Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gates and Gateways

Gates and Gateways --- a small section from chapter Gates and Gateways / Interior Components and Systems 


A gate was an entry and exit point to a fortified settlement. Goods, men and livestock passed through this point, so it became a check-post not only for control, but  assessment and collection of revenue. Gates had structures that housed the sentries and revenue officials. Gates being a sensitive point in terms of security and transactions, a  regular set up for intelligence collection (Kotwali in India) was established here. Fortified areas were usually very small and with limited resources. To control the population inside the fortified area, right of habitation was restricted to select few. All outsiders and their livestock were allowed to stay inside, from sun up to sun set periods only. This required a time keeping and a signalling system, usually enforced from the gate area. The signalling systems included cannons, guns, flags, smoke signals, light torches, conch shells, bells, drums, nagara, shehnais, nadswarams, trumpets, bugles, echo reflector walls, etc. In each case the solutions to house them were equally varied.


Areas outside the gate acquired a unique character. Traders used to carry through the gate only those goods which were saleable in that community. Rest of the supplies, and caravans were parked outside. Since this was a point of unloading, sorting and selecting the supplies, it attracted wholesale buyers and brokers. Traders being foreigners were not allowed to stay over-night inside the fort, so needed lodging and boarding facilities at this point. Eventually Sarais, Inns, eating houses, boarding establishments, merchandise halls, auction rooms were established near the gate. Entertainment and pleasure establishments like, card and game rooms, liquor shops and bars, massage parlours, kothas (prostitute houses), banks (money lenders and exchanger), etc. came up near the gates. Fodder supply depots were established outside the gate because caravans parked their animals here. Butchers,  untouchables (of low social order), people with infectious diseases, street smart people (nats and bajanias, saperas, ozas, fakirs) and other social outcasts were not welcome as inhabitants in the fortified town, so all of them settled on the outskirts of the gate.

The outside areas of the Gates were so free and offered vivid lifestyle that these  came to compete the stiff political establishment inside the fort. It was also not possible to shift them to distanced location. At places the commercial entities outside the Gate were not only smart but financially capable enough to ward of invasions. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

QUALITY CONSCIENCE For Interior Designers

QUALITY CONSCIENCE  ....for Interior Designers

A designer, as a professional, strives that projects when completed provide the intended benefits with planned level of inputs. Such assurances are needed at many different levels. A designer needs to assure the  project initiators, project  users (owners or the product buyers), project operators and the society. Such assurances, regarding the project, translate into a pursuit for quality.

Quality represents the fundamental economics of the input-output equation. The emphasis is upon maximizing the achievements, value addition and minimizing process effort, resource wastage.
  • `The concept of quality is the totality of features and characteristics of a project, product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs' (ISO 8402). 

An enhancement of satisfaction is the key element of quality conscience. Quality is both a perception and a value judgement, concerning human satisfaction; the basis for both is ever changing.

Quality results from
a three-way interaction between:

  • The nature of the project, product or service, as perceived by the originator, i.e. the thing in its own entirety. 
  • The user's original needs and altered expectations, as a result of interaction with a completed project or product.
  • The operations or functioning of a project, product or service, as reflected in training, servicing, parts availability, ease of replacement, warranties etc.

The characteristics of the project, product or service by themselves, cannot determine the measure of quality. Quality is an issue how the projects, products  or services are carried out or employed, and also how the external conditions support the usage. A product that is satisfactory in every respect may fail, if the external use conditions are drastically altered.


Quality in interior design jobs results from an interaction between `what the interior is' and `what the users do with it'. There several contextual issues, against which quality judgements are made, like: comfort level, variety, novelty, prestige, economy, etc., with their social, cultural, psychological, political and other dimensions. These secondary issues are considered fairly predictable and stable, but projects that coincide with ‘major change phases of secondary issues' fail to serve in terms of changed quality perceptions.

  • An interior designer prepares a project brief of determining all requirements, such as: clients’ needs and demands, technical requirements, statutory obligations, prevailing standards, current styles, available technologies, etc. The user-client usually may not understand these aspects, so in good faith allow the designer to proceed.
  • As the design gets under-way and the design presentations, in colour, 3D format and now in virtual animations, makes the user-client ‘truly’ react to the design. The client, in the meanwhile,  ‘due to the subjective involvement’, becomes very perceptive to all issues of ‘Interior Design’. The client begins to absorb new ideas from friends, media, etc. Such an awareness on the part of a client completely changes the perceptions. A designer should see this as the inevitable and be prepared to modify the design at a later stage.
  • As the project materialises on the site, the user-client begins to have first life size or realistic experience of the designed entity. Once again the designer faces a barrage of new demands, requiring substantial to a complete rethink of the design.
  • A project as it is delivered to an actual occupying-user (who could be a new person, different from the assigning-executing client) the designed entity is revalued. The new occupant, who may not bother to involve the original designer, begins to re-validate the entity on -‘what the (his/her) personal space should be’. This could be based on sum effects of many factors like cultural roots, aspirations, economic status, etc.

