Saturday, July 10, 2010

If humans are getting taller why are ceilings getting shorter?

Perhaps my title is somewhat dogged with anomalies but I will press on.
In fact there is evidence that we as humans are not as tall as we may of previously believed compared to our ancestors. For example in the middle ages humans were nearly as tall as we are today due to reduced populations and a generally healthier lifestyle void of those contactable deseases associated with dense populous, like cities. Many factors have influenced height be it population, disease, hygiene,food consumption, climate and population density.

So in our super dense cities are we right to believe that we may get smaller due to our more compact existence or bigger due to our improved longevity and health? I cannot predict anything of the sort but in our mass consuming carb fuelled world where obesity is rife and climate change on the horizon could we be on the cusp of another transitionary period. Are developers onto something?

Getting back to the point..... ceiling heights are often the curse of the new build. We often aspire for high ceilinged spaces, they somehow evoke a sense of freedom spatially and make tiny rooms look wonderfully proportioned. Unfortunately in today’s world we are in most cases given the standard 2.25m more akin to a utility room than a living space. This height reduction has many reasons behind it, primarily cost. But there are other factors such as our change in lifestyle, building height restrictions, cost of land, furniture and generally the way we live as well as the cost of heating such a space. Of course they are all valid reasons but haven’t we lost something that our predecessors so relished.

From an interior design perspective low ceilinged interiors can pose many problems one being how to make a room look liveable without looking cramped and overbearing. Try and put a chandelier in a low ceilinged space and immediately a problem arises. Its almost as if our preconceptions of design and furniture have to be reassessed and all those relics of the past thrown out or miniaturised which infact has happened over time. The tall Rococo inspired wardrobe has been replaced with a inbuilt and anything taller than 2m is obviously is never going to happen. Not only are we given limited choice vertically but this restriction leaves very little opportunity to be truly expressive or adaptable for future use which in terms of sustainability is a rising concern.

Another problem with low ceilings is the sense of space. Proportion is often improved when higher ceilings come into play.The reason why period homes look proportionally correct is space and height; start altering one of these factors and it’s lost. You may for example have a large apartment but without height it will give the appearance more akin to living in a long enclosed corridor. I suspect this is a reason why a lot of furniture you buy today is so low. If you don’t have everything at the height level of a small pet to give you a sense of space, anything slightly higher just looks ridiculous. Our compressed world dictated by this spacial fascism is acceptable to a degree but it's incessant abundance almost seems a lost cause amoung developers flogging us 'luxury' but to be honest it's more like 'basic'

Recently researching the subject of ceiling heights I came across evidence that low ceilings do not provoke heightened conceptual thinking more so that it suppresses such thoughts. An interesting concept that probably has some truth. Would you go to an art gallery if it was the size of small cupboard and subsequently get the same thought processes in a large lofty open space? probably not.The same should really be applied to where you live. I’m not arguing that we should all be living in 3m and higher ceilinged homes but a little more than the average could have a positive socioeconomic effect as well as enlightening and freeing our interiors and quite possibly our minds.

So should we increase the height of our ceiling or not. Morally I would say yes, there has to be an increase on the pitiful 2.25m we often encounter but is there the will or the economy to do so.

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