Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DOOR SHUTTERS --Mysticism and Technicalities

Delwada Jain Temple India
St Peter Vatican

West Door, Rochester Cathedral

A door is a portal ‘leafed with a flap’ to control the ‘ingress and egress’ through it. A portal for pivoted doors was chiefly a load bearing and stopping element, in addition to being a decorative frame. However, with the advent of hinges a door frame that can receive the hinge end was required. The portal and the frame were now two distinct entities. The portal could be in carved stone, masonry work or moulded plaster, but for the hinge receiving frame the option was limited to mainly wood and occasionally metals. The portal, the frame and the shutter have been three key architectonic elements of opening systems. Selectively one, two, or all have been elaborately treated.

Roman and Greek doors have simple portals and shutters with well-articulated in-fill panels. The Romanesque period saw the stone jambs with flutings and capping entablatures. Renaissance period shutters were simpler, but doorways were intricate. In France and Germany the doors were intricately carved replicating microcosms of architectural compositions of columns, entablatures, pediment and niches. The doorways were in plain masonry. In Italy the door shutters were scaled with large number of panels, whereas France approached the door shutter as one large unitary entity (Fontainebleau). NASA’S spacecraft assembly workshop, has one of the largest door systems, with each of the four shutter 139 metres in height.

Door shutters, nominally, have been dual elements, creating a balanced form within a singular entity -the door portal. Indian tradition presumes door shutters to be the arms of the Brahma (the creator). The portal sides are strengthened by placing Dwarpal (guardians of the doors) on either side, but traditional Chinese and Japanese door shutters carry images of door protectors. Indian door shutters carry a symbolic black mark (representation of Saturn) to ward off the evil in comparison Chinese prefer red lantern or red colour for the same purpose. 

 Attachments and adornments endow additional functions and meanings to a door. Modern doors have many add-on and integrated systems, ranging from simple tools, devices to intricate gadgets and complex equipments. These are manual, automatic (mechanical, electrical and electronic), or synergetic, and are programmed with fuzzy logic. Such systems control: opening size, duration, frequency, speed, location, selection, etc. and ergonomically facilitate the working of a door system.

Technically use of dual shutters reduces the ‘hang’. There are fewer problems with making and operating small width doors. However, a single-shutter door is a better proposition in terms of security against forced push-in. In a place of worship like a Hindu temple, the meeting-stiles of closed shutters obstruct (vedha) the deity’s face, yet a single shutter door is not preferred. In Gothic cathedrals dual doors have been used under single pointed arched portal, but each with a single shutter. Restaurants’ pantries have dual doors with two-way swings, for separating waiters going in and coming out.

Allegorical depiction of the Four Seasons (Horae) and smaller attendant figures that flank a Roman double-doorway representing the entrance to the afterlife, on a mid-3rd C AD sarcophagus.

In early periods Pivot doors were favoured as these do not need a door portal except as a stopping and framing device. Pivot doors were used due to inadequate knowledge of metallurgy and techniques of hinge making and mounting. Cardea, was the Roman ‘goddess of thresholds and door-pivots (cardo =door-pivot)’. She obtained the powers ‘to open what is shut and to shut what is open’ as an appeasement for her molestation by Janus -the god of doors.

Cardo (or plural form cardines) is considered the north-south pivots of the axis on which the earth rotates. These are analogous to the top-and-bottom pivot hinges of a Roman door.

Cardo was also a fundamental concept in Roman surveying and city planning. The cardo was the main north-south street of a town. Cardo was also a principle in the layout of the Roman army's marching camp, the gates of which were aligned with the cardinal points to the extent that the terrain permitted.

Non-hung doors, like the slide-up or drop-down shutters  were occasionally used. Drop down shutters occupy little floor space, are quick to shut but operational efficiency was poor. Shutters folding out and forming a bridge over the moat was more of a quick-escape door. Its very heavy shutter structure (due to bridging) would need Herculean effort to close it. Spring aided rolling shutters for modern commercial establishments and garage leveraging shutters also require little floor space. Sliding doors, revolving doors, soft-vertical-stripe warehouse curtains, air curtains, have no inward or outward displacement. Japanese multiple sliding doors -Sho-ji are used in Washitsu (Japanese-style room). The doors have a wood lattice filled in with a translucent ‘rice-paper’ making it extremely light and glide in a channel without the aid of wheels, etc.

