Understand The System Of Spaces Cultural Studies Essay

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Due to the vastness of the topic this study is restricted to neighborhoods. It deals with the spatial quality, the spatial organization and the various other terms associated with it. This study aims to analyze the space as a place for all with carefully structured residential areas and understanding the urban space.

Why the Study is important at this point of time?

As a designer it is extremely important to understand a space, a place meant for all. To understand the experience one wishes to give the user. The space gives a character. In this rush of building houses one must not forget the traditional neighborhoods and their spatial quality.


A) Firstly to Study the dimension of a space in neighborhoods'

b) To analyze the spatial quality, configuration, form, circulation etc.

c) Case studies for bench marking

d) Conclusions and analysis

Expected Outcomes:

Drawing conclusions on the spatial analysis of neighborhoods', how to design the space according to the needs of the user keeping in view the experience each user wishes to have in each kind of space.

Understanding the need to build such neighborhoods in today s time.

TOPIC OF RESEARCH: A Spatial Analysis of a contemporary Indian Neighbourhood.


"Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space" - Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe Space is anything and everything that you see, feel, sit, relax and most importantly Experience. The geometry of built and unbuilt, their spatial organization, circulation, form, linkages, patterns help to analyse a space and understand the difference kinds of spaces formed ,their interrelationships between their components. The built environments are basically organizations of space (built) and matter (unbuilt). The way these spaces are formed and linked together are responsible for spatial configuration of the built environment.

The spatial configuration should be in harmony with the users of that environment. The socio cultural aspects in terms of user preferences are responsible for the evolution of spatial configuration in a built environment. They are both relates and affects each other. It s a cyclic process and changing quality of spatial configurations is responsible for changing social life and vice versa. Therefore it s important to understand human aspects in terms of user preferences. The socio‐cultural factors such as user preferences (what you give importance to) keep on changing with time, place and people and can be understood through the study of built environments.

To understand user preferences it is also important to understand the function of each space. As quoted by Louis Sullivan [Form follows function], so until and unless function of a space is not decided in accordance with the user preferences it s good to design any space.

The outdoor space defined by buildings, trees referred to as urban arrangement is significant. Functionality is a key component in integrating architecture and the environment.


The importance of carefully structured residential areas with attractively woven open spaces is recently becoming more recognized. Neighbourhood is generally defined spatially as a specific geographic area and functionally as a set of social networks. . Neighbourhoods, then, are the spatial units in which face-to-face social interactions occur - the personal settings and situations where residents seek to realise common values, socialise youth, and maintain effective social control. [Attractively designed streets, squares and open areas enrich the life of inhabitants, whereas lack of care for the spatial order of the housing arrangement impoverishes its quality]. The physical environment has an impact on human behavior. Disregard for this fact may create barriers in human interactions, in development of social ties and lead to a feeling of isolation. A well developed residential areas, in its contemporary interpretation, accounts for ecology, sociology and history.

Every urban form in a city is a result of ideologies and processes which acted over a period of time. These ideologies evolve due to the value system of the society, which are further based on social situations, political order and economic circumstances and religious values of the period. These ideologies through processes give birth to forms.

Chandni Chowk, the principle neighborhood of the city is an area which has felt this phenomenon to the greatest extent. It is a good example to understand this relationship between ideology and form. The importance of the street in the city can be seen from the fact that it was planned based on values such as geometry, linearity, hierarchy etc.

Chandni chowk has set up from a varied set of idealogies of the people In power during the various time periods. The britishers during their time period brought with them new technoligies and new systems of administration which led to the change in the built environment of the city and inevitabely chandni chowk. Soon chandni chowk completely transformed into an unrecognizable form , due to the over population, increase in commercization and the advent of globalization.

1.This research firstly aims to understand the aspects of spatial analysis , its factors and how a space can be analysised based on the earlier stated theories and individual obseravtion.

GESTALT THEORY talks about various individual terms like Geometry, Closure, Balance, Openings, concavity and convexity. These are found important in the perception of spatial analysis and can be applied to residential areas.


