Post 44 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 14 in Lecture Series Space and Human Behaviour)



Built spaces created by designers are universal solutions relevant to a thematic concept, stylized to suit own idiosyncrasies, and equalized for large section of users. Localization is required for designs that follow world wide parameters while overlooking local variations of climates, terrains and cultures. Customization of built spaces is required for addressing corrections in few compulsive areas, typically for biological left-right inclinations, racial physiological variations, ergonomic reach capacities and variable sensorial functionality of individuals. Acutely customized offerings also arrive with undeclared intentions and dictates, and these may need some degree of personalization. The personalization often derives from unexplainable traditions, taboos, customs, instincts, perceptions and compulsions.

640px-Zanskar_Phuktal_03Localization is created by lay users and designers. Lay users, wherever they have the capacity and opportunity, do redefine the space on their own. Lay-users’ space adoptions are through surface treatments, rearrangement of spatial entities, modulation of the sensorial effects, updating of re-installable components and systems. These are additional interventions over the nominal functional provisions of planning.


Localization of complex nature and requiring time-consuming processes, are better handled by professionals. These ideally should involve the original designer of the built-space, but that happens very rarely. New designers, more attuned to the needs of the user or occupants, are called in to handle the assignment. New designers are less obliged to show any respect for the original concept. Such localization and personalization attempts are often superfluous and insincere. Designers, have greater technical competence and the solutions are radical.


Customization means turning a standard or universal built space for specific for the user-client, climate, locality theme or image. In case of very personal entities, it may include provisions for individual choices or group-based requirements. Standard layouts when not matched with characteristics of the site or climatic orientation, cannot always be corrected from exterior sides due to bylaws, regulations and circumstantial restrictions. Customization offers interior level solutions by keeping the scope and cost at rational level.


Personalization means commuting a space identity exclusively for the user or specific theme. Here two levels of change occur, permanent ones are more serious, encompassing and coordinated, and casual ones are superfluous for occasional needs. The changes to alter quality of space, are done, both by simplifying or complicating the configuration. This is done by enveloping, partially occlusion, masking, framing, juxtaposing the existing composition, or its elements. Designers exploit radically different conditions like auditory, olfactory, tactile and atmospheric factors such as the temperature and moisture etc. A lay person finds it very difficult to replicate these in a personal space, because judgements on these counts are speculative as effective results derive from accumulation of several factors. A lay person considers non visual sensorial effects at best as the reinforcing elements to visual means. For lay people the elements selected are personal and perhaps familiar.


Designers change spaces with a thematic concept or brand-image. A signature style runs through the scheme by visual language like coordinated colour, texture etc. It is also formed of design tools like scaling, proportion, framing, exterior connections and spatial transgressions. There is an attempt to alter the scale and complexity of the space, by elements that are alien as well as familiar.


The personalization of a space achieved through visual means is very obvious, as much as it is effective. Non visual sensorial effects are difficult to perceive, so difficult to express, communicate or record. Many of the visual means also provide, non visual sensorial effects, at specific positions and in certain circumstances. The non visual means of personalization are very subtle and can only be exploited by experienced person. Professional designers, in their conventional space planning, give consideration to parameters like auditory, olfactory, tactile and atmospheric factors such as the temperature and moisture, etc. However, a lay person finds it very difficult to replicate these in a personal space. The judgements on these counts are speculative because effective results derive from accumulation of several factors. A lay person considers non visual sensorial effects at best as the reinforcing elements to visual means. Other parameters such as the privacy, intimacy, well being, safety, security, seclusion and participation, are achieved through sensible space planning, but need other reinforcement through indicative means.


Public spaces like museums, temples, halls, etc. use personalization to occasionally connect with their large following. But offices and commercial outlets like shops, malls, automobile showrooms, need to be refurbished more frequently to consistently cast a fresh image. Short term changes in space are achieved by enrichments.


Enrichments are primary means of personalizing a space. The enrichments reflect intense effort for selection, context and placement. The selection follows traditions, taboos, customs, instincts, experience, perceptions, daring, suggestions and compulsions. The enrichments, collectively become a matured style of the locality or a group, an ethnicity of an era or a geographical identity. Enrichments are selected for their own quality or appeal, and also as fitment to a given situation, but often without contemplating the desired end result. Enrichments, as a result, reduce the alienation, loneliness, and the incidence undesirable or severity of abnormal behaviours.

The_Tomb_Of_IlltutmishEmbellishments are more superfluous and temporary interventions for enhancing whatever that exists. Embellishments are demountable. Their effect lies in terms of relevance for the occasion, placement and distinctive identity.

Personalization through enrichments and embellishments occur through many routes. The identification is achieved by cultural affinity, affirmation to a social or religious cause (e.g. green spaces, Krishna consciousness), confirmation to an ideology, expression of abstracted messages, display of authority, hierarchal structure, a diffusion, spiritual, history, continuity, desires for contrast or diversity, etc. Enrichments may have no precise definition or justification, but over a period attain an identity. Enrichments encourage the group behaviour dynamics with a sense of belonging. Enriched spaces have safety, security and assurance of performance.


Enrichments are: Objects that can be savoured from many sides such as vessels, utensils, statues. Furniture pieces to aid postures, task supports, storage entities, space intervening objects, furnishings like carpets, bolsters and curtains. Fittings and Fixtures add to the functionality of architectonic elements. Surfaces like paintings, murals, wall pieces, posters, mirrors, glass, patterns, which denote floors, walls or ceilings or partitions. Signage and Graphics to convey messages, indicate layouts, symbols.


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