Yatin Pandya is one of the many celebrated architects in India who is also an academician, researcher, and author. Having graduated from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, he went on to pursue his degree of Masters in Architecture from McGill University, Montreal. His intensive training in the educational field eventually translated into professional practice when he founded his firm FOOTPRINTS E.A.R.T.H. in Ahmedabad.
Yatin Pandya has won numerous National and International awards for his works in the field of design as well as for his written works. He has authored several books and two of the most renowned of his books are – ‘Concepts of space in traditional Indian architecture’ and ‘Elements of Space Making’.
Elements of Space Making: Book Review
This book written by Yatin Pandya can be considered as an obligatory manual for understanding spaces from the viewpoint of an architect. This book is an analysis of the several elements used in the construction of built spaces and thus, can be described as the literature representing the building blocks of architecture.
The author begins by listing down the seven ‘Elements of Space Making’, namely – Floor, Column, Wall, Door, Window, Stair, and Roof. Every element is individually defined and explained based on its Anatomy, Evolution, Attributes, Spatial Roles, Applications, and the various design considerations to be made while using those elements.
In this manner, every element used in designing spaces is broken down to its technical core and described in a very orderly fashion. This allows the reader to interpret the elements as an architect should. Along with appropriate text to support the explanations, the book is rich with sketches that imply the right meanings visually.
The strength of the author in explaining these elements has to be credited with the fact that he has tried to use the simplest methods to convey his understanding of those elements. For example, in this book the author explains how a floor is a horizontal plane that acts as a base whereas at the same time a wall is a vertical plane that functions as a background. This method of describing elements as physical entities that can be easily visualized allows the reader to imagine these elements in the third dimension and thus, enables them to see spaces as simple compositions rather than as complex structural systems.
For a student of architecture, this book comes in handy in understanding their design tools. This manual of spatial elements disintegrates complex structural compositions into simple systems of load transfer. The author justifies this task of disintegration by beginning with the basic understanding of the listed elements.
For example, in this book a Column is defined as a slender vertical supporting element, loaded from the top and transferring the load axially to the base. This definition is accompanied by a line drawing of a human figure with an emphasis on the legs.
A reader is bound to understand that the function of a column in a built space is similar to that of the two legs in the human body – carrying the weight above and transferring it to the ground below. This simple yet important understanding is key in building context for how the elements are described further in terms of their anatomy and evolution through the timeline of history.
The book emphasizes the key aspects of the elements because it is necessary to understand that in different buildings the way of using these elements vary. For instance, under the anatomy of ‘walls,’ the author shows three typological variations—the straight wall, the curved wall, and the linear wall. This translates into the interpretation that the wall as an element need not always be straight or perpendicular, it can also be curved, linear, or integration of more than one type of anatomy.
Further, the author lays priority for the next aspect to be ‘Evolution’. ‘Evolution’ is portrayed to be as important as any other aspect because the author believes that only if the reader is accustomed to the previous uses will he/she be able to visualize future uses. Also, it is interesting to look at the way an element has grown with time.
For example, under the category of ‘Doors’ – the aesthetics and functions have co-evolved. The evolution of domestic doors started with the purpose of security and defense and went on to mark entry points and enhance the visual compositions. From thorny plants and stones to removable barriers to solid door-tied frames to automated glazed doors, this element has withstood several transitions in shape and size.
Moving on, the book also describes the various attributes attached to spatial elements. Attributes indicate the various functional uses of elements in different contexts and the author extensively describes the attributes associated with each element. For instance, the ‘element of a window’ has two major attributes – firstly it functions as an aperture for light and visual connectivity, and secondly, it also facilitates the passage of air. These attributes change how windows are used as design elements.
Apart from the mentioned characteristics, all elements used in design have a spatial role attached to them. The presence of an element within the built form changes the way space is perceived by its user. This aspect of ‘Spatial Role’ is best explained by the author through the example of a staircase. Staircases and steps have numerous types of spatial roles – steps can act as pedestals on which buildings rest or as seats; steps can demarcate a new threshold and guide movement; staircases and steps behave as physical links between spaces; staircases and steps are used as space modulators; they are also used as an aesthetic element which can also accommodate storage.
This book can be used as a mandatory part of the curriculum for students who are in the first year of their bachelor’s in architecture (B.Arch.) as it breaks down the crux of each element into an understandable written and visual language. It can also help faculty communicate their teachings in a much more interactive manner with the students.
This book is a reflection of the author, Yatin Pandya, who is a practicing architect as well as an academician. It shows how he has a deep yet simply portrayed knowledge about the several elements used in the field of designing buildings. Also, it is a representation of the success of an academician in translating complex building structures into simple compositions for his students.