Post 41 by Gautam Shah (Blog 11  in Lecture Series Space and Human Behaviour)


Habitable  spaces are substantially real and physical, but could also have features that transcend the reality. Such conditions occur because human cognition, sometimes functions ambiguously. Ambiguities in cognitive processes arise due to the past experiences, expectations and the context. Past experiences seamlessly converge the existing. Expectations pre-empt the happening and colour it. The Context is a manifold reference made up not only of the existing but expectations and experiences.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt > Cyborg at En Wikipediaby (https:/upload.wikipedia.org/wikimedia/commons/thumb/b/beIndiana_Jones_Spectacular.jpg)

 ● Past experiences: Past experiences have very thin spatial connections and fade out in time reference, creating indistinct recollection. And reality is shrouded in mixed layers.

Expectations: Do not allow one to perceive the reality. Expectations have perhaps a rational base but not as dreams.

Context: If environmental, is an ever-changing phenomenon. The fixed contexts provided by physical objects or the beings have personal relevance. Physical objects in abnormal sizes, scales and distortions like the grotesque forms disturb that placidity, at least initially.

The apotheosis of St. Ignactius at church of St Ignazio > ART by Andra Pozzo (1642-1709) Pozzo dissolved the architectural elements of the nave’s barrel vault while coordinating the storyboard. (Flickr Image by http://flickr.com/photos/antmoose/62278449/Anthony Majanlahti)

The ambiguities in cognitive processes also arise as the Time and Space that separate most elements as unique event gets mixed up to produce incoherent and surprising effects. The elements nominally separated in time and space, are ‘virtually’ juxtaposed in a make-believe world.

Smoke of a .45 ART by Charles M Russel (1864-1925) Wikipedia Image

Time is seen as a measure of change, and Space is perceived for its consistency (or even lack of it) over a time. Primitive man, watching a star and noting its almost intangible movement in the sky, or watching own-self getting old, were percepts in time and space. To note the difference, however, two such distinct frames must be juxtaposed. In case of stars, the images were shrouded in known forms such as animals, humans or objects, to record the change. The ageing process had to be realized as own image, rather then being told. First image perception of own-self in the still water or over a glossy surface was not magical for the ‘other being there’, but for the perplexity of left and right getting reversed.

Spada Gallery Articulated Space for Reality Corridor
Sprada Gallery > Wikipedia image by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta
Section of Sprada Gallery Rome, Wikipedia image by Anamorphose
Plan of Sprada Gallery > Wikipedia image by Anamorphose at French Wikipedia

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they appear or be imagined. Its physical form is perceived and interpreted by every individual differently due to the mental filters created with the beliefs and experiences. In this sense reality is an extremely personal domain. The Reality, is often differentiated from what is imaginary, unreal, or delusional, such as the dreams, falsehood, fictional, or abstract. Various philosophers have distinguished the reality from the things that are imaginable (but not real).

Battle for Lanka -a scene from Ramayana drawn by Sahibdin 17C > Wikipedia Image

A thing that can be imagined and expressed such as in painting, sculpture, dance, drama, literature, forma of crystals shadows, reflection in water, or movement of a star, are all real. Though to express the unreal or dream, people have created ‘unnerving and illogical scenes’, strange creatures, grotesque forms, and queer built-spaces. Here the ‘truth’ is stripped or morphed out of the normal significance.

Troll Scandinavia
A ‘Troll’ a class of beings in Norse mythology and Scandinavian Folklore > Wikipedia Image

When the real and unreal transcend, there is sense of ‘Avidya’ (lack of knowledge), a Maya as the cause of illusion. Avidya includes confusing the mundane reality to be the only reality, and believing it as a permanent feature, though it is ever changing. The effect of Avidya is to suppress the real nature of things and perceive something else in its place. The unreal is unexplained till it can be recreated, and it becomes real. It is ignorance or misunderstanding of the nature of reality.

The persistence of Memory By Salvador Dali > creating own reality


Make-believe represents an experience created without the full support of the original conditions, such as environment, space configuration, materials or psychological make-up of the observer. A make believe is virtually (nearly) real, but loses its novelty once multiple exposures robe the stunning effect. Such effects though are very productive tools operating with small spread and quick delivery.

Drama stage set in Ostankino Palace > Wikipedia image by Shakko

Make-believe situations manifest everywhere, magical impact of a powerful representation in painting, a captivating form of sculpture, a transparent glass bead or stone crystals, a shadow or black colour hiding a detail. Mahabharat, the classical epic of India discusses of a palace of contradictions, a solid floor looked like water.

Human cognitive capacities combined with specific reach tools, help of the mental processes, and some drugs (hallucinogenic) sense unreal conditions. This occurs due to the ‘ethereal spread of the space and dispersion of time’. Similar unreal conditions and extra ordinary feats also occur under extreme stress situations. An individual instinctively looks for the triggers that caused it.

Between the real and make believe (or virtually real) there has always been something extra, the superfluous. It is an ‘applique decoration’, carrying its own meaning. It is intended to counter the routine or ordinary. Sir John Summerson, the architectural historian calls it ‘surface modulation’, which Architecture had, with some difficulty, liberated itself from ornament, but it has not liberated itself from the fear of ornament’. Superfluous and ornamentation have been explored as space making elements and for manipulation of the reality. The superfluous and ornamentation both have been means for camouflage. If the superfluous were applique, the ornamentation is better integrated. But both are visually very static and have too much metaphorical connection with the past. The shrouded symbolism of the former, and with the later the contempt for the un-explainable interpretation, led to creation of new space making forms.

Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building Chicago > Wikipedia image by Beyond My Ken

Justifications, for the new space making forms were many: Relief from history, cultural corroboration, terrestrial bearing reliance of rational geometry, functionality and essentials of structures, and new spatial realizations. The new datum for modernism for architecture and products, was, ‘form follows function, purity of form and truth to materials’. For abstracted arts and crafts had no reliance on functionality or the materials, and confusion continued through the cubism, surrealism and Dadaism, etc. The process of ‘de-ornamentation’ in post industrial period, allowed much needed exposure for aspects like geometry, functional, structural, and spatial definitions.

