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To all of our students, from whom we have learned so much. And to Eva and Dax, who have not only
tolerated but infinitely enriched our endless excursions in the interest of architecture.

© 2014 Rockport Publishers

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the
copyright owners. All images in this book have been reproduced with the knowledge and prior consent of
the artists concerned, and no responsibility is accepted by producer, publisher, or printer for any
infringement of copyright or otherwise, arising from the contents of this publication. Every effort has
been made to ensure that credits accurately comply with information supplied.
We apologize for any inaccuracies that may have occurred and will resolve inaccurate or missing
information in a subsequent reprinting of the book.

First published in the United States of America in 2014 by

Rockport Publishers, a member of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.
100 Cummings Center
Suite 406-L
Beverly, Massachusetts
Telephone: (978) 282-9590
Fax: (978) 283-2742
Visit to share your opinions, creations, and passion for design.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Simitch, Andrea, author.

  The language of architecture : 26 principles every architect should know / Andrea Simitch + Val Warke.
       pages cm
  Summary: “Learning a new discipline is similar to learning a new language; in order to master the
foundation of architecture, you must first master the basic building blocks of its language - the definitions,
function, and usage. Language of Architecture provides students and professional architects with the
basic elements of architectural design, divided into twenty-six easy-to-comprehend chapters. «-- Provided
by publisher.
  ISBN 978-1-59253-858-4 (paperback)
 1.  Architecture.  I. Warke, Val K., author. II. Title.
  NA2550.S56 2014
  720--dc23 2014008552

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN: 978-1-59253-858-4

Digital edition published in 2014

eISBN: 978-1-62788-048-0

Design: Poulin + Morris Inc.

Page layout and production: tabula rasa graphic design
Cover image: Pezo von Ellrichshausen/
Photo: Cristobal Palma

Printed in China
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Andrea Simitch and Val Warke

With essays contributed by
Iñaqui Carnicero
Steven Fong
K. Michael Hays
David J. Lewis

Richard Rosa II
Jenny Sabin
Jim Williamson

26 Principles Every
Architect Should Know
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Introduction 6


1 Analysis 8 7 Mass 64

2 Concept 18 8 Structure 72

3 Representation 26 9 Surface 82

GIVENS 10 Materials 88

4 Program 36


5 Context 48 11 Space 100

6 Environment 58 12 Scale 108

13 Light 116

14 Movement 124
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15 Dialogue 132 24 Fabrication 196

16 Tropes 138 25 Prefabrication 202

17 Defamiliarization 144 CONCLUDING

26 Presentation 208

18 Transformation 150

Glossary 216

19 Infrastructure 156 Bibliography 217

Contributor Directory 218

20 Datum 164

Photographer Credits 219

21 Order 172
Index 220

22 Grid 180 About the Authors 224

Acknowledgments 224
23 Geometry 188
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It is our hope to stimulate old and new interests in architecture, to share an enthusiasm for some venerable sheds
and evocative cathedrals, and to introduce the limitless poetics that can be composed in architecture’s language.

Tireless debate has always focused on the the stop near my home.” But it is clear that our elementary concept of the meaning of
qualities that could cause a building to be those constructions we describe as “works of “dog” becomes complicated by the various
described as “architecture.” Nikolaus Pevsner, architecture” tend to convey countless levels affects of context, by our knowledge of
who famously declared that “A bicycle shed of meaning to numerous unique observers dramatic genres, of precedent, of poetic
is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of over an indefinite number of years. Perhaps, language, and, if heard during a perfor-
architecture,” assumes that human habitation then, architecture might be understood to mance, by the actor’s verbal and physical
is a characteristic of all buildings, while be comparable to a “thick,” poetic language. inflections. Clearly, Shakespeare’s “dog” is
architecture transcends building because of One of the traits of any language is much more than that furry four-legged beast
its aesthetic aspirations. Other arguments that it provides a system that can convey once in the room.
have been based on issues as indeterminate meaning. When being introduced to a new Meaning in architecture is similarly
as emotional resonance (in other words, language—when one first learns to speak as complex, both profound and open ended.
architecture, unlike building, stirs our an infant or when one attempts to learn a Such meaning is inevitably compounded by
emotions), as reductive as professionalism second language—meaning is generally architecture’s lengthy processes of production,
(architecture is by architects), as evaluative direct and singular. To the infant, a “dog” is by the vast array of individuals responsible for
as historical appraisal (architecture is what a the furry four-legged beast in the room. To every stage of that production, by the final
culture has deemed as significant, or what the first-time speaker of Italian, “cane” is construction’s relationships with its various
has proven to be significant through time), directly associated with one among that contexts, by its interrelationships with other
and as limitless as inclusivism (all construc- general group of animals we know as “dogs.” known elements of architectural expression,
tions are architecture, perhaps even those by However, after becoming familiar with more and by the unique pasts and presents of each
other species, such as the hives of bees or complex levels of language—with poetry, individual who observes the final construc-
the dams of beavers). slang, mythology, and allegory, for example— tion. Architecture is further complicated by
Parallel to these discussions, analogies a more sophisticated notion of meaning is the fact that each design is a testing ground
to language have been frequent, varied, and required. For example, when Shakespeare for a number of associated concepts drawn
inevitable throughout the history of archi- has Hamlet say: from history, theory, technology, and even
tecture. The fact is that every building, from representation. For this reason, many attempts
a bicycle shed to a bus stop, is capable of “Let Hercules himself do what he may, at defining a language of architecture have
meaning something to someone: “Here, I can The cat will mew and dog will have his day.” necessarily been reductive. Like textbook
protect my bike from the rain,” or “This is Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1 translations of elementary Italian, they
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become simple exercises in decoding, with but more ephemeral substances—space, scale, We address this book to several
no regard for syntax, idioms, voice, genre, light, and movement—that serve to make different audiences. For those just com-
and so on. the physical substances legible. Four chapters mencing studies in architecture, we hope to
For these reasons, this book is not on the conceptual devices that frequently introduce the potential breadth and depth of
intended to be an exhaustive or definitive contribute to what might be understood as the field while showing some of the works—
lexicon of architectural ideas. Such an effort the poetics of architecture—dialogue, tropes, by both students and well-known practitio-
would be futile. It is instead an introduction defamiliarization, and transformation—are ners—that might inspire or even provoke.
to what we believe—after over sixty years followed by five chapters that discuss the Those who have already embarked on one of
of combined experience in architectural operations of architecture’s diverse organiza- the various aspects of architectural practice
education—to be some of the more vital tional devices: infrastructure, datum, order, might find in the text a series of subtle
fundamentals of architectural design. Just as grid, and geometry. Finally, two chapters reminders, a mine of possibilities. Each
the English alphabet is arbitrarily limited to concerning some of the considerations chapter includes a short essay that brings
twenty-six letters, we have limited ourselves an architect might have for the implicit greater depth to the chapter’s theme and
to just twenty-six elements, each described possibility of construction—fabrication may suggest further inquiry for those
in its own chapter. and prefabrication—are followed by a final interested in architectural history, theory,
We have organized the text so that we chapter on what is usually the culmination or criticism. And finally, for those of our
begin with three chapters that introduce the of the design process for most architects colleagues interested in developing a
essential elements one needs to develop a and students of architecture: presentation. curriculum in beginning design, we intend
visual language and the skills for critical And we illustrate these chapters each chapter to germinate an idea that
thinking: analysis, concept, and representa- throughout with some of the more might foster its own design exercise or that
tion. We follow with three of the elements distinctive and expressive examples of could suggest more elaborate problems

