphasize the shape. A spiral stair’s circular movement enhances its vertical scale, but a right or left turning spiral could, respectively, mean upward or downward movement orientation. Minarets and Gopuram narrowing skyward enhance the vertical direction.

Stepped forms > Potala Palace Lhasa Tibet > Flickr image by Dennis Jarvis

Shapes like convex, concave or parabolic curvatures modify the movement. Planes that slope away or towards the user, mean opening or closing of the form. Right and left turns have culture specific relevance which may override presumed biological preferences.

Size is fundamentally scaled to the human being, but it also represents capacities of retaining, spreading and distancing. These capacities also reflect the effort and duration required to possess, occupy, use and even dispose off (de-possess, de-occupy) an entity.

British Parliament is an elongated rectangular with opposite benches, signifying one is either for the government (ruling party) or in opposition. Many other parliaments in multi party democracies have segmental circle forms, with speaker occupying the cut end. Equal participation seminars are held in square or circular rooms (an UN security council). One way affairs, like press conferences were once held at the smaller end of a rectangular room, but are now held with a wider end as backdrop to facilitate video shooting. Lectures, discourses are focussed to the speaker. Fashion shows use the long axis of a rectangular space to be with the spectators. Olympics’ main stadium is a multi game facility, where events like opening – closing ceremonies get a highly defined shape – form, but smaller items of athletics get a de-emphasized (nonspecific) a shape entity.

Renaissance Lille Palais des beaux arts > Wikipedia Image by Velvet

The shapes get corrupted through over-design and intensive occupation. In all architectural styles (Renaissance, Gothic, Byzantine, etc.), their end periods are marked by extensive transgressions out of their classical forms. In such extensively transgressed entities, size or shape are difficult to recognize.

Within a domain various shapes are formed to introduce interrelationships of proportions, analogy, sequencing, proximity, etc. Shape configurations are closed or open ended. Some show potential of growth through distension, others are open to attachments. The shape expansion is linear, planner or volumetric, and local, pervasive, directional or haphazard. A spatial shape reflects the constituent forces, so a shape could be changeable or consistent.



The size of a space is scaled to the body size of the occupants. Such scaling confers certain functionality to the space. The functions of space size include: nature of cognition, reach, communication, exchanges, levels of intimacy, loss of objectivity and subjective involvement. The size is seen as the facility of accommodation and also future potential for alternation, improvisation, and personalization. Sizes in neighbourhood spaces are perceived for recognition and reach to define the functional adequacy for interpersonal relationships and mutual relationship between spatial elements.

National Cathedral Washington DC USA > very tall and deep space > image by Sr Airman Daniel R Decook

At Absolute level the size of a space is seen as the difference between the Length and Width and considered a narrow or wide entity. Height accentuates or de-emphasizes the character of narrowness or broadness of the space. The equality of Length and Width of space marks a balance. The orientation of smaller or larger size gives a feel of a deep and shallow space. The size differential also gives a sense of long vs short direction to the space.

Staircases and Atrium interior of Bradbury Building, LA USA > Wikipedia image > Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division CA-334-6

A space is perceived to be small, adequate or large in terms of various tasks, and in terms of responses it offers over such as echoes, reverberation, reflection, illumination, glare, vision. Same space may be seen to be of a different size depending on the recent experiences. Most people find hospital wards to be very strange (large). Occupation of domains with unusual proportions (combinations of lengths, widths, and height) and sizes require extra efforts of accommodation.

Istiqlal Mosque Prayer Hall, Jakarta Indonesia > Wikipedia Image by Gunawan Kartapranata 

For a lay person, spaces within the known range (of recognition) are predictable and so manageable. The strangeness or alienation is reduced by introducing scalable elements such as repetitions, rhythmic evolution, structured patterning, sensory gradation, acceleration-de-acceleration, graduated changeovers, linkages, relationships through modulation and proportioning.



Shapes, proportions, sizes and their placement and sequencing, are very important tools of space design. Designers, intentionally avoid as well as include such effects, but then surprises do occur. Spatial manipulations and surprises, both are further exploited by the users for individualization.

