Sem 03 / Culture and Builtform

Spatial Theory

Rupali Gupte

Spatial Theory orients students to larger underlying questions of space, its philosophical orientations, aesthetic questions,questions of form, mechanic of experience, coordinates of visual culture, structure of space, its syntax, semantics, type in architecture, pattern language, phenomenological questions of space with body as measure, scale, proportion, psycho-spatial dimensions of space, question of power, behaviour, modernity and its thinking tools, related to technology and social life and its spatiality, questions of difference and methods of evaluating architecture. Through the course frameworks of analysis, methodologies and ways of seeing were discussed alongside concrete examp-les of works of art and architecture.

The course aims to build abilities in critical anaysis of architectural, artistic and spatial works and practices through an understanding of their form and contexts.

The spatial theory reader this year took up close readings of the following works

Habraken, John. 1988. “Type as a Social Agreement.” Seoul: Paper presented at Asian Congress of Architects

Omvedt, Gail. 2003. “The Downtrodden among the Downtrodden, An interview with a dalit Agricultural Labourer.” Edited by Anupama Rao. In Issues in Contemporary Indian feminism, Gender and Caste. New York: Zed Books Ltd.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2012. Eyes of the Skin. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Pattern Language. 1977. New York: Oxford University Press.

Shetty, Prasad. 2020. “Humanising Architecture.” In First Questions. Mumbai: School of Environment and Architecture.

Zumthor, Peter. 2006. Atmospheres: Architectural Environments. Surrounding Objects. Boston: Birkhauser.

Students reviewed four texts each as well as wrote a critical review of one work of art and one work of architecture

One  examples of each of these is given below:

Stuti Bhatewara

01 Review: Shetty, Prasad. 2020. “Humanising Architecture.” In First Questions. Mumbai: School of Environment and Architecture.

In the limitations of the current ethical framework in architectural education, emphasis the narrow view of space as a container. We are primarily concerned with the logistics of building containers, following rules set by the authorities rather than understanding the space beyond physical boundaries. The philosophical traditions like space as a continuum, space as a social construct and space as an a priori concept. These perspectives expand our role beyond container-making, addressing environmental, cultural and social consideration. The influence of orthographic training, which reduces the space to measurable entities,and the impact of different philosophical traditions on defining space. The container paradigm is challenged by notions of space as a continuum and as a social construct, where experiences differ based on social positions. It also explores the idea of space as a priori concept, shaping how humans understand the world. It critiques the historical quest for an Indian architectural identity, often expressed through superficial adaptations of traditional styles. The concept of 'type' is introduced as a more meaningful analytical tool than 'style.' Architectural types, representing generic spatial configurations, can be studied to understand socio-cultural changes over time. The transition from temples to churches and mosques is cited as an example of how architectural types reflect shifts in societal norms. We are encouraged to consider diverse philosophical traditions, embrace a continuum view of space, acknowledge space as a social construct, and recognize space as an a priori concept.
This broader perspective aims to foster ethical considerations beyond mere adherence to rules, incorporating environmental, cultural, and social dimensions in architectural decision-making.

02 Review: Pattern Language. 1977. New York: Oxford University Press.

The book is structured as a pattern language, a set of interconnected design solutions that address various aspects of our built environment. Author introduces the concept of pattern and application in creating spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and harmonious. The patterns range from board concepts to specific details, encompassing everything from the layout of a city to the design of a single room. The idea that the built environment profoundly affects our lives and well beings.
The author argues for a participatory approach to design, emphasizing the importance of involving the people who will inhabit a space in the decision making process. He introduces patterns that facilitate community engagement, encouraging a sense of ownership and connection to the built environment. The book advocates for the use of pattern languages as tools for collaborative design, empowering individuals. He explores patterns related to the layout of streets, the arrangement of public spaces and integration of nature into urban environments. The author emphasizes the importance of preserving a balance between order and complexity, avoiding rigid planning in favor of organic growth. Then he introduces patterns for the design of buildings and interior. The focus is on creating space that feels comfortable and serves the needs of their users.
The patterns emphasize the importance of natural light, privacy and flexibility in design. He advocates for the integration of nature into our surrounding, promoting patterns that facilitate the creation of gardens, parks and other green spaces. The book’s approach is both practical and philosophical, offering a framework that is adaptive to various design challenges. He provides a timeless guide for creating spaces that truly enhance the quality of human life.

