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16 image version: May 9 2011

Studying the application of the metaphor the primary objective of this

seminar is to enhance AIA members practical day-to-day work to the
more ideal aspects of architecture and architectural design. This
seminar will provide members the opportunity to discuss architectural
ideas and their meanings.

Architecture: the making of metaphors have four learning objectives:


Review the background and applicability of metaphors and

building design
Review the interactive process of the common metaphor to the
sovereign and non-publically interactive metaphor
Understand how the architectural metaphor works in building
design and use.
Learn how metaphor of planes, scale, form, and building
components improves design, reading, using and enjoying
architectural design.

Barie Fez-Barringten is both an architectural practitioner,theorist,

researcher, environmentalist, urbanist, artist, educator, inventor; author
practiced archttecture in the USA, Saudi Arabia; Qatar; Puerto Rico; and
Belize. As Associate Professor he has taught at Texas A&M University,
King Faisal and Global Universities, University of Petroleum and Minerals,
University of Houston, and Pratt Institute An architectural history of
metaphors has recently been published by Springer.

Architecture: the making of metaphors

Barie Fez-Barringten
Seminar outline
It is well known that role playing, game theory, pretending, creative
perception, invention and discovery are ways to not only solve problems but
by thinking outside of the box and expanding limits one can better ones
design skills. But how can we apply this to our work. To simply claim that
architecture is an art because it too makes metaphors is not enough it must
translate into application.
1.) Background:
How did this all start?
1.1 During the series of lectures on art at Yale University,
Irving Kriesberg had spoken about the characteristics of
painting as a metaphor. Because I had already been interested in
metaphors and so many claimed that architecture was an art it
seemed at once that this observation was applicable to
architecture and to the design of occupiable forms.
Vincente Scully introduced me to the metaphysical philosopher
Paul Weiss who suggested that we turn to English language and
literature in order to develop a comprehensive, specific, and
therefore usable definition of metaphor.
1.2 The first lectures "Architecture: the Making of Metaphors" were
organized and conducted near the Art and Architecture
building at the Museum of Fine Arts Yale University in
November and December of 1967. The guest speakers were:
Paul Weiss, William J. Gordon (Synectics; The metaphorical
Way of knowing)) , Christopher Tunnard, Vincent Scully,
Turan Onat, Kent Bloomer, Peter Millard, Robert Venturi
(learning from Las Vegas previewed) , Charles Moore, Forrest
Wilson, and John Cage. Since then my forty four years of
research has been published in many national and international
learned journals. In addition to applying it to my architectural
practice I have also applied the results of my research in the
classroom at Pratt, Texas A&M, King Faisal University, Ohio
University, University of Houston, University of Petroleum and
Minerals and Global University.

Metagram: 1971 NYC

2.0 So what is a metaphor?
2.1 Metaphor is a literary term which means "carrying-over"
and synonym is the word transfer.
2.2 It associates meanings, emotions, things, times and places
which otherwise would not have been related.
2.3 It is a two-way process where the metaphor points beyond each
of its members to the reality they diversely express, articulating a
characteristic common to both, telling us that they both have an
intrinsic nature: such as Richard the Lion-hearted
2.4 The metaphor points beyond each of its members to the reality
then diversity express, articulating a power common to both,
telling us that they both have an intrinsic nature.
2.5 If there is not initial separation between the two elements, there is
no metaphor. The metaphor involves the intrusion not of
neighbors but of aliens. It brings together what seems to be
radically different in nature. This is the heart and secret of great
art, and of great architecture.
2.6 It is an organic whole, wherein each element with the work
explains the existence and meaning of the others.
2.7 Metaphor is a catalyst which fuses memories, experiences

and other modes of existence; it embodies within its own

distinctiveness certain universal symbols and concepts common to
2.8 Metaphorically things, times and places known to have a
preferential, specific or localized use in one context are
explicitly employed in another. One familiar and one strange
term are usually composed into a single form where one term
normally used in one context is brought over into another with
the object of illuminating; making more evident something in
the second domain which otherwise remains obscure.

Mertaphor diagram from Gibe


Piaza San Marco, Venice

3.0 Let us continue with some examples.
3.1 In the case of certain building types the original prototype or
model may illuminate the proposed and the proposed the
original model.
For any one work we can seek the works
similarities and differences and find the characteristics common
to both. Each work talks about one thing in terms of another
with parts that are both opposite and equal.

Turkish fort in Tarout Island in Arabain Gulf

3.2 What may be true at one level may not be true at another; yet there
may be similarities at one level to an element at another level.
Levels may interact. In other words, apparent differences and
apparent similarities may in- fact transfer but on different

3.3 It always has commonplace where elements have

non-apparent commonality.

