Transition – an in between state, in Architecture defined as the connecting space between two confined spaces. Architectural spaces are incomplete without transition spaces. Transition spaces have been always an interesting topic for me. My friend Rupali and I actually had presented a seminar on Transition Spaces in Hindu Temple Complex. We concentrated more on the psycological and physicl transition of a person
“Architectural spaces that envelop us like a physical presence, simple and dense, defying description imitation and photography. . . . universal, yet present. The exterior is simple leading to greater levels of mystery surprise and memory, creating poetic changes of light and shade . . . guiding us through its spaces . . . .”
Alvarso Siz on Mexican Architecture
The inclusion of transitional and circulation spaces, in the form of corridors, draught lobbies, atriums and stairwells, is unavoidable in the design of most non-domestic buildings. The percentages of such areas may vary between 10 to 40 percent of the total volume in different building types.
Transitional spaces are defined as spaces located in-between outdoor and indoor environments acting as both buffer space and physical link. Other than being functional as circulatory routes for the building, the designs of these spaces is considered very important by building designers for reasons of aesthetics, health and comfort, and as emergency exit routes in the event of fire. The importance of optimum energy consumption in transitional spaces is also important in non-domestic buildings, as these spaces do not generate income, hence any wastage associated with higher energy cost is economically difficult to justify.
We transit so frequently that we are not even aware of the presence of that space. It is very interesting to know about it. We experience them from macro to micro levels.
Right from the prehistoric architecture there was an apparent evidence of the usage of transition spaces and transition elements as well.In Neolithic period, we can see the confined spaces for transition in the adjoining excavated dwelling at Skara Brae.
In Egyptian, Pre Columbian and Persian period these spaces were enriched due to utilitarian aspect and got a new dimension. Their functionality had increased due to timely requirements of the respective user.
Petra pharaohs, courtesy National Geographic
Greek, Roman was the period when Architecture flourished at its best. It had contributed lots of inventions in terms of construction techniques, designing details. These spaces very used so intelligently that they acquired a new position in the design elements.
In Indian architecture, the very ancient civilizations like Mohanjo daro and Harappa were expertly constructed as an advanced civilization comparable to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. If we study the city planning here, you will find a well thought planned city with the interplay of transition spaces.
Courtesy photograph: National Geographic photograph
Indian temples are one of the best places to study transition spaces. If we read the temple plan we will arrive at the hierarchy of transition spaces. The very first transition happens when we enter in the temple through giant Gopuram. Then we come to Sabhamandapa that is connected to Mandapa through a colonnade acting as a transition space. Then the Antaralaya between the Mandapa and Garbhgriha stands as another transition space. Garbhgriha is again protected by Pradakshina path one more form of transition space. There is hierarchy of transition spaces here. This transition is not only a physical transition but also a psychological transition required to enter in a god’s abode. A person entering into a temple mentally gets prepared for his actual confrontation to almighty. He can’t directly enter to Garbhagriha as he cannot achieve that level of devotion required to enter in a shrine. He develops it slowly through transcendental travelleling of his own self.
There is hierarchy of transition spaces in any urban planning like City level, Town level, District level, Local level. The entire road network is a transition mode. Then interaction spaces, gathering spaces, urban corridors, plazas standstill again as transition spaces in their own way. Urban nodes can also be referred as transition space at macro level.
Transition spaces play a vital role in Environmental Behavior. It is the study that covers relationship between human behavior and properties of urban places, the study of the mutual interactions among people, social groups, culture and the physical environment at all scales from interior architecture to regional planning, with applications to improve the quality of life through improved environmental policy, planning and design.
The one of the most important functions of transition spaces is sustainability in building design. The accurate use of these spaces in a builtform may increase its energy efficiency up to great extent. The design considerations should include this space as a constraint. When architects talk about orientation of the building, built form, site organization, topography, landscape then they should consider Transition Spaces as one of the aspects in building design.
Lets discuss few of them.
The peripheral corridors reduce the glare and solar radiation, resulting in cooling in the interior spaces.
The connecting passage between two dwelling units creates a comfort level for the inhabitants. See the image below, it acts a pleasant sit out as well.
The provision of water bodies in a transition space invokes cool breezes giving out the cooling effect to the interiors.
Courtyards have been a hot favorite for vernacular style. Even today courtyard planning is used in India. Being a transition space courtyards also act as a very functional interaction space.
If we compare building designs with wrapped around circulation space, with internal corridor, with courtyard, with wrapped around circulation space with courtyard, we would find that the last design with external circulation space and courtyard is the most efficient design in terms of energy saving and benefits the most from the change in temperature.Design guidelines for all types of climate suggest the importance of transition spaces. For example, in warm and humid climate the building spacing should be such that the air flow is promoted
Design elements contribute a lot to transition spaces. There are colonnades, aisles, courtyards, water bodies, openings like doorways , pathways, grounds, patios, gardens, trellis, pergolas, foyers, lobbies etc. If there is no defined space then confinement by some of the above elements itself make the space functional and sensible.
Transition spaces in Indian context
Sabhamandapa in an Indian Temple
Arya Phalodi Courtyard
Entrance, Rajasthani Architecture
Anup Talao: A tank with a central platform and four bridges leading up to it.
This is the most elegant tranition space i have come across. It was built by Mughal King Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri is regarded as Emperor Akbar’s crowning architectural legacy. Indeed, its numerous palaces, halls, and masjids satisfy his creative and aesthetic impulses, typical of Mughals.
We will certainly talk about Fatehpur Sikri in detail in near future.Watch out….