Self closing door shutters were once considered inauspicious or rather suspect due to unpredictability of its closing. Self closing doors are very necessary to arrest fire in hay and cotton warehouses. Revolving Doors were developed for American buildings and marketed with a lot of hype, as the ‘door that always remains closed’. For the Victorian attitudes of the era, the doors were branded as capable of avoiding the ‘noxious effluvia’ and ‘baleful miasmas’.

Door shutters opening inward or outward have been accepted in various cultures with different attitudes. In modern times fire or disaster escape doors, public building doors, doors of hospitals’ operation theatres, and doors for very small volume spaces like toilets, store rooms, vaults, open outward. Whereas dwelling’s main-door and doors for office cabins, have doors opening inwards to achieve safety, security and social privacy.

Roman houses had doors that nominally opened inward. Roman society permitted only rare individuals of high honour to have doors that opened out on to the Street. Plutarch wrote that the Roman people complimented Marcus Valorous, a founder of the Roman Republic, after his triumph with a house built on the Palatine at public expense, but with doors to open outwards as perpetual recognition of his merit as if ‘he might be constantly partaking of public honour’. Caesar was given this plus an additional pediment which Livy mentioned as a decree by the senate for honour and distinction.

For the Romans a door represented the character of the household and was an expression of the owner’s place in society. The front door was always open to a stranger and community. An open street door showed a willingness to serve the community and participate fully in political and social life.

‘Pliny the Younger interpreted that an unwillingness to participate with the community was the same as a willingness to engage in a destructive manner against the community. The Roman’s inability, to see behind, the closed doors always caused fear and suspicion, an implication that the paterfamilias had something to hide. A place of concealment was a place of potential revolution as can be seen by the conspirator Catiline in 63 BC. Sallust wrote that Catiline gathered his most trusted friends behind closed doors to attempt overthrowing the Republic’.

The formal entrance to a Roman house was set with certain depth from the street. It was a decorative entryway flanked by half columns or pilasters to create a picture-like frame. Strangers and formal guests were impressed by the passage through the fauces and atrium. The family members, neighbours and other regular visitors however, used a simpler side or back doors set flush with the street. ‘In Roman culture, the front door was always open to a stranger and community but to understand and be treated equal to the family, one had to approach from other means’. Hillier and Hanson state that the side or back-door was left ajar for the working class and to encourage neighbours coming in unannounced. Since the back door typically led to the kitchen, an important room to a house, the entrance carries a high level of presence availability.

For the Japanese ‘the door to happiness opens outward. A door simply imposes itself upon the room when it opens inward. Having the door open inwards has the outside intruding upon the inside. Japanese feudal schools of etiquette prescribe all kinds of norms for opening a door and coming into a room. Sukisha, well-bred people use the hand, nearest the door to open it a few inches (the length of a forefinger, to be exact) and then switch hands to slide it back the rest of the way. A man is judged by how he opens a door and a woman by how she shuts. This is so because in a room with a group of men, a woman served the food and take a leave. She would be observed closing the door behind her with grace. The balanced and graceful action of folding down one's knees on the floor, moving into a room, keeping at a level equal to others already in the room, were part of larger ceremony. The skills of opening and closing a sliding Japanese doors are part of reishiki, proper form or etiquette.

In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, associated with some form of duality. Janus is depicted with two faces, seeing the past with backside face and the future with front side face. Janus symbolized a threshold -a point of change and spatial transition Janus was also involved in spatial transitions. Janus controlled home doors, city gates and boundaries. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.


Some of the most famous doors around the world 

The Gate of the Gods: (Carved Rock Face). Location: Hayu Marca, Peru. The Gate of the Gods, or the "Puerta de Hayu Marca" has been at some time in the distant past carved out of a natural rock face and in all measures exactly seven metres in height by seven masters in width with a smaller alcove in the centre at the base, which measures in at just less than two metres in height.

Gates of Paradise, by Ghiberti. Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence)

Last Door at Padmanabhaswamy Temple

The door of Hell Rodin

Kaaba Door Mecca
Pantheon Door 

Ibirapuera Auditorium by Oscar Niemeyer

Evolutionary door

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

OPERATIONS PHASE -for Interior Design Projects


 Operations Phase is the final part of the Project Management. It is considered an important phase for complex projects such as large Buildings and Industrial plants. Project Designers though familiar with all aspects of the project, rarely bother to attend to it. Interior Designers, unlike other building designers, continue to provide their services, long after the projects have become functional. Their continuous involvement in managing a project does not let them clearly perceive an operation’s phase.
In real life conditions, owners or their managers (housekeeper, etc.) ‘manage’ the operations. However, complex Interior Design projects do require professional project operators or such services providers to attend to the project, efficiently and perpetually. The professional operators are highly competitive, but job-specific agencies. And when too many get involved, there are conflicts of interest, duplication of work and negligence of some key functions.
Some of the operations’ services required are, Fire, Disaster management (earthquake, hurricanes), Safety, Security, Health hazards, Police, Pollution, Environmental services (HVAC), Water Supply &amp, Drainage, House keeping, supplies, disposal, Guarantee & warrantee updating, Inspection and assurance.