Interior designers as a professional have an interest in seeing clients derive satisfaction during the project execution phase, by adequately answering their quarries, offering convincing explanations, and by providing economic and technical comparisons amongst various options. Interior Designers continue to satisfy their clients even after completion. This helps clients to come back to the original designer for the next Interior Design Job. In interior design, the next job usually arrives within Five years, unlike in Architecture, where it may not happen  in the current generation, i.e. not before 20/25 years.


To achieve quality meticulousness, an organization must offer products or services that:

  •     meet a well defined need, use or purpose,
  •     satisfy customers' expectations,
  •     comply with applicable standards and specifications,
  •   comply with statutory requirements and other social obligations,
  •     are made available at competitive prices,
  •    are provided at a cost which will yield a benefit or profit to the user.

For developing quality meticulousness it is very necessary that all matters relating to quality control are well documented. A well-documented brief serves as a BENCHMARK for assessing the level of the quality being achieved. Wherever Quality control documents that are formal, transparent and accessible, to all stack holders (clients, users, public and competitors), the projects, product and services have greater quality assurance. Such entities are more acceptable.

In order to meet these objectives, an organization should keep the technical, administrative and human factors affecting the quality under control. Such controls are oriented towards the reduction, elimination and prevention of quality deficiencies.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


2.0.2  Parts, Components, Tools and Devices 
                                                                         --from series Interior Components and Systems (www,

PARTS: In our day to day life, we use many different types of objects. At a very simple level an object is made up of only one or few materials. Such objects though have variety of sizes and shapes, serve similar purposes. For this reason parts are always replaceable, and similar parts are affected similarly. When we recognize an object as a part, we know that a whole range of nearly similar objects, worthy of being a ‘part', are available. A part has universal character, but when assembled into a component, it acquires a different personality, due to the placement, location and function. A part is that elemental unit to which the whole can be reduced or resolved.

  • A screw, nail, handle, razor blade, button, are examples of parts. These are destined to become members of a larger entity -the component. Cement, sand, water and bricks, as parts, form a masonry wall, which in turn is component of a building. Parts like a tube, tyres, air, rims, together create a component -the wheel. The wheel with many other components makes up a system of movement.

Within a composition, parts exhibit an active to passive interactions with other parts, as determined by the design. But parts dealing with the environment (including the user) often show indeterminable behaviour.

COMPONENTS: A component is unique composition of many parts, to serve a specific purpose, and must remain steadfast to the specific function to be relevant. Components have a specific identity, compared to Parts, which have a universal character. A component is more intimately linked to the larger composition -the system, than a part is. Components are conceived to be within a larger composition or system, and derive their identity on the nature of their role within the system.  Some components remain static and so are useful, but many others are dynamic  and only for that reason, become members of the functional system. Components manifest at very specific location and occasion, so can be easily identified and separated. A part is also a component where it becomes exclusive due to the placement, location or function. Components show reactivity to presence or elimination of energy by becoming dormant, active to hyperactive.

Some Categories of Components are:

  • Action elements: These trigger an action (like tools, devices), such as commands in computer or machine codes: start, stop, redo, wait, seek, and words, and phrases or expressions that excite, incite, inspire,  tranquillize, annoy or hurt.
  • Sensing mechanisms: These require a feed-forward or generate feedback, so have state device or switch, and a communication node.
  • Control elements: Control elements operate within a designed range of effectivity, which whenever is breached it activates a sensing mechanism.
  • Decision elements: A decision element is mix of sensing mechanism and a control element, the logic for decision making is pre-set, but could involve a linear, looped, fuzzy or random process.
  • Connecting elements: These elements connect several components for synchronous movement or action, transfer of energy, electrical charge, messaging and communication. Examples include wires, levers, cranks, shafts, axles, ties, circuits, etc.
  • Distancing elements: These distance two components in space or delay a process in time. Compaction, diffusion, acceleration, deceleration, are the characteristic of such elements. A washer, spacer, gasket, sprocket wheels, timer belts, are examples of such components.
  • Converters: These elements convert movements from linear to planner, circular, or read a pattern, create a pattern, scale, focus, de-focus, enlarge and compress it. Examples include measuring devices, pantographs, digital printers, plotters, monitors, keyboards, projectors, etc.

  • A PA system has several physical components like power supply, microphones, cables, amplifiers, speakers, etc. A computer system has physical components like processors, memory modules etc., as well as non-physical components like software. A publication or report includes components in the form of indices, links, references, conditions of use, intellectual rights -copyright, patent. A DNA has genetic modules (code) as the components. A programming language consists of code components that trigger certain activity or keep a check on it.

TOOLS AND DEVICES: A knife, screwdrivers, pliers, scissor, axe, etc. consist of several parts, so are components, but have use of their own, and may not be destined to become members of a larger entity. Such components with a definite end use are tools and devices. Tools and devices, as a component, become part of the larger system such as a machine.

A machine automatises a process, and so allows heavier, lighter, measured and intricate use of force then a human possibly could do. The same process or the style of working can be employed using different types of tools. Thus a press can bend, puncture, or cut a piece of metal by change of tools. A machine is rational unaffected by moods or emotions. Tools and devices by becoming parts of machines help a number of processes. The efficiency is enhanced by using multiple tools and devices and by combining several strategies to output a complex object, such as done by an automated lathe, turning, drilling machine or a forging press. Tools and devices are expected to wear, and so are replaceable components.

