Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Post 100 - by Gautam Shah

In its most common usage a roof or skylight describes an entity that sits atop a roof, high up in the wall or ceilings. These were meant for illumination and ventilation. Such openings have been of minuscule holes to very large gaps, often covering the room’s entire surface.

Hagia Sophia

Roof light openings have been used in buildings for ages. But in early periods such gaps were open or covered with a fabric, lattice, wooden slats or louvres. It was with the use of glass that such gaps became fixed-transparent panes. Roof-light openings with wood frames required frequent repair-replacements and were not weather tight. During Victorian Era, with metal construction, skylights became very popular. Virtually every urban row house of the late 19th and early 20th C relied on a metal-framed skylight to illuminate the enclosed stairwell.

Ranakpur Jain Temple Rajasthan India, Vimana Architecture (Lit=Aeroplane, Light-airy structure at top)

Roof window or day lighting is a flat or sloped opening as part of the roof, used for day lighting. Skylights are flat, shaped by the structural geometry, or formed as a shell structure by bulging.
Roof Lantern over dome of Florence Baptistery 1150 AD

One very popular version of roof light was the multi panned glass structure, the roof lantern. Compared to nominal roof or sky light it is meant to be visible as a glowing lantern over the topmost point or pinnacle of a roof, such as tower, dome or peak of the roof.

 A lantern is a timber-framed structure, usually octagonal, polygonal or circular in shape, placed as a crown over a turret or dome of a building to admit light and allow smoke to escape. The lantern’s structure was initially filled with wood slats (louvres) but later was covered with glass. It is a form of clerestory opening at roof level. The glass-covered form, due to the internal illumination, was visible at night from a great distance, like a lantern. Later specific beacons and lights were placed here for the same purpose. Although the primary function of a lantern was to admit light to the interior, it became an architectural capping element, with rib and vault form.

Roof Lanterns have derived from Orangeries, structures first built in 16th C in France and Italy. An orangery is similar to a conservatory or greenhouse. It is generally located in the free ground of an estate or building. The name reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees like orange were often wintered in tubs under cover, for surviving through harsh frosts though not expected to flower and fruit.
Roof lights include informal roof holes, Chowks, cutouts, courtyards and gaps between architectural forms. Roof lights include  formal window like openings and designed gaps. These have been masked with patterns.  The sky gaps offer sobriety of illumination and help moulding the space and model the objects in the space.
Orangeries originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy. The orangeries became fashionable in ordinary residences of France Germany and the Netherlands. Early orangeries had large windows but opaque roofs, glazed roofs were developed in the early 19th C. Early orangeries, as existed in Great Britain and France in 16th C, were buildings that could be covered by planks and sacking and heated in the cold season by stoves.
French Orangery 1834–36 by CR de Fleury

During the Georgian era, buildings with large footprints (floor area), the interiors were dim and dark even on sunny days, and in absence of electric or gaslight candle power was the only source of illumination. Roof lanterns were used to illuminate the stairwell landings and other areas of home. The key element of a lantern, the glass was hand made and very expensive, limiting the use of roof lanterns in the homes of elite.

The Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 inspired people for greater use of glass in roof structures of buildings, and the Industrial revolution provided the necessary affluence and technology. Roof lanterns were used for illuminating domestic billiard rooms, reception rooms and kitchens, and in public buildings such as hotels, in places of education, town halls and public libraries.