Operations’ phase has many different facets.
  1. It depends on who initially launches the project, such as the assigning client, the project organizer or the builder, and who will ultimately own the project, such as the owner or lessee users.
  2. Projects relying on efficiency or productivity and involving life threatening situations require very exact operations procedures.
  3. In case of high stack or public projects resultant and residual (historical) liabilities are huge and bear on the complexity and cost of operations’ phase.
  4. Projects that are continuously improvised and rationalized, need a monitoring system of data Feed-forward and Feedback.

Projects have operations phase, either as an obvious supplement or a very in-distinctive and presumptive entity. In the first case, the estate developing agencies plan, design and execute the projects, and then deliver the product along with its operational mechanisms. Whereas in the later case, the project convener is the ultimate owner of the project, and so the operations phase may not be very distinct.
  • Projects executed through ‘Design Specifications’ (the traditional method of creating Design drawings and specifications) have subsystems that are tested, guaranteed, warranted and formally delivered by the individual vendors. But often no comprehensive mechanism exists for the integrated working of all sub systems. In the absence of it, Planners, Designers and Executioners cannot transfer their responsibilities (and so liabilities) to the professional operators. Professional operators will not touch a project without a total assurance. 
  • Projects contracted through ‘Performance Specifications’ (allowing a vendor to propose an entity for the set performance requirements and defined methods of its testing) invariably have many built in provisions for care of the main and subsystems during the emergent phase. The agency also operates the systems for few trials or a period, and than formally hands it over to the appointed operations agency.

Projects that are conceived in terms of results to be obtained, consistently over a long period of time, have a definite conceptual framework. Here the operation’s phase is an integrated approach of the project management. Projects that involve risks arising out of their sheer existence, or operations are planned, designed and executed with integral operational strategies.
Simple and projects of routine nature are distinctly delivered - handed over to a client or a user, according to a defined process and schedule. The client or user, then on their own, or through other agencies are expected to manage and operate the system. For such projects a feed back from the operations phase helps in optimization. But projects that are rare or unique, the feedback is not immediately useful. Where owners or conveners, are also the project operators, can utilize the feedback to conceive a better project next time. However, projects are handed over to outside operators, and the feedback may not be shared or efficiently used.

Operations’ specifications have lesser bearing on how an item is created or procured, but relate to the working of a system. The operations’ scheme exploits the built-in capabilities, and is also sustained by planned external interventions. The actual strategies for intervention are formed by the operations agencies. The agencies also need clear definition of conditions that will require a response. Operational responses come from, both the occupants and professional agencies. They primarily need to know the lay of the site (building, plants, etc.).
Operations Specifications need following know-how:
  1. Details of structure of main and sub systems of the installation,
  2. Replaceable parts and their specifications,
  3. Schedules and modalities for repairs and maintenance,
  4. Required inputs and outputs of the system, Supply, Disposal methods, and Handling hazards,
  5. Operative instructions
  6. Hazards, risks, ways to make the systems safe or inoperative
  7. Dismantling and disposing the installation or its parts.
Such specifications are compiled as Manuals, Charts or Booklets that are easy to access with all types of cross referencing facilities. These are placed at relevant locations across the estate. Often such manuals are multi lingual or graphical to obviate the language barrier. Many are in the form of signage, instructions or warning signals. Operations specifications also include methods of observance, supervision and feedback systems.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Neolithic or the new Stone age, was a period of refinement of human tools techniques. It began about 10,000 BC, and lasted for next 6000 to 8000 years, or the onset of metals (Bronze and Iron) ages. The start and end periods are varied in different geological and climatic regions, and the defining parameters. Its beginning however, matches the global warming at the end of the ice age.
The global warming of the climate led to many changes in world landscapes. Large parts of coastal areas were submerged due to the rise in sea levels. It closed many of the intercontinental land links and bridges. Melting of glaciers created new water reservoirs like rivers and lakes. Yet receding ice made very large area habitable. The change in the climate gave rise to a variety of plants, especially cereal grasses. Neolithic age people changed their lifestyles and nature of the livelihood. Hunter-gatherers now became farmers. The agriculture productivity was high enough to sustain the ever growing population and also feed the domesticated animals. Many of the ice age animals such as the mammoth, mastodon, and woolly rhino became extinct due to climate change.
Small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers moved to alluvial lands and established high density settlements. Peoples’ longevity increased due to better living conditions and lesser dangers. The village provided safety and security with centralized administration and political structure of participatory democracy. Livelihoods shifted from far-off jungles and mineral resources to local agrarian activities, labour diversification and trading activities. Local Material resources were now intensively exploited using refined tools and techniques.