that are generally considered to be among architecture’s language. From the gran- when combined with other themes.
the givens of any design process: program, diloquent to the slang, from the epic to In short, it is our hope to stimulate old
context, and environment. Then, we turn to the everyday, projects are culled from and new interests in architecture, to share

what might be considered the substances of the great masters of architecture, from an enthusiasm for some venerable sheds and
architecture. After introducing the physical notable contemporary practitioners and evocative cathedrals, and to introduce the
substances—mass, structure, surface, and from students around the world who have limitless poetics that can be composed in
material—we consider the equally palpable, confronted these issues in their studies. architecture’s language.
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Analysis is the process of exploration and


discovery with which an architect develops

a familiarity with the assumptions,
expectations, and conditions that are
given and then establishes the conceptual
lens through which all design decisions
are subsequently made.
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Analysis is an investigation organized to uncover what may have been the strategies for
a project’s design.

Originality is a term often used to describe something

new or different, something that has never been done
before. In architecture, there is a firm belief that most

everything has already been done, to some extent and in


one manner or another, and that originality does not lie in

the discovery of something new but in the interpretation
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Aldo Rossi: Gallaratese II
Housing, Milan, Italy 1974
Aldo Rossi’s Gallaratese II
Housing block in Milan takes
not only certain formal cues
from Giorgio de Chirico’s
trancelike metaphysical
painting, Mystery and
Melancholy of a Street, with a
giant loggia surmounted by a
cadence of square windows,
but there is also a similar
sensibility of urbanism, of
buildings as monumental
backdrops that impassively
modulate individual activity
while suggesting the
mysteries that might be

hidden in their shadowy


Giorgio de Chirico: Mystery

and Melancholy of a Street,
1914. Private collection.

and appropriation of something that givens of a project, which include program tions, and conditions that are given, but
already exists. It is not that something that (the functions that the project needs to subsequently establishes the critical
is the subject of this chapter, but it is, accommodate; these may include specific framework of the problem, the conceptual
instead, the processes by which one material requirements, such as the use of lens through which all design decisions are
understands, abstracts, and interprets aluminum), site and context (where the subsequently made.
the known or the given so that it can project is to be located), and conventions
meaningfully inform the design process. (the cultural contexts of the project). The Precedent
In architecture, these processes of other circumstance is what the architect Fundamental to the education—and
abstraction are usually called analysis. brings to the givens: how the architect continued development—of an architect is an
interprets or defines these givens. Analysis awareness of what has come before. It is the
Project Givens is the process of exploration and discovery raw material that provides the basis for an
The design process is initiated by the inter- with which an architect not only develops infinite inventory of architectural ideas: it is
section of two circumstances. One is the a familiarity with the assumptions, expecta- the architect’s library, allowing the architect

(continued on page 13)

These plans show Giuseppe development, it is clear that

Terragni’s design for the the modern building derived
Congress Hall for the Rome significant inspiration from
International Exposition the plans of the Oratory,
(E42) of 1937 (left) in relation borrowing the older complex’s
to the Oratory Complex of geometries as well as its basic
Saint Phillip Neri (1620–50), distribution of programmatic
also in Rome, by Francesco spaces.
Borromini and others
(center). While the structures
are extraordinarily different
in their three-dimensional
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Luigi Moretti and the Evocative

Precedents of Architecture

In the 1950s, the austere architecture of

postwar Italy—dominated by that of the
increasingly industrial north—was con-
stricted by a lingering classicism. The
Roman architect Luigi Moretti confronted
this world through his magazine Spazio, or
Space: Review of Arts and Architecture,
(1950–1953, with a few issues in the 1960s).
Spazio was dedicated to presenting select
contemporary architecture—both built and
unbuilt—in the context of developments in
the fine arts, with provocative essays sug-
gesting that architecture could derive
intensity from the arts, crafts, and build-
ings of past masters and unknown artisans.
For Moretti, this included especially the
architecture that was roundly condemned
as decadent by most European modernists:
that of the late Renaissance and baroque

The essays in Spazio would usually take

the form of an analysis: verbal, graphic,
and occasionally both. Moretti himself
would often analyze aspects of the arts in
their possible relationships to architecture.
For him, analysis was intimately tied to the
design process, not simply to understand
what may have transpired in the past, but
to advance what is and could be happening
in the present. Moretti’s analyses repre-
Portion of page from
sented an active process: We read them not “Structures and Sequences of
as finished works but as unconstrained Space” illustrating (from top
ruminations—often as brilliant as they down): a model of the spaces
within Michelangelo’s San
were reckless—intended to draw the reader Giovanni dei Fiorentini in
into a speculative discourse. Rome; a plan of that church; a
model of the spaces within
Moretti’s Fencing Academy in
In the first issue, Moretti’s “Eclecticism Rome; an interior view of the
and Unity of Language” finds modern Fencing Academy; and
expressionism present in the brush strokes diagrams of the plan of the
Tugendhat House in Brno, by
of Rubens, and surrealism in the fabrics of Mies van der Rohe,
fifteenth-century paintings by Cossa. illustrating perceived spatial
Eclecticism, argued Moretti, is a necessity zones (heavy lines) and
intuited spatial zones
(shorter lines) from various
points within the house.
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Analyses of profile elements

of Baldassarre Perruzzi’s
Palazzo Ossoli in Rome,
tracing the lines in
perspective as well as with
views of projections