Asahi Plaza Capsule Hotel > Wikipedia image by Peter Woodman Seattle WA USA

In a space entity peripheral zones represent the variations. These are marked with graduated as well as substantive changes of sizes. Within a space, the size (and thereby the proportions) changes provide variegated settings for different activities. Architectonic elements form static zones. Transient elements like environment form dynamic areas. Variability of segments of space is sometimes due to the processes of perception. Perception of space is due to past experiences, age, physiological condition and moods.



Small spaces are small absolutely and relatively. A space is considered small if one, two, or all of its dimensions (Length, Width, Height) are small in comparison to the occupant’s body size and inadequate for task requirements. A space is considered small (narrow) if one of its horizontal-spread dimensions (either Length or Width) is proportionately smaller.

Nakagin Capsule Tower Shinbashi Tokyo, Design by Kisho Kurokawa 1972 > Wikipedia image by Wiiii


Capsule Tower > Flickr Image by Forgemind Webuse 0002

Capsule Module Interior > Flickr Image by Forgemind Webuse 0002

Small spaces are considered intimidating and claustrophobic because the core zone nearly embraces the entire space, leaving no or very small peripheral area. Such core zones touching the periphery are too susceptible to affectations from neighbouring domains. Small spaces evoke overwhelming power of the barriers, such as no echoes, or no depth for perspective perception.

Nakagin Capsule Tower’s One Pod at the Mori Art Museum > Wikipedia image by Dick Johnson

Small spaces are intimate and show good recognition. Small spaces aid intra-personal communication and exchanges. But very small spaces become too personal for reasonable for objective communication. Small spaces are acutely specific for one or few activities and so are manageable. Small spaces may be functionally adequate by themselves but do not permit even a temporary expansion of an activity. Small sub-space modules have a tendency to merge and form a larger system, as it saves estate wastage in peripheral zones. Small spaces bulge (transgress) out of peripheral zones.

Small Intimate Spaces – Boating Party ART by Renoir



Large spaces have large core zones and equally large peripheral zones. Very large spaces have diffused or multiple cores. Diffused cores have poor recognition, communication and exchange capacity. In large spaces the distanced barriers are also less commanding for the quality of the core zone. A large space with fewer occupants may seem impersonal compared to small space, which in some way infuses intimacy. Large spaces allow individualization, but group formation becomes uncertain. Large spaces confer power to the individual who can own it and have the reach capacity to control it.

Macao airport Lounge > Wikipedia Image by Pizzaboy1

Amphi theatre performances require large frill dresses, loud dialogue delivery, spaced out movements -theatrics, real or make-believe sub-zoning of the stage. Large space audiences can be reached through public address system, a large podium, stage setting, colour-light highlighting, etc. People in large spaces like airports and marriage halls reach out to others through wild gestures, shouting etc.

Very Large Space Amphi Theatre Aspendos > Flickr Image by David Holt

Large spaces seem alien as the peripheral zones are too varied and segmented making the edges less definitive. Occupation of large spaces is a challenging act. One needs to find points for anchorage, a direction for orientation, presence of other human being (or an animal like a dog) for confirmation, and a ready strategy for exit in any exigency.

Large space with very transparent periphery zone  > Mai Le speaking at CreativeMornings Wikipedia Image by CreativeMornings



Narrow spaces have one of the floor dimensions (width or length) proportionately smaller. Spaces with a strong linear (directional) character seem narrower. Narrow spaces are functionally single-purpose entities, such as stairs, passages, roads, corridors, etc. Narrow spaces discipline the movement. The functional inadequacy of narrow spaces could also be physical, a carryover of the past experiences or a psychological condition. Taller spaces often seem narrower compared to a shallow or low height space, with the same floor spread. Narrow spaces have domineering effect of the side barriers, more so if these are opaque that is without any break or transgression.