Wall craft forms -materials and techniques
Settlements of the Neolithic period were culturally and politically better organized then the groups of hunters during Palaeolithic era. Neolithic age individuals had unique means of livelihood and manner of subsistence and yet this has ensued to a variety of architectural entities, societal structures and technologies.
Structures that reflect the environmental, political, economic and social changes taking place in the Neolithic age, were the megaliths, Stonehenge, Stone circles, burial barrows and chamber tombs, Dolmens, Causeway Camps, Ditch Rings, water wells and irrigation systems, stilted dwellings, temples and buildings for unknown (possibly religious or astronomical) purpose. Many of these must have been multi community endeavours requiring huge expense of man power effort and time. The larger of the communities were populated by 6000 persons and to be viable must have required very large resources’ area.
Inter community projects were well sited to take maximum advantage of the topographical features for transportation of raw materials, location and operations.
Causewayed enclosures or Camps were Castles like inter community facilities for defensive, offensive and many other purposes. These were located on a high ground or a hill, encircled by one to four concentric ditches with an internal bank, and often close to a river or sea front. Unlike the causewayed enclosures the Ring ditches were smaller in size and served only funerary function. These enclosures were rarely permanently occupied, rather visited occasionally by Neolithic groups. The sequential addition of second, third and fourth circuits of banks and ditches may have been to meet the ever growing populations. These were community interaction places, trading posts, animal compounds and defence retreat against intruders or invasion from other groups. Environmental archaeology suggests that the surroundings of the Causewayed enclosures were heavily forested (then), and required frequent clearings and ditch excavation for maintenance. Causewayed enclosures have very little built structures of non perishable materials like stones or adobe bricks.
For further reading: Introduction to Heritage Assets Causewayed Enclosures http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/iha-causewayed-enclosures/causewayedenclosures.pdf
Dolmens are Neolithic period structures of a single chamber or shaded area. Many different uses are ascribed for it, and the most plausible one is being a funerary place, portal tomb, grave or quoit. It is formed of one very large capstone which was hollowed out at bottom to insert three or more upright stones to support it. Dolmens were often covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow. Dead bodies were placed here till their degeneration into bones.

Burial practices indicate that the dead or their bones were buried under the floors of houses. Skulls, separated from the bodies were plastered with mud and painted to remake the facial features. The neolithic age represents advancements over the stone age for the tools and implements had well designed and connected handles, providing greater efficiency. Hand tools were better fashioned, and had often polished finish. However, the skill and zeal for refinement are absent from the structures of Neolithic community, such as the Causewayed enclosures or Dolmens.
Materials of construction were mostly of local origin like mud, twigs, grasses, etc. At places stones were hauled via rivers from long distances for construction of megaliths. Dwellings were of adobe or mud bricks, where the surfaces were coated with mud plaster and rendered with white or lighter colour coats. The walls were reinforced with twigs and grasses. Dwellings had designed storage places for seasonal farm and animal products, both in interior and exterior sections. At places house entrances were from the roof.
Wattle and daub is a wall making material composite formed with a woven lattice of twigs or grasses, called ‘wattle’ which is daubed with mud or mineral clay mixed with sand, hair straw, and animal dung. It is similar to technique like lath and plaster. ‘At Çatal höyük, an ancient village in modern Turkey, the neolithic houses were plastered and painted with elaborate scenes of humans and animals as well as geometric motifs.’
Wall craft of neolithic period, was restricted to renderings on the walls personal dwellings. Megalithic stone works were of unfinished stones, perhaps because technologically stone tools were inadequate for fashioning a smooth finish. Though many new crafts emerged such as clay pottery and moulding of statuettes, clay firing, pottery painting, weaving, architecture, devising storage utilities of movable and fixed nature. Writing with pictographs and abstract signs, on walls and clay tablets was becoming a great engagement. Metallurgy was beginning as source of material that required heating and beating, rather then sculpting (wood, stone) or moulding (clay).


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