Deconstructivism at Dresden Kristallpalast-nigh > Wikipedia Image by Kolossos

Deconstructionists attempted to move away from such constricting or conformist environment. They compromised the geometry of form by abrogating the functional, structural, and spatial aspects of construction. This was first in literature but soon architecture and performing arts joined in. But in architecture one still had to deliver a building standing with the gravity and other forces and in literature and other arts it had to be a deliverable product or a recognizable entity. So in spite of running away, they remained anchored to reality. It also now accepted that ‘not everything that looks odd or abstract is deconstructionism’. The platform beyond deconstructionism had to wait the arrival of the computer to ‘conceive-plan-detail and visualize’ the complex sensorial forms.

The sensorial means of expression are dominantly of visual nature. Computers mediated, realities have been of visual perception, and to a very small extent of touch and aural experience. Some day the virtual reality will also include sensorial experiences, like smell.

Kathakali Dance of India, Wikipedia image by Joseph Lazer

Virtual reality is distinguished from the experience of actuality that occurs with or without the physical setting. Participants are never in doubt about the enactment and experiences of it. Historically VR applications in arts, crafts, performing arts, literature and architecture, have been sensory supplements for enhancing the experience. The explanatory or verbal support, dialogue delivery, musical effects, variation of illumination, metred recitations, drawn backdrops have been traditional virtual means.

Designers supplement design experience with catalogues, charts, samples and parallel experiences > Pixabay Image by pozytywnewnetrza

Interior Designers talk of materials’ feel with samples. The tactile experience of the carpet, curtain or stone floor still lacks the real spatial feel. Here the designer has to resort to parallels of experiences. Some advanced, haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback in medical, gaming and military applications. There are no tools to provide the audio experience of the designed space, such as the drawing room, auditorium, corridor or lounge.

Some of the Virtual artifacts include: Toilet seats, treadmills, gaming devices like mouse, wired gloves, artificial limbs, spectacles, hearing devices, simulators for training, air port landing systems, synthetic cornea, robots and robotic pets, remote surgical tools and drones. Intelligent homes (such as one by Bill Gates) include such artifacts.

The computer-aided tools augment the virtuality of the reality. These simultaneously offer the reality and augmented virtuality. One never knows which facet is being perceived impressionistically by the client. Such simulated reality by computer, are indistinguishable from the ‘true’ reality, and may in future may use hyper tools to directly affect the sub conscious mind.

Computer generated reality > Wikipedia Image by Gilles Tran

Simulated reality, by contrast, would be affecting the mind where it needs to be impressed. In brain-computer interfaces, data is exchanged and impression is implanted. A ‘person to brain interface’ helps in executing the tasks by getting around the conscious blocks, such as the phobias, fear of public speaking, inhibitions, and vagaries of awareness and consciousness. The Matrix movies feature an intermingled type of simulation, of human minds and sentient software programmes that govern various aspects of the computed realm.

The real and the virtual, overlap as the augmented reality. Here the real is augmented by the virtual, and the virtual is proffered by selective (and confirming) portions of the real. Such augmented virtuality has no seams of real or unreal. The perception process is often reinforced with psychological support. Clients unconvinced by a presentation are confirmed with persuasive talk.

Augmented reality for objects on display in museums > Wikipedia image by Kippelboy

Nominally augmentation occurs in real-time, and in one of the two basic frames, the context is rational or literal. It has till now a distinctive identity, where the additional information about the environment and its objects is overlaid or under-laid with reference to the base frame. But this differentiation is likely to diminish in near future. The augmented reality is going a step further by including zoom-in and out effects to show respectively details and overall perspective views. This is further augmented by use of wider scope and panoramic views. The usual experience with glass-based lenses, of the differential clarity between foreground and background can be eliminated with use of charged couple devices.

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Reality and mediated reality are often indistinguishable > Rescue work for sunken battleship USS West Virginia > Wikipedia image

Artificial Reality (AR) is considered as something that is indistinguishable from reality. It is so because the means are subtle or process is obvious. Simulated reality manifests through the means or tools of simulation. The tools created an environment of limited spread and duration, within which setting an adjusted realm is evident. One may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. Augmented reality (AR also called a mediated reality) is a physical and real-world environment whose components are added upon by other input of sensorial nature to enhance their effects. These could be additional information like charts, maps, enlargements, compression, alternative views, colour filtering or masking. All these are mainly visual effects. Augmented reality could have other sensorial effects, such as enhanced haptic reality (touch related). It is used for vibrating alert in a cell phone, blood pressure measuring instrument to sense the blood flow through a vein and also the pulse rate, in remote sales outlets to let a customer gets the feel of material or product.

Phantom Sounds 14957610851_9fa7894a9e_b
Phantom sounds -augmented reality

Augmented reality (mainly with digital media) has its origins as early as the 1950s, and has progressed with virtual reality since then, but it’s most significant advanced have been since the mid 1990s. In earlier days the play was interpreted by the interpreter or Sutradhar (conductor in Sanskrit). It could be simplistic language translation, elaboration of complex philosophical content, or bridging of time elements. These interventions augmented the reality being enacted, by compacting the time-space. In the bi-scope or silent movie era, the story and music were played live. Foreign language movies, TV plays, programmes and presentations, carry sub titles for translated dialogues or audio, video and textual augmentative effects.

Bill Boards -augmented reality > Wikipedia image by Fransisco Diez from New Jersey USA

Non geographic communities on Internet, like Face book, Tweeter, Linked-in, etc. are examples of virtual societies. The interpersonal relationships that occur here are not in a physical space or environment, and the participant at the prime end is a human being but at the other end could also be ‘unreal’ like a robotic computer. Behaviour interpreters that can perceive expression, through speech, use of language structures, facial gestures, micro changes in postures, blood pressure, muscle and joint movements, will be a step beyond the current state of telephony.

Street Museum App on Cheapside
Time Space seamless exchange > Street Museum App on Cheapside Flickr Image by Alan Levine

Variety of devices, such as mobiles, i-pads, computers, wrist watches, etc. use computer-generated sounds, graphics or video clips for additional information about products, spaces and places. Currently these are the compilations as offered by the device manufacturer, or application providers. Many of these manifest as customized offers, but none recognizes the changing needs or moods. Artificial intelligence will automatically figure out the behaviour of the subject (the user), and accordingly augment the experience of reality.