Geometry determines the overall configuration of urban arrangement. [Geometric analysis refers to the general concept of the interior and urban composition, depicturing the principles of using spatial elements: planes and solids to define the form.]It also includes the various configurations based on the form of a given space.


Closure characterizes urban space, reflecting the subconscious human need for protection and security. Not only walls but corners also define space. The concept of closing interiors that exists everywhere is an important aspect.


In a balanced composition factors such as size, shape, direction and location determine each other to such an extent that no change seems to be feasible. A composition lacking balance gives the impression of incidental, temporary. Other factors affecting balance are weight of the element depending on its size and other distinctive features. Balance does not require symmetry.


[Concavity and convexity are line, plane deformations attributing remarkably strong features to the line, plane depending on the direction of deflection. A convex shape, taking up space, becomes something independent and detached defining the generated figure.]

Now this principle can also be applied to walls that define urban interiors and facades.

Depending upon its concavity and convexity a form suggests distance and give feelings of welcome respectively.


They provide communication and visual contact with neighboring space. The number, size and location affect the degree of spatial closure. Properties such as Axis, Balance, Symmetry and Rhythm are functions of arranging openings.

Therefore various aspects taken out from theories established earlier on spaces can help to analyze a space and study aspects such as form, circulation, physical configuration, linkages etc.

2. Secondly this research aims to understand chandni chowk as a neighborhood. It s planning principles, evolution and how has the spatial configuration changed over the years. From having a planned structure, it has now become haphazard due to the influx of population that has contributed to the place being as it is now.

(a)The aspects studies from Gestalt THEORY and other theories will be applied to chandni chowk to understand the spatial structure of the place and its evolution with time.

(b)The other side will be OBSERVATION on site. The understanding of spatial analysis based on what one has understood and seen in chandni chowk shall come forefront. [The question how a given system is experienced by the observer does carry weight.]

-The analysis is a tool for discovering the spatial organization of the arrangement and helps in evaluating composition, repetitive and unique elements, geometry, symmetry, rhythm.

-Analysis of interrelations between: private space, semi-private, public and semi-public illustrate their size, mutual positioning etc. The presence of a certain amount of public and semi-public space creates a feeling of belonging to a larger social group and the basis for such functions as meetings and other activities of living in an aggregation. The relations between these spaces, based on their locations seem to be most important.

3. Thirdly this research deals with the aspect of STAKEHOLDERS, their interest, needs and their aspiration from chandni chowk, what they desire as residents of that place. This particular method can be interviewed from the residents itself to understand what user preferences and the experience the user wishes to have from a certain space.

4. Lastly case study examples for benchmarking, where these theories can be applied to a different place and understanding the comparison of different neighborhoods with the same aspects of spatial analysis.

Literature Review

One of the theories of spatial design is the FIGURE GROUND THEORY. It explains the relationship between urban solids and voids. The relationship of the built with the unbuilt. It also helps analyzing the textures and patterns of the fabric and indentifying problems in spatial order. Traditionally the open spaces (figural) were carved out of the building mass and as Trancik (1986:97, Finding Lost space) has said the modern concept of space is where buildings are figural, free standing objects while the space is an uncontained void. This theory further point s out that when the urban form is vertical rather than horizontal then there is a lot of wastage of space and such spaces that formed are seldom used or enjoyed. The buildings on the other hand stand alone as isolated objects and spaces between then are not formed. This exists due to inadequate ground coverage. And according to Aalvar Aalto, relating the building with their surrounding is important in the case of forming positive voids, where people tend to use that space more densely. Alvar Alto describes the problem of spatial design as one of connecting the form of the buildings to the structure of the site. He feels that a central courtyard (square, piazza) forms the centre and holds the entire composition together. As an urban designer our aim should be to make all the voids into positive ones by maximizing the ground coverage and carving the space out of the mass. There are 6 typological patterns of solids and voids as described by Trancik namely Grid, Angular, curvilinear, Radial concentric, axial, organic. There are 3 kinds of urban solids

1.Public monuments or institutions which serve as centre pieces, focal points. They can be heritage sites that act as landmarks and are often free standing. Also the open spaces surrounding these monuments are equally important as the monument itself.

