Monday, July 16, 2012


2    Inhabitation

Inhabitation creates a personal realm. All living beings create their own realm to survive and proliferate. Inhabitation is instinctive as well as learned behaviour. The inhabitable realm is a spatial organization with an implicit environment. The spatial form and the environment are evident simultaneously as substantial realization of a functional usage. The functional usage is further ‘enriched’ by tools, equipments, etc. The form, the environment, and the functional facilities, all together instill certain sensorial experiences. The sensorial gratification leads to improved form, superior conditioning of the environment and enriched functional facilities.

The process of inhabitation begins as realization and occupation of a realm. The inhabitation is an integrated approach of many interdependent elements, whose distinct identification is difficult. All beings have primarily a tactic (often instinctive) of occupying a spatial entity, which on sensorial gratification (including comfort) becomes a greater strategy (often intellectual) of inhabitation. The legacy of past experiences increases the capacity to occupy and inhabit a space entity. The reliance on intuition and the past experiences assures a ‘fail-safe’ response.

Primary space occupation is cursory and minimal, using only the personal assets such as resetting of the bio-physiological activities. It is easier (being efficient) to adjust own-self rather than cause any change in the environment. However, the capacity to bio-adjust is temporary and limited in effectivity. Such a space occupation (personal- bio adjustments) is experimental, so notional and transient. It only offers realization that the space is survival worthy because it has some potential of size, shape, environmental qualities and sensorial characteristics. There is also recognition that this realm can be: improvised in form, the environmental qualities reset and the sensual characteristics enriched for satisfaction and greater efficiency.

A person or a group perceive such potential accidentally or after an intensive search, and so consider it an asset worth hanging-on to it. The desire to own requires that the realm remain consistent. However, the environment and the user or the user-group dynamics (interrelationship) vary continually. The original efficiencies (first realizations) may not remain valid in other circumstances. Yet the possession ensures some permanency in the realm. The constancy is achieved by domestication of the realm. The user converts the realm, and in-turn exposes own-self to forces of change. The space adaptation is an elaborate cycle, where the user and the space change each other. The change in one aspect poses new possibilities elsewhere. The explorative occupation of a space turns into a domesticated domain, and the process persists as inhabitation.

Space inhabitation is a matter of subsistence, so more considerate, realistic and longer lasting. Inhabitation involves devising means such as  tools, equipments, plants, facilities, amenities, furniture and furnishings. These enriching devices are handy tools, relocatable equipments, fixed plants, or systems integrated into the built forms. The devices help build a space entity, temper the environment, and endow task efficiencies by adjusting the ‘reach’ capacities.

Inhabitation is continuous process. The changes are often so subtle that the user may not be aware of it, yet over a period of time the minor changes accumulate to substantial modifications (like Charles Darwin theory of evolution).

Inhabitation is a continuous process of improvising the means and methods for living. It involves, forming a space (a built form) with environmental responses, rendering it with required sensorial attributes, provisioning for the functional needs of living. The living includes personal acts like grooming, eating, resting, etc., living with others (including family life), communication, earning a livelihood, and other diversionary activities like revelry, grief, etc. These activities are personal, family based, group-based and universal (of humans and of other biological beings).
Some of the processes of change for inhabitation are either instinctive or so imperative that such responses are taken for granted. Such responses also get condensed as metaphoric expressions or pass into the folklore or heritage.

A spatial entity is habited by a lone user as well as groups of related or unrelated people. A user reacts to the ‘real presence’ of others and also to the ‘incorporeal imminence’ (presence in spirit) of others.

In a holy space like temple one is affected by the presumed presence of God. Memorials are designed for causing the reverence. Burial grounds and crematoria cause an eerie feeling. Odors, lingering sounds, distant visibility, touch, etc. reinforce the presence of others at realistic level, as much as images, metaphors, signs and other associated items do so at the abstract level.

The interaction amongst the ‘real’ users in an interior space depends on the reach-capacities. A reach is measurable on two counts: Physical distance and Degree of sensorial perceptivity. The reach also bears on intensities of factors like desire, need, compulsion, aversion, instinct etc.

The physical reach is function of mobility, a capacity to move a limb of the body in a wide range of purposeful movements at the required speed. It dynamically helps one to activate as well as deactivate (relaxation) the limb. Physical reach is used in occupation and inhabitation of space. It is also used as means of expression and communication. The sensorial perceptivity represents the capacity to perceive through various senses. These capacities can become very acute or get dulled in specific conditions. The sensorial capacities can be enhanced by certain tools or recast in some other recognizable form (we do not ‘see’ deep into the celestial space, but rather listen to the noise emanating out it). (more on ‘reach’ in next chapter).

There are many ‘space and time’ conditions where and when the reach is not measurable. These create pseudo or make-believe circumstances where the real dimensions of the reach are shrunk, enlarged, skewed, delayed or hastened. Pretentious reach can be experienced in reflections of mirrors (doubling of the depth and displacement of left-right), bifocal vision (perspectives, optical anomalies -long straight lines seem curved),  echoes, in transmitted audio messages and images, condensed graphics, metaphoric and symbolical representations, holographic images, virtual reality conditions, etc.

The devices and strategies of habitation are evident at three distinct levels:

    1 The User adopts own-self biologically,
    2 The Environment is conditioned,
    3 The Realm is dimensioned and structured.

All three occur concurrently. Users’ responses in an interior space are mix of determinable as well as in-specifiable aspects. The behaviour in interior space (a domesticated domain) could be local and immediate (like going to a shaded area, changing a body posture, breathing deep before a strenuous action) to extensive and persistent (putting on a light, moving to another space, installing a sound proofing system). Behaviour in Interior spaces is meaningful to all its inhabitants, but more so for designers who can plan strategies and devise means for conditioning it. 

 a chapter from Behaviour in Interior Spaces


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