Our Path to Zero: Passive + Net Zero Home Design by Helen Zouvelekis

Nineteen years ago, my husband and I moved from our co-op on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to a house in northern Westchester County that we designed. It was/ is a beautiful house, so beautiful that the only way we could sell it was knowing that we could design another house. 

On February 12th we handed over the keys to the new owners. On that same day, we drove over the border to Connecticut to review with a surveyor a land parcel that will be the site of our second house design. Similar to our original land, it is a beautiful site, crisscrossed with stone walls, and surrounded by 50+ acres of conservation land owned by the Greenwich Riding Trails Association, the Nature Conservancy, and the Altschul Family Foundation.

Our goal for this house is to simplify:  less land, less garden, less square footage, and, most importantly, less reliance on outside resources such as energy and water. To attain this we hope to design a house that will consume minimal energy from a source that we will provide. 

Passive House vs. Net Zero-Energy House

1-wall concept.JPG

There are choices when you are seeking to design an energy-efficient house. Passive House (Passivhaus) is based on a rigorous series of standards from Germany (modified to meet our unique climate) that, when implemented, results in a house that needs minimal energy to heat and cool it, or as my architect friend Elizabeth says, “a house that can be heated with a hairdryer.” The key to accomplishing this is insulation–insulating and sealing the house controls temperature. Due to this extreme insulation and sealing, minimizing substances in the air is crucial; contaminants such as gas for cooking and wood burning fireplaces aren’t allowed. 

A Zero-Energy House is a house that is connected to the grid and uses an onsite energy source (solar panels for instance) which will generate enough power to heat and cool a home, resulting in a zero-energy bill. Zero-Energy homes also use the same principles of insulation found in Passive House design.

We plan to adapt principles from both concepts in designing our new house. Here are the ground rules:

Site orientation: the house will be sited to maximally leverage south and west light

Water: our water will come from a well that we dig

Small floor plate: square footage will be kept to a minimum to control energy consumption

Solar panels: the two bars of the house will have solar panels for our energy source

Insulation: 1 foot + walls consisting of 2 x 8 or 2 x 6 inch studs with cellulose insulation, additional exterior insulation, rain screen, and exterior cladding will comprise the enclosure of the house

Fenestration: airtight windows (It’s still hard to find American made windows; ours hopefully will be Unilux windows from Germany.) 

Site Orientation

Site Orientation Showing Stone Walls and Altschul Pond

Site Concept

As architects, my husband and I are excited and committed to plan our future by building a house that will reduce our carbon footprint and contribute even a small amount to saving our planet. 

The best time to change was 20 years ago: the second best time is now.
— Chinese Proverb


Interior Design Principles - Explained in Photos by Helen Zouvelekis

It was during my Contemporary Theories class where my teacher Rocco taught us about the aesthetic principles of interior design. These principles are older than civilization and a few were even discovered simply by accident. If you are new to design, this blog will be of most interest to you - it could help create some new and powerful concepts. For me, after learning of these principles I started to better understand the function and purpose of designing interiors. So with out further ado, please enjoy the pretty pictures (click images to enlarge) 

1. Form and Configuration - Form is the arrangement of design parts, configuration is the relationship between design parts.

2. Scale and Proportion - The affect between objects and the space they are within.

3. Balance - The equal distribution of elements to achieve a visual equilibrium. 

4. Axis and Alignment - Axis pertains to a centerline, alignment concerns edge.

5. Rhythm - A connected movement between different elements of interior design.

6. Contrast - Provides emphasis and offers the satisfaction of differences.

7. Details - Every detail counts and adds their own distinctive feature to the overall design.

8. Light - Light makes all other principles possible. Without light there is no vision, and without vision there is no design.

I hope you've enjoyed these essential principles in design aesthetics!

Danielle Kachler, Designer

Danielle Kachler, Designer

Icelandic Bananas by Helen Zouvelekis

New Year's Eve in Reykyavik

I celebrated New Year's in Iceland this year and learned so many incredible things. The landscapes in Iceland are out of this world. I saw frozen solid waterfalls and water boiling and bubbling up from the earth. I saw fields full of lava stone and black sand beaches littered with huge boulders of ice. It was truly incredible. I saw a lot of these beautiful scenes from the inside of a 15 person van.

Iceland may seem small compared to other countries, but it's not so small when you're driving from one side to the other in a matter of days. Because of this, I was able to spend time learning from my Icelandic tour guides.