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



Post 40 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 10 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


People discern their relationship with others in terms of distances or spaces between them. In other words, for individualization, certain quality of distancing from others is required. Distancing from others define the defensive and offensive capacity, which in a way create a mechanism for survival. It delineates the accessibility and interpersonal relationships.

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People discern their relationship in terms of spatial distance (https://www.flickr.com/photos/9361986079)

Distancing or isolating from the threatening, disturbing or overwhelming elements is a notion of Privacy. Contrary to this Intimacy, is a feeling of closeness or affinity between a person and another, or an object. Privacy and Intimacy, both, rely on the distance one creates or perceives from other beings and objects. If privacy is personal as well as group-based requirement, intimacy is an intra-personal affair. One can be intimate with another person or group of persons without the apparent need for privacy. For intimacy to flourish, many need privacy.


Intimacy is also a biological need, as it relies on compatibility, sexual needs, glandular secretions, social acceptability, etc. It is an attitude, mental conditioning or mental posture. Intimacy could be one-way feeling that is without reciprocal response. Intimacy is not always a function of physical proximity. One can feel close to a person who is long dead -an illusory presence or through notional links (clothes, odours, recorded sounds, etc.).

TV show host Jon Stewart being close to the guest for expressing Intimacy > Wikipedia image

Privacy and Intimacy rely on the distance as perceived in terms of space, intervening objects, physical reach and perceptibility. A person projects privacy and intimacy in different proportions, whereas the space facilitates various levels of physical closeness, isolation and insulation. For an individual the space that permits one to ‘distance’ from others is a private space. An intimate space, a private abode, is one where everything is under exclusive command and so safe, predictable and reassuring. Here the occupants and objects have intense relevance to each other.

The Discussion > ART by Harry Watrous (1857-1940)

Territoriality or ownership is a way of achieving desired level of privacy. For groups and individuals an exclusive control over a space involves creating and maintaining the privacy and intimacy, including aggressive actions for its defence. For the individual, territorial control provides security and identity, and is communicated through the personalization and definition of the space. For the group, territorial control, is the cause of their being an entity. For groups such spaces allow easy communication and recognition (without any aids or extra strain) and so are an intimate locale. In many cultures, the acceptable or inappropriate types of intimacies derive from a complex historical process.

Territoriality > Floating boat Vendors (https://pixabay.com/en/users/terimakasih0-64267/)

Meaning of intimacy varies from relationship to relationship, and within a given relationship. Intimacy has more to do with rituals of connection. Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy requires identity development. Intimacy can have two main forms: emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. There could be other forms of empathy like cultural, intellectual, spiritual, social that are akin to intimacy in some conditions. Strategic relationship developed to take advantage of anyone could be very close but it is a make-believe intimacy.

A crowded stair, elevators, metro carriages do not project an intimate atmosphere. A hand shake or hug nominally has no sexual meaning in many cultures. In some cultures’ privacy achieved by a veil is considered retardant of intimacy. Intimacy could be a display or an expression with physical touch but with no apparent mental feelings.


Privacy is a personal notion and is basically achieved by obscuring own self, or by isolating from people. One can obscure own self by merging with background or by becoming less perceptible. Isolation is achieved by barricading and distancing. A person or group achieves insulation through body posturing. By posturing one can adjust the exposure, control the communication, command the expression and re-calibrate the reach of the body as well as the sensorial perception. Privacy can help overcome many inhibitions through mental isolation. Psychological motivation helps one to ignore some of the side effects of lack of privacy.


Privacy provides the isolation, whereas degree of interference by others determines the nature of intimacy. Both are important means for individualization or branding of unique personality. In a space, primarily one tries to anchor to a spot where privacy and intimacy are controllable. And whenever these are compromised, one may try to adjust the posture, reorient, and distance from others.

One requires many different types of privacy. Privacy relates to sensorial faculties, physiological and psychological situations and circumstances.

Visual privacy addresses the tendency to avoid situations in which one can be watched incognito. It can be achieved through the use of furnishings, partitions or walls.

In a private space or an office, people will often orient their desk to face the door and sit with a protected backside in order to achieve a visual control. In restaurants, the first seats to be filled are usually those along the walls. In outdoor spaces, people tend to sit against or beside objects such as trees and bushes rather than in the open. In open office plans’ a person is made to sit facing a wall or partition for lesser distraction from the back side passage, however, it is the unseen and unpredictable traffic on the backside that challenges the privacy. Contrary to this in garment stitching room workers are one behind the others and passage is on the side.

Audio privacy is achieved by managing the acoustic shielding against being overheard, interference from background noise, and managing the unnecessary desire of listening someone else’s conversation. Audio privacy in a space results from shape and size of the space, quality of the barriers, partitions, furniture, objects, equipment, etc. Audio privacy significantly affects the level of communication, social interaction, and productivity.

Olfactory privacy relates to revelations of own physiological state or experiencing someone else’s such a state through hormones-odours. Other privacy parameters include the body temperature, breathing rate, heart beats, pulse rate, vibrations of the body, sweating and perspiration.

Physical privacy against someone making a close approach (touch or near approximations). These issues are generally managed by withdrawal, seclusion through distancing, part or complete occlusion, postural exposure and directional communication.

Art Gallery Crowds social distancing > Flickr Image (https://www.flickr.com/photos/burnaway/18305449185  > COOP1726.jpg

Social privacy is threatened when personal spaces and territoriality mechanisms function ineffectively. It results in excessive exposure. Social privacy is often equated to ‘crowding’ in a space. It reflects the degree of accessibility, a person or group offers to others. Crowding means heightened accessibility or reduced interaction depending on the need for expression, communication, physiological requirements. Crowding may be tolerated, if it is temporary and for a definite purpose like for fun. In ‘neighbourhood spaces’ one wants to be away from the enclosed interior space, and so here crowding of any type takes away the social privacy. The scale of a room, it’s size relative to the occupants’, also influences conversational distance.

Distancing is used for Privacy and Intimacy (Flickr Image by Tim Dorr (https:www.flickr.com/photos/timdorr/4092581313)

Distancing for privacy and intimacy

Distance also means the size of intervening space or affective extent of space. Edward T. Hall defines four distinct distances at which interpersonal transactions normally take place: Intimate, Personal, Social and Public.


