Architectural Theory, Building Design, Design Guide, Design Theory

What is Anthropometric Design in Architecture? A Guide

Buildings are subconsciously built to fit our scale in order to accommodate our needs comfortably. But we often hear about cases where the space is not inclusive to certain people. 

Little things like not being able to reach a shelf while at the grocery store create dependency, and it often gets annoying. Now imagine that being the case for every little thing in the space. That becomes a real problem. 

What is Anthropometry?

Anthropometry is the measurement of the human scale and body. By understanding the conscious and common movements of a human body, it becomes easier to understand the needs and limitations in the design.

In Architecture, Anthropometry is used to design spaces that are efficient, functional, and user-friendly.

Each space results in different sets of motion that need to be taken into consideration during the design of l space. Anthropometry also varies based on need, age group, culture, location, and so on. 

Ex: While designing a school, the anthropometric movements of children aged 6-18 years must be considered, with movements such as walking, running, reaching out to a shelf, toilet seat height, etc.  

Why is Anthropometry Important?

In order to understand the scale of the building itself, one must first understand the human scale in that space. 

“Only Architecture that considers human scale and interaction is successful architecture”

Jan Gehl

Anthropometric Measurements

Static Anthropometry

 It is the measurement of a human body when it is at rest. This is mostly done to understand the scale of the spaces and furniture to fit the needs. 

Functional Anthropometry

It is the measurement of a human body when it is performing a task. This includes reaching abilities, height requirements, or navigation of space. 

Principles of Anthropometric Design

  • Design the space to be functionally adjustable and easy to use. 
  • Design the space without compromising the comfort, work efficiency and safety of the users. 
  • Design the space to be ideal for all kinds of users, irrespective of their size, shape, age, location or abilities. 

Application of Anthropometry in Your Design

  1. Determine the required user range and collect anthropometric measurement data matching them.
  2. Put together the data collected and create rough plans and sections that help identify the spatial and dimensional requirements and changes. 
  3. Check if a single design can satisfy the requirements of all types of users. If not create customized spaces to fit the needs of the needed kinds of users. 
  4. Finalize the design and dimensions to proceed with the area statement. 

Famous Architects and Their Association With Anthropometry

Some Architects of the past have studied and explored different aspects of Anthropometry in order to understand the human scale and its impact on design and dimensions. Some have also arrived at theories that help us accustom ourselves to the human scale in an easier manner.

The Vitruvian Man, Leonardo Da Vinci and Vitruvius Pollio

The Vitruvian Man was used to represent human proportions by Da Vinci
The Vitruvian Man

The Vitruvian man, one of the most prominent images of western art, is a hand-drawn image of a nude man inside a circle. This image was used to represent human proportions and how the entire body fits inside the radius of a circle. 

Da Vinci drew the man with four arms and four legs, which let him represent 16 different poses simultaneously. 

The Vitruvian man is a symbol of the perfection of human proportions. These proportions can be put to use to measure spaces without the need for external equipment. 

  1. Four fingers equal one palm.
  2. Four palms equal one foot.
  3. Six palms equal one cubit.
  4. Four cubits equal an average man’s height.
  5. Twenty four palms equal a man.

The Modular, Le Corbusier

Le Modulor was a system used for human proportioning by Le Corbusier
The Modulor by Le Corbusier

Le Modulor was a proportioning system that was birthed out of the 20 years of research Le Corbusier did to devise a common measurement system that can be used throughout the world. 

This anthropometric measuring system was created with the combination of the golden mean and the measurement of a human male. It is a method of dividing the human body on the basis of the golden mean ratio. 

Inspired by the works of Vitruvius, Alberti and so on, Corbusier designed an ideal dimension that could be commonly used in the architecture and construction industry. 

Anthropometry Standards Resources

  1. Metric Handbook – Planning and Design Data – David Adler
  2. NBC Standards
  3. Time Saver Standards

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