Here are a few facts I learned about the majestic land of Fire and Ice.

1.  The countryside is covered with short hairy horses. These horses are direct decendents of the horses the Vikings brought to the island over 1000 years ago and have not been cross bred with any other breeds. They are also the only horses to have 5 gaits.

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

2.  Early settlers built their homes in the earth to keep warm. Turf houses are constructed partially or fully surrounded by dirt, earth, and vegetation to help insulate the house during the extreme cold of winter. Many houses in the rural parts of Iceland maintain this vernacular today. 

Earth Shelter

Earth Shelter

3.  The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) is an organization made up of 10,000 volunteers and is completely funded by donation. The ICE-SAR sells over 500 tons of fireworks each year for New Year’s celebrations and the profits from those sales makes up almost all of the funds needed to keep the organization running for the year. These are the people you definitely want funded if you are exploring Iceland on your own or happen to get caught it some scary weather.  

ICE SAR, Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue

ICE SAR, Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue

4.  Iceland is one of the greenest country in the world. It's the largest green energy provider per capita and provides 9x more energy per capita than other European countries. 25% of Iceland's energy comes from hydropower and 60% comes from geothermal sources. Geothermal plants pull hot water or steam from the earth, filter it, compress it, and send it through a turbine that produces energy which makes its way to a generator, then to a transformer, and then finally into a city grid. The by-products are sent from the turbine to a cooling tower and then returned back to the earth.

Geothermal Power

Geothermal Power

5.  Due to its extreme latitude, there is effectively 24hrs of daylight in the summer months and only 5 hours of sunlight during winter. During my visit, the sun would rise at almost 11am, hang out for a bit just above the horizon, start setting again around 2:30pm, and be fully set before 4pm. 

Sunrise at Blue Lagoon

Sunrise at Blue Lagoon

6.  Bananas were once commercially grown in Iceland. Greenhouses are widely used here because of their very long summer days with endless sunlight and cheap geothermal energy to power artificial light in the winter. What sets Iceland apart from other countries with similar diurnal patterns is the geothermal activity.  Heat energy near the earth's surface is for responsible keeping the ground warm year round and is also used to boil and disinfect the soil when needed. Although bananas aren't produced commericially anymore, these green houses do bring everything from tomatoes to tulips to the market. 



Have I convinced you yet that Iceland is amazing? If you are ever looking for a getaway that is full of action, adventure, history, science, and gorgeous landscapes, consider Iceland!

Watercolors by Amy Jarvis.


Beating the Winter Blues by Helen Zouvelekis

I hate winter!

It’s easy enough to get through it by staying busy with the holidays in December, but January through March always feel long and dreary. That’s why every year, when the weather drops below 40°, I begin my hibernation by settling in with hot tea, a good book, a crocheting project and a big pile of blankets until it’s warm enough to go outside again or until cabin fever sets in. This year I turned to Hygge, the Danish art of happiness, to learn to make the best of winter!

Hygge (pronounced as hue-gah) has been trending on the internet for a while now, but it’s more than just a pinterest fad. It is a way of creating a cozy atmosphere to foster a sense of safety, comfort and togetherness. It’s not a design aesthetic, though space does play an important role in creating this feeling of warmth. There is a social element to hygge that goes beyond just coziness.

Hygge is an act, a feeling, a precious moment. 

Some easy ways to promote hygge are pretty obvious: hot cocoa, cozy socks and a fireplace, or just a scented candle. But there are many other, more abstract concepts that can be explored to build this atmosphere and help subconsciously create a sense of intimacy and togetherness.

Whether you’re cozy indoors or out for a snowy hike, winter is the perfect time for hygge.

Many cultures have similar ideas for how to achieve comfort and happiness, although Denmark, being repeatedly rated the happiest country on Earth, seems to have mastered it!  You can learn more about it in The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, a quick read that outlines the basic elements and its application.

1-AK_Hygge Blog (3).jpg

Mostly it is good design sense that can be applied more liberally to residential and hospitality projects where the goal is to create a comfortable environment for end users to relax in. However, there are some lessons to be learned for other space types as well! Already we’re seeing workplace design trends overlap with residential styles. Although there is rarely an opportunity for candles in the office, warm indirect lighting without glare can create a similar effect. Visual texture and natural materials are vital, since we tend to be happier when we feel connected to nature. Lastly, it helps to have objects that are old or otherwise have a story behind them that connects you to a different time or place.

