Monday, March 31, 2014


Dealing with Real Sizes and Scaled Forms:

Our Faculties of Perceptions have inherent limitations. We see up to a certain fineness and distance. Beyond such a range we need to scale the effect for clearer comprehension. A site plan drawn at a smaller scale allows us to see the neighbourhood, or an enlarged detail allows greater manipulation. We scale measurements to avoid or enhance certain details also to exploit the space available for recording on media.

We deal with entities at one level, as they really exist in original measures or all conditions of enactments, and at another level, in their scaled representations. Designers are trained to manipulate, arrange, or compose scaled representations, and generally achieve results equal to their real size forms. 

We also experience objects through the sensory affectations like light, colour, sound, temperature, smell, pressure, etc., as caused to our body. But such affectations are very subjective, and not easily accountable to any universal system of measurements. However, we can emulate the changes (as equivalent physio-chemical-electrical changes in our body) elsewhere and measure the sensory affectations. For example, we measure the temperature as it affects the mass of mercury or a metal sensor. This allows measurement of range beyond body’s nominal capacity. Similarly inaudible sounds like ultra or infra sounds can also be measured.

 Surrogate, Metaphoric and Symbolic Representations:  
We also deal with complex entities by translating them into Surrogate, Metaphoric and Symbolic representations. Designers work with such representations to achieve their design objectives.

Graphical Representations: 
Temperature or heartbeats as represented in a graph chart like a Thermal-gram or a Cardiogram, do not convey anything to a lay person. A written musical scale or stenographer's phonetic language notes do not recreate the original sound, yet convey the meaning. A graphical representation stands for the original in a restricted sense. Nominally graphical representations are difficult to read, but with frequent exposure, one gains the proficiency to automatically interpret the conveyed information, as if it is the real happening. Such proficiencies are circumstance and person specific, and cannot be replicated everywhere or by everyone. Graphical representations, often create an 'artistic', proportionate, or an 'aesthetic composition' on their own.

In some situations a Designer deals with a secondary graphical or scaled formation that represents another graphical or scaled entity. Designers, who deal with a variety of representations, scaled, graphical or metaphoric, are often not aware of the levels of conversions that distance the original. They are also oblivious of the transition from one form of representation to another. It becomes a 'second nature' for them. It is only when the desired objectives are not achieved, or when some unusual phenomena are discovered, that a designer begins to re-search the process. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Post -by Gautam Shah  

A surface of an industrial product, building, roads and our body also needs a coating. It could be single layer system or a multi-layer method. A single layer system due to its simplicity and frugality may not be very superior to multi-layer method. If the ground or the sub-surface is adequate on its own, perhaps a single layer system may suffice. In case of multi-layer method, each of the coats has a distinct function. The sequential layering of multiple coats offer unique functionality. 

Technical coats operate with either the substrate or the environment. The substrate needs sealing (filling up of pores), levelling (smoothening the surface or endowing new texture), binding (of loose particles) and preparing a receptive surface for the next set of treatments. Technical coats nominally are not required to offer any sensorial qualities.

Technical coats are for Waterproofing, Electro-stat proofing, Spark erosion or proofing, Fire resistance, Mildew and Fungus proofing, White ant resistance and Rust inhibition.  

A primer or sealer is the first coating applied to the objects’ surface, so it is required to:
  • adhere to the object’s surface and create a suitable substrate for the next coat.
  • regulate moisture movement in case of wood or masonry surfaces and provide corrosion resistance on metals.
  • regulate the PH value and galvanic activity of the surface.
  •  seal the surface so that oils, waxes, gases, vapours, salts and other reactive exudation from the object mass do not leach out in adverse condition.
  •  fill up micro pores and crevices to level out the surface.
  •    provide temporary protection to the substrate from actions like abrasion, oxidation, sparking, ignition, insects attack.
Since primers are more or less technical coats (coats whose visual value is not important), may not be coloured or tinted to any specific shade. However, in case the primer also functions as an undercoat, it may be pigmented for a specific shade. It is desirable to have primer of a slightly different and lighter colour shade than the subsequent coat, to differentiate a freshly coated surface and un-coated surface. Good primer must remain adhered to the surface, even after other top coats are removed accidentally, or for renovation.