  • PARTS / placement, location and function / elemental unit / active to passive interactions / determined by the design / indeterminable behaviour
  • COMPONENTS / unique composition  / role within the system / static / dynamic / a part is also a component / Categories of Components / Action elements / Sensing mechanisms / Control elements / Decision elements / Connecting elements / Distancing elements / Converters
  • TOOLS AND DEVICES / use of their own / end use / machine / automatises a process / using multiple tools and devices and by combining several strategies / replaceable component

Sunday, August 18, 2013


DESIGN FEES Determination and Negotiations

A professional earns more by exhibiting good Professionalism and behaviour. Rare skills provide a high return. An Experienced Professional earns more than an Amateur, however, a young professional with fresh or new talent may demand more fees.

Fees' determination is a very difficult aspect of professional practice. To determine a Right Fee, a professional is expected to know the following:

  • What is the Value of Professional Services to the client, and in the society?
  • What is the Cost of providing a Professional Service (cost of input)?
  • Will there be a surplus (profit) after deducting (B) from the (A)?
Senior Professionals have experience, and so are able to prejudge the value of their services. Fresh Professionals, and even some seniors venturing into unknown fields cannot do so. They would rather compute the Cost of Input first, and then add a fixed or a percentage amount, as Profit.

Professional Fees are very subjective, and vary from a professional to professional, from one project to project, and also from one client to another. There are no standards. Professionals take on assignments for fees, determined by themselves, and sometimes after further negotiating with the clients. Besides fees, a professional also collects: Applicable taxes and Expenses that are incurred on all supplies and other services.


Nominally fees mean the cost of input required to detail a project plus some profit, and these somehow reflect the scale of a project. However, in case of Intellectual Projects,  a concept may cost very little to execute but the client gains extraordinary advantage from the professional’s contribution. Fees for such  projects, must be based on the value (to the client, society, etc.). Such fees do not match the cost of the project.

Commercial Fees are charged as per the professional's involvement in a project.
Such as: Personal attitude (sincere, commercial), Type of client (easy going, nagging, demanding), Nature of the assignment (routine, unusual, challenging), State of competition from others, Client's readiness to bear the additional costs (of intense involvement, extra ordinary contribution).

Cost of Design creation consists of expenses incurred to conceive, design and plan out a project. It includes cost of data collection, stationary, documentation, presentation, printing, conveyance, staff salaries, cost of management, cost of investments, cost of rents for plants, tools and equipments, etc. It also includes the cost of supervision, physical verification of the job for sanctioning its use, payment etc. Cost of providing guarantees and warranties, other quality controls, test operating a system, etc. may become part of the cost of professional input. It may include the value of patent ideas, royalties, and taxes.

Cost of a job includes cost of all items that make site execution possible.
Some of the problems faced in determining these are as follows:
On some sites there are pre-existing structures which are to be only reformed or reused, by altering. The design cost of continuing or protecting such structures is difficult to compute, and so must be value based. Cost of works or supplies by third party vendors and contractors are accountable, but items supplied by the Clients from the existing stock are difficult to document. Cost of Retained Structures, Antiques, Curios, used in a project are often indeterminable, instead their values, if available need to be used. On sites where several Professionals operate simultaneously, exclusive authorship to a creation is disputable, so cost of a patent idea is disputable.

Scale of a project varies during the various stages of the project, such as planning, designing, detailing and execution. Even at fixed spread (floor area) or volume, the costs inflate or deflate according to the economic conditions.

Costs of involvement in the project are pre-agreed conditions. These are based on perception of certain scale of the project. Any downward sizing of the project does not automatically reduce the involvement of the professional. Upward scaling of a project, though increases the professional's work.

Income viability for the Designer
is checked through Income Factor (ratio), which must remain consistent for all jobs in the design organization. It can be calculated by dividing the total fees of a job (gross income) by the cost of professional inputs.

Right Fee: Each project is set in a different context. Such as nature of Client, Location, Work conditions on site, and a design professional's needs and compulsions. A New Project is handled with wider experience and maturity then the past one, so charged with a higher fee. A young professional, on the other hand brings in freshness of new / modern ideas, and for that reason demands a higher price. A project within the line of specialization has advantage of built-in efficiencies, and so may cost less.

Right Fee is also judged on following counts:
  • Is one aiming at a reasonable profit?
  • Is one striving for a high return to manage a high risk situation?
  • Is one striving for a high return for the rare contribution?
  • Is one trying to break-even, -operate at a no or less profit situation?
  • Is one seeking to avoid the liabilities of new staff, technologies?
  • Is one looking for hypothetical - future benefit?
  • Is one, bartering an advantage?


It is always a problem situation for the design professional. The reasons could be many: Unknown Project, Too Familiar (repeating) a Project, Too Busy Schedule, Unsuitable Location, Lack of Resources (staff, equipment, finance), Too small or too large a Project, non profitable proposition, a doubtful client, etc.