Beleize House drainage culvert forms

3.4 There are choices and selections of materials, systems and
structures that can be fitted together. Each is apparently
unrelated, dissonant and incompatible until each is adapted to
harmonies, fit and contribute.
3.5 An architectural work is an organic unity in which each part is not
merely in juxtaposition, grouped with other parts, but in which
all parts closely affect one another.
3.6 Strictly speaking, a metaphor involves the carrying over of
material ordinarily employed in a rather well-defined context
into a wholly different situation.

Simpson Street Elevated train station Bronx

3.7 The metaphor is a bridge and bridges.

Sludge to metphane gas for power on Ruhr

3.8 Architecture combines technologies with one another and with
common sense, while accommodating the peculiarities of its
users, and because the thought which organically scales the
facility can make clear, through the resulting work, the
operations, goals, and ideal characteristics of the users system.
3.9 The architectural work is a synthesis of space and the description
of that space; the work organically sustains itself as a whole as
well as in it parts.

3.10 It connects the present with the past and the future; it achieves
interaction between interior and environmental space in ways
that yield new meaning and experience.
3.11 It mediates change of occupancy, use and outside pressures; it
brings together components which heretofore have
characterized other uses, operations and goals; it expresses the
physical, social, intellectual and spiritual requirements of
human beings.
4.0 There are cultural, social,political and soverign metaphors What do
they all have in common?
4.1 Consider a process which is to the mutual benefit of both creator and
user. Music is a good place to start.

Dammam concert

4.1.1 Musicians and an audience to a performance share common

operations. They participate in a kind of reproduction
(mimesis) which reveals the original composition.
4.1.2 Both the strange and the familiar can be read. Users, musicians
and audiences do not imitate the composer's specific action but
rather his creative process. Architectural works which use
space, planes, materials to elicit users feelings, direct and
provide resources. As the musicians written composition the
design for a work of architecture may be fixed in time but is
only part of the conception.
5.0 To clarify how this works let us ask how the same metaphor is
differently experienced by both designer and user.
5.1 It is the user who will ultimately perceive and experience the
personalized ideas of the designer. Habitable, structural, volumetric,
useable metaphors, like music are composed, assembled, and
conjured. Metaphors are reified and created by technique from
experiences with the elements of the metaphor. The designer has
experienced the metamorphosis of the elements.
5.2 The designer has "seen" the commonalities, the differences and the
essence common to both. In any case the building is a variable in the
experience of the metaphor and depending on the designers choices,
decisions, confidence, discipline, conditioning, skill, commitment and
language skills will the designer participate. But the designer is part of
the metaphor.

Sheba Land a faled city on the Euphrates

6.0 What role does the context play?

6.1 While actual works is always in a context a study may or may not
include that context. Contexts may be at several levels in scope as
social, cultural, location, immediate, neighborhood, landscape, lot,
etc. Excluding the context (later we will look at the Sovereign
Metaphor) may allow the warrant to look deeper into the inner
workings of the metaphors intrinsic commonalities and differences
and the way they transfer into a form.
7.0 Potentially how many different metaphors are there in any given
work of architecture?
7.1 Architecture is not only the making of metaphors and is a metaphor
but architecture is a symphony of dominant, subdominant and tertiary
metaphors. Each differently conceived and perceived by different
players, creators, users, buyers, owners, etc. There is the overall
building, its different systems and subsystems and its various


8.0 What are the unseen sovereign and non-publically interactive

8.1 The sovereign metaphor is distinct from its creator, programs, process
and exists as something in its own right. It is composed of supportive,
subordinate, unseen elements, not perceived and often unknown to
users. Yet, the essence of the creative process and its product is that it
encapsulates not only its own inherent qualities but those which have
their origins elsewhere (other uses, lives, contexts, metaphors,
symbolism plus distant and near-source contexts).
8.2 Often the metaphor of the sovereign metaphor deals with
commonplaces pertinent to its social, historical and cultural context
but is not the qualities of the sovereign metaphor. The sovereign
metaphor exists on another level of designed and integrated elements.
9.0 So how does the sovereign metaphor work?
9.1 Since each constructed element has a metaphor between it and its
referent (object), this particular metaphor ignores this relationship
and is only concerned with how selected elements work with others
where such orphans or isolates are in the mix of the extant (existing)
10. 0 What are these elements?
10.1They are narcissistic and introverted because they center on an
internal unspoken, but seemingly telepathic dialogue - in the process
of which - its parts undergo a sort of physical and biological osmosis.
These relationships, which are read in physics, mathematics and
science, underpin the properties and strength of materials plus the
engineering and aesthetics of any given project.
10.2 These relationships inform the manner in which the parts support,
attach, migrate, bond, flex and bend to accommodate one another. So
in essence they form a synthesis, which begins with the practicalities
and the aesthetics of proportion, scale, color, texture - and culminate
in the end product the building.
10.3 After assembly, creation and manufacture, the whole or parts of a
building may never be perceived, seen, or understood by a third party.
It can be, but even without being perceived it is still a metaphor.
That is why it is sovereign