03 Review: Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2012. Eyes of the Skin. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

The sight is the most dominant sense that it led to diminished appreciation of other sensory modalities.Touch, smell, taste and hearing plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of space and architecture. By neglecting these senses, one risks creating environments that lack a great and meaningful connection with their occupants.
Historical evolution of architecture, tracing how modernity and technological advancements have contributed to the prioritization of vision. Exploring the impact of contemporary technologies, such as virtual reality, on our sensory experiences and questioning the ability to truly replicate the richness of physical encounters. Emphasizing the embodied nature of perception,asserting that our bodies are essential instruments for comprehending and interacting with the architectural world. Memory plays a specific role in shaping our perception of spaces. Our memories are not solely visual but are intertwined with sensory experiences, creating a more nuanced and layered understanding of our surroundings. Architecture, in this context, becomes a vessel for memory and emotional resonance. The tactility of materials, the acoustic qualities of spaces and the overall sensorial atmosphere creates an environment. We can embrace a more holistic and human centered approach to design. One should return to an architecture that engages all the senses, fostering a deeper connection between individuals and their surroundings. The importance of cultivating a sense of place that goes beyond the visual aesthetics and considers the embodied experience of space. One should challenge their understanding of architecture beyond mere visual spectacles. By championing a more inclusive sensory approach, advocates for environments that resonate on a deeper, more human level, enriching our lived experiences and enhancing our relationship with the built form.

Devansh Billimoria

Review of one work of architecture: The Open Hand, Le Corbusier, Chandigarh 

The Open Hand was Le Corbusier’s brainchild and he got an opportunity to introduce it while planning the city Chandigarh. A place to conduct legal proceedings, trails and to hold court was designed under the large scale statue of Corbusier's Open Hand. It never reached its final stage of construction and it remains an experiment to be his day. In an overall flat, hardened, artificial concrete terrain the court can be located through the huge Open Hand standing right over it. The entire structure remains hidden as it is an extrusion in the extensive flat ground. The access to the court is from one of its corners through a slope which will take you ~5m below ground level. The slope has a considerable width and a steadiness to it.
There is another staircase to access the court for the judges and officials which remains hidden behind a larger wall. The court is mainly characterized by a central raised altar and 2 sets of long stretched steps on 2 sides.

The court does not follow any traditional spatial configuration and it can't be classified under any type.  There is no spatial hierarchy except the altar in the center. The steps put the court officials as well as all citizens on the same social level eliminating any form of discrimination. The altar is elevated to allow the person speaking to be listened to with diligence and respect. The fairly large distance from the altar to the steps keeps the glaring and judging eyes away from the speaker standing on the altar. The structure has its fair share of harsh edges and sharp angles which feels daunting for someone standing alone negotiating with a group.

The visual highlight of the space remains the large Open Hand touching the sky. The Open Hand stands for liberty and equal opportunity. It has become synonymous to the government of Chandigarh and it induces a feeling of being heard by their government. The Open Hand has a front on one side and maybe another front on the other. The hand is made up of crude, rustic metal showing the shift in Punjab from an agriculturally rich economy to an industrial one. The material of the art work is also providing a visual texture as one can feel it's crudeness and smoothness through vision helping the person engage with it even more. The 2 fronts of the open hand provoke a sense of taking from one end and giving from another, which for me translates to liberty and equal opportunity.

Yajat Biyani

Parag Tandel’s Arrival of Port Wine 2-7 looks at the effects of 17th century policies that prohibited the age-old Koli tradition of Jambul wine-making to push the sale of Port wine. The sculptures are constructed out of partially hollowed wood from a Jambul tree that the artist planted himself in 2011, and lined with reproductions of Portuguese coins. In this work, Parag employs both material and metaphor to explore the extractive nature of colonialism.

The Koli community has traditions of praying to natural and ancestral forces through a structure adorned with foraged flowers and leaves — to remember those lost in the tides, and to pray for protection for the children venturing into the waters. Informed by this idea, Tandel continues his exploration of non-anthropocentric forms of faith. Tandel employs this sculptural form with oceanic motifs such as crabs, manta rays, squid, and lobsters. The thread sculptures pay homage to the kinship systems that coastal life thrives on. They invoke protection for these marine ecosystems, especially in the face of extreme urbanization.