A dormer is an attic window located in the sloping gable roof, on the main face of the building. A dormer is an extension of the attic and provides accessible or functional height right to the front edge of the room, which is used for placing a bed or study unit. The roof over a dormer is slopped cross way from the slope of the main roof. The dormer windows are design-matched with the window of a lower floor, creating an impression of a taller window, both from outside as well as inside. Dormers add a visual interest to the nominally plain gable roof surface. In England when fire laws did not permit architectural projections such as eaves, etc., the front wall was extended as a parapet to cover up the roof end. The parapet was articulated with em-battlements, crenels, embrasures and dormers. Wall dormers are lower floor windows extended up to roof, parapet top, or even higher, as a true or dummy window, with all features of an highly ornamental window surrounds. False or blind dormers were added to visually balance roof-leveled other appendages, like chimneys, lanterns etc. Dormer openings are also called a doghouse, because the form of the dormer resembles the pet-house. Attic level barn windows shaped like a dormer used for taking in or out hay are called hay-windows
Types of Dormer windows: A gable dormer, has sloped roofs on both sides. A hipped dormer has a roof sloping on three sides including front. An insert dormer is set back from the sloping edge of the roof so has some sloping roof on its front bottom side. A turret dormer has multi angled hipped roof. A French segmental dormer has lower floor window continuing above by breaking the line of roof eaves. A fanlight dormer and Eyebrow dormer has rounded top window. A shed or lean-to dormer has single slope roof. An extended shed dormer has roof line extending beyond the main roof line. An all glass contemporary dormer has all sides formed of fixed glass or jalousie.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Post -by Gautam Shah

TOWERS are tall structures serving many different purposes. Towers are generally square or circular, and only occasionally multi-cornered. Towers have size tapering or narrowing to the top. A tower could be a solid mass like column, or hallowed out mass with a with spirally wound access stairs. Towers, whether a Column or Hollowed structures are mostly independent entities except in case of mosque towers for Azan (calling Muslim faithful for prayers).

Sidi Basir Mosque Minarets Ahmedabad India
Deep Jyot Stambha (Light Tower) Ujjain Madhya Pradesh India Wikipedia Image by Bernard Gagnon
Obelisk at Luxor Temple Egypt Wikipedia Image by Ad Meskens

Column towers signify a place or location due to the visibility from a great distance. Column towers are commemorative structures such as Ashok Stambha, milestone, survey locations pillars, boundary junction markers, Dwaja Stambha (Flag mast or tower).

'The obelisks,' says Ebers, 'were sacred to Ra, the sun.' It has been remarked that sometimes they were entirely gilt, that the apex was at other times covered with gilded bronze, and some at least appear to have carried spheres or discs, also of gilded metal.

An inscription describes two obelisks erected by Queen Hashop, the sister of the great Thothmes: 'Their tops are covered with copper of the best war tributes of all countries; they are seen at great many miles off. It is a flood of shining-splendor when the sun rises between them'. Assyrian 'sun pillars' with shining Bronze were placed on set up right and left of an altar.

In India, pillars supporting sun-wheels are found at the entrance gates to sacred buildings. Ferguson says: 'My impression is that all the pillars surmounted by lions in front of the caves, as at Karla, supported originally a wheel in metal.' Such 'chakra pillars' are frequent on the Buddhist sculptures, and the wheels appear to have been turned on an axle. In Orissa, Dr Hunter tells us, 'sun pillars' are surmounted by the charioteer of the god, or by an eagle.

 Lille Belfry of Chamber of Commerce and Industries 1910-21
Hollowed Towers have access facility to go up the top, so can be called functional structures. These structures are independent entities. As a stand-alone entity their size, comparative scale and its architectural form denote its intrinsic importance. Its location, in the terrain spread, strategic siting match with its functional requirements. On a sea coast it could be a watch tower or warning tower or a Landmark such as the light house. On river coasts, such as in Benaras the towers help management of crowds during Kumbha Melas. On hilly tops the towers are used for watching the movements across vast lands. Smoke or Signal towers were legends, where a series of it transmitted the audio and visual signals of impending dangers.
Cana Island Light House

Two Towers Bologna, Italy Wikipedia Image by Palickap

Hollowed towers are often adjunct to a variety of functional structures at the lower levels. Tower of London is more known due to its location in Borough of Tower Hamlets, though historically it is marked for its armory, treasury, menagerie, Royal Mint, public records office, and home of the Crown Jewels of UK. Bell towers or Campanile (Italian) are both, free standing type and attached to church and other places of worship and security. Ghanta Ghar are located on Chauraha or cross road junctions, so that people can see the time (‘watch ’) the time and also listen to hourly bells. On fort gates the Bell towers marked the time and also announced the opening and closing time of gates. It also announced the change of guards. On fort gates the watch towers not only help observe enemies’ movements outside the fort, but were used for policing the Mandi or Markets beyond the city gates.