2. Predominant field of urban blocks: According to Leon Krier the size, pattern, orientation of urban block determines the spatial configuration of urban block. These blocks can be further segregated according to use (Residential, office, retail etc.)

3. Edge defining Buildings that are non repetitive, often linear in configuration. They are placed along the streets and are purposely designed to face the street or squares etc. these buildings can also surround a public space.

Similarly there are 5 kinds of urban voids

1. Entry Foyer is described as a transition space that separates the public space from the semi public area.

2. Inner block void (enclosed hole in the doughnut) is a semi public / private zone enclosed within a residential and can be used for leisure or and other public function.

3. Primary network of streets and squares where the streets can be used for social and public life like the way corridors are.

4. Public parks and gardens that act as a space for public realm and can also be used for recreation. They also provide relief from the hard urban environment.

5. Linear open space system which relate to major water features and offer continuous greenery and deviate from the regular grid pattern.

The second theory is the LINKAGE THEORY which is derived from lines connecting one element to another. These lines can be pedestrian pathway, streets or any other elements that physically connect the elements. Basically this theory deals with the system of connections and circulation which are considered of utmost importance here. The neighborhood unit should also be provided with an efficient street system with efficient infrastructure as circulation is of utmost importance.

As understood from the name, this theory is intended to identify the relations between the spaces in more path wise way. The aim is to be understood as a tryout to make effective areas of the city linked /related according to provisioned paths.

Furmihiko Maki explains linkage as the most important characteristic of urban space. He states three different types of spatial linkages

1. Compositional form: here individual buildings are composed on a two dimensional plane. According to Maki the spatial linkage in compositional form is implied rather than overt. Here the perimeter edges are not as important as the buildings themselves.

2. Mega structure: here linkage is physically imposed and the buildings are connected in a linear framework. This structure lacks exterior open space.

3. Group Form: here the structures are arranged organically and the linkage (neither imposed nor implied) is naturally and organically evolved. In group form urban spaces are derived from the interior.

In all the three types Maki stresses linkage as the main principal for ordering buildings and spaces in design. The third theory the PLACE THEORY explains the components of human needs and cultural, historical and natural contexts. The response to context includes history and the element of time. Its essence lies in understanding the cultural and human characteristics of physical space.

Although there cannot be seen any physical understanding in this theory firstly, as it mentions the difference between space and place concepts in the name of contextual meanings which relates more cultural and sociological understanding inside. This theory defines the concept of the physical form of the city from the user's eye. As the qualities and properties of the spaces were given dominantly by the humans who composed those spaces, the technique in pointing the idea behind it will surely relate to both sociological and psychological entities. For example, ecological approach depends on the intrinsic qualities of local which Mcharg defined, mental map studies in the city to declare the basic idea of users about the city as Lynch defined, Cullen's definition about the sequences in the city that includes three dimension and plans to explain the change and relations within the city, and as Appleyard defined in "Livable streets project", city is modified, contextualized and developed by the citizens in the streets. Modernist urban space has changed spatial relations between the building and the street. Previous research (Gehl, 1996) has revealed that the organization of space between buildings has an important impact in terms of social interaction. Though organizing these thresholds and giving the possibility of forming social activities, people have the chance to encounter more frequently and developed friendships.

The "Configured "Space and the "Lived" Space

In space syntax reasoning, space is substituted by the concept of "configured" space. The latter sets the ground rules for transforming the continuous space or the space as unbounded perceptual scene as Casey (1992) expresses it, to a structured system of discrete units. The "configured" space and how this is formed is the main object of analysis (Hillier, 1989). However, what underpins the whole body of this theory is that space is considered as an existing entity provided that it is relational (Hiller 2005). (Fig. 3).The main argument of space syntax theory is that human societies use space as their prime resource for organizing themselves and the result is that "inhabited" space is "configured". So it becomes obvious that the relationship between social culture, human behavior and urban form is embedded in the concept of "configured" space. However, as Bafna (2003) observes space syntax theory (Hillier and Hanson, 1984) does not describe just a relation that allows mapping each system upon the other but rather a dynamic process of restructuring and modification of "configured" space and society. For example in an urban setting the action of creating a boundary between spatial components forms a particular relationship of accessibility and visibility among different categories of dwellers resulting first and foremost in a certain social dynamic (Bafna 2003). This dynamic process emerges from an inherited spatiality into society and vice versa.