in a complex, multicultural world. In the shadows consume the “inconsequential” aspects, both empirical and psychological:
third issue, Moretti treats the work of Ber- elements of nonloadbearing surfaces. as a measurable sequence of volumes rep-
nini and Borromini compositionally in resented through plaster models with
“Abstract Forms in Baroque Sculpture,” in In “The Values of Profiles,” Moretti argues spaces constructed as solids; as “density”
which exuberant draperies and angels’ that cornices and profiles (three-dimen- defined by the penetration of light as mod-
wings supply the plasticity that defines sional moldings) are ancient architecture’s eled with light boxes; as the foci of one’s
Roman baroque architecture. Rather than truly “abstract” components: nonrepresen- senses on the masses that shape a struc-
encourage a stationary viewer, he argues, tative and formally derived. Profiles, ture; and as the expansive and compressive
these fluid forms draw the eyes from one according to Moretti, have been architec- interrelationships within the fluidity of a
center to another—from one perspectival ture’s means of orchestrating light and spatial sequence. Always eclectic, Moretti
system to another—in works composed of dark, thereby bringing focus to a building’s cites nineteenth-century paintings, the
multiple focal points, simulating an archi- components and reinforcing its primary spatial reactions of characters in a film, the
tectural promenade. formal organization. Moretti demonstrates cathartic escapes in Melville’s Typee, and
how moldings enable a building to alter its fluid dynamics.
Moretti reveals a fascination with move- appearance throughout the day with con-
ment, sequence, and time as modifiers of tinuously changing shadows, and in In his Spazio essays, Luigi Moretti offers
space and form. In “Discontinuity of Space relation to a viewer’s position in the street evocative analyses framed by juxtaposi-
in Caravaggio,” Moretti speculates that this below: a genuinely dynamic architecture. tions and generous speculation, arguing
painter from the early seventeenth-century that every type of artistic work can be
was depicting the effects of Rome’s noonday In perhaps his most famous essay, “Struc- absorbed into an architectural production.
light upon elements in baroque façades, tures and Sequences of Spaces,” Moretti
when columns appear as figures and analyzes spatiality in architecture in four
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Left: Machado and Silvetti: which an excavated courtyard
House in Djerba, Tunisia, is surrounded by its primary
1976, plan living spaces, to provide
Right: Castle Hedingham, inspiration for a project
Essex, England, c. 1133, plan designed by Machado and
Silvetti in Djerba, Tunisia.
It is possible to derive basic Here, the exterior wall of
organizational strategies rooms that enclose the
from one’s understanding of house’s central volumes is
precedents. The occupiable transformed into an exterior
wall that wrapped the staircase, and as it begins to
primary rooms of the peel away, the central
medieval English castle is volumes of the house are
combined with the typical revealed.
Tunisian troglodyte house in

to quickly identify works that have evolved in

response to similar programmatic, contex-
tual, or cultural circumstances, or that may
offer a repertoire of formal solutions that can
inspire solutions to problems that may at first
seem unrelated. As Álvaro Siza Vieira has
said, “Architects don’t invent anything; they
transform reality. They work continuously
with models that they transform in response
to the problems that they encounter.”

This knowledge can be made useful only if it

undergoes a series of thoughtful transforma-
tions that increasingly abstract and distill
those fundamental characteristics of a source
that are relevant to the problem at hand. It is
only then that a simple imitation can be
replaced by the genuine generative potential
of the precedent.

Precedents can originate from within or


outside of architecture. They can inform a

project’s form or its organization, its structure
In his design for a building in Hertzberger is able to recast
or its circulation, its internal operations or its

Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, his analytic understanding of

outer membranes. They can be buildings or completed in 1972, architect traditional, canalized Dutch
Hermann Hertzberger cast in towns into the scale of a
cities, films, or paintings. They can be
concrete and masonry his modern building where the
animals or machines, biological behaviors or theories that a building village’s density that serves
fictional narratives. Designs often have more should be a communal to create its cultural vitality
structure, in effect, a small is interpreted as a series of
than one precedent.
village, containing streets, densely packed miniature
plazas, and gathering spaces office towers peering out
both formal and informal. over interior streets.
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ABSTRACTION Components, or breaking down into parts Richard Meier: House in organizational strategies.
Pound Ridge, NY, 1969 While describable as a series
Just as an artist sees a painting through the Most works of architecture are composed of
In these iconic diagrams by of autonomous systems, each
eyes of someone intending to produce a series of overlapping and bypassing systems following an “internal”
the architect Richard Meier,
another painting, and a musician might hear that, together, form the complete work. It is site, program, structure, logic, together they form a
constellation of systems that
music with the ears of someone intending to the “unpacking” of these systems into a series entrance, circulation, and
enclosure are independently intersect, engage, and often
produce more music, an architect sees a of discrete diagrams that can offer insights deform one another in
represented in order to
building—ultimately, analyzes it—with the into a precedent’s unique characteristics, and present the project’s basic producing the final work.
goal of designing another work of architec- it is the distillation of these systems into
ture. For the architect, the role of analysis is idealized components that can provide an
not to uncover the fundamental intentions inventory of systems that can subsequently
that may have been behind a design’s origin, be redeployed in other projects.
but to uncover the values a design may have
in inspiring more designs. The most common systems separated during
an analysis are structure, circulation, exterior
Analysis is a process whereby one draws from envelope or membrane, major versus minor
a precedent or from a programmatic given spaces, public versus private spaces, solids
its distinguishable characteristics, what makes versus voids, repetitive versus unique,
one work different from any other work. supportive spaces, and the geometric and
“Analysis,” as Cornell University Professor proportional orders that often hold these
Jerry Wells would say, “is designing systems together.
backwards.” It is breaking down a work into
parts in order to examine a subject from While each system on its own is important in
multiple perspectives, to investigate a project understanding a work, the ways in which they
in order to uncover what may have been the are transformed, merged, or overlaid is what
strategies for its design. While these parts ultimately leads to an understanding of the
are often formless, they are the precursors of unique qualities of the greater whole.
the concepts and forms that have produced
the final work.
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Diagramming is the process of abstracting
and simplifying an idea so that it can be
easily understood. It is the recording of the
physical and spatial characteristics that
identify the unique and recognizable
characteristics of a building, site, or program.
It is the process by which familiarity with a
specific set of programmatic and contextual
circumstances can be achieved. Much like a
child’s sketch, a diagram is not concerned
with developing nuance but, instead, with

clarity: it is a reduction—a boiling down—of
an idea. The diagram cannot only analyze
the physical, it can also reveal the ephemeral,

the historical, the infrastructural. Diagrams
allow one to gain an understanding of a
particular project by revisiting it again and
again through a series of distinct lenses.
They also facilitate an understanding of how
several seemingly unrelated works might in
fact be brought together as an inventory of
thematically related conditions. And, finally,
diagramming can also facilitate the quick
exploration of alternate solutions to a
problem in its initial stages of development.
The diagram not only maps the identity of a
given project, but points the way to the
conception of a new project. And it is in
these reductive, abstract states that diagrams
often resemble more universal conditions.

It is the simplicity of the analytical diagram
that allows for its subsequent interpretation
and transformation when introduced to a
new set of parameters.