Victory Tower (Vijay Stambha) Rajasthan India Wikipedia Image by Schwiki

Tower of Mangia, Palazzo Pubblico, Tuscany, Italy Wikipedia Image by David McSpadden from Daly City, US

The Tower or Top room over Teen Darwaza and Delhi Darwaza at Ahmedabad performed the same function with playing of Shehnai Choghadiya (the start of business in morning and closing time evening). A CharMinar of Hyderabad is actually a Four-way city gate but called a Minar or Tower. City center towers are important landmarks and so a point to ward off the evil spirits and their super natural powers. Tower structures often include small places of worship, in the Indian context these are Ganesh, Hanuman, Ambica, Bhadrakali, Kalika, Sani, Kshetrapal, Dicpal etc. Towers structures also house tombs, memorials and plaques of saints and warriors in honour of their services to the town. Married couples place their hand marks on the gates. Coconuts are tied to gates to mark the beginning and end of any auspicious or important event. Torans are tied to tower structures to mark occasions of public festivities. Rakhis and threads are tied to towers to protect the town not only from enemies, but from infectious diseases, bad luck etc. Hindu women mourners walk behind a funeral procession only up to the tower like significant structures.
Tomb of Baharuddin Junagadh Gujarat India Wikipedia Image by  Bernard Gagnon

Architectonic elements with Towers like gates, clocks, vaults, barrels, projected galleries, elaborate horizontal bands make it visible from a long distance. For technological reasons very tall towers were unsafe structures. So towers were designed with sequentially reduced height floors (similar to Walt Disney Park buildings), a visual aberration to create a tall structure with many floors. Gopurams and Vijay Stambha (Udaipur) are examples of such visual deviations. Gopuram like structures were conceived to be very significant, and naturally received high degree of patronage often making them larger then the temple itself.

Industrial complexes have a variety of functional towers such as the chimney stacks, condensation, distillation, de-fractioning, air-bourne particle separator cyclones, etc., besides the nominal watch towers. Many of the watch tower functions can now be replaced by surveillance tools on thin body posts or through Satellite scanners. Air-Ports still have Air control traffic Towers. Some of the functions conducted by the omnipresent towers are being taken over by electronic controls that remain invisible and unobtrusive.

Petrol Refinery Distillation Towers Wikipedia Image by Luigi Chiesa

There are many structural, architectural and sculptural entities that serve many of the ethos of a towers, such as the Electric Pylons, Suspension bridge structures, Television and communication towers, very tall buildings with comparatively small foot prints, very tall water fountains, chimney stacks, tall statues, search lights, beamed lights, etc. Modern day drones, gas filled balloons, and satellites.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Post by Gautam Shah

Space is a vast expanse where Objects are space-positioned and Happenings get time-scheduled. The objects and happenings, both continuously shift in position and schedule, but relative to each other. In this sense a space is a matrix of relationships. Space Perception is becoming aware of such a matrix.

Vast Space : Algerian Nomads Habitat

The matrix of relationships manifests in the environment, where both the space and perceiver exist. Perception of space is also becoming aware of the environment, organisms and objects. The causative factors of the environment are seen as a change in the space. We perceive the changes through the sensorial nodes of the body.

All sensorial perceptions involve signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sense organs. For a given event thousands of nerve impulses are generated and conducted along many different nerve fibres, but at slightly different times to the central nervous system. They form a pattern of input to the central nervous system. How we interpret the sensations is affected by subject variables such as our expectations, feelings, state of health and fitness, age, abilities etc.