A great variety of primers are available in the market, but of following basic three categories:

Wood primers generally function as sealers, so have a high pigment + extender, ratios. Wood sealers for clear coats are colourless coatings that help in sealing the grain. Most versatile wood sealer is NC lacquer. Commercial wood primers for pigmented paints are pinkish in colour due to the presence of white pigments and extenders, compared to metal primers (red-oxide or Zinc rich) which, are dark coloured.
Metal primers have rust inhibitive pigments or extenders like red lead, zinc oxide, zinc chromate, red oxide, calcium boro-silicate, barium meta-borate, zinc molybdates, chromium fluorides, basic lead silica chromate, zinc ferrite, calcium ferrite. Under water (submerged) metal structures are coated with zinc rich primers based on epoxy, polyurethane systems or chlorinated rubber paints are used.
Masonry primers are applied to alkaline surfaces, so are designed as non-acidic mediums. Often such surfaces have high degree of loose particles, so Masonry primers have high proportion of binding materials. Commercially these types of primers are known as cement primers and are available as water or oil-based formulations. Water-based formulations are mainly used on virgin masonry surfaces.
 An undercoat is an intermediate coat, single or many layers of it are required to provide:
  • adhesion to both primer/sealer and topcoat
  • helps achieve required film build
  • provide the colour tone or true tones, if the top coat is translucent or transparent
  • filling and levelling properties
  • opacity
  • gloss holdout
In two coat systems the undercoat may be a primer coat. An undercoat could be a specifically devised coating system, or of the same material as the top coat.


Coatings begin with a primer coat on a masonry surface like plastered faces. On cement plaster surface cement primers (water thinnable polymers) are used. These primers are applied with horizontal strokes so as to receive the next treatment, the putty coat. A surface levelling putty coat is applied by vertical strokes. After sandpapering the dried putty surface, an undercoat (thinned material of super or final-coat) is applied, usually through a brush by horizontal strokes. If the job is large, the undercoat material is purposely prepared with little lighter shade than the final coat. This helps in differentiating the coated surface and the un-coated surface. Final-coat is always applied by vertical strokes of a brush or vertical rolling of a roller. 
Final coat application often incorporates some type of rendering (finish-texture). Water based interior coating systems invariably create a matt to satin finish, and to enhance this effect rollers are used for final coating and / or rendering. Rollers are made of polyurethane foam, rubber, Teflon, coir, wool, engraved acrylic, copper, etc. For oil-based glossy finish, a coat thinned with an appropriate solvent is applied by vertical strokes. Overlapping of edges is done within 20 minutes, alternatively coating is terminated in alignment with a strong architectural element like a turn, a corner, groove etc.

Some specific coatings like, lacquers require mild buffing with a Carborundum paste, after the coating. Silicone oil emulsions are also applied to create a smudge or tarnish-free surface. Final coats must be protected from fast movement of air that may cause uneven drying. Dust proofing and direct sunlight protections are obvious needs. Coatings applied very early (3 to 6.00 A.M.) do not give satisfactory finish due to high moisture changes in atmosphere. Coatings during pouring rain or soon after it pose similar problems. In dry desert climates, ideal time is past 4 P.M. Nevertheless, the surface coated should have temperature + or - 5°C. compared to an interior wall. For top coat, the coating material must be used from the same packing, executed using the same brush or roll, and preferably by the same person.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Buildings during their life change, occasionally and continually. These changes are intentional actions as well as inadvertent changes. The later type of changes occur on their own (as the inevitable process of ageing), in spite of all the remedial measures, and also due to the side effects of the intentional changes.
Intentional changes in buildings are due to maintenance, repairs, alterations, additions, extensions, preservation, reformation, conservation, downsizing and demolitions. Some of these changes occur several times in the life of a building. Some changes are made at regular intervals as a precautionary measure, because their needs are probable. Other changes are made very rarely, only when there are compelling reasons.

