Human Being Is A Social Animal Cultural Studies Essay

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No matter how much he changed in course of his evolution from ape to cave-man to his contemporary counterpart, this aspect of him has remained constant. WHO defines health as "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"(WHO,1948). We very fondly speak of the basic needs of man:food, shelter and clothing, but these are just physical needs, to keep the body alive. Man made houses to fulfill his physical requirements, and because that hadn't been enough for his peaceful existence, he made secondary spaces for interacting with others of his own species to fulfill the needs of the social quota.

Creation of spaces is governed by the function they need to carry out. According to Oxford Dictionary, Space is defined as a continuous area or expanse which is free or unoccupied; Place is a portion of space available or designated for someone or something. As architects, we modify space to create a place.

Place is therefore somewhere that has a certain meaning attached to it. This attached meaning could be either the function for which it was created, or the image it gradually acquired over time due to certain physical attributes of the place. It could be because of the 'unplanned' functions that spring up in that place.

A place can be said to be an amalgamation of three factors: Form, Activity and Image.

Form encompasses the built mass(morphology), natural features (physiography) of the space. Function constitutes the activities carried out by the users of the space.Image is made up of the value added due to its history or meaning attained over time..

These three factors are inter-dependent as they are altered by each other. Form of a place, being the more tangible aspect dominates activity and image in the perception.The form of a place is altered with the addition of activities into that place, say the activity of hawking which introduces hawking booths.The activities in a place are affected by the image of the place, as happens in case of

Figure PLACE , Source : (Gupta, 2003)

Each place has a certain requirement for it to be successful, sometimes it is the form, sometimes the activity and sometimes the memory that make the place a efficient. Ideally it would be the job of the architect to balance these. The architect could control the form, but to control the identity and the image he could only estimate.

Images are a result of a two -way process between the observer and his environment.(Lynch, 1960) The relationship between any space and its users is therefore symbiotic as both of them contribute to shaping each other. Winston Churchill in his speech at the House of Commons said, 'We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us'(Churchill, 1944). This happens through one's interaction with the space ie through experience of the space. The experience in an environment generates three responses according to Altman. They are perception, cognition and reaction.(Altman, 1976)

The world we live in is not the same as the physical world. The physical world gives us the stimulus, we take it in through our senses and then form our own mental image of this stimulus. "The environment suggests distinctions and relations. And the observer, with great adaptability and in light of his own purposes-selects, organizes and endows with meaning what he sees."(Lynch, 1960). This mental image of the world is what we live in, and continuously keep adding meaning to it, building it further on with each experience. This involves the first two of the responses, viz. perception, and cognition. What is intriguing is that through the third response, ie reaction, what we contribute to the physical world becomes part of it, becoming in turn the stimulus for the other users.

The users respond to it, and the physical manifestation of their reaction becomes what is called "activity".

The difference between image and perceptionis bridged by general consensus.

One can safely conclude that this inter-relation between image, form and activity of a place is a complex one. . 'Social problems are not solved. At best, they are only re-solved.'(Rittel and Weber, 1973). Rittel and Webber therefor call social problems "wicked", and define such problems as:

1.There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.

2.Wicked problems have no stopping rule.

3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad.

4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.

5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no

opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly.

6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.

7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.

8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.

9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's


10. The planner has no right to be wrong

The job of the architect,in spite of the 'wickedness' of problem, remains to carve out of space efficient places for human habitation. this would require an understanding of the inter-dependence of the three components of place, and more.

The role of an architect is to fulfill the needs of the environmental consumer, and it therefore became necessary to understand human's limitations, motivationns and needs-sociologically, psychologically and anthropologically. Researchers, have historically not been involvedin the design process but only in evaluation stage(Altman,1976). It is important that the research be employed instead at the designing stage.

The research in this case would be to understand how it is that form, activity and image are inter-dependent oneach other.

Considering that form is a tangible feature, and once established…fill

Building a scenario where it's the activities carried out in a space that define the place,the space translates from being the built form to being the commotion, from being the structure to becoming user centric, where-in it's human beings/users and their activities that become the building blocks of the space. Where space is defined by its users and the activities rather than a physical structure built of brick and mortar

This dissertation will attempt to study the extent of how the activities carried out in a space can contribute to and alter the place, and attempt to answer the question: "Without changing the morphology, how do activities define and alter a place?"


Architecture is the science of designing spaces for human habitation. It is however, automatically associated to construction. But spaces are not just made by the built. They are made by the people using it, and what better proof to it, than spaces where it's the activities carried out in the place are so strong a factor that the place is identified by the activities rather than the built. It is of great importance, that we understand the workings of human interaction with space, when it's the activities that are the syntax and not merely punctuation.


Understand the role of activities in making a place.

