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Architectural Interpretations part II: Seating Spaces - An epitome of socially responsive architectureBy Rohit Mondal
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Seating refers to the spatial entities, platforms or planes used for the purpose of sitting. from an architectural viewpoint, it would refer to the ergonomic attributes of a space or spatial entity, suitable for individuals to sit, relax and interact with one and another comfortably without any physical strain. Such spaces may be consciously designed or might occur into existence because of their frequent use as platforms or planes for sitting.
A true analysis would reveal that consciously built seating spaces would generally contain an elevated plane raised to the knee height of an individual (i.e., 450mm approximately), so that it becomes anthropometrically viable to function as a surface for sitting. Such elements range from simple benches, chairs, stools to patios and large scale amphitheatres. In other cases, simply open or semi-open spaces might also serve as seating spaces as in the case of balconies, terraces, parks, river banks, projections of rocks and beaches.
It is clearly seen from these examples that such spaces may or may not be consciously designed, but their use for such a purpose gives them their identity.
The architectural requirements of seating spaces in a personal level would extend up to a perimeter which allows social interaction between two more individuals. Thus, besides meeting the ergonomic demand, these spaces must also be barrier free and socially responsive for its users. Even in their natural occurrences, such space must fulfil these criteria before it is identified as a seating space.
A common example would be that of the entrance porches which are identified as seating space though their original purpose is completely different. The closely packed dwelling units of the Brahmapuri settlement in Jodhpur have their plinths extended horizontally from the external facades. These projections over the years have served as seating platforms for the dwellers and have been unconsciously identified themselves as seating platforms. Similar spatial entities exist in the Badami settlement of Karnataka.
It is also very commonly observed that natural features are often identified as seating spaces though they might not necessarily be in sync with the ergonomic requirements of its users. In such cases, the spatial experience emerging from the surroundings play a dominant role in identifying such a space as a seating space. This is usually observed in the crevices, projections and voids found in naturally occurring rocks. There are no strict boundaries and is purely a subjective judgement to identify spaces for the purpose of sitting. Many a times, it has been observed that a typical lane in cities such as Kolkata, have many interesting definition of seating spaces carved from the users’ imagination. If for instance, a roadside tea shop is hypothetically considered, then, in all probability, it would have no formal arrangements for its customers to relax and sit. However, it would be probably be located under the shade of a large Chatim or Banyan tree. This tree would be surrounded with a few rocks or wooden planks. Customers would usually identify areas like these as pockets of congregation spaces despite their random and irregular occurrences. The street culture is identified from the characteristic development of such congregation pockets without conscious design interventions.
Thus, in a nutshell, seating spaces are nothing but spaces conceptualised as planes to be used for the purpose of sitting or reposing. Their functionality may be determined from a conscious effort to define the activity for which it is built through design interventions. However, in some cases, their functionality maybe a direct result of regular usage of spatial pockets or entities for the purpose of sitting. Thus, there are no standards or rules for identifying such spaces and their existence is purely a subjective choice based out of need. However, the existence of seating spaces of this nature helps to develop the architectural character of city pockets, making them alive and socially responsive.
- An analysis derived from day to day observations.
- Case study on the public socio-cultural aspects of the Brahmapuri settlement and the inferences drawn from the study in the context of socially responsive spaces.
- Observations from the old Badami settlement.
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