Intermediary Device
The synthesis of an analysis often leads to
the production of an intermediary device, an
artifact that is subsequently open to multiple
interpretations. This device is, in effect, a
‘prearchitectural’ moment. It can take the

form of a drawing or model, and it is a

suggestive and interpretable representation
that has the ability to shift in both scale and

A series of analytical models Design Center that students

demonstrates alternate were asked to design in a
formal and material 2006 freshman design studio
strategies for a Danish at Cornell University.
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orientation so that it can be conceptually drawing—where the specificity of the designers and makers, and those of the new
mined in multiple ways. It is the testing of precedent gives way to an instrument that architect. Therefore, whenever one analyzes a
these interpretations within the parameters subsequently motivates the final work. work, one is essentially coauthoring that work.
of the design problem—the “what-ifs”—that
motivates the development of an architec- Embedded in the intermediary device are the Analysis does not necessarily attempt to
tural concept. potential concepts of the new work. It operates “solve” a work, to resolve its hidden schemas,
as an “in-between artifice” that retains the or to penetrate the deepest mysteries of its
For example, a diagram might isolate the concept of the precedent yet leaves behind authorship. Instead, analysis brings to a work
circulation of a building as the unfolding of the specific attributes with which the original a type of “deep reading,” whereby probing
a spatial sequence, one that might collect a work is associated. In reinterpreting diagrams and questioning reveal the potentials and
series of views. And, yet, while the specificity with an intermediary device, issues of scale and significances of a precedent. Ultimately, with
of the views or the modes of circulation— proportion, even of material and enclosure, practice and awareness, analysis becomes for
such as stair, ramp, bridge, and so on—may may be insignificant. The value of the the architect a mode of seeing and under-
be important to the original project being intermediary device is precisely located in its standing a work, of absorbing the work into

analyzed, an analytical diagram might record intermediate condition, on the threshold of a creative memory where objects and ideas
a more generic condition of an armature that interpretation and innovation. become the raw materials for the authorship
collects a series of things (such as views, of new designs.
programs, experiences, or scales). It is this Coauthorship
diagram that has the ability to sponsor the An analysis always represents the encounter
production of an intermediary device—per- of at least two spheres of awareness:
haps a miniature construction or a composite the minds and cultures of a work’s original

In a 1998 introductory design characteristics as were

studio at Cornell taught by discovered and demonstrated
Professors D. Lewis and A. through their analysis.
Simitch, students were each This steel container for a
asked to analyze a prosaic holepunch served as the
tool and then construct a intermediary device for the
container that would not only design of a showroom whose
house the tool but that would spatial characteristics were to
register the tool’s formal, reference the original tool for
operative, and material which it was now a showcase.
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Kimberly Chew developed a intermediary devices for the
series of paper models that construction of volumetric
recorded the continuous studies that became the
unfolding of perspectival source for programmatic
space as experienced within development. Cornell
an existing site. These University B.Arch. Thesis
models became the 2010 16
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A concept is often at the nucleus of a


design, to be gradually refined and subtly

reconsidered as a process proceeds.
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A concept is rooted in simple abstractions, yet it initiates a process that usually ends with
a complex design.

The process of architectural design is much like a

voyage. At the start of this voyage, it is the development
of a coherent architectural concept that not only suggests

a possible destination, but that also supplies the traveler


with both an oar and a rudder.
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What It Is and What It Does

A concept represents more than a solution;
it poses a way of thinking about a design
problem while proposing a set of objectives
while implying potential exclusions. It is a route
to be taken while excluding potential detours.
The concept initiates the action of design.

Versus Ideas
While a concept might originate with an idea
or set of ideas, an observation, or a prejudice
that is personal to the designer, these ideas
alone rarely motivate a production. In order
to have a productive value, an architectural
concept should eventually result in an
observation that can be shared with a larger might simultaneously provide tubular Steven Holl’s original water- numerous attributes: a regular
audience. And, while intrinsically an structural and mechanical supports for the colors for Simmons Hall, exterior form is penetrated
a dormitory for MIT in by organically shaped tubes
abstraction, a concept also differs from an building (as with Toyo Ito’s Sendai Medi- Cambridge, Massachusetts providing light and ventilation
idea in that it has an obligation to suggest an atheque), represent ideas elevated to the (completed in 2002), propose while linking the more public
image or a thing, since it must inevitably lead level of architectural concepts. that the concept of “sponge” spaces through various levels
would give this building its with contrasting formal
to a constructive proposition. identity. The concept conveys vocabularies.
And Flexibility
For example, using light wells to bring However, while it might be the nucleus of a
additional light into a building might be an design, the concept may become gradually
idea. However, on its own, the notion of refined and subtly reconsidered as a process
including light wells does little to limit a proceeds. Far from being a fixed idea, a
design’s range of unique possibilities. That concept must remain flexible, roomy enough
the building might be like a sponge, with to permit the inevitable adjustments as a
light wells penetrating in an organic, irregular design evolves.
manner throughout (as with Steven Holl’s
Simmons Hall at MIT), or that light wells (continued on page 23)
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Sverre Fehn—
Projecting the Line

Sverre Fehn’s body of work is concerned

with the metaphysical relationship of man
to his world and his buildings become the
devices for reconciling the vastness of that
world and the human experience within it.
His work is a complex conversation
between the natural and the constructed,
between light and dark. The projects oper-
ate as conceptual lines that simultaneously
measure the landscape while locating the
human being within it.

A three-dimensional line is struck amongst

and within the ruins of an existing barn at
Hamar—and it is one’s movement along and Norwegian Glacier Museum
Fjaerland, Norway, 1989-1991
occupation of this line that constructs
view and perspective
one’s relationship to both the stone ruins
and the archeological artifacts that have
been retrieved from the earth. In a 1992
interview with Maija Karkkainen, Sverre
Fehn explains: “... I conceived Hamar
Museum as a kind of theater, where the
movement is in specific routes around
smaller objects, around bigger objects, and
around the whole space, which in turn
winds around historical excavations ...”
The essence of the project lies in the dia-
logue that is established between the concrete ramps and walkways that tiptoe its own voice, and tells its own story, yet
carefully calibrated and precisely con- through the ruins occupy this constructed like a repertory theater, continuously
structed ‘present’ as it is juxtaposed onto space between earth and sky. They not only engages and responds to the other mem-
the irregular archeological ground of his- provide the access through which the visi- bers of its material troupe.
tory. This present is manifest as a series of tor navigates this ‘suspended museum’ but
materially, spatially, and structurally dis- they register the architectural concept The architect has often described the 1989–
tinct elements that occasionally align through their material and geometric dif- 91 Norwegian Glacier Museum in the
themselves with the existing ruin and then ference. These ramps swell to become Fjaerland district of Norway as a stone that
caper off to their own material and geomet- volumes within which special collections rolled off the glacier and settled into the
ric tune. This fundamental concept of a are displayed—each artifact mediated with valley below. As the vastness of the site
series of independent layers, of which the enormous precision by a material that makes any building structure inconsequen-
present is but one, provides the conceptual again negotiates between the present layer tial, the architect’s ambition was to create
lens through which all architectural deci- and its cultural past. A hand knife rests on a place between sky and ground. Thus, the
sions are subsequently filtered and at all a soft leather cloth that is inlaid into a concept for the museum was developed as
scales. The wooden structure that shelters wooden surface that bears the imprint of a concrete plinth sitting on the earthen floor,
the three-dimensional path descends from its weight; a wooden plow deforms a steel from which the visitor could experience this
the sky and alights onto the ruined walls plate that suspends it from the concrete spatial panorama. The primary space of the
that are solidly grounded by the earth. The wall. Each material has its own behavior, museum is therefore not its interior but the
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Nordic Biennale Pavilion,