A Design Professional first raises following questions:
  • A      If the project is taken, then. What would be the gains / loses?
  • B      If the project is not taken, then. What would be the gains / loses?
The second question may seem absurd, how can one make a profit or loss, by not doing a job? For a busy design professional an Odd Project will require reorientation of the firm's working, additional investments in plant, equipment, retraining or hiring of extra employees, slowing down some current assignments, etc. In such a situation, not taking on an additional project is advisable, unless gains are unusual in quality and quantity. On the other hand a Normal Project with reasonable and assured gains can be carried through the firm, if it fits within the working style, specialization, employees' capacity etc.

  1. Define the scale of the project (at certain / optimum level) and the various professional services (project report, surveys, concept formulation, schematic presentation, working drawings, model making, other presentations, site visits, site supervision and reporting, bill checking and payment sanctions, certification etc.) required.
  2. Specify the nature of involvement, (calling for rates, contract negotiations, selection of venders, approvals from authorities, appointing other experts, etc.)
  3. Define an optimal amount of fees (a minimum take-home amount, or a break-even sum no profit-no loss), in consideration of item 1 & 2.
  4. For each of the sub components, define a matching amount, Clearly understand how inclusion / exclusion of a sub component will affect the optimal amount of fees.
  5. Define various sections and schedules of the job, and set matching sub-components of fees.
  6. Determine the chargeable costs for all other services, (fees payable to other professionals, cost of purchases for the client, cost of additional printing, copying or delivery, insurance, site visits, conveyance charges, etc.)
  7. State all taxes or levies that will be charged additionally on various components of fees.
The section 6, as above, should not, as far as possible, become a part of a design professional's fees. Incase of a dispute or delay in payments, it increases the professional's liability (as taxes are paid in advance or as soon as an invoice is prepared -whereas payment may not arrive or arrive on time). Inclusion of these items (section 6) adds to the turnover of the firm and increases the incidence of tax.


Negotiating a fee is not always an inevitable issue, as many clients without an argument accept the professional's proposition. But Fees Negotiation could become a long drawn, tiring and worrisome process. A client may not be asking for a discount, but just trying to understand the fees completely.

A lucky professional may get an exclusive meet to explain the merits of work, and to justify the effective value of the fees. However, here an inevitable mix of the two issues must be avoided by stating them distinctly. The process of fees explanation becomes extremely difficult when other professionals are present or being given a consideration. A busy professional, not acutely in need of a project would forgo the project, rather than attend such a meeting.

A professional must discuss fees as early as possible. Discussions, even if agreeable must be backed by a detailed communication in writing. All aspects of fees should be explained to the client, collectively in one meeting, and through a single written document. In the same presentation, the design professional should make a client understand following aspects:
  • Of the Total Professional Fees, what makes the Design Fees and what forms the Charges for various Services, (recoveries of expenses incurred for the client).
  • Consequences of delayed, part or non payment of fees must be clearly defined.
With organised clients, a professional may not get a personal meeting to explain or redefine the level of involvement and obligations. Even if such a chance is available to restate the case, it is professionally inappropriate to agree to reconsider the fees (for reduction in fees). Yet, a professional can (if one has structured the professional services and their costs) offer to take on additional responsibilities and services at no extra cost (while making the client aware of their costs), to make the offer attractive and viable.

Professionally it is not courteous to reject a client, or refuse a job, however, detestable or unwanted a person may be. A professional's only option out of this situation is to demand an abnormal fee and set extraordinary conditions.


A professional strives to collect some (however small) payment from a client. This sum even if a Token Payment, marks the beginning of a relationship. Professionals collect the such Retainer Fee in the first meeting, or on Confirmation of the Assignment. This may even precede any presentation of detailed terms and conditions for fees.

A professional must try and collect a large part of the Agreed Fees at the first available opportunity. The First Fee covers the value for the Patent Idea, or Extraordinary Concept, (a non physical entity) being delivered to the Client. These entities lose their effectiveness once made public, so their worth must be realized as early as possible.

Fees for Small Jobs, and of comparatively Smaller Amounts are collected in one lot, whereas large amounts are collected in multiple Time and Physical Stages related lots. A substantial amount of fees for each of the component of the job, must be collected, before, at the start, or, at least in the early time section of that work.


Professionals wish to Time-Schedule their fees' components, whereas, Clients desire fees linked to a specific Physical Change or Achievement of the job. As a result, negotiated fees are generally specified by both time schedules and stages of achievements on the site.


A professional ethically may not Discount the Fees for a promise to get further work or favour. Similarly a recognized professional (members of government recognized professional bodies like, Architects' council, Medical Council, Chartered Accountants') must not participate in any tender like procedures, or pay any amount as a Guarantee Money for their services. Demand by some government departments and organizations for payment of a Security or Earnest Money Deposit and Retention Amount is inappropriate.

Freebies, Samples: A professional must not provide free samples, trial products, sketch designs or concept write-ups before a Retainer Fee has been paid, and a formal job commitment has been received. Even where a professional is voluntarily proposing a job, the project report or sketch proposals may not be handed over to anyone without a Receipt or Acknowledgment.

