Post by Gautam Shah
Opening systems on the street or entrance foyer are the prime places for personalization. These are straightforward or direct declarations, as much as they are subtle identifications.
The Direct Expressions highlight the building number, street name, postal distribution code, and name of the owner. They also show timings and conditions of visitations. Identifiers like, the status of the owner, the nature and antiquity of the ownership, occupiers’ name, caste, educational qualifications, honours, nationality, titles, are marked over the door.
The identifying elements are in linguistic expressions like Quotes and couplets. These are often in ancient languages, or in forms which are incomprehensible to themselves or others, but placed as traditions demand it. Names and indicators of Gods and saints not only reflect the religious affinity, but also the faith in specific groups. Display of forms, patterns, signs and symbols reveal the owner’s affiliation with secret communities.
The declarative elements announce the nature of opening like, entry, exit, restricted access. These elements are placed on the outer face of an entrance to warn new visitors. And the same are occasionally placed on the interior side to reinforce the message to a departing visitor (e.g. close the door gently or fully, visit again).
The Indirect Expressions are little more abstract or implied. These somehow suggest the ethnicity, social standing, religion or faith. These also show the nature of building use like place of residence, worship, or commerce, etc. Often the abstracted forms are placed as continuation of traditions without being aware of the purpose or significance.
The street side openings are the chief locations where the declarative elements are placed. But these can also occur at entry points of sub spaces such as kitchen, prayer room, bed room, toilet, etc.
The identification and declarative elements are very essential enrichment and for personalization of the building and its sub sections. Some declarations result from attempts to personalize a building. Immigrants try to enrich their homes with a lifestyle they have inherited. These lifestyle enrichments are like the colours, fabrics, furniture, landscaping, sculptures and other decorative feature. Similarly the peculiar odours of foods and sounds generating from their buildings declare the owner’s identity.
Identification elements differentiate a building within a group, or associate the building to a category such as class or colony. In a mass housing colony, people treat their doors, windows, or curtains, extravagantly different from their neighbours. Opposite to this, identical doors and windows conjoin several, even differently styled buildings into a cohesive entity, a colony.
The entrance door (or a street window) is not just the place of arrival but is a metaphoric point of entrance for everything, good or evil, friend or enemy, known or unknown. A visitor, and everything else, is expected to arrive at the main door, in spite of many other convenient points. In some way it is a point of fear, doubt and danger and hope, fulfillment and safety. Means of physical and spiritual defence are placed here, even though there may be other vulnerable locations in a building.
Door signage and graffiti are placed by owners and by street users. This may be for revenge, for the political or hate messaging or as a billboard. The door or surround area declarations are for publicity, information or as extremely personal statement.
The visitor’s announcement and identification systems are placed near the formal entrance, This entrance-based entities include: bells, knockers, buzzers, talking pipes, whistles, sirens, rattlers, vibrators, horns, intercoms, video recognition, surveillance systems.
A door or front side opening like windows, balconies are the focal point of a building, so anything that is or placed here is considered as delivered to the owner or occupier of the space. In case of a religious building it is an offering to God. At pragmatic level the messages of welcome, farewell, congratulations, facilitations, list of honours, notices, results, declarations, legal attachments, seals, custodial notices, etc. are placed over the door. Indicative objects or symbols are placed to identify faith, religion or profession, etc. but also as protecting and beneficiary signs. Chimes or sound creating hanging devices, hanging mobiles over the openings are believed to bring in good luck.
There are many objects whose presence or absence over an entrance signifies certain conditions of the family. Absence of a Rangoli pattern (a colourful pattern drawn in the morning in front of the house) or a floral Toran means there is a mourning period for the family. Hindu household hangs the urn containing the ashes post cremation of the dead, outside and beside the door. The urn remains there till appropriate ceremonies are conducted and ashes are disposed off. The presence of an urn outside the door is a message to others that invitations for all joyous events may not be accepted by the house-owner. The presence of a swastika or other markings in vermillion colour over the door threshold indicates it is flourishing family and not a lonely widow’s residence. Bride and groom leave their palm prints over the door the marriage ceremonies. Similarly foot prints of a newly married bride and a pregnant lady in front and inside the entrance door are considered auspicious.