Narrow lane > Marten Trotzigs grand Gamla stan Stockholm, Sweden > Wikipedia Image by Mastad

Narrow spaces allow formation of small groups. Linear distance among the groups increases the privacy and intimacy. Narrow spaces may have multi-core zones due to the specific conditions available locally, such as near the doors, windows, columns, corners, benches, niches, public address systems, focussed illumination spots, air movement-delivery and ventilation nodes (fans, air conditioners, heaters), stair entrances, junctions (cross corridors, floor cutouts), signboards, parapets, ash trays, etc. Narrow spaces in their longer direction are leading and focussing, and in the shorter direction are diffusive and non-attentive. Art galleries are designed to be linear spaces as the exhibits are smaller, but master pieces in museums are placed in halls, for distance viewing. The hall of mirrors, Versailles is a classic example of long space; opaque on one side and fully windowed on the other side.

Tall space seem narrow > Amiens cathdral South aisle > Wikipedia image by Raggartt2000



Wide space is very ambiguous a term. All large sized spaces are also wide spaces, because here both dimensions are functionally more than adequate. A corridor is long (so essentially narrow) element, but could have generous width, making it a wide lobby or a hall. A space seems wider if it is less occupied and sparingly furnished (a vacant hall). Shallow spaces (low height) seem wider and larger. Wide spaces have distanced barriers and so mid space elements like columns, central furniture pieces, floor cut outs, etc. gain importance. A space may seem wide, if its barriers are non opaque, allowing vision, movement, etc. across it. Wide spaces allow group formation. Individuals and groups have intimacy and privacy due to inter group distancing. Wide spaces, if adequately dimensioned permit sub-core activities near their peripheries.

Very Large Space and group behaviour dynamics at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, Los Angels



A Tall is a ‘height’ identity and Deep is frontal distance distinction. In both the cases the side barriers have a strong impress that often restricts, or affects the apparent size perception. Tall and deep spaces acutely reveal their functionality. Chowks, cutouts, light wells, stair wells, under sides of domes, etc. are directional (vertically stretched) and static (non changing) spaces. These are considered ideal for non diversionary activities like study, meditation and prayer. Exhibitions, museums emulate this effect, by spot lighting the displayed items. Tall and deep spaces restrict the transmission of background noise (nearly absorb all the reflected sound, allowing only the direct waves).

Salt cave in Mount Sodom Israel > Wikipedia image by Wilson44691



Reach is an important determinant of how a space is sensed to be, large or small. Reach in a space relates to not only the distance one needs to transit, to perceive or wrest an object, but also command over happenings within the space. The command in space manifests through visual coverage, audibility, olfactory distinction, tastes sensation, etc. Reach in space occurs through bridging of nodes such as the architectural elements, amenities and facilities within the space. It also occurs through associations (confirming or contrasting) between surfaces, forms and patterns, environmental conditions, sizes and proportional hierarchies.


This is the SEVENTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.




Post 36 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 6 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Spaces are recognized and improvised by lay persons, whereas are planned by designers, for a range of behaviour. These stack holders, though have different intentions, do arrive to some common realizations.

PixNio Image “Female sitting Library” By Debora Cartagena USCDCP

The spaces can be distinguished into several classes.

One, where the extent is endless and sometimes beyond the limits of perception, the Wild exteriors;

Two, where the marked edges define the range of perception, forming neighbourhoods;

Three, Enclosing elements creating a dimensioned spatial definition, an interior space;

Four, a threshold zone that manifests between the interior space and the neighbourhoods.

Land Markings > Pixabay Image by danilocarta Cagliari/Italia


Wild exterior spaces are recognized for the endless sensorial effects. The space is often unreal or perfunctory, as it only denotes the potential –what can one do with it? It initiates a desire to visit it, and than perhaps possess it. Visit to the place makes it real and substantial. Possession of the place is a recognition of the existing markings or implanting new ones. This is the beginning of a neighbourhood.

A very vast space is perceived through its markings. A ‘beautiful sunset, a valley or seashores’ are markings of a space. These are evident through the physical elements like: edges, banks, thresholds, slopes, plains or fences and environmental effects thereon. We perceive only certain range of space. The reach varies with each perceiver’s capacity, needs and environmental conditions so is very circumstantial.