Finely crafted objects remind us that quality takes time to develop, both in things and in relationships we cherish.

The warm seasons can be hyggelig too!

1-AK_Hygge Blog (7).jpg

Below is my inspiration board of hygge environments, from cozy cabins to biophilic office spaces. 


This may all seem very intuitive and it is! However I found that reading The Little Book of Hygge didn’t just teach me how to get through a dreary winter successfully like the Danish do, it also made me think more consciously about achieving happiness and renewed my focus on creating and appreciating more hygge moments. 


Imagination + Engineers by Helen Zouvelekis

We're not actually in front of Mt. Everest.

My family and I just recently completed a week long trip to Disney World in Florida, and while we stayed in Orlando, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at our trip photos. We look as if we had traveled across the country, across the planet and galaxy, as well into the past and the future.

We experienced themed lands that were designed to look like the turn of the 20th century middle America, the Eiffel Tower of Paris, and castles based on children's fairy tales. How is it possible to have come across all that without leaving the 40 square miles that makes up the Disney World resort? Three words - Walt Disney Imagineers.

Imagineers, as they're known, are Disney's Imagination Engineers - the folks who design new rides and experiences, new hotels, new theme parks and cruise ships, as well as the technology that powers the rides, the themes for each new ride, and even includes the costume and set design. 

Their team is comprised of architects, industrial engineers, lighting designers, animators, graphic designers, and the list goes on and on. 

Main St., USA, at the Magic Kingdom

Main St., USA, at the Magic Kingdom

Similar to our work in architecture and interior design, the Imagineer's work is a collaborative process. In a way, Imagineer's are a design-build delivery, where the architect/designer also oversees the construction. This is one way for a famous brand such as Disney to maintain tight control over construction quality and ensure adherence to their strict design standards. 

Disney Blue Prints: Main Street USA

Blueprints, Cinderella Castle

Blueprints, Cinderella Castle

Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Castle

Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Castle

The Imagineers have been around since 1952, a few years before the first Disney theme park, Disneyland, opened its doors. They were the designers who fleshed out and designed what Walt Disney dreamed up. As you can imagine, they need to be extremely detailed, and did comprehensive research into the places and spaces they were designing. If they were designing the Main Street USA storefronts, they traveled to many neighborhoods, sketching, researching and detailing their inspiration, so that they may accurately replicate it in the parks. To really make the guest feel as if they're transported into a different city, or country, or even century, the Imagineers really provide as immersive an experience as possible. 

Concept sketch of EPCOT, Walt Disney World

Concept sketch of EPCOT, Walt Disney World

Concept sketch of Liberty Street, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Concept sketch of Liberty Street, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Concept sketches by Disney Artists

Concept sketches by Disney Artists

For example, there is one roller coaster ride named "Expedition Everest," where you are on an expedition at Mt. Everest base camp, in search of a Yeti. The ride, the structure that housed the ride, as well as the corresponding land outside the ride were meticulously researched and detailed, to make you feel as if you've really be taken to the base of Mt. Everest. Every little feature, such as the worn stones on the walking path, the tattered flags, and market place, are meticulously researched abroad and recreated in the park. 

"Expedition Everest"

"Expedition Everest"

Base Camp at Mt. Everest

Base Camp at Mt. Everest


So the next time you find yourself in a Disney theme park, look again. Are you sure you're still in Orlando, and not 1920's Main St. USA, or a base camp in Nepal? 


Diving into Dynamo by Helen Zouvelekis

Welcome to 2018 everyone!

image 1.jpg

Like most people at the beginning of a new year, you may have a few resolutions up your sleeve. A new year is the perfect time to kick start new habits and learn new things! Starting with this post, I will be using the Spacesmith blog as a platform and, more importantly, a motivation to learn more about technology within the architecture and design industry. In particular, I want to explore the potential uses of the Revit plug-in, Dynamo.

What is dynamo?

Dynamo is an open source visual programming tool for designers that can stand alone or be used as a plugin for other software programs like Revit or Maya. To put it simply, Dynamo allows designers to visually script behavior by inputting information, processing that information through user defined rules and logic to produce an output.

Now full disclosure, I have used visual programming before in school, specifically using the Grasshopper plugin for Rhinoceros. Grasshopper was a very useful tool because it allowed me to rapidly visualize design iterations.