Fees for Failed Projects:
Determination, assessment, billing and collection of fees, under normal circumstances does not pose any major problem. Yet when for circumstantial, malicious, or any other reasons, jobs do get prematurely terminated and variety of problems arise. Even well detailed and lucid contracts, cannot foresee or solve all these problems.

Fees and Tax Liabilities: Professionals get paid for their professional work, and also compensated for the goods and other services that may be offered as inseparable part of their professional efforts. If such services or goods are considered as items of sale or commodity barter, under the relevant tax laws, the professional is liable to collect from client and pay to the Government the Tax.


In design practice many types of fees' formulae are used, depending on the type of project, client and needs of the professional. Fees' are of two basic types: Lump Sum Fees and Percentage Fees (based on the cost of a job), with many variants through combinations, and additional riders.

Lump Sum Fees:
Lump Sum fees are easy to formulate, and simple to deal with. In this system of fees, a Professional knows the exact expected return, and the Client clearly realizes the outgoing sum.

The primary problem for a Professional at the start of a job, is How to decide an amount for the Lump Sum Fee, when due to complexity of the job, the likely extent of involvement is not known. On the other hand a Client, at least initially, may not be ready to appreciate the value of a professional's contribution.

Secondary problems arise due to the ever-changing nature of a job. A job may increase or decrease in extent and value, creating hassles, whether Lump Sum Amounts are accordingly adjustable. For a professional, overhead costs increase, in jobs that last longer. For a Client slower implementation of a job mean, not only delayed returns, but cost overruns due to monetary inflation. Lump Sum Fees have to accommodate such issues.

Percentage Fees:
Percentage fees are very flexible and accommodating because these depend on a variable, the Cost of Job. Any change in jobs extent, cost, and inflation, ultimately translate in the overall cost, and so fees for it.

A major problem with Percentage Fees system is how to decide a True and Fair Cost of work. Where executions involve third party vendors or contractors, a client usually allows the professional to check the bills of work done. A Professional calculates the fees as a percentage of the billed amounts. However, at least in Design field, Clients often purchase or supply some of the materials, request the reuse of existing components, or self execute some parts of the job; Determination of Cost and Fees, for such actions become very difficult.


A lump sum fee system presumes a fixed cost for the job, which in reality is very changeable. Projects are shrunk or enlarged in size, hastened, or slowed down, affecting not only the professionals' schedules but also impacting the costs. Liabilities of a professional change due to external factors. Economic conditions affect the total cost of the job. A lump sum once agreed, cannot cope up with such changes.

A percentage fee system accommodates the variations in cost of a job, but when projects are substantially down sized, a professional may not get a break-even amount of fees. For a client, inadequate professional contribution may substantially over run costs of a project and also the incidence of fees.


Mixed fees-systems overcome the short comings of both the fees' systems. Clients prefer lump-sum fees, but demand a lot of explanation on terms and conditions. Design Professionals prefer Percentage Fees for projects, where the scale, nature are, not yet determined. Intellectual Projects based on the value, can be charged better on Lump Sum Fees system. A mixed fee's system has a percentage fee system, where a professional would want a guaranteed minimum amount, and a client would need an assurance of a maximum amount limit on the payable amount of fees.

A mixed fee system is devised by including Riders to overcome situational problems. For example the percentage fees’ system can have riders specifying a cost factor (based on units / numbers, length, area, or volume) to arrive at an optimum cost of the job.


For very complex jobs a professional often functions as a co-ordinating agent for various sub professionals, experts, contractors, vendors, etc. Here the professional charges a Service or Process-fee, based on the payments being made to all sub agencies. In building construction often a structural engineer is paid by the contractor of the site, instead of by the architect or the client.

Value-based Fees: Jobs like renovation, alterations, extension, addition, conservation, etc. make a substantial change to the existing environment, upgrading the commercial value, or other advantages deriving out of it. A unique concept that costs very little to implement, provides a substantial benefit to the client. Should one charge a fee on the Cost of Job (the actual expenditure made on implementation - execution), or on the Value of the completed Job (benefits derived out of it)? Here determining an appropriate Cost Base for fees is very difficult, so Lump sum fees’ system is used.

Cost Plus Fees: Fees for very complex jobs or jobs that are unique, and without any precedents are very difficult to predefine. A Client wishes to see the job properly done, and the Professional wants a guaranteed, but a fair amount of income. Such jobs are executed on Cost Plus Basis.
  • The office work of the professional and the site work of the project, both are executed in a very transparent setup. All the expenses at the Professional's Office (salaries, stationary, conveyance, rents, service charges for equipments, etc.) and at the Project Site (on raw materials (stationary), wages, and salaries, rents for equipments, conveyance, postal and telecommunication charges, taxes, etc.) are well monitored and audited. The Professional is then allowed a percentage over the Audited Costs.