Understand the relationship between the user and his environment, and how it translates into the user's behaviour.


According to the perceptive-cognitive model of man, the process of reaction to a stimulus is made up of three steps:

1)absorbing the stimulus, Perception

2)processing the stimulus and adding to memory,Cognition

3)reacting to the consolidated knowledge(Altman,1976)

The dissertation will not delve into the process of perception and will focus on the reaction, ie the physical manifestation of the experience.


Spaces/places where it is the activities that are a major factor in shaping the identity of the place and the image of the place is changed with change in activity. The physical structure of the places remains more or less the same.

Dashashwamedh Ghat, Banaras:

The built part of the place is just wide steps leading to the river. Yet, the space changes throughout the day with the change in activities and so does the image of the space.


1. Literature survey

2.Identify prospective areas for conducting a case study.

Dashashwamedh Ghat, Banaras

3.Identify and study the previous work done in this area, to support the study on the sites for case study.

4. Case study: study the transformation of the space and its identity with the activities

Methodology of case study:

(1)-Study the physical structure of the place

(2)-When the space wakes up and when it goes to sleep.

(3)-Observe and study the changes throughout the day:

*Crowd patterns

*Spatial transformations

*Most and least active period of the day

*Most and least active area of the space.

(4)-Interview the people and understand

*Image of the space changing with time

*Identity of the place

*Interaction between the users and the activities

5. Interview people working in related areas of research, eg. Urban designers, architects, etc.

6. Analysis of Case Study:

1-Study how the physical structure (built form) contributes

2-Identify the nature of activities and the user group

3-identify the nature of interaction between the two

4- Analyse how the space changes in identity and image due to the activities

7. Come up with inferences/questions/theories.

8. Talk to people in related areas of research, discussing my theories

9.Analyse the inputs and finally conclude.


Part One: Introduction

Space -Form and Function

Image of a place

Role of form in shaping the image, space; role of function in shaping the image, space; taking examples of live sites, using questionnaires.

Part Two: Establishing the Case

Image of the place and factors contributing to the image.

Importance of the activities to the image of the case.

Part Three: Detailed analysis of present scenario

Identify the activities

Identify the user group and their reaction

Relationship between the activities, users

Image formed by the users

Relationship between the image and the activity-user interaction


Part Four: Conclusion


2.1- Place: Form, Activity and Image

Space is defined by two major attributes: form and function. Form encompasses the built mass(morphology), natural features (physiography) of the space. Function constitutes the activities carried out by the users of the space. These two are inter-related and contribute to shaping the other. Some spaces are defined by the form, and it is the activities that are shaped around the built/natural form, while others are defined by the activities and it is the built that follows the pattern of the activities, often tending to be temporary, lasting only as long as the activities do. For example, a settlement in the valley is defined by the physiography of the space, or a workstation defines the way the user will use the space. It is the physical structure of the space that holds the upper hand, and the space is shaped around it. Now, consider a hawker on the road, the activity is his hawking, and to it is this aspect that necessitates the emergence of shelter for the hawker, or a podium to place his goods. in this case, it is the activity that is responsible for the shaping of the space around it.

Of course, if one were to inspect the reason for the hawker to sit there, it would be the existence of the footpath, a built aspect, beside a road, which in turn is because of the activity of movement. Thus, form and function of a space are interdependent.

However, the point of interest is that the hawker's tent would cease to be if it would not be for the hawker. Hence, the built part of the space is only temporary, and dependent on the activity of the space.

The act of creating spaces for human habitation need not be therefore limited to the creation of the built, but also of the activities and function carried out in the space.

1.2-Image of a Place

"Environmental image is the result of a two-way process between the observer and his environment. The environment suggests distinctions and relations, and the observer-with great adaptability and in light of his own purposes-selects, organizes and endows with meaning what he sees. The image so developed now limits and emphasizes what is seen, while the image itself is being tested against the filtered perceptual input in a constant interacting process."(Lynch, 1960). Hence, the image of a space is the product of the interaction between an observer and his environment. Lynch analyses the image through three aspects of the object: identity-ie distinction from other things, structure-ie the spatial or pattern relation with the observer and meaning-practical or emotional relation with the observer.

These will be the three aspects through which the image of a place will be studied. Lynch also talks of an interesting quality of a space, which he calls Imageability. It is defined as that quality of an object, that gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer.

Image of a space can be either one component of the space magnified or a combination of components, working together. The image of a space can also be subjective depending on the observer and the meaning he/she associates or be common to all. While the image of a space is intangible, the actual space and its working is tangible. So the aspect responsible for the imageability of the space need not be the one that shapes the space itself.

1.3-Role of form and function in shaping the image and the space itself.