Intimate distance and ranges from 0 to 450mm. Intimate area lies close to the body, within which intimate relationship occur, such as for embracing, kissing, touching or whispering. Here it is possible to have physical touch, non verbal communication and emotional interactions. To gain such an intimate position one needs to be familiar with the other person or coerce. Even in the intimate space close to the body, the nature and level of intimacy is affected by the attitudes of the persons involved. In case of objects such as tools and support systems are intimate. Here, due to the intimate relationship one senses the texture, temperature, moisture, vibrations, energy, etc. One has to be very sure that by using these no harm will occur.

Personal area > (https://pixabay.com/en/couple-date-fashion-happy-man-1845620/)

Personal Area is useful for interactions between good friends and family members and ranges 450mm to 1200mm. It is a zone of regulated and selective participation. This is an area where one can reach-out through projection (expression), channels of communication, physically (through body limbs) or stretch out with gadgets (walking sticks, stethoscopes, etc.). Here the intimacy is not a private affair, but regulated. One may need some screening barriers to achieve privacy. One can dwell in a culture or state formed of metaphysical elements (beliefs, customs, etc.), to achieve the same.

Zone of nearness > (https://www.flickr.com/photos/burnaway/15250875940/

Zone of nearness is a social field, for interactions between social acquaintances, and its range is from 1200mm to 3.5mt. The zone of nearness has variable depth, defined by the position and duration of the eye contact, sound pitch and language call, olfactory sensation and body heat perception. The time (duration) and space (distance), are used alternatively to compensate the other. This is a zone of participation without personal involvement. It is also called a non-committal area.

As per the protocol, leaders of the two nations never share a seat, but rather occupy separate seats distanced with a small table or flower vase. Similarly deputies accompanying their leaders, are made to sit at some distance, from where they get a sense of participation but have no chance of intervention. On public platforms one intentionally uses lower sound pitch to draw attention. On very large dining table one can effectively hold conversation with members sitting on the two sides, but not across the table. In gatherings one uses differing sound pitch to reach desired distance.


Reach Zones: These are not over the anthropometric ambit (above 3.5mt.), but if required one can ‘reach’ out. In reach zones, intimacy or privacy of personal nature are not available, yet one can announce it through metaphoric presentations. Reach zones usually have one consistent environment. Such zones are unitary spaces and so there is a sense of belonging, safety, security and personalized identity.

Extended zones: These are spaces like a street, neighbourhood, and such public areas. Here the ‘privacy’ is afforded by the familiarity of the surroundings and security of nearness. These areas have intimacy of the distance such as within the visible range, reach of shout or call, and the odour. These are part of the ‘home setting’. Such public areas foster non-intimate group behaviour. Mothers allow children to play in these spaces, as these are under surveillance.

Domain edge zones: It is a place for a sporadic encounter, which however could persist as a remembrance or experience. Frequent occurrences belie the consistency or permanency. It functions like a networked zone (web) where something relevant is always available. So no matter where a person arrives, it begins to manifest familiarity or is pregnant with possibilities.

Space forms and behaviour

Enclosing space forms (corners, cones, concave) force individuals to be closely spaced and be intimate enough to form a group. Some environmental and other effects are highly focussed (illuminated spots, under the fan area, sunny patch, breezy path), force a group to share the same zone and so breed intimacy. Virtual proximity Intimacy is also achieved by entering into some one’s private domain like home, a bedroom, toilet, study area. Homes and work places of great persons provide illusion of physical intimacy. Crowded spaces force intimacy of coexistence. The coexistence may force an individual to mentally barricade own-self or open-up. Eye contact could be both intimate and non-intimate. A direct eye contact allows better nonverbal communication (empathy), but a direct eye contact also subdues the other person and thus is less-intimate. Persons meeting in one to one setting are more intimate, than their encounter in public presence or a gaze.

Two persons or members of a group can talk in whispers and give out an impression of intimacy in spite of the apparent distance between them. Conversely talk-discussions in high pitch could be used to present bonhomie and thereby a close-knit entity. Politicians and celebrities talk in whispers to state things that need to be made public and talk loudly things that need not be public, both ways they draw the attention. A public orator changes the pitch from normal to very low or high to draw the attention of the audience and thereby register a point.

Hailing Call > ART by Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924)

Hall (1959), has stipulated that spatial separation also serves an expansive function. He made a study of the spatial relations that seem appropriate to various kinds of interactions. These vary with intimacy, and depend on the possibility of eye contact. They vary with the culture. Distances through virtual communication technology mediated interactions are likely to be different.

One can easily distinguish strangers from friends in an airport lounge. Strangers will keep a distance, taking alternate seats wherever possible. Friends tend to form clots, and families even pile one on the top of another. Total strangers will comfortably seat themselves only inches apart if the seats are back to back, but friends and the members of the family never arrange themselves in this way. Eye contact invites interaction and so is sought to the degree that intimacy already exists. (Hall E. T. 1959, The silent language).

Very close distance (75 to 150mm) required for Soft whispers, top secret talks. Close distance (200 to 300mm) is used for Audible whispers, and very confidential talks. Near distance (300 to 500mm) if for Soft voice talks and show of confidential interactions. Neutral distance (500 to 900mm) Low volume voice and for non intimate but personal discussion. Impersonal distance (1300 to 1500mm) is for full voice, impersonal information. Public distance (1700 to 2500mm) is for gatherings, slightly over-loud voice and for information for others to hear. Across room (2500 to 6000mm) Loud voice, talking to a group. Hailing privately (6000 to 7500 mm) is an indoor activity like loud voice for departure areas. Hailing public (30.00 mts) is used for outdoors, loud voice shouting, departures and calls.


The need to be alone or be part of a group arises from factors like personal (psychological and physiological), intra-personal (communication, exchanges) and group behaviour mechanisms (sense of belonging, sharing, participation, confirmation). Being alone, could be a need, but Loneliness is an anxious feeling about a lack connectedness. It is experienced in absence or presence of people, and in known as well as unknown surroundings. The causes of loneliness are many, such as social, mental, emotional, physiological and spiritual.


