Post 42 by Gautam Shah  (Blog 12 in Lecture Series Space and Human Behaviour)


Spaces are multitasking facilities. Spaces have varied segments and environmentally transient locations to allow different activities. The activities converge and separate in time and locations. A task is an identifiable work-lot for productive effort, relaxation or passing engagement. It is a work module that requires an area, specific environmental conditions, certain physiological capacities, few postural variations, set of tools and amenities, intra-personal facilitation, psychological makeup, intent and motivation. Other concerns for conducting tasks are safety, health, comfort, stability, mobility, consistency, variety, physical reach, cognition, sense of productivity, energy-conservation, ecological engagements, learning and cultural inhibitions. A space becomes dynamic when it offers new possibilities for conducting tasks experiencing. Group behaviour patterns refresh interest in the location.

Keys Maker 600 pexels-photo-64609
Key Maker > Pexels Image by Caio (https://static.pexels.com/photos/64609/pexels-photo-64609.jpg)

Task Location: Tasks stay put at a location for many different reasons. Tasks utilize fixed structures, amenities, facilities and consistent environmental conditions productively. Some tasks are well practised (routine), require less attention, and so allow more time for interactions with others and passive observance of other tasks. Locations where tasks are conducted consistently in the same time-space segments, evolve with many enrichments. Such locations, become marked-out (named) spaces and architecturally well defined units (bathing area, hay chopping area, etc.). Tasks depending on environmental conditions at a location cannot be shifted, as the combination of spatial qualities and environmental conditions are difficult to get elsewhere. Tasks occurring within a built-form have well-customized environment, reducing the need to shift a task, compared to tasks in exterior areas that are dependent on climatic factors.

Chair Lattice 640px-India_-_Delhi_old_man_-_5053
Chair Lattice work (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/India_-_Delhi_old_man_-_5053.jpg/640px-India_-_Delhi_old_man_-_5053.jpg) (Wikipedia image by Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Task Anchorage: Tasks are attached to entities like: space forms, environmental conditions, structures, amenities, facilities, utilities and other enrichments. Some tasks happen where chances of intra-personal interactions are better. Tasks occur at places from where some degree of command over a larger domain can be enforced.

weaving Japan 415px-Yōshū_Chikanobu_Filial_Piety
Japanese woman weaver > ART by Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912)

Amenities are attached to architectonic elements and are relocatable, Facilities are integrated architectural configurations and are mostly fixed but sometimes demountable, Utilities are nearly independent or stand-alone system and are replaceable, and Enrichments do not have any apparent functionality but add specific character or interest to the space.

Papad making by Group, India (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikimedia/commons/thumb/6/6f/papad_made_of_finger_millet_%28Eleusine_corcana%29.jpg) Wikipedia image by Corps for the future

Task Orientation: Tasks are mainly positioned towards advantageous environmental resources such as illumination, wind direction, etc. Tasks are oriented to amenities and facilities, architectonic elements and to other people. Some tasks have sanctimonious associations and so are oriented to specific directions (like Mecca, East-Sun). Tasks are directed towards exteriors through the openings’ systems like door, window, or a gap, because it extends the vision and allows to command further. Orientation is a biological preference as well as cultural conditioning and accordingly people prefer left or right turning.

Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant
Nuclear Plant Task management console > (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Kozloduy_Nuclear_Power_Plant_Control_Room_of_units_3_and_4.jpg) Wikipedia image by Yovko Lambrev

Task Shifting: Task shifting is both a necessity and reflection of inadequacy of the current location. In built-forms where environment is well conditioned, the need to shift a task is less severe compared to tasks that are dependent on climatic factors. Task handling efficiency derives when wait for the right occasion or search for the right location is minimal. Tasks are also switched to different schedules and locations to develop new intra personal equations or group behaviour mechanisms. Tasks, which flourish within groups, may ignore time and space convenience. Tasks extremely dependent on fixed amenities for productivity cannot be shifted. However, sub-tasks dependent on multiple processes needs to shift around wherever these are available.


Pexels image by Mike > https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-scale-photo-of-car-factory-188710/

Tasks are shifted for the sake of variety of experience and intra-personal encounters a new location offers. Such shifts in space and switches in time often occur to relieve the tedium and for the sake of experimentation. Tasks are mostly positioned (and shifted around) within the same space segment and scheduled (and switched around) in the same time section. In single room houses, tents and non-formal work areas (like rural craft workshops), tasks’ timings and their spread requirements are well matched.


Milkman looking out > https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e8/India_-_Kolkata_milkman_-_4090.jpg/640px-India_-_Kolkata_milkman_-_4090.jpg > Wikipedia image by Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0

Tasks and Sensorial Perception: The critical factors are perceptibility, legibility and recognition. The ability to perceive (see, touch, smell, listen, etc.) is one of the most important requirements of task handling. Tasks if clearly legible reduce the reach distance necessary to manage it. Task Recognition helps in the location finding, schedule management and exploiting the environmental conditions. Tasks are better managed in a continuous sequence. The sequence optimizes the postural change, site shifting, usage of amenities and facilities by multiple members, exploits the environmental advantages, adjusts the intense work and rest periods.