Neighbours and their Spaces > Flickr Image by European Commission EU/ECHO/M.Morzaria


Individual markings of possessions, together form a network of bounding elements. These bounding elements identify sets of individual zones and exclusive environment available there. A distinctive neighbourhood develops due to the common territory and environment. A neighbourhood is a ‘collection of individuals and places’. As an exterior space, it is finite and predictable. Here the social contacts develop due to familiarity of people and known lay of the place.

A neighbourhood has recognizable geometric order, predictable structure, purposive nodes or anchorages, well-defined segments, distinct routes and paths, good sensorial perception and recognition of the whole and its parts.

Commercial Area of Hutong Beijing > Wikipedia-Flickr Image by Geoff McKim

 ‘A jungle of apartments where no one knew who was dead or who was celebrating what – but an archipelago of neighbourhoods, in which everyone knew each other.’ -Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City.

Neighbourhood spaces have paths and open spaces that both connect as well as separate various habitable spaces. Here it is not the distance but the degree of dependence that forms unified neighbourhood space. The dependence is need-based as much as it is perception based. One may not know or formally meet the neighbour for years, or ever, but the perception someone is staying in vicinity is a great social comfort. Very often even the presence of a man-made object provides the same comfort.

Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle -ART by Eugene Galien Laloue (1854-1941)

Neighbourhood spaces separate wild exteriors from the interior spaces. A neighbourhood space comes into being and remains valid in the context of the interior space. A space created by the enclosure (interior) is far more enduring then one defined by bounding (neighbourhood). Neighbourhoods are finite, shaped and sized but spaces for inhabitation require greater degree of intervention then improvisation, and so are designed.

Interior of the Great Mosque (Ulucami) Bursa Turkey > ART by John Frederick Lewis (1805-1876)


The interior spaces are enclosed entities. The outward sensorial reach beyond the edge of the interior space does not affect either the wild or neighbourhood exterior spaces. However, other way around, Interior spaces are affected by all the happenings in exteriors. A very strong enclosure creates an isolated space, of limited relevance. However, translucency of the enclosure brings in environmental variations to the interior. The interior space and the timed environmental variations create a wide variety of purposive settings.

Olivandenhof Interior Koln > Wikipedia image by ZH2010

 The depth or scale as defined by the enclosing elements, reflecting the sensorial reach such as vision, hearing, smell, touch, etc. Interior spaces have many variegated subsections within. The major variation derives from the orientation. The degree of translucency of the enclosing elements adds several alternatives to this. Other variations are related to the use, and are specific to perception.

Inward Transgression of Exterior > Dwelling at Jaisalmer Rajasthan India > Image with Courtesy by Ms Kavita Abhijit Murugkar on FB as (https://www.facebook.com/abhijit.murugkar )

The enclosures of the interior spaces have varied levels of transparencies. The openings in the shell allow escapes at many places. The transgressions across the enclosure occur as outward push and inward pull of the interior space. The outward push or encroachments are often ‘cost-less’, though may ‘load’ the enclosure (shell) body. It increases the interior volume and permits a restrained exterior. The inward intrusions, however, consume interior space or estate and reduce the net enclosed space. All transgressions add extra surfaces over the enclosure body, with or without a proportional increase in volume. Both types of transgressions, inward and outward reach, make the interior spaces vibrant.

Bay Window > Outward transgression of Interior space > Amber Palace Jaipur Rajasthan India > Wikipedia Image by BazaNews

Examples of outward transgressions: Galleries, balconies, Chhatris, campanile, bay-windows, oriel-windows, dormers, Mashrabiya, verandahs, skylights, etc. Examples of inward transgressions: Cutout, Chowks, courtyards, Liwan, setbacks, cutbacks, shafts, light-wells, etc.

The form and format of an interior space are unitary and consistent, but the subsections show minor, local and temporary variations. An insulated and less affected segment, of an interior space is its core zone. A core zone is nominally centric. At the core, metaphysical elements like concepts, beliefs, taboos, etc. that reflect the essence of the inhabitation are stronger. Whereas metaphorical elements like signs, symbols flourish towards the peripheral area.