The "configured" space is a valued space which informs us about the kind of uses and users that potentially will occupy it. Its values are inherited in its relational nature. In the case of urban space, its values are the product of its expression as (street) network. The phenomenological space however is undifferentiated but this becomes a "place" as individuals familiarize themselves with locations and thus attributes and values (Tuan, 1977).The point of departure of these approaches differ. Space Syntax stems from the physical environment seen as an object, incorporating though in its approach the experiential aspect (Seamon, 1994).

Urban designers, planners, sociologists and economists refer to the neighborhood as a discrete urban phenomenon. The neighborhood as urban entity, if something like this exists, was revitalized with the Advent of "neo-traditional" ideas on town planning, known as "New Urbanism". This strand of urban design practice suggested that build environment could create "a sense of knit-community" currently lost in modern city provided that urban designers and planners adopted new design principles (Katz, 1994, Audirac and Shermeyen, 1994). The design principles mainly focused on the use of public space and the mixing of uses (Duany and Platter-Zyberk, 1991, Calthorpe, 1993, Langdon, 1994). The basic argument upon which New Urbanism was formulated and developed as planning movement has been highly criticized as lacking first and foremost empirical evidence (Talen, 1999). Neighborhood as such exists at least as one economic and institutional entity this entity's spatial, social and economic aspects are correlated. His thesis manifests that there is a close relationship between the idea of people being knitted together and the physical existence of a neighborhood. However, the sense of community is formed and sustained over shared resources.

In place attachment literature the neighborhood emerges as the space which is characterized by high levels of interactions among residents, that share interests while their identify draws on their attachment to this particular "place" (Willmott, 1984). Altman and Low (1992) define place attachment as the affective bonds observed to have been developed between people and "places". The notion of a community defined by a "strong" spatial boundary is challenged by Hanson and Hillier (1987). In their reasoning the notion of community and its relation with the physical space are embedded in the theoretical paradigm within which these ideas were formed. Hence, Hanson and Hillier (1987) distinguish between these approaches which theorize that the relationship between space and society is expressed as a correspondence model (Alexander 1977, Lynch, 1981, Newman 1980) and those ones that manifest that urban environment is heterogeneous and simply space plays a positive role of controlling and generating this heterogeneity (Jacobs, 1961, Appleyard, 1981). By reviewing different approaches on the relation sense of community and space, they mention Bott's (1957) argument that the social relations that a family could have exceed the physical boundaries of a defined area.

The concept of neighborhood:

Neighborhood as a physiological concept is related to both cognitive and spatial issues. The boundary of the neighborhood depends on how its residents perceive its boundaries (Gifford, 1996). It is a basis for the political control and local sentiment can be expressed by neighborhood organizations (Park, 1915). Gifford (1996) classifies neighborhoods under three types; integral neighborhood which involves face to face interaction, and participation in organizations; parochial neighborhood, similar to the first but having less participation in outside organizations; and anomic neighborhood which has little face to face contact, and little participation.

Neighborhoods are places where the everyday practice of life occurs. They are geographical units that are essential to people's lives.

A neighborhood exists physically but the people necessarily do not have a connection with each other despite their close proximity.

THE SOCIAL ASPECT comes into play that is the community -

A community does not require physical boundaries but its members, either actively or passively work to produce something like nurturing schools or a friendly environment. Basially there is immense social interaction

NEIGHBOURHOODS CREATE AND FORM COMMUNITIES. Buildings are not build in isolation but are the vision of an unified culture, traditions, environment and space.

The realization of the desires of the' people' translated into a meaningful built form. People wasn't to project their identity through the built environment which represents their culture.