Causes for Loneliness are: Loss of a relationship due to breakup, travel, death of a person, dejection or withdrawal from a social circle, enforced isolation like jail or punishment like over stay at school or workplace, unfamiliar lifestyle, food and community leading to home sickness, a dysfunction of communication channels at places with low population densities, during periods of harsh climates and fewer people to communicate with due to language, sex, social or other barriers.

Loneliness can be attributed to personal need, period, place and people. A person when isolated may feel lonely but to feeling of loneliness is not always due to isolation. Solitude could be by choice, and so loneliness is a subjective experience. People can be lonely in a crowded or public place, because a person may be desiring more intensive social interaction than what is currently available, or the surroundings are not suitable for such opportunities. A person can be in the middle of a party and feel lonely due to inability to participate in it. Contrary to this one can be alone and yet not feel lonely if there is no need or desire for social interaction.

Loneliness tends to depress some but improves the cognition and improves capacity to concentration. Study rooms, prayer or meditation zones, contemplation areas, private consultation rooms, lovers’ corners in restaurants, back seats in assembly halls are designed to be less participatory. Such places of solitude or temporary loneliness lead to enhanced and creative expression. Solitude is also associated with spiritual and religious quests.


For solitude, other then isolation from people, some control over cognition may be necessary. Complete absence of cognition or by totally filtering an aspect of it (such as sound, light, touch, smell, etc.) in a space creates an uncomfortable situation. Even in jails and study rooms some illumination, background noise, distant odours are desirable to maintain mental health. Loneliness should be considered as an alert that it is time to seek social connections. Connections of this nature, may not occur with presence of people, but rather by necessary adaptation of the living space.

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Single people keep themselves occupied through intensive work regimen, audio and video intervention, mobile or other means of communication, by seating near a street view window, keeping a pet as company, frequent relocation of amenities, irregular work cycles including physical workouts, dancing, and cooking.


Russian space psychologists analyze the body language and tone of voice to ensure compatibility of crew members. Members of a group must have a strategy of a good working relationship. One may not be very friendly with a companion, but a clear understanding as to how much you are ready to share and not share, creates a healthy relationship. The Shuttle-Mir missions of the 1990s Russian and American crew had problems of language and other communications, leading to isolation.

Loneliness is going to be a major issue for long duration space travel with few crew members. For some persons the problem will not be loneliness but too much of the same company. The privacy of space may not be feasible, but of few exclusive moments will be appreciated. Direct communication will not be possible for space flights. A radio signal can take up to 22 minutes to travel to or from the Earth. Two-way instant conversations will be completely impossible, so email and social media communication is likely to become inevitable. Both of these allow a degree of selectivity that it is not always necessary to respond, and your behaviour is not being visually exposed. With (as of now) poor condition of communication channels, most voice messages are truncated in bandwidths creating a phantom like effect, but belying the emotions.

It is extremely important to maintain the emotional ties to the ground (or enliven the past). NASA on ground station involves fellow astronauts who understand what the space travellers are going through. Loneliness is now being tackled by counselors available on telephone and social media 24×7.

Loneliness is also an issue with elderly people, staying in Old-age homes, hospitals and alone. They need someone to talk and respond, visually see the company, and touch. A robot seal is designed to improve all such sensorial functions. Space travelers will perhaps have such robots.

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


9 – HUMAN BEHAVIOUR in Expression and Communication

Post 39 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 9 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


A space is confirmed (altered) or designed for the purpose of a behavioural setting. One intuitively exploits and cognizes the current spatial assets and environmental provisions, and then consciously continues to modify it.

Confirmed Space for Behavioural setting > Flickr Image by filtran > https://www.flickr.com/photos/filtran/3231576929/

Behavioural responses for expression and communication use functional elements such as: tools, amenities, facilities and structures. The characteristic style of architecture and interior space configurations inspires many to express and communicate. The Environmental conditions like illumination, acoustics and comfort affect the nature of expression and thereby the communication. Expression and communication are personal processes and are in consideration of Physical characteristics of the participants such as age, sex, experience, body posture, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance, nature of need, compulsions, disposition, etc.

Suraj kund crafts festival India > Wikipedia image by Cordavida

Behavioural expressions extensively use spatial-environmental features, architectonic elements, amenities and facilities. Expressions are aided by the contextual conditions like spatial form, shape, size, scale, environment and surface materials. Other aids include referencing through position, orientation, background vs foreground, angle and nature of perceptibility, degree of sufficiency for various body functions (reach capacity, comfort, metabolisms, etc.). These aids simplify, amplify, de-intensify, amalgamate, compact, quicken or retard the rate and contents of expression. In absence or dilution of these ‘effects’ the expression may not be very operative.

Unconscious Behaviour > Pixabay Image by nguyentuanhung > https:// pixabay.com/en/people-market-shopping-street-262886/

Human Behaviour, intentionally and automatically reflect the responses to internal or external events. The behavioural reactions to someone or something are in discrete or overt form. The responses are revealed through body positions, orientations, movements, postures, gestures, spatial distancing from other objects and beings, usage and avoidance of reach and support tools. The revelations of feelings occur even before one makes an effort to do so, and sometimes in spite of the conscious effort to suppress them. The exposition, must occur under certain protocol and situational conditions.

Body Language > Flickr Image by filtran > https://www.flickr.com/photos/filtran/ 2710638876

Behavioural responses are intentional or automatic. Intentional ones are rational borne out of reasoning, knowledge or purpose. Others are automatic, resulting from physiological processes such as injury, pain, pleasure, metabolisms etc. Both types of responses could be so subtle that the person expressing or the party perceiving it may not be aware of it. The responses could be also of short duration, insignificant, suppressed or concealed. Involuntary responses are reflexion of personal behaviour. ‘The behavioural responses expose the changes occurring in a human being and could also in turn influence the behaviour’.

Auto reaction behaviour > Flickr Image by Thomas Leuthard nju deli#12 > https://flickr.com/photos/thomaslethard/16324789904

Intentional behaviour has a purpose of informing, recording, recollecting, inciting, convincing, putting forth an argument, generating feedback, forcing, showing feelings, ideas, thoughts, opinions, re-experiencing, recollecting, abridgement, elaboration or re-enactment of a happening.