Inward Transgression of Exterior > Roman Courtyard at Vindolanda > Wikipedia image by Michael Graham

Peripheral zones become some multilateral entities reflecting the environmental variations. Where such variations become extensive and permanent, a new spatial entity comes into being. For example, cooking-dining, kitchen-bathing, entrance-living room, etc. have been one, adjunct or segregated entities, at different times or for different social reasons.

Virtual immediacy in Architecture > ART by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Arco di Trionfo (1745-1750)

It is not necessary for the interior space and the exteriors to be concurrent in time and coexistent in space. One can conceive each, Interior or Exterior alone. Virtual immediacy of the two realms, however can be achieved by carrying across the impressions of the other. The duality of the interior and the exterior is like an antithetic zone to the other. One can also replace the physical presence of the Exterior or Interior realms through their notional representations. The interior and exteriors spaces, can occur as a ‘metaphoric concept’ for the other.

Metaphoric spaces >Wrath >  Pixabay Image by Pexels

The heaven and the hell are two surrounds of the earth. Egyptians have dummy doors (drawn or carved) in their tombs. A Garbha Griha in a temple is an inner sanctum. The Japanese gate Mori is placed anywhere, in a vast open land or sea, to mark a divide. Lakshman Rekha was a notional boundary.

Presentation of metaphoric or symbolic elements suffices to initiate a full scale happening. Pictures or names of gods on doors protect the house. Mime shows, and Bharat Natyam dance mudra enacts space through metaphors. Metaphorical declarations mark a qualitative change, and are used to compensate the territorial presence of physical and metaphysical elements.

Interior spaces are recognized for their potential for functionality (size, shape), environmental control and sensorial adequacy. Sometimes these spaces are designed to alienate the users from the expected set of things. Such diversions are used to excite, to register the change (mark of new and end of old) and also to destabilize the users.

Metamorphic > Pool of Berthesda > ART by Robert Bateman (1836-1889)


Thresholds are real or hypothetical divider marks between two very distinctive spaces and so if the distinction is dull there is no or a weak threshold. Thresholds occur at cuts and cleavages of enclosing elements of Interior space. Enclosing elements have various degrees of translucency and discontinuities where the exterior and interior have immediacy. A threshold is a place to realize both the exterior and interior concurrently, and so the thresholds are very interactive areas. The divide, presented by a threshold is not a clean edge-cut, but has a graded formation.

Graded Spaces Inside Courtyard Seville > ART by Carmen Thyssen

The thresholds are formed within the physical barriers. These barriers define the shape, size and environment of the interior space through their constitution, thickness, mass, volume, size, absorbency, transparency, etc. Other factors include the size, shape, location and orientation of the thresholds. Thresholds also have abutting structures to create intermediate climatic zone and also interpersonal space.

Threshold Zone > Pixabay Image by milldesign UK

A threshold may be an abstract divider in space or a change marker. Thresholds are marked by change in quality of flooring, illumination, sidewall configurations and by elements like high sill, steps, opening portals and pediments. Architectural attachments like verandahs, canopies, overhangs, otalas enhance the threshold’s functions. In thick-wall structures, openings get a substantial depth creating an interpersonal space as in gates and gateways, or in windows a shading device on external sides or an illumination diffuser on inside.

Thresholds and Virtual reality > Mars Effect 3 > Flickr Image by Ryan Somma

Structures abutting the threshold are like exterior transgressions and so form an intermediate climate zone and interpersonal space. Neighbours and visitors have their first encounter here, so become an ideal space for metaphoric declarations such as signs and symbols. These areas are declaration of personalized space. Metaphors take up very little or no estate, and are interpretable by only a class of people. Both of these properties are exploited in creating acutely functional and very exclusive interior spaces.

The metaphors provide exclusivity to the space and economics of expression’.


This is the SIXTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.


Post 35 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 5 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Behaviour in a space domain is governed by the people and the barriers. Physical domains have natural or improvised barriers that define the space. Barriers scale the space, constitute an environment and offer a response system. A space domain becomes a manageable entity, because it is within the limits of human cognition, inside the ambit of physiological capacities and offers variety of spatial characteristics. Space domains are conceived for tasks, storage and social interactions.