Nominally a well conceived building will not require any change for the first few years. However, buildings, immediately on occupation, see adoptive changes for several reasons. Buildings that have been designed with ‘common parameters or for standard set of users’ require adoptive changes to suit the personal needs. Such adoptive changes occur mainly in the internal domain of the property, rather then on the exterior face. Buildings that have been acquired for their architectural prestige see very limited adoptive changes. Buildings acquired by brand conscious companies see many changes to bring it to their brand image. Old building that are being resurrected with new functions require changes to fit in new functions and new means of functionality.

Trivial or non-substantive changes are caused by the user, without the help of a professional designer. Such changes are limited to the interior domain of the space. These are personal adoptive changes. Highly articulated spaces have a either a very strict regimen or very neatly defined functionality, and so do not allow major changes. A person acquires such a space at a premium rent or charge, is aware of the restrictions, and so may not have the obsession for change. Trivial changes relate more to the sensorial aspects of an interior space rather then its spatial quality. Such changes are appliqué and do not affect the depth of the structure. The application or removal, both are ‘benign’ or non ‘causative’.

Buildings need substantive changes mainly when the user or usage change. Substantive changes are either in internal or external domains, but sometimes in both the domains. External changes are difficult in buildings with multiple owners (shared) as there is obligatory discipline. Similarly buildings located in dense localities have severe logistics problems that makes it very difficult to cause any changes on the external face. Multi storied buildings with nearly integrated curtain walls as the exterior skin offers no scope for any external modification. Buildings in conserved neighbourhoodscannot have any change on the external face, and sometimes similar rules apply for internal alterations.
Substantive changes are caused by brand conscious companies that have very defined parametric regarding Graphics, Space and Architecture. To accommodate first two the architecture is altered. Substantive changes relate to immediate commercial needs, and also to perception on how long one will stay in the new premises.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Concurrent engineering or Simultaneous designing has some bearing on component approach for design. However, the implications here relate to entire project, and not just the product. A product or an aspect of a project is recognised as an entity and then designed, produced as operating in a larger context. Till recently, these were dealt as distinctive task modules, and handled in a sequential manner. However in this process whenever a major change was proposed, everything had to be reset, forcing rethink and rework. It increased the ‘development time’ of a project.

An Integrated Product Development IPD, as the Concurrent Engineering is sometimes referred to, allows several teams to work simultaneously. It brings together multi-disciplinary teams working in diverse locations, taking advantage of locale talent or resources, the daytime zones and climatic conditions. The teams could be departmental, outsourced facility or free lancing entities.

The simultaneous approach needs, live or virtual linkage channels for very fast communications. Concepts, ideas, designs, specifications and alternatives are exchanged instantly, and shared with the project leader, teams handling specific tasks, and often all stack holders. Sharing may also be through a public domain like internet world-wide-web allowing anyone to pass an opinion or make a business offer. Concurrent engineering offers gains, such as, reduced product development time and cost, reduced design rework, and improved communications.

For example, a significant design change in structural design of a bridge span will affect design of many other sub systems. It could mean change of loads on the columns, foundation structures, scaffolding requirements etc. Each of these would have new design parameters, but with electronic drafting tools and instant communication means, all design changes can be apparent to all the concerned agencies, immediately.

Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous Designing works with following notions:
A system can be perceived as consisting of several independent, and inter-dependent subsystems. The nature of the dependency is defined so that the subsystems can be dealt by the same team (sequentially) or by different teams (simultaneously -in parallel mode).

Association of different teams allows superior technological input. Different teams working in parallel mode offer faster a throughput. Teams located in different time zones though do not fully operate in parallel mode, offer advantage of local technologies and 24x7 day-light working hours.

Virtual parallel processing of projects occur in many different ways. Database, spreadsheet, BIM, CAD drawings and other documents can be altered by many different users, with each version or layer identified separately and a possibility of assimilating (merging) it selectively.

Current days high speed virtual communication (broad band internet, video conferencing) allow changes to be proposed, confirmed and accommodated in real time mode.

The evolution of design becomes participatory. It does not remain restricted to hired or appointed experts, but becomes a public domain affair with inventors, innovators and other free lancers offering novel ideas. Such offers are usually on a try it - like it - buy it basis, i.e. without any consultancy charges or purchase-payment obligations.

Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous Designing works best when resource constraints are very acute. It also works well where technologies that are uncertain or less defined now, can also be included later. It helps in completion of projects in the shortest possible time and maximises the profit or advantage. It matches tasks to available human resources, machine capacities. Organization dabbling in off the track jobs cannot suddenly recruit new employees, upgrade the competence of staff or resort to over-time payments for the extra work, efficiently use the concurrent engineering. Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous designing is one of the best methods to infuse new technologies, adjust to erratic finance flows and cope up with external factors like climate, political conditions, etc. These methods allow use of human and other physical resources however, remote they may be.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Creativity in a Design Organization result from several factors, such as The Quality of Leadership, Structures of Authority and Responsibility, Work Culture, Work Climate and Specialization or Core Competence of the organizations.

A Convener of the Design Organization is normally the prime leader of the unit. A Formal authority to lead an organization is acquired by virtue of the capacity to reimburse or compensate people who work for the organization. Besides the capacity to compensate a person in a position or office (associated with expertise, skill, or experience) also gets a formal authority. However, something more than such a formal authority is required to lead a design organization. Some degree of Technical mastery that derives from superior knowledge, expertise, skill, experience, etc. is required. Similarly a leader must also have certain Personality attributes such as: age, sex, race, charisma, bearing, determination, will power, appearance, height, weight, etc. Formal authority, Technical mastery, and Personality attributes, all together constitute the Qualities of Leadership in an organization.

‘Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members,’ a person in a position or office of authority, such as a President or a chairperson.

Leaders, who lack any of these features, try to make it up by other means. Formal authority can be procured by having a financier partner or associate, or an official appointment. Technical mastery can be secured by hiring technically qualified associates or employees. Personality attributes can be compensated by having an indirect or remote mode of management.

Quality of leadership must vary according to the nature of work in the organization, but nominally it is the quality of leadership that defines the work style of the organization. To achieve the first object, organizations separate out the domain of leadership for the functioning of the organization from the domain of leadership required to handle a project. The second fact requires a leader to be as versatile as the project demands.

Organizations that handle highly variable situations or non-repeating projects need a very Radical leader. On the other hand organizations with routine projects will function well under a Methodical leader. An Autocratic leader overrides the situational differences and imposes a preconceived style. The autocratic leader expects complete obedience. Such a leadership is works well for projects that are critical in time, resources and extent. A Democratic leader would rather mould the situation, so that it can be handled within the ambience of the personal (leadership) qualities. Employees get full support, status and due recognition, and as a result show responsible behaviour and self-discipline. Democratic leaders are ideal for projects involving large user base. A Bohemian leader develops a style to suit the situation on hand, and are often very useful in tackling continuously variable situations. A Custodial leader has extra ordinary economic resources so makes employees dependent on the organization with security and benefits. The resulting performance is barely adequate.

Authority and Responsibility in Organizations

Leadership in organization is recognised in terms of authority and responsibility. Authority refers to the right or prerogative of requiring action over others, or simply a right to command, whereas, Responsibility means being ready for the consequences of application of authority. A leader passes on a part of the authority to selected subordinates, and makes them responsible for their actions. By sharing the responsibility a leader strengthens the ultimate authority.

A leader establishes a rational link between the authority and responsibility. Leaders create a well-balanced structure of authority and responsibility within their organization through selective participation of subordinates. A logical and transparent relationship between authority and responsibility motivates other subordinates to belong to the process.

Members of the organization take on responsibilities as an assignment, as a perceived duty, as something to reimburse the favours or the compensations, as a share of power or prestige, or as a compulsion. Such responsibilities unless accompanied by adequate handout or recognition of the authority, causes unpredictable responses.

A complex organization will have many layers of leaders, not only with specific responsibility and authority but also with a unique leadership quality. To provide a unified structure to these diverse qualities, and manage them dispassionately, a coordinator or manager is required. A coordinator's job is to dispense the authorities and responsibilities in a formal and ceremonial manner. A coordinator or the manager usually has the power to hire, fire or favour any subordinate. Frequently initiators or conveners of the organizations hire competent people to manage an organization, but to devise it qualities of leadership are required. ‘Managers are people who do things right, but leaders are people who do the right thing’- Warren Bennis, ‘On Becoming a Leader’.