11.0 How does the sovereign metaphor work?

11.1 A train ticket takes you on a journey. The process of travel is not
merely a physical thing. It involves both the idea of the act
itself, the process of the act and the act itself. It also involves
leaving one mode for another, both in a physical and
metaphorical sense. The process is one of being transferred but
not transformed. In a similar way, one can say that the
architectural metaphor does not transform its elements but
places them in a system of relationships where they carry over
their own unique qualities, properties, characteristics and

Soverign detail SUNY in Albany

12.0 How does the transfer work?
12.1 Direct transfer is also the way weight is conveyed from one
object to another by gravity, force and juxtaposition. Transfer
works in the metaphor by acting on other referents passing a
property such as power from one to the other. The quality is
conveyed without necessarily losing the originators or composure.
An attribute is conveyed from one to another, yet that same
attribute still remains part of the original despite being shared. Its
a matter of positioning. Side by side the weight of one will not
exert on the other until it is attached or placed above the other.
As in a literary metaphor, the positioning of words and phrases
matters in that their transferability and importance are dependent
on one or another referent. Now both weigh, illuminate, radiate,
etc. The element may not be structural but an accommodation of
an operation or performance of a goal, where the commonplace
draws the referents into affecting one another.


13.0 What are examples of transfers?

13.1 Manufacturing and construction all rely on the ability of unlike,
disparate and different elements to transfer and work together.
In a habitable metaphor transfers are encouraged, discouraged
and prevented; prevented as in the case of moisture protection
and the application of paint, stucco, masonry, etc. Metaphors
may, of course, be positive or negative. Similarly, transfers may
be desirable or harmful, but they are always present in the
elements of a work.
13.2 The horizontal flange of the WF (wide flange) beam and the
horizontal surface of the slab, transfer their loads so that the
slab bears on the flange while the beam supports the slab.
Richard is the first referent and the lion the second. In the
structure, the slab is the first and the beam is second.
13.3 There is osmosis as the literary metaphor Richard the
Lionhearted, Richard and the lion still remain lionhearted
although by sharing the same context, they interact. They are
presumed to have a commonplace and this presumption is the
very inertia that defines their commonality.
14.0 What is the purpose of commonality in a building metaphor?
14.1 Commonplace or commonality is the characteristic property
shared by elements. These characteristics are usually unseen but
known in either of the elements but not in both and when
juxtaposed the elements highlight the commonality.


15.0 What are the dominant elements of the three dimensional


Planes in Space: Falling Waters:FLW

15.1 They are planes, volumes, forms, space and scale

15.1.1 When constructed planes, volumes, forms, space and scale
have peculiar relationships. Planes limit and bound space.
The metaphor of the plane is that were a plane habitable it
would be a space and were space limiting it would a plane.
By their juxtaposition they manifest characteristics they both
have in common and some that are different. Each maintains
its own property of plane and space just as Richard (Richard
the lion-hearted) maintains his humanity and the lion its
nature. Each points to a property beyond its own inherent
characteristics. They are both the properties that make a
volume; a volume in any scale or proportion.


15.1.2 The property that is common to all the planes is the space or
sub-spaces which the planes themselves limit. The planes
define, float and/or define space. The space is the reality
all planes have in common. The volume of the spaces
varies by the way the planes are arranged. Planes that
limit and planes within the space modulate and form
relationships. Similarly, the facades or colonnades that
surround a square, plaza or atrium define the void and
make it what it is ergo, part of the whole.
15.2 The planes that define the construction may differ from one
another as each must be the commonality or difference
between its adjacent space, sub-space and context. It may
also be affected by the inhabitants use of volume and
space and itself be the characteristic common to both. As
such, its faces may be differently colored, constructed or
supported thus forming a bridge for its referents
(inhabitants and volumes). As this element becomes a
sub-metaphor, so it is with each other plane, volume,
space and sub-space. Each links to an adjacent or related
element and in so doing makes a metaphor. Its like the
do-se-do movement in square dancing in which two
dancers approach each other and circle back to back, then
return to their original positions where one partner is
exchanged for another. There is a domino effect among
the circle of dancers and likewise in construction, where
each element bridges and affects the other.
15.3 The commonplace of planes in space is their tensional
asymmetrical or symmetrical relationships which give them
equipoise; equipoise that could fix them in space was it not
for gravity or the laws of physics. Hence they need some
structure in the form of tensional wires, or skeletal gravity
supports such as columns, beams and slabs. Yet equipoise is
the commonplace beyond their own sizes, weights and
composition, which composes their form and allows them
to transfer their properties.