Venice, Italy 1958–1962
conceptual sketch—section,
and view of roof structure

outdoor room of the valley in which the

hollow rock has settled. The stair leading
up to the plinth aligns with the glacier
beyond: here the projected line is an instru-
ment that orients and locates the visitor in
the space of the landscape.

It is often the framing of the problem that

leads to the development of the architec-
tural concept and with the 1958–1962
Nordic Pavilion at Venice Biennale the
problem that Sverre Fehn identified here
was quite simple: how to protect and dis-
play the artifacts within a context that
simulates the Nordic light in which they
had been produced. The concept for the
project then emerged as the construction
of light, a three-dimensional brise soleil
that is rotated horizontally to simultane-
ously protect the artifacts and, through its
layers of stacked concrete beams, produce
the “shadowless” light that is so typical of
the Nordic landscape. The geometry of the
system allows it to adjust its dimensions as
necessary to accommodate the magnificent
trees that occupied the site. It serves to
measure, to locate, the landscape, the light
and the artifacts within its Venetian site.

The Hedmark Cathedral Museum

Hamar, Norway 1968–88
conceptual sketch, view of interior
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The original concept sketch England, under the sponsor-

by Jarmund/Vignæs ship of Living Architecture
Arkitekter of Norway for a magazine, the ambitions of
house on the dunes shows a the “thumbnail” sketch are
crownlike object hovering accomplished with a glazed
above an incision in a hill. The ground floor with minimal
dashed line suggests a ramp structure above which an
or cut in the hillside for entry. irregularly dormered upper
Built in 2010 in Thorpeness, floor appears to float.

The Sketch
In architecture, the first articulation of a
concept is usually in the form of a drawing or
a sketch model. Conceptual sketches and
models indicate that a position has been
taken, while providing a measure against
which design decisions can be evaluated and
alternatives weighed. As generative tools,
sketches provide the visual language with
which architects test conceptual notions in
their relationships to a set of goals or
parameters. Embedded within the conceptual
sketch is the seed for the development of the
project: it is, in a sense, the pregnant drawing.

While most drawings tend to communicate to

others, a sketch may be a more private form
of drawing—a personal ideogram—intended as
a note to oneself or as a succinct communica-
Toyo Ito’s early conceptual
sketch of his Sendai tion between the designers within a team.
Mediatheque, located in
Sendai-shi (the “City of
The Thumbnail Sketch
Trees”), Japan (completed
2001), shows large, hollow Among conceptual sketches, the thumbnail
tubes formed by a network of sketch is a drawing that—aided by its small
latticelike surfaces, growing
size—is necessarily a caricature of the
like tree trunks through a
series of floor slabs. These concept: that is, it represents the reduction of
tubes serve as light wells the concept to its most identifiable character-
while contributing to the
istics, inevitably exaggerating those
building’s structural stability.
Although some are primarily characteristics for the purpose of clear

structural, others enclose recognition. For this reason, the thumbnail

elevators, with the smaller,
sketch remains throughout the design process
twisted “trunks” containing
a valuable representation of a design’s

electrical and air handling

systems. This innovative essential objectives as well as a constant
structural system, designed
reminder of the latent ambitions within the
with the engineer Matsuro
Sasaki, incurred only minor concept, as a baseline measurement of a
damage in the magnitude 9.0 design’s development, and as a litmus test for
earthquake that struck Japan
any design that might lose its way.
in March of 2011.
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Conceptual sketches facilitate a continuous
critical conversation between abstract
concept and the form that the concept can
embody. While thumbnail sketches and early
conceptual drawings are initially loose and
open ended, often without scale, proportion,
or specificity, it is through the reiterative
process of enactment, critical response,
evaluation, and modification that a sketch—
and its latent design—becomes increasingly
more specific.

Ultimately, the collection of conceptual

sketches throughout the design process

Using paper models, different concept of communal learning.

forms the diary of a project, recording an architects ARX of Lisbon can education. These projects Three-dimensional models
architect’s creative process in terms of the quickly study a number of integrate classrooms—the permit the simultaneous
volumetric concepts for a spaces of traditional, formal testing of the concept in
formal ruminations that reveal the evolution
high school in Caneças, learning—with the more fluid terms of site, program, light,
of the conceptual idea. Portugal, each reinforcing a spaces of “informal,” space, and human habitation.