Wikipedia Image by Richard Webb

Space Domains are unitary entities, yet have recognized or physically defined segments. The domain segments have different types of barriers. Domains are often convergent, proximate or connected with other domains. The segmentation is always in a flux due to the environmental changes and occupants’ participation. It also shifts as amenities, facilities, enrichments are installed. The quality of segments is also affected by happenings beyond the space-denoting boundaries.

Ranch near Renton Washington 1895

Space domains have segments based on time and place. Time wise the space segments are scheduled, and Place wise the segments are zoned by recognition or markings. Vast variety of environmental options are explored through time-scheduling tasks, storage and social interactions. Similarly the shape, form and amenities of the place best used by Place-schema. It also allows exploration of interim, neighbourhoods, and convergent locations. Coordinated strategies of Time and Place create a life style for now and posterity. The technological innovations from such planning processes lead to knowledge, which passes on as the traditions, beliefs and heritage.

Core and Multiple Peripheral zones > Piazza Venezia > Max Pixel Image by Casio Ex-Z200

The formatted space endows an exclusive character to the domain. Space Domains have two basic zones: Core and Peripheral. Both of these have time and place references. The core zone is one occupied for a substantial amount of time and spread, whereas a peripheral zone is used occasionally depending on certain amenities and environmental options. Core Zone represents the commandeering mechanism, and has a natural tendency to be singular and focal. A core zone is not a geometric centre, though it is a preferred location for commandeering activities. Peripheral zones allow participation in interim, neighbourhoods, and convergent places of other domains. Core zones due to their exclusive position are secluded, in comparison to vibrant peripheral areas. Core areas are multi use spaces, so cannot be used beyond the defined time schedule. Peripheral zones are multilateral and preferential and so allow several use options.

Core area has small and temporary tools and peripheral areas have fixed heavier equipments > Shaker village, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky USA > Wikipedia image by Tom Allen (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The core zone spread is governed by the anthropometric size and cognition capacities of the users. For smaller spreads of the core zones, the shape (form) of space become irrelevant. Similarly very extensive domains lack an effective focus. Very extensive domains allow multiple core zones. Such domains have weaker central command and so allow formation of groups. The groups separate out primarily due to needs like physical accommodation, need for social intimacy and reach of communication. The groups may not seek a distinct territory or qualitative space segment, however, frequent occurrences, show the existence of multiple qualitative space segments.

Core area is multi task area and peripheral areas for storage > Bamboo Craft at Agos Bato Cam Sur > Wikipedia image by Yawrei

Core zones are multi use spaces so very few amenities are sited here. Amenities dependent on external resources such as illumination, ventilation, energies, supplies, disposal, etc. are sited as attached to the peripheral walls. This leads to use of demountable or relocatable amenities in the core sections, such as handy or mobile tools, multipurpose equipments, plug in tools, wireless gadgets, miniaturized appliances.

Very extensive spaces are likely to allow multiple group formations > Wikipedia Image by Thamizhpparithi Maari

Multiple core zones operate within a larger domain space entity. Such zones share the same spatial segment simultaneously or are programmed in same time schedules. Multiple core zones tend to remain together, but often migrate temporarily to strong peripheral areas.

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Very extensive space spread and multiple groups > Lobby of the House of Commons > ART by Henry Barraud 1872-73

Cooking and dining once (and still do in many societies) belonged to a single core zone, but were separated as two concurrent core areas. These two core areas were further separated by a pantry area that was a peripheral zone to both. Entrance is buffered by a lobby, foyer, entrance hall, or vestibule from other sections of the house. Yards, verandahs, porches are used to separate out the building from the street.

Dependence on wall for tools and Work Zone > Workshop of Locksmith > Wikipedia image by Maja Stosic

 Peripheral zones are vulnerable to outside influences due to their closeness with the edge and also their distance from the core section. A core zone is dominated by the domain’s main and common activity, but peripheral zones are escape areas, and so serve different purposes. Peripheral zones derive their functionality from nature of barriers. ‘Peripheral zones emerge as an antithesis or concurrent space segment of the core zone’.