By adding just a few rules and parameters, I was able to create new forms quickly and make the design decision process clearer. 

Similar to Grasshopper, Dynamo allows for the freedom to manipulate your project in many ways. Specifically, I want to learn how to utilize Dynamo as a way to streamline tedious processes, visualize my design in new ways, and solve problems using data.

The following are examples of useful applications of Dynamo.

1.  Visualize rooms with color.

2.  Streamline room center locations.

3.  Automate room numbering along a path.

4.     Respond to solar paths.

Of course as I mentioned before, this post is intended to be part of a series in which I explore Dynamo’s potential in depth.

Stay tuned for more dynamic Dynamo fun!

Katy Marino, Designer

Katy Marino, Designer

Summer Bauhaus: A community of mid-century modern architecture. by Helen Zouvelekis

My last blog recounted my impromptu visit to Stonington, CT. I will now share that journey’s final destination, Cape Cod, MA.

We'll start at the beginning with the Pilgrim’s arrival at Plymouth Rock and their first encounter with the Indians at First Encounter Beach in Eastham.

Fast forward: Over the years, thriving whaling, fishing, and salt work businesses grew all over the Cape. However, a subsequent decline due to shifting industry trends left the Upper Cape a barren, deforested, mosquito-infested swampland. Who in their right mind would dare settle there but artists, poets, painters, architects, and writers!

During WWI, deprived of access to war-ravaged Paris, they took advantage of the new Boston to Provincetown ferryboats and established a thriving cultural community. Fascinated by the clear light, stunning landscape, and a secluded setting, art schools and  theater stages flourished. Artists Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Edward Hopper, Hans Hofmann have ties to Provincetown and playwright Eugene O'Neill mounted his first play on an East End wharf in 1915.

Nature explorers were the first to venture further inland only to discover bay, ocean, and fresh water kettle pools in very close proximity. In the 1930s, Jack Phillips inherited more than 800 acres from his uncle, and he and his wealthy bohemian friends were among the first group of adventurers. Renouncing their upper class upbringing, they built cabins that suited their nonconformist attitudes. Early structures were based on the local ‘Cape type’—single story volumes with low-pitched roofs for minimum exposure to the elements. Construction materials consisted of driftwood or items found at local lumber yards: 2x4 wall framing, 2x10 roof rafters, and screens as windows. No stone foundations were used. Wooden stilts were placed on piers driven into the sand. Yankee engineering was their guide, Wellfleet was their place. 

Of this group, self-taught architect and builder Jack Hall grew to become the most creative. He moved to Wellfleet in the late 1930s and renovated old farmhouses into modern structures for a growing number of weekenders. The 1962 Hatch House is a masterpiece of modern Cape Cod architecture. Built with local material, it perfectly blends into the natural landscape, dictating a lifestyle absolutely in tune with nature.

Other great examples of this generation’s residential projects are by Hayden Walling and Nathaniel Saltonstall.

The second wave of adventurers that arrived in the late 1930s and early 1940s were European's who fled political persecution or moved to the US for economic opportunities. Many brought their skills, trades, and design philosophy to Harvard University and had come to know Jack Phillips. Soon the group that spent weekends and summers in Wellfleet included Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff, Alvar Aalto, Lazlo Mohogy-Nagy, Schawinsky, Florence Knoll, Max Ernst, Paul Weidlinger, Eliel, and Eero Saarinen. So numerous were they that they referred to their European colony as ‘Summer Bauhaus’. 

Serge Chermayeff, newly relocated from London, and Marcel Breuer, after his stay in Vienna and Paris, experimented on their own houses built on adjacent facing kettle ponds lots only to reuse these ideas throughout their careers. Chermayeff’s nautical flag like cabin and Breuer’s longhouse prototype are just two such examples.

Meanwhile Hungarian structural engineer Paul Weidlinger first explored wire cable, braced timber framing on his private cabin.

Paul Weidlinger Cabin

Charles Jencks Studio

Wellfleet did not escape the design shifts without Charles Jencks' late modernism/ post modernism. The Outer Cape was not immune to modern architecture’s transition. Historian Charles Jencks grew up vacationing in Wellfleet where he designed his own studio ‘decorated shed’, a precursor of the postmodern movement to come.

Today, modern architecture still thrives in Wellfleet with a renewed effort to conserve these marvels. The Cape Cod Modern House Trust recently purchased and renovated Jack Hall’s Hatch House, the Weidlinger House, and Charles Zehnder’s Kugel/ Gips House. All are available for rent.