The Overlay
Perhaps one of the most valuable techniques
in developing a concept is through the use of
the overlay. From the time that Michelangelo The Sketch Model such as density, transparency, reflection,
used the subtle translucency of his paper to Supplementing the basic conceptual sketch, erosion, stretching, bending, and cracking.
generate alternative designs on the backs of and often equally important in the elabora- These models do not attempt to represent a
previous drawings, the notion of the overlay tion of a concept, are three-dimensional realistic representation of a design, but
has played an important role in the develop- “sketches,” in particular relief and concept instead to suggest ways in which a design’s
ment of architectural sketching. With the models. components might act and interact.
development of inexpensive, mass-market
tracing paper in the early 1800s, architects Relief Models And Otherwise
could easily transform designs through a A low-relief model is often cut from paper An extension of the architectural concept is
process of revision, reaccentuation, and that is then folded, twisted, or warped, often the parti, or parti pris, which had its origin in
reorganization. As older drawings fade while retaining much of the surface of the nineteenth-century France and in the phrase
beneath cloudy layers of tracing paper, original paper. Relief models suggest aspects prendre parti, which means “to take a
newer layers are kept in sharp clarity on top. of potential three-dimensional forms as they position.” Just as a position might be taken
Not only did tracing paper decrease the might relate to the plane of the ground or to only after all of the options are weighed, the
necessity for tedious redrawing, but the a specific viewpoint as in a perspective image. parti is typically derived only after the
layering of information facilitated a Especially when illuminated from an oblique concept has been determined; it relates to
designer’s ability to view constantly renewed angle, these models suggest a possible the disposition of elements within the totality
images of the project while providing a composition of masses, a strategy of of the project. The “parti diagram” is
frequent shift of focus. landscape engagement, a potential perspec- generally a succinct diagram—in plan,
tive view, or patterns of light and shadow. section, or three dimensions—of the strategy
While some contemporary computer graphic the designer will use in the development of
programs attempt to duplicate the flexibility Material Models the concept. While a concept is largely
of tracing paper, this is accomplished without A concept model might use cardboard, metal, rooted in abstraction, the parti is rooted in
the tangible, recorded “debris” of numerous clay, plastics, or other materials to suggest the practical application, a knowledge of
intermediate stages. It is often in these physical relationships that various volumes precedents, a strategy of programmatic
intermediate stages that an intuition can be might have to each other or to model possible distribution, and the sense of an eventual
rediscovered and reemployed. forms based on material textures or behaviors, necessity to explain a project to others.
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Zaha Hadid used numerous
media in developing her
design for the MAXXI
Museum of XXI Century Arts
in Rome, Italy (completed
2009). Sketches indicate the
fluidity of paths, basic formal
organizations, light control
systems, and relationships to
the site. Relief models
maintain a flexible
interpretation of dimension
while facilitating studies of
light and shadow. Hadid’s
famous paintings study the
effects that luminosity,

kinetic motion, the
integration of contextual
networks and forces, and

parallax vision can all have on
the design’s development.


In developing the National pipe organs, violins, and

Music Centre of Canada sonorous chasms located
(Calgary, Alberta), Allied throughout North America.

Works Architecture (Portland, While the early concept

Oregon and New York City) sketches suggested chambers
used musical instruments to within vertical tubes—as with
motivate a concept founded pipe organs—the concept
on the principle that a models evolved to incorporate
building for music should the behaviors of materials
itself be reverberant and alive and methods of fabrication in
with sound. Their formal shaping the chambers so that
concept is derived from they mimic aspects of natural
investigations that included erosion and fissures.
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Representation facilitates the examination


and expression of architectural thought,

filtered through the unique conventions
that are embedded within each specific
mode and technique of depiction.
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The final architectural work inevitably bears the traces of its representational origins.

Architects do not build buildings, they make the

drawings and models from which buildings are made. 26

Take for instance a Scottish waller and a Native

American basket weaver—what do they share?

The medium in which each works is intimately tied

to the thing that is produced—they are inseparable.
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Michelangelo’s Study of massiveness of the walls. For
Fortifications Number 27 Michelangelo it was this
model the walls as sculpted blurring of representational
surfaces. Regulating lines boundaries that allowed his
that suggest cones of vision sculptural sensibilities to
(and angles of gunfire) translate into architectural
provide the geometric form while simultaneously
underpinning for the overlay fulfilling the fortifications’
of thickened lines whose defensive requirements
bistre infill registers the

Here, too, then is the argument that for The plan of Enric Miralles
the architect, the representational tools (a and Carme Pinós’s 1989–90
Olympic archery training
drawing, a model—be they analog or digital), range in Barcelona is
and the typologies (be they, say, a plan or a saturated with lines that
section, a drawing or a model) that are used mark both visible and
invisible geometries. These
in the development of a concept are to be geometries are motivated by
understood as accomplices to that concept— programmatic, structural,
and that the final work will inevitably bear experiential and contextual
relationships, establishing
traces of their influence. architectural form as the
tangible trace of an
Tools archeology of the seen and
the unseen, the static and
Let us begin with a discussion of the tools of the animate, the above and
the trade—the media with which architects the below.
work. Paper was the ‘ground’ of the
Renaissance architect where pen and ink
drawing for, perhaps, the first time served to
represent ideas for buildings. Drawings at
multiple scales and views were often
superimposed one upon the other to serve as Analog architectural space. If one were to imagine a
traces of a creative stream of consciousness. Just as a building is composed of a series of conversation, one might argue a correspon-
These permanent ink marks operated much independent systems that together construct dence exists between the volume of speech
like handwriting and often served as a the structure, the analog drawing can be and the significance of its content. Now, a
binding contract between architect and understood as an archaeology of lines—a scream is not always more effective than a
client. And while the tools have evolved and registration of multiple layers and ideas within whisper, and so too with the line. In an
expanded considerably since the Renais- a surface—that together register and imply architectural drawing, the weight of the line
sance, drawings and models remain the the third dimension. Unique to the pencil establishes a link to its role in constructing
primary media of the architect in both drawing is the use of line weight that allows architectural space. A very light line might
developing, representing, and executing the line to take on hierarchical significance in reference an underlying geometry or set of
architectural concepts. relation to the various systems that construct dimensional relationships. A darker, heavier

(continued on page 31)

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Morphosis and the Representation

of the Indescribable

Despite their ultimate and obvious solidity

and despite their concrete presence, works
of architecture begin and then persist as
ephemeral constructions. Architecture is
born from our remembrance of the archi-
tectures we have known and resonate with
our expertise in using the tools we are
given to produce further architectures.
Even after construction, our perceptions
of a building are influenced by weather,
light, sound, other occupants, the events
of our day, our thoughts and memories—
dodging and feinting through our
minds—all affect how and what we

Recognizing this, the work of Thom Mayne

and Morphosis proceeds from a commit-
ment to the ubiquitous complexities of our
world. It is instigated by the complexities
they observe beyond the work—in the site,
in the program, in history, in human behav-
ior—as well as forming a parallel to the
complexities that are always to be found in
every type of discourse.