Flight Simulator Duplicating Space experience

The process of perception reveals how the environment is formatted, organized and represented in time and space. Environment helps in identification, and interpretation of the space, and so gives a measure to it. The measures are perceived because we have different types nodes of perception, where some have multiple and directional locations. The nodes also have a range bound capacity, beyond and under which the reception gets transferred to other systems, or ceases to be operative. With these operants’ one gets a sense of scale, size, gradations like concentration and diffusion, framing, juxtaposing, referencing, linkages, details and orientation
Perception also involves forming expectations, directing the attention, learning and memory retention. At some level perception is recognizing a thought, intuition, deduction, etc.

Perception occurs mainly through sensorial faculties. The faculties have natural or nominal capacities, but some enhanced abilities also occur through learning, motivation, experience. We have also means to extend the capacities through various means of reach (e.g. spectacles, hearing aids, insulators). We also develop proficiency to convert (such as enhance, diffuse, hasten, delay) the nominal perception through condensation, compression, enlargements, focussing, differentiation, etc

There are some realizations that may not be attributed to sensorial nodes. Such non sensorial perceptions makes us aware of orientations (such as North, East, West, South, Up, Down, Front, Back), movements, acceleration-deceleration, energy flows, gravity, etc.

Plaza Boston Planning a Space
There are realizations that do not relate to physical perceptions, but are sometimes attributed to psychical experiences. These include empathy, sympathy, links or relationships between two objects and organisms, acknowledgement, familiarity, recollection of past events, fore-sightings, future purposes or utilities of objects and situations, order in complex situations, hierarchies in multiple entities, etc.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Post -by Gautam Shah  

A very vast space is perceived only through its markings. A ‘sunset, a valley or seashores’ are Markings of a space. These are evident through physical elements like: edges, banks, thresholds, slopes, plains or fences and environmental effects thereon. Markings in a very vast space indicate the extent of the space, but do not define it. Perception of markings is subjective and circumstantial, because the reach varies with perceiver’s capacity, needs and environmental conditions.

Wild Exterior
Spaces, however, are more definitively perceived through the Bounding elements. The bounding elements offer an exclusivity through a change-line, such as a drop in terrain, contours, variation colour or texture, illuminated or shaded objects, etc. Bounding elements restrict limitless experience of the space and environmental effects. The bounding elements indicate the nature of ownership (dominion) and structure of administration, and so the purpose of the space. Bounding elements are physical entities that have dimensions, gradation, scale and proportions, to provide spatial definitions. Bounding elements endow familiarity, and so create ‘neighbourhood’ spaces.
Wild Exterior space
Wild exterior spaces
The behaviour in space is formed by the spatial definitions like the markings, bounding elements and enclosures. Markings denote the natural extent of the wild exterior space. But the same markings may not be perceptible by all. The behaviour with reference to markings is perfunctory as it relates to potential -what can one do with it ?

Lunar Township in wild exterior Space
Neighbourhood spaces
Markings help create anchor points, line links and extent spreads. This elemental bounding becomes the setting for prime human endeavour (and so the behaviour) to occupy and possess a space segment. Secondary bounding in space define what one can own, possess and some control or physical reach. This secondary bounding or space segments, separate the wild exterior from the interior space. The space also becomes an alternative place for everything that an interior space cannot offer. It becomes a place for informal social contacts and also temporary escape. This is the next grade of exterior space, the neighbourhood space. A neighbourhood space comes into being and remains valid in the context of interior spaces.

Neighbourhood as an exterior space is finite and predictable. It is both a ‘collection of individuals and a place, the people who live there and the place itself’. Here the social ties develop not just due to people involved, but due to the settings of the place. 


Neighbourhood spaces have recognizable geometric order or a predictable configuration, purposive locations for anchorage, well-defined zones, distinct routes and paths, good visibility (and other clarity of other sensorial perception) and recognition of the whole and its parts.

The depth or scale as defined by bounding elements mainly depends on the reach capacities. In other words the bounding elements are within the sensorial reach such as vision, hearing, smelling, touching, etc. These elements individually represent varied reaches, so space definitions here match to the purpose.
 - ‘a jungle of apartments where no one knew who was dead or who was celebrating what - but an archipelago of neighbourhoods in which everyone knew each other.’ -Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City.


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