Spatial Design, A Concept to Manifest Human Space Experience

Spatial Design is a concept identified long ago by the socialists, who studied the built spaces and human experience in them. However, spatial design helps designers understand how architecture weaves the overall experience of a place for the users. For architects and interior designers, the implementation of spatial design lies in spatial arrangement and planning. In this article, we will further look into the aspects of spatial design and how designers can create experiential spaces for users.

Aspects of Spatial Design

1. Location:

Discovery of context (Image Credits: Iowa State University)

Surroundings or location can help initially recognise the place. For example, the road and the streets adjacent to it help recognise a building located within the city. Meanwhile, the courtyard in the centre of the house often correlates with the rooms around it.

2. Built – Unbuilt Ratio:

Spatial Design
Every aspect matters (Image Credits: Iowa State University)

When it comes to experiencing a place, every person has their own perspective. Furthermore, it elevates the experience through physical measures.

3. Function:

Spatial Design
Purpose (Image Credits: Bibo Studio)

Spatial design focuses on designing according to the needs of the user. Hence, function becomes the foremost aspect of creating human-centric designs. It helps one decide the kind of furniture or construct any element in the space. In fact, it also helps one decide the right kind of material for the place.

4. Hierarchy of Spaces:

Alignment (Image Credits: Iowa State University)

A space must comprise all kinds of spaces. There must be a proportionate use of open, semi-open, and closed spaces. This organisation leads to the experience of the user within the space. It generates interactions between the users while living in the space.

5. Movement:

Spatial Design
Movement (Image Credits: Bibo Studio)

It is important how one moves in the place to perform various activities. Various factors determine these movements. For example, the paved path surrounded by a garden elevates the experience for the user when one enters a house. The textures and the green colour of the grass have an impact on the way the human mind records the space.

Spatial Design
Home (Image Credits: ArchDaily)

All of the above-identified aspects will help architects and interior designers design more spaces that consider spatial design. To understand these aspects, we can look at its application in two cases: residence and public space.

Spatial Design Of A Home:

Designing a private entity demands a certain understanding regarding users in terms of the purpose and needs of the place. Giving various opportunities within the living spaces generates the relationship between the user and the spaces.

Case Study: Kamala House, Ahmedabad

Built Year: 1959
Architect: Vastu Shilpa Consultants

Spatial Design
Enclosure (Image Credits: Archdaily)

The first and foremost consideration for designing a space is to focus on the needs of the user. The design is according to what one requires to inhabit them. The late architect B.V. Doshi built this house for him and his family. Hence, he built spaces while keeping in mind his requirements and considering the spatial organisation and hierarchy of spaces.

Spatial Design
Location of the House (Image Credits: Sangath)


The location of the house is amidst the green garden at the rear of the building, which opens up other spaces of the house into it.

Spatial Design
Entangled Spaces (Image Credits: Sangath)

Spatial Planning

The cross-grid plan design of the house arranges the spaces in neat squares to become the four basic rooms: drawing, dining, kitchen, and bedroom. To maintain safety and privacy, the design of the garden is at the back of the house rather than at the front. Here, the open space adds light to the living area, which is a semi-open space where the family can sit and gather near the greens. Whereas a lowered ceiling in the closed space gives a warmer experience.

Spatial Design
Arrangement (Image Credits: Sangath)

Fluidity in Space

The living room is near the staircase and opens up into the garden area. Also, it is adjacent to the dining area, which divides the path of the entrance. The dining area becomes the closed space that one enters, supported by the semi-open space of the living room.

Spatial Design
Light Over Colours (Image Credits: Sangath)

Interactions Through Built Elements

Built elements, such as the concrete staircase and flushed with a skylight on its way, enhance the quality of space. A staircase is just a way of transitioning the user in the house from one level to another. When the lights and colours in it support the transitions, it generates the interactions of the user with the space.

Spatial Design
Library (Image Credits: Sangath)

As function defines the materials and furniture used in the space, it also directs one to fix its size and the way it looks. Thus, a library with shelves in the periphery gives the user the opportunity to enjoy reading and feel amongst the books. Further, the white colour gives a calm reading atmosphere with a few of the lights infused through the openings. Placing the furniture within the space is also equally important for the activities to happen.