Layers of complexity influence each proj-

ect from its inception, as Mayne and
Morphosis seek to infuse the projects with
compound forms, forms that collide, shear,
bend, warp, rotate, and that are as often Sixth Street: Serigraph, 1988
Thom Mayne with Selwyn Ting and John Nichols Printmakers
subtracted from each other as added, gen-
erally articulated by numerous materials
and textures. Just as in the early twentieth
century the cubists, futurists, and con-
structivists attempted works that, despite
their essentially static states, represented
the increased dynamism of their societ-
ies—present in speed, movement,
mechanical and industrial devices—the
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Above: Penang Turf Club Masterplan, 2004

Study Model, Morphosis

Perot Museum of Nature and Science: Giclée Print, 2009

Thom Mayne with Kerenza Harris; Jack Duganne (Printmaker)
and Jeff Wasserman (Serigrapher)

works of Morphosis supplement these

influences with each building serving as a
record of the dynamism of the process of
its production in anticipation of the dyna-
mism of its eventual usage and reception. Eventually, the computer with its consider- strategy of design that relates not only to
able capacity for storing, replicating, and the architecture of a building, but brings
In the earlier days of the office, the com- transforming visual information, enhanced to the architecture of a city the intricacies
pounding of forms was achieved largely the ability for Morphosis to use representa- of aggregate forms that normally accrue
through the transparency of paper and tion in a productive, experimental way. The only over time.
Mylar: drawings were layered, occasionally subtraction of complex, three-dimensional
even combining various formats of draw- voids from equally complex, three-dimen- Often, after its design process has ended,
ings (such as axonometrics, plans, and sional solids—complexities that were Morphosis would rerepresent a project in
sections) leaving remnants of an oblique previously almost indescribable—became a type of critical autopsy, an attempt to
in plan, of a plan in elevation, just as the relatively effortless. Not only does the identify and further mine the potentials of
components of a building might be merged computer permit the generation of these its strategies. In other words, representa-
into a larger complex. Occasionally, the indescribable forms, but it facilitates the tion in various media becomes a creative,
materials comprising the drawing, such as specific description of these forms directly vital, and organic process that leads both
copper ink, would be used to evoke a sense to engineers and fabricators. The genera- to the development of a design and the
of the material entropy that would nor- tion of actual three-dimensional models speculative exploration of a project’s
mally occur only in a completed construc- from many of these computer programs extended possibilities. For Morphosis, rep-
tion. The drawing, just as a building, was a became an invaluable resource for the resentation is the architect’s principal
construction with all of the attributes one investigation of what Thom Mayne experience of a building.
might find in a building. describes as “combinatory form,” a
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Left: Mies van der Rohe’s drawing of 1920–21
project for a glass skyscraper uses charcoal to
study the primary architecture concept of a
tower that celebrates the reflective properties
of glass. The strong, almost primitive, thrusts
of charcoal produce the distinct vertical
patterns of light created by the tower’s
faceted surface.

Right: This series of Herzog & de Meuron’s

model studies for the 2000 Prada Tokyo
project in Aoyama, Tokyo, explores the
perceptual relationship between the form
and material. The relentless repetition of a
standard form whose single variation is the

material with which it is constructed facili-
tates the immediate testing of alternative
material concepts.

line might establish the importance of a constructions. Freed from material specificity,
primary wall in defining the limits of the space they can suggest fluid conceptual associa-
or the surface of the ground from which tions between unlike materials but whose
a volume is emerging. It is the range and properties encompass similar characteristics—
relationships of these lines within a drawing as a building’s walls are an extension of the
that can establish the complex contextual, ground on which it sits.
spatial, proportional, and dimensional
relationships that are embedded within the Models constructed of more permanent
development of an architectural concept. materials such as plaster, wood, metal, or
glass can explore both the perceptual and
Physical models made from paper or card- physical behaviors unique to a particular
board have the ability to explore volumetric material’s composition and fabrication This conceptual model for ocean beyond is interrupted
and spatial relationships and depending practices. Plaster castings privilege the study Diller Scofidio’s 1991 Slow by a series of flattened glass
House is an apparatus for layers. Two distinct forms of
on their scale focus on one or two salient of architectural space as the models
vision. Building sections are vision are simultaneously
concepts with which the work is being necessitate the literal construction of the drawn onto glass slides that demonstrated: one a series of
developed. Due to the ease with which space as formwork for the actual production are incrementally inscribed reiterative and flattened
into the body of the house. spatial layers, the other a
they are constructed, they can be rapidly of the model. A steel model, on the other
Here, the reverse perspective perspectival (albeit reverse)
transformed, and even intentionally misread. hand, might be more concerned with form of the wooden mass that cone of vision.
They can infer materiality through the exploring the qualities of a concept that is connects the carport to the

dimension and deployment of their compo- informed by a component system—one that


nents—thick suggesting material massive is additive or layered—where repetition

(i.e., concrete or stone) and frame suggesting and jointure becomes a critical part of the
repetitive thin (i.e., steel or wood) but remain development of the concept.
abstract representations of three-dimensional
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In Ben van Berkel and Caroline Digital
Bos of UNStudio’s drawings for The computer enables alternate modes of
the 1998–2008 Music Faculty
in Graz, Austria, surface representation through 2-D and 3-D CAD
continuity is overlaid with software programs. And as with analog,
serial repetition to provide digital drawings are constructed—but unlike
the fundamental spatial and
structural tools that can be the analog, the construction of the digital
subsequently morphed and image does not evolve as a continuous
transformed to produce operation. Instead, it is a process of
spatial composition as a
function of programmatic introducing layers of information that, as
specificity. with a cadaver, are subsequently operated
on—operations that might include dissection
or accretion, addition or subtraction,
repetition and variation, forming and
deforming, lofting or booleaning, and so on.

More sophisticated computational processes

deploy the computer as a generative tool—
shifting its role from representing and/or
transforming existing form to making form.
Establishing a set of specific constraints and
behaviors can generate complex forms and
performative behaviors and relationships that
subsequently allow for the interactive testing
of alternatives within a context of both
physical and behavioral environments.

Software programs such as AutoCAD require

the use of an inventory of line weights to
create hierarchical differentiation. If this
differentiation in the analog is developed
through the processes of drawing, with the
computer the weight (i.e., significance)
assigned to each line must be determined a
priori. In other words, a certain knowledge or
intention is required.

Computational processes often deploy

geometric primitives that are subsequently
iterated, repeated, transformed, informed,
deformed, and reformed to produce
architectural form. The data that motivates
these procedural transformations of the
primitive can be informed by a broad range
of criteria (structural, performative,
ecological, and so on). The resulting
architectural vocabulary is one that often
registers these aggregations of morphing,
transforming, and accreting primitives. Here,
the architect is no longer the maker, per se,
but the choreographer of processes that
J. Mayer H.’s Metropol Parasol be a single primitive increment result in architectural form.
in Seville, Spain, (2004–2011), that is subsequently multiplied,
is an archaeological museum, informed, and transformed by
a farmers market, an elevated the parameters established by
plaza, multiple bars and the fusing of a bonded timber
restaurants, and a panoramic structure with extreme ranges
terrace—spaces that are all of programs, scales, and
derived from what appears to relationships to gravity.
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Professor Dana Cupkova’s responses generate complex D. Quesada Lombo, D. Wake)
2009 Adaptive Component geometries that are is designed as an inter-
Seminar at Cornell University subsequently fabricated dependent garden wall/gray
asks students to explore the by digitally controlled tools. water filtration system/
development of a component The resulting aggregated shading system/ventilator,
system whose individual forms express the perfor- one that provides expanded
parts adapt to localized mance parameters. The space for the building to
programmatic, structural EatMe Wall project, shown which it is attached.
and climatic criteria. These here, (D. Cupkova, M. Freundt,
incrementally adaptive A. Heumann, W. Jewell,