Work Culture and Work Climate

Each organization has its own distinctive Work Culture. The work culture is a historical formation. Culture results from the revered formal and informal systems of past. It is a combination of the collective history, continua of leadership, residual effects of events and crises, and the physical spread of the organization in the society. This results in traditions, routines, taboos, pride, prejudices, etc. that permeate in every organization. The cultural setting of the organization impacts the behaviour of its members.

The Work Climate results from the recent working of the organization. A climate reflects the quality of current leadership. An organizational climate is directly related to the leadership and management style of the leader, based on the values, attributes, skills, and actions, as well as the priorities of the leader. It is seen as the empathy the organization creates in its members, clients and collaborators. An individual or a short term leader cannot easily create or change the culture because it very deep rooted. Culture influences the characteristics of the climate by its effect on the actions and thought processes of the leader. A leader can hope to mould the work culture by improvisation of the work climate.

Specialization or core competence of the organizations

Organizations come into being with specific aims. All organizations intend to specialize in tasks that are analogous to their aims. But specialization is acquired through repetition of opportunities. Specialization leads to an economy in the operations. It also upgrades the organization's capacity to deal with larger or complex tasks. Specialization, is perceived as an innovative activity, that causes enough synergies, to make the organization behave like a self-correcting or continuously adjusting biological entity. An Autocratic leader may stimulate an organization towards an acute specialization in only one or few fields, whereas a Bohemian leader may dissipate the energy and de-focus the goals of the organization. A Democratic leader will continuously review and revise the aims of the organization, and plan the resources, to make the organizations creative.

Creativity in Organizations

Organizations thrive on new ideas, concepts, innovations, etc. A creative environment comes about by many factors. There should be teamwork spirit, willingness to help each other, commitment and dedication to assigned tasks, trust with fellow workers. Personnel should have access to appropriate resources, including facilities, equipment, information, funds, and people. If work is challenging or tasks are intriguing than there is an attraction to handle it. Staff members should have some control on tasks they carry out and freedom in deciding how to accomplish a task. A manager or leader who sets clear goals and is able to communicate well with subordinates, encourages creativity. Existence of defined and surprise rewards encourages creative efforts. A collaborative atmosphere sets in, when the staff shares the vision and goals of the organization.
In any well knit organization, creativity comes about, through several layers of activities, carried out by individuals with many different talents and personality traits. ‘It operates like a relay race, but the participants have no idea who will take over, at which level and when’. Often the racers have no idea, whether they were running forward or backward, i.e. towards or away from the finish line or goal.

Organizations become and remain creative when roles that personnel are required to play, are very definite. Where there is a knowledgeable and visible structure, one knows who is going to take over at what time and at which level. A creative idea or concept will be accommodated, supported and carried through, if necessary, by even changing the goals of the organization. The leaders of such organization are sensitive, and have a ready mechanism to improvise the goals of their organization on a continuing basis.

Creativity fails to spread in an organization because there is:
         1       Fear of ridicule.
         2       Fear of theft of idea (loss of authorship or patent)
         3       Lack of time
         4       Lack of competence to further the idea
         5       Lack of power and resources to further the idea
         6       Lack of buyers / takers of different ideas
         7       Lack of compensation

In organizations where obnoxious quality control checks, evaluations, secret reportage, etc. abound, personnel come under pressure and become sterile. Promotions other than on qualitative criteria, allocation of resources other than on needs based assessments, Recognition of wrong members, delayed or inadequate compensation, etc. are some other factors that vitiate the working of an organization.

A good leader makes the personnel realize that real measure of creativity is in the gains or advantage an organization gets. This is a difficult proposition, as it requires a very high degree of transparency in accounting and auditing processes. Everyone must clearly realize what an effort will cost, and how much benefit the organization will get out of it. Creativity is both a personal and group pursuit. A personal innovation must have confirmation of the larger group, and the group’s achievement must remain impersonal.

