Design elements

Transition Spaces

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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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petra-pharaohs-treasure-1Petra 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.

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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.

mohenjo-daro-5Courtesy 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The provision of water bodies in a transition space invokes cool breezes giving out the cooling effect to the interiors.

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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.

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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

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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

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Sabhamandapa in an Indian Temple

arya_phalodi-courtyardArya Phalodi Courtyard

CY5Entrance, Rajasthani Architecture

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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….

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Structures

Mahadev Temple,Tambdi Surla

There is complete tranquility. Its so serene that we didn’t even feel like coming back. Its an architectural heritage structure. The surroundings are untouched with no traces of human existence.But be careful….its a complete jungle and the thought of even darkness can be killing. Its a Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla, Goa. Its near a small village called Tambi Surla located 13 km. east of Bolcornem village.

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The temple was likely built c.1271 by Hemadri, the minister of the Yadava king Ramachandra. There are some interesting details about the Jain style construction which has led to debates about the actual origins of the temple, since the Kadamba Dynasty ruled Goa between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. The temple is built in the Hemadpanthi style from the finest weather-resistant grey-soapstone, carried across the mountains from the Deccan plateau and lavishly carved in situ by accomplished craftsmen.

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It is considered to be the only specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture in soapstone preserved and available in Goa. The temple has survived Muslim invasions and Portuguese persecution, in its almost perfect condition mainly due to its remote location in a clearing deep in the forest at the foot of the Western Ghats which surround the site in a sheer wall of impenetrable vegetation.

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The small, beautifully carved and perfectly proportioned black basalt temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is reminiscent of the temples at Aihole in neighbouring Karnataka. There is a linga (symbol of Lord Shiva) mounted on a pedestal inside the inner sanctum and local legend has it that a huge King Cobra is in permanent residence in the dimly lit interior

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The temple consists of garbhagriha, antarala and a pillared Nandi mandapa built of basalt. The four pillars, embellished with intricate carvings of elephants and chains support a stone ceiling decorated with finely carved lotus flowers of the Ashtoken variety.

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The intricate carvings created by skilled craftsmen adorn the interior and the sides of the building. Bas-relief figures of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, with their respective consorts appear on panels at the sides of the temple. Surprisingly the mandap (pillared hall) is covered with a roof of plain grey sloping slabs.There is a slab roof design over the main hall and behind this rises typical Dravidian-style Shikara in a pyramid over the sanctuary. The central ceiling is beautifully carved in an eight-petalled lotus pattern with rosettes.

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There is a headless Nandi (bull, Shiva’s vehicle) in the centre of the mandap, surrounded by four matching columns. The symbol of the Kadamba kingdom, an elephant trampling a horse is carved on the base of one of the columns. The river Surla flows nearby and can be reached for ritual bathing by a flight of stone steps.

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The festival of Mahashivratri is celebrated with pomp and gaiety at the temple by local people residing in surrounding villages. The temple is built in a place which is quite inaccessible and away from the main settlements of the time. The size of the temple is quite small as compared to the size of the average Goan temple.

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The temple faces east so that the first rays of the rising sun shine on the deity. There is a small mandap and the inner sanctum is surmounted by a three-tired tower whose top is incomplete or has been dismantled sometime in the distant past.

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This was a lost temple, rediscovered sometime around 1935. Its remote location, deep inside forest even some distance from any village had made it in accessible for centuries and its survival is largely due to its location. Even until recently, the temple was still relatively in accessible.

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The temple that survived the ravages, is situated about 12 kms from Molem in the Anmod Ghats (the Western Ghats), almost on Goa’s border with Karnataka amidst thick forests where a beautiful stream flows with lush greenery all around.

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The adjoining river has  good rapids.The sound of flowing water makes this place more mystic.Though river is not apparent, you can feel its presence.

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