My recommendation: add your name to the waiting list and explore the other modern gems hidden in the forest, and make sure to enjoy Wellfleet’s other specialty – the oysters. Delicious!


Michel Franck, AIA, Partner

Michel Franck, AIA, Partner





Holidaze by Helen Zouvelekis

Kristen texts Kurt: Hey, wanna do another music blog with me? Holiday…

Kurt: Cynicism allowed?

Kristen: Yes!

After reading Kurt's choices, however, I felt they should stand on their own. So, without further ado…songs on Kurt’s holiday playlist.

Kurt: Ah, Kristen, holiday songs. I guess some people must like them because we keep hearing them every year. So many songs of faith and good cheer for the Linuses of the world, songs of parties for the Violets, and shopping for the Lucys, and of course, songs of Santa for the Sallys. Even Kyle Broflovsky got a tune about being left out. But so few songs for the Charlie Browns.

A few do come to mind, though. Let’s start right at the bottom of the bottle.

Tom Waits released “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” on his 1978 album Blue Valentine. It’s a wonderfully down-on-her-luck little parable that almost has a happy ending. When he performed it live, he often interpolated it with “Silent Night” and “Goin’ Out of My Head.”

Kristen: Jeez…bottom of the bottle indeed! Pour me a whiskey to wet my whistle so I can sleep in heavenly peace.

Kurt: Joni Mitchell’s 1971 song “River” (from her masterful Blue) is a heartbreaking song of holiday heartache built around “Jingle Bells” transposed to a minor key. It’s hard not to imagine her sitting in California missing Canadian winters when she sings “It don’t snow here / It stays pretty green.” Hardly a joyous carol, it still strikes enough of a chord that more than 600 people have recorded versions of it—including Herbie Hancock, who included it on his album River: The Joni Letters. In 2008 Joni joined him onstage to sing it.

Kristen: I forgot about her lovely, clear voice, dare I say…ahem…like a bell?

Kurt: Joni’s biggest fan, Prince, wrote a particularly dire holiday song for the flip side of his hit single “I Would Die 4 U.” Unlike the A-side, however, the death here isn’t speculative. “Another Lonely Christmas” is sung to a lover who died on Christmas day. Staying true to the lyrics, he only performed the song—which starts with the line “Last night I spent another lonely Christmas”—once in concert, on December 26, 1984, in his hometown twin city of St. Paul, MN. Prince often recorded long jams to edit down into tight pop songs. If you’re feeling lonely, here’s a full 22 minutes of him working through the tune.

Kristen: You weren’t kidding about that Charlie Brown feeling. I really do need that thimble of whiskey now.

Kurt: In 2013, Nick Lowe—the singer who put the cruel into kind—released a record of Christmas songs, including his own contribution to the canon, “Christmas at the Airport.” There’s even a charming, animated, elven video to go with it. Lowe also curated a holiday playlist on Spotify that includes an unplugged version of his seasonal neo-classic.

Kristen: Fun. Makes air travel almost seem tolerable, at least for elves…

Kurt: But I can’t let everything be all sad and lonely. The couple in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (written in 1944 by Broadway mainstay Frank Loesser) might be playing a bit of tug-of-war, but you just know she doesn’t end up going out into that frigid night. The song has been recorded numerous times. Five different recordings of it have topped the singles charts. Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s 1961 version barely cracked the Top 100, but there’s no version finer.  

Kristen: Never heard this version before. Class act.

Thank you Kurt and Seasons Greetings to all!

Kristen Persinos, Marketing Director

Kurt Gottschalk writes about music for a variety of publications and hosts the radio show Miniature Minotaurs on WFMU. He is also an author and playwright and all around swell guy.


Close Proximity of Interior Spaces in City Life...thru the "Rear Window" by Helen Zouvelekis

Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly

Can space make you insane? 

I had the unfortunate experience of living in an apartment with constant noise. Heavy footsteps in the apartment above at 5am each morning turned me into a monster. It was a catastrophe. The building was pre-war and obviously built with little insulation or consideration for human life.  I moved immediately!

Space, the number and spacing of windows and lighting do affect social behavior, mood, productivity and health. Crowding and noise is linked to annoyance, stress, aggression, withdrawal and horrible behavior. I definitely committed very bad, revenge behavior.