Creativity is not in specialization (capacity to excel in limited fields) nor in generalization (capacity to handle many different situations) in any field. Specialization means being proficient, to consistently sustain the technical superiority, whereas Generalization means being efficient or productive, but not at the cost of quality.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Postures: Postures are transient body positions. Postures are taken for change, relaxation, transition, exercise, for conducting tasks, and also for expression, communication and interactions. Posturing is using own body limbs and sensorial nodes in coordinated manner vis-à-vis another individual, groups of persons, or the elements of the space.

One can also reposition the objects and reshape the surroundings, change the environment or force recast the connection with other beings or group, and thereby avoid some degree of posturing, or enforce certain posturing from the space users.

One uses body to take-up postures with and without the tools, amenities and facilities. Postures are reinforcing so 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. Posture could have many variations within a basic theme. The variations are micro postures or gestures that express or communicate complex concepts metaphorically. Gestures or micro changes of the body help tune in the sensorial perceptions.

Aids for posturing: A posture often requires support, aid, or simply a physical proximity (as an assurance) of tools, amenities, facilities and structural elements. Support structures for postures 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.

Postures resist or follow the gravity by exploiting or overcoming its effects. Free active movement is used by a person to overcome the effect of gravity, for example getting up from lying or seating position. Resisted active movement is used by the person to overcome the effects of a manual or mechanically applied force, for example, lifting a load, closing a door, using a knife and fork, or digging with a spade.

Posturing helps one control incursion by others into the personal domain of behaviour, as much as it allows one to project a participating personality.

A podium or a front desk is a very assuring platform for a speaker, but shields the expression coming through the 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 benches have to be attentive. Occupying a geometrical centre or a spatial focus automatically enhances the interference.

Open body postures: An open posture is one in which vulnerable parts of the body are not covered. Some important elements differentiating an open posture from a closed posture are the position of hands, fingers, feet and head. Open posture is perceived as a friendly and positive attitude. People with open body posture are able to carry out multiple movements such as body movement while shifting the gaze.

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.

Closed body postures: It is one in which vulnerable parts of the body are obscured and protected by humans (as well as animals). The body parts are: throat, abdomen and genitals. For humans arms crossed on the chest or abdomen, hands clasped in front of the genitals, and crossing of legs signify closed postures. Showing the back of the hand or clenching hands into fists may represent a closed posture. Hands clasped behind the back may also signal closed posture even though the front is exposed because it can give the impression of hiding something or resistance to closer contact. 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.

The male vs female behaviour 
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.

Eye level and its focus are some of the most important means of behaviour exposition. Eye level and focus related physiological deficiencies can be corrected through appropriate postures. Postures 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.

Inclination of the body. During conversation, a person unconsciously inclines or moves body or head, either close to or away from the opposite person. 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.

Different people - Different postures

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.

Synchronous or empathetic behaviour: During intense conversations participants have a tendency to imitate each other’s behaviour. They emulate postures and gestures. Such synchronous behaviour encourages deeper relationship, provided necessary support means are available. Correct distance, equalized ergonomic facilities, non-specific environmental conditions are some such means.

Designing for postures and relevant behaviour: Normally a designer designs for important poses of behaviour sequences. But some flexibility within the postural pose is required. The flexibility relates to minor changes for relaxation, resetting the body rhythms and facility to conduct momentary postural variations. A chair that is slightly wider or lower, a bar stool with a foot support ring, a seat with multi flexural (revolving, tilting, rotating) adjust-ability, TV or monitor swivelling stands are some of the examples that allow flexibility.

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, are unstable and cannot be maintained for a very long period. It is better to design some support system. In the first case the support must be subtle, almost imperceptible, but in the second case the obvious support system should be obvious but a casual one.

Posture support systems 

Office executive chairs allow many postures, due to the width of the seat, height of the seat, height of the handles from the seat, depth of the handles (elbow or arm accommodation), inclination of the back (tilting), height of the back (mid spine, shoulder support, neck and head support), swivelling, etc. Other postural options are provided by the table top height from the ground and seat level of the chair, depth and width of the table, nature of foot rest, task being handled, mobility of the chair (depending on the quality of wheels and flooring surface), etc. The site and its environmental conditions also play their role, such is the chair close against a wall, against an open space, facing a barrier or an open area, the source of illumination and air handling devices, one sided or multi directional interaction, communication devices being used and duration of work.