Fees As Part of Supplies: Where professionals, such as in Design + Build or Supply or Execute practices arrange to purchase, erect, execute and supply the items, no separate design fees are charged. The professional fees are part of the Cost of Supply, as included in the margin for profit. However, for Facilitating Purchases, a Commission or Facilitation Fee is charged in addition to the Professional Fees.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Post -by Gautam Shah

Spaces and Enrichments

Enrichments are personal interventions to a space, by professional designers as well as lay users. These are extras over the nominal functional provisions of space planning. For professionals such endeavours are to support the thematic concept. However, they often lack the conviction for the actual owner-user. For lay persons enrichments evolve with the space over a longer period and after several trials. Enrichments are a subjective involvement of the user, reflected in the selection and placement of the enrichment. The selection follows traditions, taboos, customs, instincts, experience, perceptions, daring, suggestions and compulsions. The enrichments become a matured style of the locality or a group, an ethnicity of an era or a geographical identity.

Enrichments are selected for their own quality or appeal, and also as fitments to a given situation, but often without contemplating the desired end result. These are attempts to alter the scale and complexity of a space, by an element that is personal and perhaps familiar. Enrichments, as a result reduce the alienation and loneliness, and reduce the incidence undesirable or severity of abnormal behaviours.

Personalization through enrichments occurs by many routes. The identification is achieved by cultural affinity, affirmation to a social cause (e.g. green spaces), confirmation to an ideology, expression of abstracted messages, display of authority, hierarchal structure, a diffusion, spiritual, history, continuity, desire for contrast or diversity, etc. Enrichments may not have a precise definition or explanation, but over a period attain an identity. Enrichments encourage the group dynamics with a sense of belonging. Enriched spaces have safety, security and assurance of performance.

Enrichments are:
● Objects that can be savoured from many sides. Vessels, utensils, statues. 

● Surfaces like paintings, murals, wall pieces, posters, mirrors, glass, patterns, which denote floors, walls or ceilings or become partitions. 

● Furniture to aid postures, task supports, storage entities, space intervening objects, furnishings like carpets, bolsters and curtains.

● Fittings and Fixtures that add to functionality of architectonic elements.

● Signage and Graphics to convey messages, indicate layout, symbols.

Enrichments are extensively used by retail outlets that rely on brand selling, and corporates who thrive on image making. Automobile showrooms flourish with superfluous space enrichments, because by the time some mature integration occurs, a new set of entities arrive. Compared to this corporate offices and hospitality spaces have well-integrated schemes. Other public spaces like museums, law courts, halls, etc. use enrichments very judiciously disguising as graphics or signage. Religious and political functions and processions use enrichments to show their large following.

Enrichments are means of personalization of a space. Installation or removal of the enrichments does not affect the utilitarian value of a space. Enrichments do serve a decorative and metaphoric purpose. Enrichments are extremely personal and frequently replaceable, so are transient entities. Some functional entities like bolsters, cushions, dusters, etc. are items of comfort but are accepted as enrichments. Enrichments are items of expression through their shape, form, scale, colour, texture, patterns, composition, symbolism, position or location, relationship with other objects.

The schema for enrichments originates through several sources like media, inter-personal interactions, print media, TV, cultural heritage, caste, religion, locale, region, pride, leisure time, motivation and competition. It is also supported by desire to add on the convenience offered over industrially produced standard goods, love for artistic intervention or crafty manipulation, experimentation, innovation, improvisation, upgrade, repairs, etc.

 Enrichments are brought in by a person, members of the family or leaders and members of a group. The theme, as a result inevitably has one or singular ’authorship’ and consistency of concept. This reflects in the unified effort. There is a continuous thread of concept, form, colour pallets, patterns, placement, symbolism, etc. Occasionally enrichments radically different also occur in such spaces, but over a period of time things gets accommodated. Even where a next generation inherits the space entity, their responses are nearly similar, and something of the past survives or is consciously continued. When a person or family migrate to new environments, the new place carries the imprints of the old, in many instances (for example NRI homes in USA) more intensely. Where space designing is outsourced to professionals a new vocabulary of enrichment arrives, but these too get domesticated or personalized. Such personalization occurs through re-siting, re-orientation, and new contextual composition. In few instances it may awaken new lifestyles, but something of the past always reappears.

Enrichments affect the behaviour very mildly but persistently. The cumulative change over a period of time is far greater in content and extent. The enrichments reflect the personalization, so are very comforting and assuring. It represents the author and an age, and reminds the contribution of the author or the era. Enrichments take away the loneliness and boredom. Enrichments add to the micro levels of comfort without destroying the standard scheme of the space. Enrichments customize a space circumstantially, according to local environmental needs, personal choices and tasks. Enrichments are self created and installed so their repair, alterations and replacement are within the personal ambit of skills and time management. Enrichments are demountable and transferable, so remain personal assets.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Use of Barriers in Performing Arts

The best and perhaps the most imaginative use of non physical or indicative barrier systems occurs in the performing arts. Here a performer wishing to express different experiences on a stage or arena has limited time, space and means. As a result the performance space or the stage is extended beyond its physical limits by exploiting both, the real barriers and indicative barriers. Since it is not possible to accommodate the entire set of physical barriers, only the acute or important sections are highlighted through frames, outlines, edges, cleavages, thresholds.