Unintentional behaviour > She is not with a mobile but unconsciously copies other person’s stance > Flickr image by Gideon > https://www.flickr.com/photos/malias/2613512932

Intentional behaviour is expressed effectively through the body’s movements, gestures and postures. Expression as an impromptu process is accompanied with use of learnt or improvised behaviour. Behavioural learning can manifest on recollection of the event any time later, and may be used for some other situation. When one is aware of being observed directly by another human being or a device, the expressions are masked, suppressed or reformatted. Such acts are also carried out by time-management, such as hastening or delaying the expression and by putting out diversionary behaviour.

Pixabay image > Legs > https://pixabay.com/en/legs-walking-walk-lims-motion-19759/

Expressions within a geographical-social-political area or community have some degree of commonality due to their progression to metaphoric vocabulary. Such forms become classical expressions due to very intense, frequent usage and abstractions. Classical forms become formal language for intentional and to some extent subconscious expressions. Behavioural expressions have become means of communication. Expressions used for communication are intentional. Expression for communication may be ‘unintentional’ that is not occur for any particular audience. Expressions for aesthetic satiation are always intentional. Expressions for aesthetic satiation occur through representative forms like singing, writing, art, craft, etc. The intent here is communication of an abstract content, either for personal satisfaction or an audience.

Flickr Image by Marko Kudjerski IMG_ 4968 > https://flickr.com/photos/marko8904/8230612385/

Behavioural responses communicate information. The ‘direct channel’ transmits information with some purpose. Direct channels are under control of the sender and receiver. Direct channels use both, verbal, and non verbal means. The ‘indirect channel’ transmits information that is not controlled by the sender, though perceived subliminally or subconsciously by the receiver. The indirect channels use the non verbal means such as the kinesics or body language. Here there may not be an explicit message, but inner emotions and feelings are involved. The receiver may call it a gut feeling, hunch, intuition, or premonition.

You got a mail > Flickr Image by Georgie Pauwels > https://www.flickr.com/photos/frosch50/10858946293

When behaviour is purposive, it allows a person to organize and rationalize the thoughts, record, recollect and rearrange the contents. It also allows one to emphasize and de-emphasize whole or parts of the content. Intentional expressions get improvised the moment a perceiver shows reactions. Though expression, communication and its perception may not happen in same time or space. Expressions for posterity are recorded as writing or image creation, broadcast through a device or recording on a media.

One may make an intentional expression by using body gestures and postures but additionally support it by other sensorial means like vocal and touch. Non-personal or absentia expressions through remote means like telephone, broadcasting or publications use various means of emphasis (or even diffusion) (repeat, highlight, placement, emphasis) to support the expressions. Like for example, speaking face to face or frontal-way is a very direct but can be diffused by slightly off-centric or angular dealing. Similarly a superior delivery position, a static and clear background, appropriate lighting, clothes, etc. reinforce it.

Wikipedia Image

Non verbal Communications

Non verbal communications include postural, gestural and other (endocrines) features: like: facial expressions, eye contact, controllable body movements, metaphoric associations, sounds, odours etc. It also occurs through objects and metaphors, like: clothes, hairdos, architecture, interior, furniture, furnishings, arts, crafts, colour combinations, lighting ambience, signs, symbols, graphics, typography, etc.

Non verbal communication during the interaction operates in the Following contexts. Surroundings like: furniture, architectural styling, interior decoration, amenities, illumination, acoustics, and temperature. Physical characteristics of the communicators such as the age and sex differences, experiences, body posture, mental adequacy and maturity, time and distance as available, nature of need, inclinations, etc., and the behaviours of communicators. Behaviour of the communicators during the interactions, like: transaction to be one way or two-way, communication to be one to one or one to many, the use of feed-forward and feedback mechanisms, etc.


Dance is a metaphoric form of nonverbal communication. It can be abstract form of a self-expression or a very formal vocabulary of movements, steps, postures, mudras, gestures additionally supported by musical rhythm or Tal-beats. All these can become so abstract that there is ambiguity and personal meaning.

Afghanistan Afghan Discussion Talks Communication
Afghans Talk > http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Afghanistan-Afghan-Discussion-Talks-Communication-887775
Group behaviour in traditional Madagascar society is more of non verbal communication > Pixino.com free images

Verbal communication

Verbal communications use spoken-words or language, and also written and other textual forms of expressions. Verbal expression is substantially coloured by para-language and prosodic features, like the voice quality, rhythm, metre, intonation, stress, pause, emotion and speaking style. Textual expressions have elements such as presentation style of handwriting, graphics, typography or calligraphy.

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



Post 38 –by Gautam Shah (Blog 8 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


Human behaviour is seen in many different forms. Responses occurring due to a trigger or need, are intentional, whereas biological reactions are voluntary. Human behaviour is seen as macro or micro changes. Such changes are very explicit, but others are realized on their recurrence. Human behaviour can be simply defined as a different conduct when faced with a specific situation or a consequential action.

Plato and Aristotle, School of Athens, ART by Raphael (1483-1520)

Behaviour of a person depends on the level of adjustments, adoption, comfort, need for change, nature of interpersonal relationships and degree of exchanges with the space-environment settings. It is also conditioned by the culture and geopolitical surroundings. Behaviour can project different meanings to different people.

Pixels image > Two children

For a space designer, the study of behaviour in offers clues as to how a person will respond to a given space-environment setting. The two-way exchange between the space-environment and a person or group are so rapid that is not possible to separate cause and effects.

Rossio, Lisbon, Portugal, African Immigrants > Image by Ribeiro Simoes

A space-environment setting is an ever-changing enigma. A space characteristically static, seem to vary due to the environment. The space-environment concurrence poses an ever evolving relevance to the habitants.

Behaviour in Space is checked for:

  1.  Lone Inhabitant
  2. individuals within a group,
  3.  Group-based behaviour.

Behaviour of a lone inhabitant of a space depends on personal factors like pre existing psychological conditions, physiological make up, nature of the space+environment setting, experience, sequencing, personality build-up, cultural background and the task being handled. The behaviour also reflects the social responses as seen from habits, routines, customs, taboos, etc. Behaviour of a lone occupant is often in consideration of other absentee human beings.

