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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.