Similarly ordinary people exploit their familiar or novel seating systems for many postural positions that are for behavioural setting. Where possible a person would choose an appropriate seat with reference to the host or other participants, own social status, own psychological make-up, presence or absence of intervening elements, angle, level and distance of the encounter, level of comfort and formality desired. Next strategy would be for macro or micro shifting of the seat. Where such devices are lightweight mobile, micro shifting for angular and distance adjustments are done, but such choices are usually limited. Other strategies will include body or postural accommodation, such as seating by fully drawing back or upright, leaning on, one of the arm rest rather then a balanced posture, keeping arms on armrest, lap or any other front side device, placing the legs under the seat, straight-up, seating with cross feet or leg, seating frontally but looking sideways.

Different gaze and postures reflect lack of miscibility 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DOOR THRESHOLDS -myths and technicalities

Threshold or Udumbara is the most significant element of a traditional door. It perhaps began as a necessary entity to fix a door, but in every culture of the world its mythological connections are reinforced through customs and religious ceremonies from birth to death. In India the Udumbara has persisted mainly due to the importance given in Vastu Shastra (Ancient Indian canons of planning). The Vastu Shastra prescribes that every inner room should be at slightly higher elevation. In India it continues to be physically formed, elsewhere in the world, it is symbolically recognised as a point of initiation and manifestation.

A threshold, at physical level represents an edge or limit of a domain, a break or mark for entry-exit. The threshold represents an interim reality between inside and outside, that may not have dimensional reality only an abstract consideration. It is a Maryada, across which there is a change of state such as the behaviour, conduct, or experience. The line drawn around Sita (Indian epic, Ramayana) by Lakshman (Laxman, younger brother of Rama) was a metaphysical barrier -a threshold.

Threshold was first created to accommodate the bottom end of the pivot. To install or replace a door with a pivot in the post construction phase it was necessary to insert pivots and the pivot-holder simultaneously into the place. Initially the bottom and top pivot-holders were distinctly independent of each other. Later a four-sided frame -the door portal of stone, wood or metal was formed. In masonry and other types of structures the Portal and the Frame had distinct functions. The portal carried the loads from gap-spanning lintel or arch, whereas the frame ‘housed’ the pivot (and hinge, in later periods), and acted as ‘stopper’ for the shutter.

Door portals have had dominantly right-angled shape, forced by the need to have vertical-gravity alignment for the pair of the pivot or hinge. Few Roman door portals have tapered (narrowing at head level) form, but these are the masking or frontal portals (actual door shutters were right-angled shaped).

Early Pivots were of stone, hard wood or cast metals like bronze or iron. Pivots required little maintenance except occasional lubrication. However, a pivot on wearing begins to ‘sink’ the door shutter, and it is difficult to replace it.

Pivoted doors preferably open inward. However, such doors, were often ‘stayed’ by invaders or ‘gate crashers’ by pushing by a wood wedge into the vertical edge near the wall. This ‘staying’ was prevented by masking the side edges with door portal structure.

Hinges began to replace the pivots with the advent of metallurgical skills. For very large and heavy shutters such as fort gates bottom pivots continued to take the loads, but top pivots were replaced with a ‘shelf-pivot’ -a form of a hybrid element of hinge and pivot. Hinges require a mounting frame of wood. As a result stone and masonry portals became superficial decorative elements, or were completely replaced by door frames. Hinges also eliminated the need for a bottom horizontal member for the door portal or door frame -the threshold.

In Indian mythology the door portal sides or jambs are called Dwar-Sakha’ (Sakha or Shakha = branch of a tree, or a limb of body arm or leg). If the branch comes out of a tree trunk, then door portal sides or jambs emanate from the Udumbara (Sanskrit: bottom piece of door portal) or the threshold. The head of the door portal or lintel is called ‘Uttamanga’ (Sanskrit: the head or best part of the body). Matsya Purana suggests the door-sill (Udumbara) and the lintel (Uttamanga) should be one half and one quarter respectively of the width of door jambs.