Waiting alone > Flickr Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes Lisbon Portugal

● Behaviour of individual within a group is formed by the person’s own-self or, through personal factors like degree of social familiarity, commonality of purpose (affinity-kinship), similarity of age, sex, physical features, notions of intimacy and privacy. It is also moulded by the personal comfort (adaptation or acclimatization), familiarity of space and the environment make up, the duration of space occupation and degree of inhabitation, sequence of experiences, the capacity, means and opportunities of expression, etc.

Talking in Kitchen Pandang > Flickr Image

Group based behaviour is generated for many complex factors. It is also accumulation of individualistic behaviours, affective as a set of affinities of a loner, or rebellious mass hysteria. Group based behaviour in context of different persons is unique. Here the space and environmental settings (sharing the same domain) remain consistent, but other variants play an important role, such as distance of interaction, position (orientation -frontal, sideways, backside), familiarity, modes of expressions of behaviour (such as posture, gesture) and the ‘reach’ capacities of the participants. In a group the perception capacity of individuals depends on their need for participation. Smart or experienced individuals enhance their projection (and there by participation) by exploiting the features of space and environment. Audio-video means and other virtual reality modes can intensely simulate identical behaviour in individuals that are separated in space and time.

Old people playing cards in neighbourhood > Flickr Image Pedro Ribeiro Simoes


Parameters for Understanding Human Behaviour in Built Spaces

1. Shift in Space
2 Anchoring to a place
3. Change of Orientation
4. De-synchronized Movements of the Body limbs
5. Sequencing in space
6. Body Movements
7. Posturing
8. Aids for posturing
9. Open versus Closed body postures
10. Postural axises
11. Gestures
12. Eye level and its focus
13. Empathetic behaviour

A lone inhabitant, Individuals within a group, and Groups of people indicate their behaviour in following manners.

1. Shift in Space: One of the most perceived forms of behaviour is the shift in space. A shift in space is the change one cause in own-self, or the surroundings. The shift in space is made to gain a relief and to recast the relationship with the surroundings including other beings. One changes the body position and orientation frequently to re-calibrate the relationship with people and objects. Such shifts are subtle to more elaborate, like a change of posture to new place. From the moment of arrival into a space one starts a search for location, a place to confront objects and other beings in the space. The process reflects the attitude of a person through the gait, speed, clarity of the purpose, postural and gestural changes, etc. One can perceive and schematize the approach by promotive as well as hindering means.

Waiting Architecture Tate Building Shadows People
Anchoring to a place > waiting in architecture of Tate Buildings’ shadows and people > Mex Pixel Image

2 Anchoring to a place: In a space one needs to attach or belong to a place. One first shifts the location and orientation on entering a new space or when behaviour must be recast. By repositioning one vitalizes the relationships with objects and other beings. A strategy of behaviour is planned for objects and other beings who are already present, or their presence is envisaged. One needs a mark to position own self. The markings are found in spatial elements like a barrier, an edge, a differential in environment, a pattern, objects, amenities, facilities, nodes of services, other single human being or in groups. Other markings are metaphysical elements and metaphorical presences. A designer recognizes such entities, or implants them to make a space inhabitable or even hostile.


3. Change of Orientation: The primary shift occurs through change of orientation vis a vis an object, human being or a natural force (energy). The shift in orientation occurs by realigning the nodes of perception, such as turning nose towards or away from smell, view or ignore a sight, etc. It also occurs by being aware of a thing.

Korean village women folk in Hanbok > Flickr image by Caspian Blue

4. De-synchronized Movements of the Body limbs: Orientation of the body, of a limb like head and of the sensorial nodes like eyes, ears, nose, etc. are sometimes de-synchronized. One may talk to other, but avoid a square face to face position.

5. Sequencing in space: Behaviours in space are sequence of movements with planned or unplanned purposes, but all in consideration of other happenings. The unplanned sequences reflect improvisations for exploration, or compulsions of intense discomfort. A change in the expected sequence is divergent behaviour.


6. Body Movements: Body movements are of three types: parallel, against or towards the gravity. Of these, towards the gravity movements are passive, because these can be made without muscle activity. Movements are Active or Passive. Active movements are produced by own muscles to move a body’s part, whereas Passive movements are made by an outside force and without the participation or effort by the person. In both cases the distance, speed, and direction are important. Other passive movements are like the reverting positions, where a stretched muscle ‘relaxes’ to its normal position. The aid of tools amenities, facilities, structures, etc., are required for passive movements. Infirm and aged people rely on these when their own muscles become weak or are incapacitated. Physiotherapists use passive movements to regain the muscle power. Socially, any assistance for active movement hurts personal pride. Similarly physically disabled people do not prefer marked passive movement’s facilities for them.

Remaining engaged and anchored on the sidewalk of Times Square NY > Flickr image by Rosemarie Crisafi

7. Posturing: Postures are body positions that one adopts, voluntarily or unconsciously. These are to accommodate effects of gravity, exert the body for movement or resist it, to reach-out, withdraw or for exploiting the environmental effects. Posturing is using own body limbs and sensorial nodes in a coordinated manner, when alone, with another person, or groups of persons, objects in space, or environmental effects. Posturing requires change in the position and orientation of the body, relaxation, transition, exercise, activities, conducting tasks, communication and interaction. Postures indicate the current state or impending change in behaviour. One may reduce the degree of posturing or avoid frequent positioning by shifting the objects, reshaping the surroundings, changing the environment. One can also force recast of the sensorial connections through avoidance or engagement. Posturing occurs with and without the tools, amenities and facilities.

Le Moulin de la Galette > ART by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Postures are multi limb positions, and so have many variations within a basic theme. The variations are also micro changes of the body that help tune in sensorial perceptions. Postures create empathetic and confirming images. Certain body positions, patterns and movements suggest specific emotions. Postures directly and abstractly convey the state of interpersonal relationships, social standing, personality traits such as confidence, submissiveness, and openness, current emotional state and temperament. Postures are also used for offensive and defensive and non-involvement purposes. Posturing helps one control incursion by others into the personal domain of behaviour, as much as it allows one to project a participating personality.