The sets, stage property, curtains, side wings, lighting, audio-video effects, etc. are used for creating a variety of spaces (‘here’ and ‘beyond’). A cleavage in side wings or a gap between two stage properties could signify a door, window, opening, corridor or a passage. The stage thus becomes a place where a multiplicity of spaces ‘Here’ and a series of connected spaces supposed to exist ‘Beyond’ occur. Whatever is lacking in such definitions is further reinforced by the actors. The acting makes the audience feel as if the actor is actually dealing with or reacting to a real barrier. Mime acts are such intense explorations with unreal barriers.
Stage set barriers are experienced by the audience from a limited and fixed angle view. Sage Bharat Muni in his treatise on Natya Shastra (Canons on Dramatics) says actor turning back to the audience is out of the scene or dead. Even in Roman Amphi theaters the actors on the front section are active and by retreating to the backside become inactive
Stage barriers serve a very limited purpose effective for a short period, and last only for a scene, dialogue or the expression. However, real life barriers are rather permanent or at least are longer lasting, seen or experienced dynamically, that is from all sides.

  • Keywords: non-physical or indicative barrier system / performing arts / real barriers / indicative barriers / acute or important sections / stage / here / beyond / mime acts / sage Bharat Muni / Natya Shastra / stage barriers / real life barriers

Monday, August 12, 2013


SPACE PLANNING AND BEHAVIOUR   ---from the series Behaviour in Spaces 

Space planning determines the placement of various items of furniture. The placement decisions follow two important strategies:

1     Functional positioning and circulation integrating various architectural features. 
2     Provisioning for personal spaces and for Inter-personal relationships or group dynamics. 

It is this later aspect that can destroy all the good intentions of the former. Space planning and behaviour as political etiquette is a time-tested mannerism formalised in government protocol manuals. It shows how two equal or unequal status heads of state or such entourages must meet. It indicates the nature of seats, intervening pieces of furniture, the backdrop for the meet, and enrichments that are appropriate, and ones that must be avoided. 

  • The chairs for personal meeting of two important (equal status) personalities (e.g. Presidents of two nations) are upright single seat units (placed parallel but very slightly askew @140°). But we still find dignitaries taking on micro postures by moving towards or leaning on one hand-rest, sitting cross way (diagonally), leaning forward or backward. The reasons are: one is trying to enlarge or reduce the distance, take postures that imply affability, propriety, esteem, etc. However, the sitting arrangement between two unequal, like a president and a prime minister (or a prime minister and a foreign minister) have two unequal (size, form, style) types of seats. The person with higher status sits in a single seat unit, whereas the other party is made to sit at a right angle, and on a wider seat (double or triple seat sofa or even stiffer - upright seat). The furniture arrangement, the angle and the distance between them are regulated by set of rules or ‘protocol’. In spite of the strict protocols people through micro posturing do subconsciously express their real attitude. The body language is just one facet of behaviour that reveals the nature of the encounter.

At domestic level traditions and taboos are followed for placing the items of furniture. Commercial spaces and hospitality spaces reflect a mix of local mentality, good practices, and new trends elsewhere. Traditions emerge after years of usage and portray the geographical, historical, cultural, religious and technological preferences. The trends show universal preferences emerging from cross reactions of many art forms. The furniture and its placement offer several postural and interaction possibilities, affecting the personal relationship as well as group behaviour dynamics. 

  • Living rooms of economic housing schemes are 3000-4000 mm wide. The eye contact or person to person distance for such sofas across the room is 2400-3400 mm, just adequate for social or non intimate chat. However, for a living room width of 5000 mm, the interaction distance becomes (for sofa across the room) 4400 mm. This is not conducive to social interaction, unless one can makes own-self herd by talking loudly, or seating forward -at the edge of the sofa. In large rooms chatting is more common with persons sitting on the side seat.

Intimacy and privacy These are important aspects of space planning in hospitality spaces and personal cabins. Visitors need these in appropriate mix, but staff also needs to maintain a non intimate posture and distance. 
  • In such places receptionists are always in standing position -as if ready to serve. The backdrop is nearly 1500-2000mm away -meaning they are on their own, confident, and cannot depend on back support. Coffee house and pub tables are small, so that people sitting across maintain intimate distance of 600 mm or less. Banquet tables are 1200 mm to allow talking across the table, but a wider table 1500 mm or more discourages the personal interactions and makes the occasion more formal. Important personalities use office tables of 900 mm or more depth to create a person to person (face to face or eye contact) distance of 1600 mm, which makes the interaction formal and non-committal.

Recognition: Recognition of personal attributes in a space planning layout automatically resolves many issues of intra-personal relationships. Every individual needs to play a role, wether it a small domestic, or a public space, but in a required setting. The set is made of architectonic elements, space occupying entities and environmental conditions. Recognition is also important for expression and communication. The deficiencies of personality are made up by the surroundings. Some of the tricks, people consciously or otherwise use to draw recognition are: Standing against a wall but little away from it, occupying a single seat rather then share one, positioning against a bland background then a clustered or busy face, sitting in a tall, upright and an uncomfortable chair opposed to an easy and low height seat. 