Press Meet with Peripheral occupation (only)
UN Climate Change Press meet in a wide space  > Flickr Image

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

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

Press Pre-Brief. Press Conference. Oval. Press Briefing Room.
Press Conference in small width space (by Bush) > Wikipedia Image by Eric Draper

Peripheral zones are primarily shaped by the core zone, but are more often affected by the nature of the periphery of neighbouring domains and happenings beyond. The edge areas allow a person to selectively taste the happenings of outside-world even while remaining inside. Peripheral zones are flexible, i.e. can be stretched or contracted from their nominal spread.

Outward Transgression of Peripheral zone > Pixabay Image by merditz61

Peripheral areas mark the end of one space entity and beginning of another one. Peripheral zones are thresholds to other space entities, and occur or are perceived to be an intermediate or buffer state. Thresholds are interactive areas, and alter (qualitatively) the elements transiting through it. Their activeness arises from their level of transparency and thickness (mass of the barrier) both of which control (rate, direction) the exchange. Domain transgression occurs through the periphery.

Occupation of Core Zone by groups (For Climate or Inter-familiarity) Flickr Image by Simon Pielow

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

Coffee meet and groups > Pixabay image by Cozendo Steve Cliff

Formation of Centric and Non-centric core zone is more circumstantial, than a matter of geometry or planning. Domains with emphatic barriers create a centric space entity. But domains with breach-able barriers or loosely defined peripheral identities have overwhelming outside effects that create a non-centric space. A very extensive domain also provides greater opportunity for such a form. Non-centric domains have some directionality as these are strongly affected on one edge, or are attached to other domains. Non-centric domains require far more definitive space formatting then centric domains.

A Spatial Domain and its connections >

Convergent or Proximate domains affect peripheral areas of a domain. The peripheral areas are transgressed to enhance the spatial character, or take advantage of the neighbouring or convergent domain. Ariel windows, Bay windows, Chhatris, Balconies, Verandahs are typical outward transgressions. Whereas Chowks, cutouts, shafts, courtyards, are examples of inward transgressions. With such transgressions the peripheral areas change, but core zone remains an exclusive area of the domain.

Core attracts people but rest of area as a peripheral zone remains in a flux > ISKCON temple Chennai, Wikipedia Image by Rasnaboy

Metaphysical domains have no physical spread. The nature of metaphysical is intellectually and intuitively confirmed by the believers, but for others it remains obscure. To get a confirmation of their presence, metaphoric domains are implied through a physical domain. Such confirmation requires a unitary image, so strongly a centric core zone emerges often with a very definitive peripheral zone. Peripheral zones are intentionally made transparent for increased participation or democratic content. Revered spaces, shrines, historical sites, haunted buildings, buildings without utilitarian functions or commercial purposes, have a strong metaphysical genesis. Beliefs borne out of instincts, concepts, experiences, etc. are metaphysical elements and rooted as the core, to form entities as effective as physical ones. The beliefs as a metaphysical factor cast a space that is sharper at the point of the origin, and prone to diffusion with distance. Churches, temples, Ashrams have strongly defined territories through peripheral structures like gates, walls, Gopuram, etc.

Metaphoric domains require very little estate. Here there is a single generative concept, and so peripheral areas have a very minor role. The environs, within, is static requiring nearly opaque barriers. The communication is through gestures, signage or other media. And these needs frequent reinforcement in time and space.


This is the FIFTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.



Post 34 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 4 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Flickr Image by Jan Tik -Tree View

A Place is defined by markings. These could be natural features, alterations of natural features, or new implants. The markings could also be recognition of some geometric arrangement such as a centre, cross lines, triangulation, etc. When markings are made on a place, the intention of a revisit, but altered or implanted marks additionally denote the intention to reoccupy or indicate ownership. A single mark distinguishes a place, but several of them cover a territorial spread. Marking is primary act for acquisition of a territory, but one may not be in position to explain why, and how it actualized. Such actions could be intuitive acts or learned activities. A marked territorial spread is meant for exclusive ownership. An owned territory has characteristic spatial features for inhabitation, such as:

  • environment conditions,
  • dimensional accommodations,
  • amenities and facilities,
  • associations that personalize it,
  • connections to other such spaces.
New Lands > Flickr Image by Bureau of Land Management

Possession and occupation of a space leads to social activity. It specifies the nature of interaction with others, privacy, degree of accessibility or isolation, aloofness, loneliness, alienation, participation, leadership, devotion, cohabitation, etc.