Two old men on a bench > Pixabay image by marybettiniblank San Francisco CA

8. Aids for posturing: A posture often requires support, aid, or simply a physical closeness (as an assurance) of tools, amenities, facilities and structural elements. Support structures may not be versatile enough to provide all the required proficiencies. Some degree of personal adjustments is required to achieve the intended purpose. To attain and continue the posture, one needs support from other means. Real supports are like: tools (walking sticks, shoes, etc.), amenities and facilities (architectonic elements, equipments, furniture, furnishings, etc.). Virtual supports are abstract: such as the required environmental conditions and psychological sureties that in need these are available in the vicinity.

The parable of the blind leading the blind > ART by Pieter Brueghel the elder (1526/1530-1569)

 A podium or a front desk is a very assuring platform for a speaker, but shields the expression through body language. A leader, on a higher platform, controls the assault from the audience, and thereby dominates. By standing against a wall one assures that intrusion from that side is blocked, but by occupying a corner one limits the escape routes. Sitting in an aisle seat (In comparison to a window seat) allows one the postural freedom, but makes one prone to disturbances. Front benchers have to be attentive. Occupying a geometrical centre or a spatial focus automatically enhances the interference.

9. Open versus Closed body postures: In multi limb postures body limbs such as hands, fingers, feet, head, etc. are variously used to cover vulnerable sections of the body. Open body posture is perceived as a friendly and positive attitude. Closed body posture obscures and protects limbs like throat, abdomen, genitals, etc. Showing the back of the hand or clenching hands into fists may represent a closed posture. Hands clasped behind the back give impression of hiding something or resistance to closer contact, mean a closed body posture. Closed body postures give the impression of detachment, disinterest, unpleasant feelings and hostility. Similarly clothing may also signal closed posture such as a buttoned suit, or a handbag or briefcase held in front of the person.

Open body posture > ART Jealousy and flirtation by Haynes King (1831-1904)
Closed body posture > Flickr Image by cturtle22

A chair with arms rests, railings, bus or railway hang-straps encourage open posture. A moving object like a bus will not allow closed body posture. A deep seat that allows stretching of legs and excludes the crossing of legs, supports the open posture. A stool seat (without back) allows one to lean forward as an open posture. Sitting on the side of a fairly wide chair, leaning too much on one of the armrest, sitting upright (without touching the back) in an easy chair, sleeping very straight in a bed, keeping hands in pockets of the garment, are some of the signs of closed body postures. A person with a higher position nominally takes a more relaxed posture that seems to be less challenging, often sits down to talk. Whereas a person with a lower position, often maintains balanced or formal posture by placing both hands on the lap or at the sides and may remain standing until asked to sit.

Multiplicity of postures, position and behavioural expressions > Congress of Berlin 13 July 1878 > ART by Anton von Werner (1843-1915)

10. Postural axises: Postures are axially balanced or skewed. Balanced postures are mirror-image (congruent) postures, such as equally posed two feet, two hands, etc., or are normal like the frontal face, upright torso, erect neck, straight eye level, etc. Skewed postures reflect a readiness to transfer to another posture, due to shift in interest or saturation of boredom. Both, the balanced and skewed postures, can be unstable and cannot be maintained for a very long period. Inclination of the body, or head, close-to or away from the opposite person during a conversation depends on the basic posture of the body. The action depends on the sex and age of the opposite person and the nature of the topic. An inclination towards the opposite person can be an expression of sympathy and acceptance, whereas moving or inclining away can show dislike, disapproval, or a desire to end the conversation.

Mime artists Jean and Brigitte Soubeyran in play the Circus > Wikipedia image by Ellen and Gilles > Wikipedia image by Ellen & Gilles Soubeyrand

An intense conversation with heavy gesticulation or posture changes can be subdued by adding to the distance between the parties. Deep seating or reclining elements and mirrors not only reduce gesticulation, postural changes but also intensity of conversation. In waiting rooms seats are distanced and do not face the receptionist. A TV monitor that shows the class or office space disciplines the users.

Italian Old Men on Benches > Pixabay image by marybettiniblank San Francisco CA

11. Gestures: Gestures are voluntary or involuntary micro articulations of the body limbs and sensorial nodes (such as eyes, lips, skin, etc.). These are for expressions, directional perception, metabolic functions and other physiological reactions. Gestures include small moves of the head, face, eyes and nose (winking, nodding, twitching of nose, or rolling of eyes) and hands. Gestures are used to supplement the communication, but could be, either dependent or independent on the speech. Speech-independent gestures have a direct verbal translation, though often very abstract. A wave hello or peace signs are examples of speech-independent gestures. Gestures such as dance Mudra represent very abstracted information that is relevant to a culture specific group.

Gestures by comedian Lewis Black > Wikipedia image

Gestures could be categorized into many types:

Emblems are gestures with direct verbal translations, such as a goodbye wave, thumbs-up, Namaste, shrugging of shoulder (don’t know), head-shake (negation), or head-nodding (affirmation).

Illustrators are gestures that depict what is said verbally, such as in story telling, turning an imaginary steering wheel or running.

Displays are gestures that convey intensity of emotions, like a smile, cry.

Regulators are gestures that support the interaction.

An adapter is a gesture that facilitates the release of bodily tension, such as yawning or leaving a breath.

12. Eye level and its focus are some of the most important means of behaviour exposition. One can increase the distance and help de-focus the ‘gaze’, by taking a side seat or stand or by seating behind a desk. Often the opponents are disadvantaged by offering an uncomfortable seat, a seat lower in height and placing them in a non-axial position. Opponents are discomforted by providing them a fixed position with little or no chance for sub-posturing, like very narrow space, unbalancing, scary or distracting position. One, as an opponent can correct such conditions: by sitting or standing upright, by aligning body and sensorial faculties in the same direction, by heavily gesticulating, and raising the voice.

Making faces, Empathetic behaviour, > Pixabay image MSneor Highland Park USA

13. Empathetic behaviour: During intense conversations participants have a tendency to imitate each other behaviour. They emulate postures and gestures. Such empathetic behaviour encourages deeper relationship, provided necessary support means are available. Correct distance, equalized ergonomic facilities, nonspecific environmental conditions are some such means.

Public Transport > Flickr Image by Ahmed Mahin Fayaz


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


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.