Security: A person feels secure if protected from at least one side and can control the distance for group behaviour dynamics. A person must get the benefit of natural attributes of the personality such as age, sex and social stature. A person may not feel confident and so secure if under a continuous gaze or surveillance. Feeling of security is more enhanced in known spaces or spaces with a familiar set-up. Large spaces with adequate points of anchors or interventions make a person feel secure. People feel secure with exits points like a door, stairs, passages, aisles near them. A view of outside from an opening adds to security. Presence of handling, holding or barricading devices adds to security, even if one may not intention or need for using it. 

Ownership or Sense of Belonging: The control mainly derives from the right to conceive, execute, alter, explore and exploit a space. For this one may not legally own or be a tenant of the space. Members of a family or a group get a sense of belonging. People with same ethnicity or cultural orientation feel ‘at-home’ in spaces that have a familiar set-up. Spaces with standard internal features provide the equality. Similarly a sense of belonging may occur where external configurations are similar, as in public housing schemes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013



The space planning as a space efficiency method emerged in later part of the Industrial Revolution period (1800s). This was an age when number of gadgets for kitchens, toilets, craft areas, offices, industry, etc., began to be available. These initiated ‘systems planning’ thinking. The gadgets were conceived as fitments into a space, with planned connectivity and inter gadget relationships. Approach to ‘comprehensive planning’ later became ‘Space Planning’. Women’s hobby magazines of the time took it further, and helped in creating work efficiency layouts (home productivity) with behavioural considerations. For example, a window over a cooking range and sink were a result of these attitudes. At industrial level the line production layouts were carefully planned and regularly updated. The ‘mega foot print’ or extensive spaces of commercial offices required major re-haul of layouts when illumination and heating-cooling were electrified, telephony and better document storage systems became common. The new departmental stores of 1950s required very frequent space re-planning because of the fast changing brands and their packing formats.

At domestic level the house which had highly room specific spaces began to be open plan layouts with minimal of walls and partitions. It offered large unhindered space for various tasks. This was also due to smaller or one person family. The gadgets that were bulky requiring structural bearing were now multi tasking, miniatures, mobile or easily relocatable and affordable. This freed lot of space and need for compulsive siting.

It was now clear that anthropometric data or ergonomics was not the only consideration, but behaviour of the human beings was the key to space planning. The definition of spatial and occupancy requirements were important. Other thoughts related to flexibility of accommodating the future growth, access for the disabled, safety, security, etc. Homes, offices, industrial plants, jails, educational institutions, research facilities, wherever growth or rationalization was conceived, it was through space planning. Corporate  organizations are replacing the layered system to team or department-based structures which favour classless, transparent or open layouts.

Early offices had peripheral that is along the wall work tables and cabins. This gradually gave way to half height partitioned or ‘compartmental office spaces’. But today, according to the International Facility Management Association, 68% of North American employees work in offices with an open floor plan or open seating. Open offices are  space-inefficient due to larger per employee area, but less clustered.

    Older employees and traditional businesses like, law, finance and other professionals, who have worked from cubicles, cabins and corner offices, find it difficult to adopt open offices. Open offices are blamed for affecting privacy, client relationships, employee productivity, loss of sense of belonging, and even compromising the morale.

Open offices provided a visual cohesiveness and spatial continuity.  Open office plan also incorporated the concept of compact personal work module -a work station. Computers had work stations as dedicated utility for multi tasking. Earlier craft’s people like watch repairer, engravers, gold smith had such facilities, to reduce the movement.

    Offices during and immediately after world war-II period had as much 50 % of the total space devoted to storage. These were separated from work areas, and manned by store keepers. The store room volume and traffic to it were reduced with several technologies such as document facsimile systems,  telecommunication, automated file access including the mechanical card-index sorting machines. Digital documents with computerization solved the problems of file storage, access and transfer. Now the offices were nearly fully ‘human occupied spaces’. 

    Wireless technology and cloud storage software make it easier for companies to embrace nomadic workstations, says Frank Rexach, a Shanghai-based vice president and general manager at Haworth.

    Rexach says ‘People don’t want to feel handcuffed to their desk, especially the Millennials’ (= young people who were between the ages of 10 and 20 on September 11, 2001 defined as per Newsweek magazine).

Laptop and tablet computers linked to remote servers reduced the location bound dependence. Wireless telecommunication, mobility and flexible work schedules allowed employees to work from location of their choice. The office space now remained a location for interaction. Of course this function too was met by video conferencing. Now the office space has become an unassigned seating place. The need to personally interact remained as acute, perhaps emerged stronger. The meeting rooms are common or rented facilities. Its interior space has high efficiency ambience but does not match the corporate aspirations of a ‘personal space’. In a different perspective, something similar is happening on educational campuses. The teacher-student relationship is missing on personal contacts. The lecture hall is partly replaced by seminar or workshop rooms.


  Post 171 -by Gautam Shah .  SUNDAY Feature on ART of Architecture John Terrick Williams (1860-1936) was a British painter, who was a me...