Architectural Interpretations Part I: The Entrance

Architecture Dated:  Nov. 2, 2015
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O-Torii gate

Entry. The word itself signifies an opening towards a spatial entity, be it metaphysical or tangibly existent. Entry spaces, from a design oriented school of thought may be interpreted as the primary element responsible for creating a socio-spatial relationship between the observer and the architectural entity. Entering a building, a room in a building or a defined field of exterior space, involves the act of penetrating a vertical plane that distinguishes one space from another and thereby separating “here” from “there”. (Ching, 1996) It is not only responsible for creating a physical pathway but also to generate a visual link and direction for the user. Thus, its importance remains at the very outset, and it must be distinguished yet harmonious to blend with the rest of the patterns, forms and geometry of the architectural setting it embraces.

defining an entryFigure 1: defining an entry [Sketched as per Ching, 1996]

Entry spaces also have a distinguished function in relation to the ergonomic requirement of a particular space. The ergonomic behaviour of the entry spaces are directly dependent on the functional status of the spaces that are taken into consideration. They may be monumental as in the case of churches and palaces or in proportion to the human scale as found in an ordinary dwelling unit. Its articulation, ornamentation and visual appeal directly interprets the definition of the architectural form. For instance, the O-torii gate to the Toshogu Shrine in Japan clearly defines the visual orientation and continuity of the space beyond the erected structure that acts as the gate.

O-Torii gateFigure 2:O-Torii gate

An entrance is basically an imaginary and conceptual notion created within the mind of the users when they observe an assembly of two linear and vertical elements arranged at a certain interval and supporting an overhead plane. This arrangement is the basic scheme that informs the user that there is an opening and a continuity of path beyond his or her present physical position. The notion of an entry space can be visually reinforced by making the entry lower, wider or narrower than anticipated, or deeper and circuitous or distinguishably articulated. In some cases, entrances are gigantically constructed to generate a sense of power and superiority as seen in the Egyptian temple of Khons whose entrance comprised huge batter walls known as Pylons.

interpreting the presence of an entry & PylonsFigure 3: interpreting the presence of an entry                                                          Figure 4: Pylons

Entrances may be categorised as flushed, projected or recessed as per the requirement and demands of the design. (Ching, 1996) A flush type expresses continuity in the façade containing the entrance by deliberately obscuring the entry space. When projected, the entry space encloses a part of the “outside” within the built up zone creating a sense of approach by means of a semi-open transitional space with overhead shading. Finally, in the case of a recessed type of entry space, a part of the exterior becomes a portion of the building realm and it provides a shelter before entering the interior space.

Type of entryFigure 5: Type of entry [Source: sketched as per Ching, 1996

Another important feature of entry spaces is that they frame the kinaesthetic approach of the spaces they embrace. In other words, it determines an imaginary path of circulation to regulate human movement within a bounded or unbounded space by the impact of their profile within the minds of the users. They act as a link between two or more spaces separated by planes thus determining the path space relationship of the spaces taken into account. In this case, the height of the entry is also a major factor of consideration. It is responsible for defining the scale and proportion. Larger the entrance as compared to the human scale, the more monumental is its presence will be and vice-versa. The proportion of the entrance also draws out the associated emotions of entrance spaces. For instance, the entry to a castle or fort would generally be associated with gigantic proportions expressing might and dominance. On the other hand, the entry to village thatched roof house would be having proportions closer to the human scale, portraying humility and simplicity.

Every exit is an entry somewhere else.Every exit is an entry somewhere else.
-Tom Stoppard

Thus in a nutshell, entry spaces are the linking elements responsible for creating a path and space relationship between the built-up form and its surroundings, and sometimes even connecting open spaces. Its existence may be physical and well defined, or even imaginary, created out of the presence of other elements in a certain order and orientation. It defines direction and gives meaning to a path at the point of its termination into a space, thereby creating identity for spaces.

Ching, Francis D K. 1996. Form Space and order.: John Wiley and Sons, INC, 1996.
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