Multiple Door Jamb and lintel mouldings on the southern door of Kashivishwanatha temple

The door portal head (Uttamanga) is indicative of the North (perhaps due to Indian and Roman-Greek societies being in Northern Hemisphere). The lintel is also called Lalatbimba (the head beam). The bottom (Udumbara) represents the South, the side considered least auspicious in Indian mythology. This could be a reason why thresholds are not stepped on, but crossed-over.

The temple Udumbara or Dehlij is a beam like single material unit but formed with a central round part (2 of 4 width measures) called Mandarak, and on either sides Kirtimukh (animal face like form -Face of Glory) (1 each of 4 width measure), are created. A front platform of smaller height, carved in ardhachandra -moon-crescent shape, is place against it. It is decorated with a pair of gagaraka or kalash -holy pots, a sankha -conch shell and lotus stems.

Udumbara or Thresholds have many synonyms:

A Udumbara is a place for the crocodile, so, called Naakra. Udumbara is also called Umbar, Umbratha or Umara. A threshold is also called Dwarpindi, a Varundi -a door step, or Grahtati a terrace or platform in front of the house. It is also called Pratiharbhumi (Pratihar=protector and bhumi=land) meaning the place for the protector. A threshold is also called a Sandhi -a junction or confluence. Dehli and Dehlij are used for any marker that denotes or enforces a change.

Crossing over a threshold or boundary is called Antarupati (Sanskrit). There is a principle known Dehalidipanyaya which means: A lamp placed on the threshold illuminates both sides or serves a twofold purpose.

Threshold, word has originated from therscvald (old Anglo-Saxon word) which literally meant to thresh a wood. First part of the word threshold, i.e. ‘thersc’, has the same root word as used for threshing grain, andvald (Anglo-Saxon/Germanic) stands for wood or forest. These two words together stand for wood or timber that was placed at the entrance of a house. The wood piece placed in the door was ‘threshed’ or ‘thrashed’ with over-use or heavy wear
Worn-out Threshold

Threshold also stands for two Hebrew words: The first is pronounced sawf meaning a limit or a boundary. The other is pronounced mif-tawn meaning a sill.

The Udumbara or threshold is important for both Grih-Pravesh (entry) and Grih-nirgaman (exit) with regard to a home, temple, built form or territory. Both must occur from the same door, passing over the threshold without touching it with right foot first. The entry relates to occasions such as: when a new member joins the family like a bride, new born baby, groom, a disciple or an apprentice, and when someone returns after some lapse of time such as recovery from an illness, achievement or trip. Vitruvius and Indian Vastu Shasta both prescribe the number of steps leading to the doorway to be odd, so that one crosses the threshold with the right foot.

Some of the elements in Grih-Pravesh ceremonies are Kumbha either filled with rice or water, a coconut and Arati. Arati is a light a lamp light from wicks soaked in ghee -purified butter or camphor. The word has derived from the Sanskrit word Aratrika, which means something that removes the Ratri -night or darkness. The Arati, nominally offered to a deity, in Grih-Pravesh is offered to the new entrant to ward off the evil effects accompanying the person.

In many of the cultures it is believed to be an untouchable element. If one stumbles over a threshold by accident, the entry or exit must be postponed. However. The tradition to carry a bride over the threshold of the married couple's home is a very old one and followed in many societies of the world. Some believe that demons haunt. In India, people do touch the threshold with their head to pay obeisance to the place. In some of the entrance procedures like entry to a new building the host touches the shoulder to the right side bar-shakh (the Door Jamb). The dust particles symbolically collected from the outer part of door thresholds of temples, prostitutes’ houses, and very rich persons’ mansions are considered auspicious, and used in construction of Vedika (Havan kund), fire pit for ceremonial and sacrificial purposes.

A woman who had just given birth is forbidden to tread on another family's threshold, for it was believed that the woman would become a threshold cleaner in her next life. But actual reason could be to reduce the chances of infection. In Liaoning Province of NE China, people, during Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month), still follow the tradition of sitting on the threshold of the door and eat an egg before sunset. After finishing the egg, they throw all the shells outside the house. Such an act is believed to clear the house of disease and bad luck in the following year’. Lucan, Polybius, and Artemidorus all describe women of classical Greece and Rome wiping the thresholds with their hair to avoid the fury of the gods during times of national calamities.


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