15.4 A corridor enclosed by walls implies adjacent rooms, a

beginning and end to the corridor - and in the case of a multi
story building - connecting stairs and elevators serve as
ambulatories (transfers and connections). The space limited by
horizontal and vertical planes in the context of a school carries
over into adjacent spaces. Bound and limited spaces
characterized by a matrix of connected spaces of varying or
equal volumes collectively form a beehive-like metaphor or
interrelated and connected cells.
Multiple horizontal planes forming building floors when
stacked become a high-rise whereas adjacent vertical planes
separated by volumes can become a shopping center.
15.5 Scale is the proportion of the planes, space and volume of one
sub-space to the whole construction. The planes, spaces, subspace(s), volume and scale have commonalities and differences
between them. They all point to a reality beyond their
individual and common nature to their external context and
potential occupant(s); occupants whose culture and behavior
may vary. The relationship between occupants and context is
explored in the properties afforded by scale, volume and plane.
The scale and elements of St. Peters, Rome, drafts its structure
and decorative elements to a scale beyond any single inhabitant
and always suggests accommodating much larger sized
inhabitants or crowds. Scale, volume and size are the
commonplace demanding references to something beyond any
single space or detail.


Shapes and forms

16.0 How do designers collaborate to form metaphors?
16.1 No construction is devoid of the human decision-making process.
Both art and architecture Peculiarize personalize and
authenticate for their metaphor to live. This way the user
metaphorizes the using process and the user and work
empathize. In this is the art of making metaphors for the
architect of public works. His metaphor must read the
cultural, social and rightness of the metaphors proposed
context. An excellent example of this the Paul Rudolphs Art &
Architecture building at Yale University, though initially an
architectonic of planes and shapes, it soon becomes conditioned
by building codes, operations, ideals and complex goals. The
asymmetric tensional relationships of planes and solids are
shifted from their primary positions to allow for clearances and


Tent in the desert

Can you think of others?
17.0 How are metaphors conditioned?
17.1 Planes, spaces, volumes and scale carry-over, transfer and refer
to preceding conditions, operations, ideals and goals.
Architecture is not made in a void and is impacted by history. A
Habitable metaphor is conditioned by building codes, zoning
ordinances, site and local statutes, FEMA regulations, structural
systems, utilities, heating ventilation and cooling systems, site
and site conditions, contexts, and building materials.
Metaphor is conditioned also by operations such as identified
functions, areas, sizes, human and vehicular access, traffic,
circulation, and adjacencies.
17.2 Metaphor is also symbolized by standards, class, quality level,
relationship to context and like uses and final metaphor is
established by its goal to accommodate what purpose, for how
many people in what context and what period of time.
Disregarding conditions of regulation, structure, circulation,
numbers of people and quality class will transfer and seek a
commonality; usually of building type in or outside of its


Architectonic geometry scale illusion

18.0 So what is the purpose of the architectural metaphor?
18.1 Both art and architecture metaphor-building clarify our place,
status and value. As metaphor is the main mechanism through
which we comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract
reasoning; so works of architecture inform our social,
psychological and political condition
18.2 What is built is first thought and conceived separately from
building, as thinking and conceiving are separate from outward
expression. (As we think before we speak, we design before we
18.3 Architectural metaphor - like its linguistic/cognitive associate
is a process and what we see is the issue of that process and not
the manifest metaphor. For example, when we hear a
symphony, poem; watch a dance or see a painting we perceive
the whole the synthesis of the creative process. What we
dont see quite so readily is the component parts, the structure,
the context, the aesthetics and the story etc.


Doha under construction

19.0 Conclusion: As users and designers we should strive to enjoy the

19.1 Metaphor is a very practical and pragmatic matter. Habitable
transfer mechanisms are in our midst, everywhere and
demanding our attention. Look at them knowing they too have a
life of their own - it is incumbent on us to find a way to relate,
understand and enjoy their presence.