Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Extraordinary Ordinary - Doors, Floors, and a Bit about Ceilings...

Metal Doors in Oman...

Whilst 'flaneur-ing' (urban strolling) around diverse locales in the region, I've noticed that I've managed to take an almost inordinate amount of photos of various local doors and doorways. This might seem a somewhat pastiche thing to do, as one can find postcards and posters depicting doors from most cosmopolitan cities or a bit more picturesque towns almost everywhere, but it is perhaps exactly this ubiquity that also is what makes observing doors so intriguing – they fulfill the same function and purpose everywhere, yet still retain a distinctness and clearly differ from one place, function, and culture to another. Their pervasiveness is exactly what allows us to note the deviations between what we're used to from that which diverges from our norm.
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The door must be amongst the more intimate constituents of a building. It's among the sole elements of a building we touch and handle daily. It's also the first thing we touch when entering a building. It's a door's handle which provides, as the Finnish architect and theoretician Juhani Pallasmaa has said, the 'handshake of a building'. A building's door defines the realm where greeting and goodbyes are expressed, it's the transitional 'in-between' threshold venue which belongs neither (or both) to the 'inside' nor 'outside' of a building. It's also a building's doors and floors which, unlike the walls (let alone the ceiling), we engage with directly on a physical and somatic level. However, while the floor might be the surface with which we have a more constant engagement with, it still remains a passive partly during such interactions (i.e. we move across the floor rather than the floor moving, one should hope, across us) and while a floor is usually perceived through an intermediary – a shoe or sock – a door includes an inherently sensory, tactile and directly kinesthetic attributes, as we literally have to 'handle' (push, pull or slide) a door to provide access or an exit from one space to another.
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A door includes an intrinsic multi-sensory quality, it has a radius and range of motion, a weight, degree of friction and its surface has a texture and latent temperature. Its proportion and scale are a reflection of its intended users and utility. A glass door for a busy shopping mall is a very different contraption from a wooden door of a private residence. The heavy and gigantic metal doors of a city gate not only perform as a protective, both symbolic and actual, deterrent, but also express the power and might of the city, as well as act, through their ornamentation, as twin billboards of its wealth and artistry. The laminate doors of a kitchen cupboard, on the other hand, attest to a quite different set of aims, where the doors' vertical surfaces are often intentionally plain and modest in their appearance. Here, unlike in the city gates, a shopping mall or a residence, the intention is not to emphasize or celebrate what's behind them, but more about hiding, camouflaging and neutralizing the detergent bottles, surface-wipes, buckets and sweeps that are usually concealed behind such below-the-sink doors. This connotative ability of a door can be expanded to apply to the features on a door, where the type and size of door-handle, if it has a window or not, a mail slot, spy-ocular, or the size of its threshold can inform you about its purpose. Even a door's position in comparison to its door-frame and be used to indicate the degree of access to a space. Here a closed door suggests 'do not enter', an open door 'come on in', and a door slightly open hinting one should 'proceed with caution' (how welcome depending on how ajar the door is). Doors hide and reveal - they open, close, revolve, slide, protect, uncover, represent, suggest, and inform.
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So I'll probably continue photographing doors, as they're simply too catalytic and irresistible a motive to ignore...


Wood doors in Oman...

3 comments:

ghadahalkandari said...

these doors are sumptuous. and as usual you serve some pretty delicious food for thought.

yalla, when are you coming to kuwait again?

opaling

Thomas said...

Ta very much luv...

Dunno when I'll have a chance to come by Kuwait next, as I'll be quite busy here until early June, and might then need to head straight back to Erope-land for the summer... But talk to the missus, she'll keep you updated...

raj said...

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