Spatial Design of a Public Space

When we talk about a public space, our mind covers the social connectivity with the place. Thus, when one stays in a public space, it is important how one interacts. Further, it becomes important not only how spaces are intertwined but also how one moves within those connections. Hence, while looking at the spatial design of a public space, one must keep all the elements and their arrangement within each other as important aspects.

Case Study: Gandhi Memorial Museum, Ahmedabad

Built Year: 1963
Architect: Charles Correa

Spatial Design
Surroundings (Image Credits: Archeyes)

The Design Purpose

The Gandhi Ashram Memorial in Ahmedabad, built by the famous architect Charles Correa, pays tribute to the Gandhian lifestyle.

The exhibition space allows people to look into the life of Gandhiji. Hence, according to functionality, the architect designed the place in modular grids of 6m x 6m by placing the closed spaces in grids around the open and semi-open spaces. These spaces have a courtyard in them, which incorporates water bodies, creating a sensory experience.

The museum is built on the Gandhian philosophy of a house with no walls.

Enclosed within the Greens (Image Credits: Indian Express)

Surroundings of the building:

The museum is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, with flora and fauna surrounding the place. It is accessed from the main road in front, and the path is paved towards the museum at first. When one enters the exhibition, the stone texture and the module direct them inside the building.

Organisation (Image Credits: Charles Correa Associates)

When one thinks of the museum, its location on the river bank is what strikes their mind. The green bushes walk along with the visitors to the place. From the main gate to the entrance to the building, there is a plinth height difference that changes the movement and recognition of the space. However, there is an obvious change in the nature of the space defining the movement.

Spatial Planning (Image Credits: Archeyes)

Movement and Pause:

The spatial arrangement of the building is divided into modules of 6 metres, with the water body in the center. Five interior rooms contain the collection of the museum, enclosed by brick walls and wooden louvred screens. Correa’s subtle changes in the enclosure allow for variety in the modules’s lighting and temperature. Various pieces of information hung on the walls direct the movement and pause within the building. In addition, there are small stone seats along the edges of the courtyard where a visitor can rest in between. As a result, these elements kept becoming moments of visitor and space interaction.

Spatial Design
Talk of Lights (Image Credits: Divisare)

Elements Matter:

Brick walls, tiled roofs, stoned floors, and wooden doors are identifying features of the memorial space. The RCC channels find new purpose as conduits for rain. The openings are made out of wooden louvres used for ventilation and penetration of the building. Furthermore, it uses a delicately detailed post and beam structure.

Textured Stones (Image Credits: Archeyes)

In Between Spaces :

When a certain amount of light infuses the courtyard, its shape and size become a memory for the user. Whereas, when the user perceives the space, aspects such as colour and texture also matter. In fact, the experience of touch imprints the memory of the texture of the space. Hence, this experience creates engagement between the space and the user.

Sabarmati Ashram Memorial (Image Credits: Times of India)

The architect closely studied the ideas and beliefs of Gandhiji for the way of living inside the building. He translated these ideas through the elements forming the whole place by generating various human-space interactions within it. The idea of spatial design is to create a human-centric space that defines its purpose and enhances the user experience.

As an illustration, this building has all the elements one should study for understanding the aspects of spatial design.

Thus, what is the significance of spatial design in the life of an architect or interior designer?

When it comes to designing a space, architects and interior designers have certain expectations for themselves. As a result, at times, it is their imagination that first defines the form and shape of the place. Moreover, when these imaginations are put forward, they often miss the purpose for which they are built. But nowadays, as we see, more efforts are made by designers to design human-centric designs.

Thus, the concept of spatial design and its aspects will help them further elevate the experience of space. The concept directs one to focus on the user and their needs and requirements for the space. Both tangible and intangible aspects of the building fulfil these needs. Hence, spatial design is a concept that helps one craft an experiential space that gives the user various living opportunities within the building.

From the above observations, we can conclude that building with the concept of spatial design means to design user’s intended experience of the place. How can a designer always keep in mind the user needs and also elevate different experiences in the building?

Content writing and research by Ar. Rajeshwari Pandya Modi

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