The Catalan Atlas depicting Marco Polo traveling to the East during the Pax Mongolica

A domain is combinatory idea of Place and Space. A domain could be a physical territory or an abstract effectuality over which there is some form of control. The control could be through possession, occupation, ownership, or authority. All domains have markings that highlight their size, character, identity, distinctiveness, exclusivity, knowledge, effectivity, and conformity.

1. In case of territory, the controlled or dominated place is used as a space to survive and proliferate.

2. As abstract effectuality, it is an idea of a space, exploited to sustain and proliferates the myth of a place.

Cappadocia Uchisar Place Turkey Göreme
Goreme Turkey Cappadocia Uchisar Place Max Pixel Image by Panasonic DMC-Fz18

A domain is a sphere, area, orbit, field, arena, demesne, land region, or realm. A domain is zone for activity, identity, distinctiveness, exclusivity, knowledge, rulership, effectivity, communication, belonging, controls, ownership, rights, conformity. A domain is a particular environment or walk of life. It is a territory over which rule or control is exercised by a ruler or government. However, the strength or effectivity of the ruler or governor is rarely consistent, and the position shifting. So a domain is a very ambivalent term.

Domains have a focus, centric or eccentric. A domain is circular or spheroid, as its mass is spread in some balancing form around a focus. A domain is focussed inward as much as fringed outward. A domain is encountered from outside or inside but at a very close distance may not reveal its centrality or sphericality.

Jan van Riebeeck arrives in Table Bay in April 1652 > ART by Charles Davidson Bell (1813-1882)

Domains as Physical territories or Abstract effectuality

A Domain with physical territory is marked (defined), occupied (presence), and possessed (owned). Historically such territories have been occupied, naturally, forcefully or notionally (symbolically). Marking is the first personalization of the domain space and that gets various levels of social confirmation or legality. Such acceptance may remain suspect, as a more powerful authority can challenge it, and force evacuation. A domain as abstract effectuality is circumstantial, formed by a particular environment, belief or conduct. These constituent circumstances change with time, and so their effectiveness varies. There is no distinctive ownership, but an authority through acceptance or confirmation may exist. These domains are metaphysical or metaphorical entities, with approximate or ethereal spread.

Lisbon and the Tagus Sunday

Domains as combined idea of Place and Space have, defining spread, environment, people, ideology and control mechanism.

  •        Spread is seen in the extent of its effectiveness.
  • Environment endows the spatial character.
  • People inhabit it to flourish and proliferate.
  • Ideology is the cultural pose through beliefs, customs, inspirations, inhibitions,
  • Control mechanisms emerge from ownership.
Asia Thailand Asian Women Street People Tahi
Asia, Thailand Street People > Max Pixel Image

A domain can also be defined as a manageable space that is within the limits of human cognition, inside the ambit of nominal physiological capacities, and the extendible reach capacities (including through devices). Domains are setting or locus for Human Behaviour. The setting becomes complete when supported by metaphysical elements like privacy, isolation, reverence, fear, autocracy, and reinforced by metaphoric elements like gestures, symbols, analogies.

Rajneesh and cult disciples at Pune,1977, India > Wikipedia Image source Redheylin (talk) (uploads)

Free Mason Society, Veggies (Vegetarians), Cults (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) Religions, are groups operating as metaphysical domains often without any territorial identity.

Graphics, symbols, signage, languages, codes, gestures (body language), form, proportions, colours, expressions, etc. are some of the allegorical presences. Art movements, fashion styles, literary movements create metaphoric domains. Some spatial features and environmental conditions often occur in concert, and so presence of one, metaphorically triggers the other. Historical monuments, places of reverence (temples, Ashrams), and memorials have such eminence. Nightclubs, amusement parks, exhibitions, public buildings like airports, also have abstracted elements.


This is the FOURTH lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.