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.



Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer

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