After watching “Rear Window” for the millionth time, my friend Nadja, (an architect in her past life), mentioned that this movie was often studied in architecture. It peaked my interest because the set is extremely minimal so I looked into why.

Hitchcock is very conscious of the mental workings and meanings of architecture.

An apartment at 125 Christopher St. was the view that inspired the setting for murder. In order to create a sense of reality, Hitchcock sent four photographers to NY with instructions to shoot the village from all angles, in all weather and lighting conditions from dawn to midnight.

For months, Hitchcock did nothing but plan the design of this indoor set. He wanted to intensify the close proximity of interior spaces in city life. He used close neighboring interior spaces to create a claustrophobic and voyeuristic mood in order to intensify suspense and visual tension. The tense narrative, along with a limited space set design, make this one of the best films from Hitchcock. 

Architecture is one of the building blocks of making films, and Hitchcock was brilliantly inspired by this view.

In order to make the buildings feel taller, Hitchcock had the studio ground floor torn out, allowing the basement to become the courtyard. The massive Hollywood set consisted of 31 apartments (8 completely furnished) and 1000 arc lights to simulate sunlight.  

The main character, Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a photographer, bored and isolated in his small apartment, wheelchair bound with a broken leg. Through his apartment window, with the help of cameras and binoculars, each character is framed, witnessed and analyzed. It’s from his perspective that we start to understand the spacial relations between the different apartments important to the mystery. The movie explores the small and limited perspective of Jeffries and his desire to uncover the truth behind a suspected murder. We are taken on a journey of suspense from the confinement of his hot and tiny apartment. 

Photographer – Turned Voyeur

Hitchcock’s "Rear Window" is a commentary on human characteristics of behavior, voyeurism, identity and gender roles which he depicts through the film.

Architecture and interior design have serious effects on human behavior. Designing thoughtful structures has become critical for a positive mental state but also as a means of preserving limited natural resources. 

I've learned my lesson...before buying or renting a place to live in, light, noise and privacy are closely examined...in order to avoid committing murder.

Helen Z.


 The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard




Layers and Gateways in Indian Architecture by Helen Zouvelekis

While studying architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I had the opportunity to live in India for 6 months, exploring and studying the spatial and phenomenological qualities of traditional Indian architecture. Indian architecture is unique, in part, because of the country’s strong religious background. Over millennia these spiritual narratives have become unique spatial narratives that still craft the design of their buildings today.

Traditional Indian spatial sense is grounded in spirituality and cultural beliefs about how the world operates. In short, the spaces are born from an idea or series of ideas. Concepts such as the cycle of reincarnation and the duality of existence create rich spatial sequences when translated into architectural language. When a conceptual driver behind the spaces governs all, interesting spatial relationships begin to form.

One facet of Indian architecture that I became particularly interested in was their masterful use of doorways and gateways to create complex relationships between the viewer’s motion and a building.

Diagram explaining circulation based on door placement taken from Elements of Spacemaking by Yatin Pandya.

Perspectival alignment to eye level often plays a part in the placement of these gateways. Passageways and doors are strategically aligned to create moments of segmented views. When passing through the gateway, a person’s path is typically obstructed and their movement patterns forced into a winding pattern.

When simple gateway and barrier placement, rules are combined and complex movement patterns emerge. Diagram from Elements of Spacemaking by Yatin Pandya.

This winding movement creates key moments to condition the mind and allows time to overlap the space. The dynamic movement patterns of the viewer are highly dependent on frame of mind and time of day which allows for the space to be continually refreshed with new paths and uses. By utilizing pauses, winding circulation, and stretched time as architectural elements, Indian architects create contemplative and experientially rich spaces with many changing uses.

Gateway obstructing part of the Golden Temple in Punjab, India.


Gateways being used as spatial dividers at Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh, India and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

When designing a building or complex, gateways are used not only as a barrier, but as a tool to induce a kinetic perception of space. The choice of various movement paths towards or around a building creates a personal and changing relationship with the building.

The Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India.

Matthew Vogel, Designer

Matthew Vogel, Designer

I was grateful for the opportunity to learn outside the scope of a traditional, western architectural education and explore different ways a space can activate a kinetic experience.



  • Pandya, Yatin. Concepts of Space in Traditional Indian Architecture. Mapin Publishing, 2015
  • Pandya, Yatin. Elements of Spacemaking. Grantha Corporation, 2017.