Space and Location:


What first comes to your mind when you think of this place?(Image of the space)

What are the aspects you notice or look forward to see when you come to this place? What is it that you think defines this place?(Detailed image of the space)

How would you describe this place to a friend who has never been here?(What actually makes the space)

Why do you visit this place?

What do you like to do when you come here?(Activities the observer engages in)

What do you like about this place?

What do you dislike about this place?

Tentative sites:

India Gate-Form(historical significance, meaning) and the activities.

Humayun's Tomb-Form.

Dilli Haat- Form and Activities

Lodhi Gardens-Built form, Physiography, history and activities

Lotus Temple-Unique form, nature of activities

Chandni Chowk-Activities

2.2- Importance of studying the inter-dependence of form, activity and image for the design process

As established above, the inter-dependence of form, activity and image the three components of a place is quite complex.

The role of an architect is to create places, and hence it is all the three aspects of space that he hs to consider. Form is comparitively the easier ball to juggle. Activity is the physical manifestation of the response of the users, while Image is the mental manifestation.

The field of man-environment studies has been growing due to a discontentment with the places being created. Academic researchers and practitioners have tried to come together to discuss, conference and study man-environment relationship. There have been frequent collaborations of the researcher and the practitioner. However, both of the professions aim to achieve different ends, and they hence have different approaches to the problem. The researcher aims at identifying the fators that affect the behaviour of people, and how the factors are related to each other. The researcher is process oriented. The practioner on the other hand, aims at achieving a fixed end, say housing X people, or providing X services. The practitioner is result oriented.(Altman, 1976)

Hence, despite the best of interests of the two, the researcher and the practitioner have a communication gap, and the involvement of the researche rin the actual design process is really minimal. The only involvement of the researcher in most cases is in the post-design evaluation stage, to assess how well it is that the design functions, how efficient it is, and what will be the consequences under the already set, already designed parameters. This is really equivalent to researching an existent place, and the knowledge and expertise of the researcher are not utilised to the full potential.

"The differences in style that exist between the researcher and the practitioner need to be understood and bridged, and not obliterated." As Altman(1976) proposes, a new breed of scientist-practitioner could be developed, "who works at the boundary of disciplenes, and becomes skilled at the translation process on an everyday basis"

It is therefore necessary that as professionals in architecture, we study how man and his environment react to each other. In the context of this dissertation, the environment is the form, and man's response manifests itself through his activities and his collective memory. According to Boulding (1961), "The image not only makes the society, society continually remakes the image."

2.3- Different models of man in behaviour studies

2.3.1 The mechanistic model of man

Man is viewed primarily as a performing, task-oriented organism. Motivaitional and emotional states are viewed as secondary factors that enhance or degrade the machine like functioning of man. Hence the design criteria under this model are towards the creation of a physical environment that enhances his skills of performance, and suppresses his limitations.Environments designed for man in this case are fail to offer man the flexibility to alter his surroundings, making him "just another component with linited degrees of operating freedom."(Altman, 1976)

2.3.2- The Perceptual-Cognitive-Motivational model of man

Perceptual Reactions Motivational/Emotional States Cognitive Responses

This model conceptualises man in terms of a variety of internal processes. It concentrates on subjective psychological processes in relation to the environment than with overt behavioural responses.

This model is rather popular among research oriented practioners. environments are rated on scales tapping


activity(dynamic quality of environment)

potency(impact characteristics of environment)(Altman, 1976)

"How an individual responds is a reflection of both the stimulus and the state of the organism."(Gilmer B., 1970) The stimulus is the physical world. so to understand the response, ie the perception, we would want to understand both the factors. Gilmer(1970) says that although man seeks to impose different organisations from time to time, there are a number of general principles of organization that govern what we experience.

2.3.3- The Behavioral model of man

This approach emphasizes on the overt behaviour rather than the subjective states. ie What man does is what is studied. How he feels, cognizes, perceives are not very relevant(Altman, 1976). This model is beneficial because one can see the overall picture and concentrate on the interaction between human beings, rather than the varied subjective states of different people. This can be used to understand the complex web of seemingly random activities in a crowded place, and help design places better.

2.3.4- A social systems, ecological model of man

This model states that environment and behaviour are closely intertwined.It also states that behaviour cannot be wholly understood independent of its intrinsic relationship to the physical environment, and that the very definition of behaviour must be within an environmentl context(Barker, 1968).This model is more relevant because it supports that man can ca\hange his environment, thereby designing flexible, changing environments whuch humans can manipulate, alter and suit to their needs.

This approach thus states that environment becomes an extension of man's being and personality. Concepts such as territorialiry, privacy, personal space all refer to an active coping use of the environment by people, not merely reactiveresponses to external stimuli.(Altman, 1976)

This model also combines the afore-mentioned models, as it states that man-environment relations occur at several levels of behavioral functioning, and cannot be dealt with independent of each other.