Savile Row tailoring at Henry poole & Co. London, England 1944 > (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/Savile_Row_Tailoring_at_Henry_Poole_and_Co %2C_London%2C_England%2C_UK%2c_1944_D21864.jpg)

Types of Tasks: Tasks are better managed, if perceived as a part of Routine and sequence. The routine recognizes common factors between tasks. Casual tasks are once in a while endeavour, whereas Sequential tasks optimize the postural change, site shifting, usage of amenities and facilities by participating members, and adjust intense work and rest periods.

Three types of Tasks:

  1.   Routine Tasks,
  2.   Casual Tasks,
  3.    Sequential Tasks.

1 Routine tasks are associated with the same location, time schedule, fixed structures, amenities, facilities and environmental conditions. Routine tasks are also very dependent on group behaviour patterns. Routine tasks require very little shifting or rescheduling, and so are very productive. The location is maintained because the space segment, with some consistent qualities can expand and contract to meet the occasional needs of the individual or group. Locations for routine tasks are consistent, and evolve with personalization such as enrichments. Such locations, because of their consistency and permanency, become architecturally marked spaces (such as the bathing area, hay chopping area, etc.). Routine tasks with acute time domination cannot generally afford the luxury of space shifting, because identical environmental conditions are difficult to set elsewhere.

Farmers in the fields > Pixabay image by sarangib > https://pixabay.com/en/paddy-harvest-rice-workers-207933

2 Casual tasks are tactical solutions. Casual tasks are ‘once in a while process’. The exigency is to accomplish the task in with whatever location conditions, and as quickly as possible. Casual tasks overcome the shortcomings of the space size, form, environmental conditions, and problems with group behaviour dynamics. Casual tasks are ‘exciting’ as these open-up new possibilities of space and time management. Casual tasks also generate new group behaviour patterns and intra-personal relationships.

NASA Assembly by Batch PIA04848-800x600

Lander petals of the Mars Exploration Rover 2 > https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA04848 > Image Credits NASA/JPL/KSC

3 Sequential tasks result from continuous work processes between equipments and participants, or both. Sequencing is required where the work steps are preceding-anteceding or back-feed or forward-feed are required. These can happen with batch or streamline production processes.

For example for cooking an efficient work triangulation is proposed, the nodes consist of basic amenities like cooking, sink and refrigerator (could change with culture and technology) and the connections denote the preparation, defrosting and storing, respectively. Similar task management techniques are used with robotic automobile assembly lines. Streamlined production plants like garments, electronics, consumer white goods recognize working of each task and the interim carryover periods and spaces.

Volkswagen Assembly Line > Wikipedia image by Roger Wollstadt

Task Productivity: It is greatly affected by the work-setting formed by the space and environment. Wherever and whenever there is realization that task productivity is not of the comparative societal standards, the space is reformatted to realign the amenities, facilities and architectonic elements. Here at one end the functional efficiencies are re-validated, and at the other end environmental controls are reset. New group dynamics of intra-personal relationships also upgrade the productivity. Consistency and Variety can be achieved by doing a different task, or the same task differently. For these tasks are set in different spatial and environmental conditions, and often with new intra-personal setting.

Learning and Improvisations > Our_Community_Place_Sandbox > Wikipedia image by Artaxerxes

Physical Reach and Physical Capacities: These two, in a way also determine the dependence on tools, equipments, structures, amenities, facilities for carrying out tasks. These also define the number of sub-tasks or processes that can be handled without requiring shifting or rescheduling. Physical reach and capacities are governed by the posture taken for the task.

630 -Work Station 151028-F-YR382-062
Centralized Work Station

Housewives have accepted platform type of kitchen over floor level cooking in a crouching position because the later was restrictive. A corner study table allows greater reach then a straight table. An aged person prefers a straight seat with handles as it allows an easy rise up off the chair.

Social Factors: The tasks and group behaviour are inseparable. Socially siting and scheduling of tasks affects the group behaviour pattern. Customs and taboos result from the local perceptions and experiences, and so same tasks could have different time and space setting (ethnic variations) across societies. Intra-personal interactions, even if nonverbal, act as a relief in task handling. Intra-personal activities are more apparent in craft related tasks.

BEER 640px-François_Louis_Jaques_Paysans_fribourgeois_au_bistrot
Beer sharing ART by Francois Louis Jaques (1877-1937)

Bhunga houses (of Kutchh, Gujarat, India) have door thresholds as the commandeering location. Huts and one room house use inside front-corner for cooking because from the door an outsider would not see what is being cooked. Kitchens have platforms (or centralized work stations) attached to the wall for accessing services. Some tasks have sanctimonious associations and so are oriented to specific directions (like Mecca, East-Sun). One of the most preferred of orientations, are the openings’ systems like door, window, or a gap, because it extends the vision and allows to command further. Orientation is a biological preference as well as cultural conditioning and accordingly people prefer left or right turning.

Hand Loom India Worker Weaving Rural Worker Loom
Coir Fiber Loom Worker India > http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Hand-Loom-India-Worker-Weaving-Rural-Worker-Loom-285220

Physiological Determinants of Tasks: Physiological determinants relate to biological needs of the users. Major concerns are safety, health and comfort. Other concerns include anthropometrics, ergonomics, stability, mobility, consistency and variety. Factors such as recognition, productivity, energy-conservation, ecological engagements, learning, customs taboos, etc. are not physiological but operate concurrently.

Workshop in spite of the built-form offers several option of environment, orientation, location shifting and time scheduling for Tasks > Pexels image (107953) by Unsplash


This is the TWELFTH 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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