Computer applications can be directed to

program a wide range of machinery that
operates in very distinctive ways. Some use a
laser to cut thin layers of material that can
subsequently be assembled into three-
dimensional models (laser cutter). Others
use drills to remove or excavate material
from an existing material mass (CNC mill),
and still others aggregate lightweight
granular material via a series of successive
layers to produce an essentially homogenous
three-dimensional object (3-D printer). Each
of these fabrication processes is allied to
conceptual strategies that can be uniquely
In these study models—for an exceed the normal graphic forms. These models give the
addition to the Stockholm and modeling capabilities of designer the freedom to explored through the technological
Public Library (by student standard analog techniques. study form from a virtually constraints of the machine and its corre-
Natalie Kwee in Val Warke’s Digital programs, such as infinite number of perspec-
sponding software.

2011 design studio at Rhino, facilitate both the tives and facilitate the study
Cornell)—the 3-D printer uses addition and subtraction of of form as a function of its
digital information to compound forms, and then environmental, perceptual,
produce highly complex instruct the 3-D printer to and physical contexts.
combinations of forms that generate models of these
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Typologies of Representation Sections
Architectural representation facilitates the Sections are vertical cuts taken through
examination and expression of architectural space. They primarily concern themselves
thought as filtered through the unique with establishing a space’s relationship to
conventions that are embedded within a both ground plane and to other spaces, and
particular type of representation. infer movement between those spaces.

Plans Elevations
Plans are drawings that reveal the relationship Elevations allow one to describe the vertical
of surfaces and volumes in space. They are surface. They are useful for studying the
horizontal cuts through space, typically taken interface between two unlike conditions (as
at eye level looking down into the space. In a between an inside and an outside, or a public
series of essays originally published in L’Esprit and a private, or a large space and series of
Nouveau in 1921 and subsequently collected in smaller spaces).

Toward an Architecture, Le Corbusier writes:

“The plan is the generator. Without a plan, you Axonometrics
have lack of order, and willfulness. The plan Axonometrics are drawings that represent
Referred to as the classic always opening up diagonal
Carthage section, Le vistas in plan and, in this holds in itself the essence of sensation …” For the third dimension. They are measurable
Corbusier’s section for the case, in section. Within each with Le Corbusier, one arrived at the third drawings that allow one to study multiple
1927 Villa at Carthage shows space, one is simultaneously
dimension not through the construction of an surfaces of a volume simultaneously. They
a series of interlocking occupying at least three
spaces. It is perhaps the spaces: the space that one is image but as the result of the transformation are often used to represent architecture as a
clearest example of Le physically occupying is of the plan into mass, space, and surface. The single object or as a collection of objects.
Corbusier’s concept of the spatially overlapping with
plan is an architectural abstraction within which
“long dimension,” the notion those above and below.
of expanding spaces by are embedded the geometric principles of the
structure that rises above it.

Gio Ponti’s view diagrams for February 1961 article in penetrating it and moving The underlying frame of the programs on either side of it. transparency of entry and
his 1953–57 Villa Planchart in Domus, #375: “… it is a through it. It is made to be front entry elevation of The frame is suppressed as it the primary interior gathering
Caracas, Venezuela, generate ‘machine’ or, if you will, an observed by a continuously Giuseppe Terragni’s 1932 is transformed into billboard space beyond. And it becomes
the three-dimensional concept abstract sculpture on a moving eye. But this building Casa del Fascio (now Casa for projected texts and a more intimately scaled
for the house as a series massive scale, not to be is not made only for the eye; del Popolo) in Como, Italy, images viewed from the balcony as it slides in front of
of intersecting perspectives. viewed from outside but it is made for the life of its undergoes a series of adjacent cathedral square. the slightly recessed offices
As Ponti wrote in the his [experienced] from within, inhabitants …” transformations that mediate It is transformed into deep and meeting rooms within.
the divergent scales and portico as it expresses the
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Aldo Rossi’s 1971 competition
drawing (with G. Braghieri)
for the cemetery of San
Cataldo in Modena, Italy,
is a frontal axonometric/
perspective. Here, the
combining and flattening of
both walls and roof surfaces
within the drawing produces
a series of spatial layers that
reinforce the processional
nature of the complex,
emphasizing the status of the
iconic objects that populate
the interstitial layers. The
density of the drawing

presents the cemetery as an
extension of the city
Vision is the generator of the wall in New York City. A series
beyond—a city of the dead.
design concept as is of view cones becomes

demonstrated in this the operational device that
axonometric study of LTL’s is registered onto and
Memorial Sloane-Kettering subsequently excavated
Cancer Center Lobby 2005 within the mass of the wall.

Perspective drawings tend to privilege the
eye of the observer and what her or his
experience might actually be from a
particular point of view. While they create
the illusion of three-dimensional depth, they
can also be used to exaggerate the signifi-
cance of a certain object or space through
the convergence of lines toward one or more
common vanishing points.

Steven Holl’s drawings for unwrap the experience of the vertical sequence as a
the 1988 Cleveland House in ascending the stair that lines series of interconnected Animations
Cleveland, Ohio, literally the entry vestibule, inscribing perspective views. Animations explore the temporal aspects of
an architectural concept and the potential of
a space or material to undergo transforma-
tion. They tend to be iterative drawings that
can isolate a spatial sequence through which
one is moving or a more ephemeral
condition of light as it moves across a room.

Hybrid drawings and models sample multiple

representational typologies (plans, sections,

or elevations) to superimpose concepts,
materials, contexts, and scales that might

otherwise be embodied by singular represen-

Preston Scott Cohen’s 1994 by a continuous represen- and of surface and mass are
tational strategies. Through the combining of
“model” for a competition tational loop as perspectival blurred into a folded volume multiple representational typologies, the
proposal for a Head Start drawings of the volume are that constantly shifts characteristics that are elucidated by one are
Facility emerges from a re-embedded within it, which between two and three
two-dimensional field of is subsequently redrawn as a dimensions.
combined with the other, facilitating an
perspective drawings. An fused entity. The distinctions aggregate conceptual richness.
initial volume is transformed between drawing and model
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Accommodating a program is more


than solving a puzzle: It requires

three-dimensional strategizing, an
understanding of space, the addition
of missing elements, and a concept.
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Programs begin with measurements and expectations but mature with thoughtfulness and
understanding, anticipation, and empathy.

An architectural program is, in its most basic form, the

list of requirements that initiates a project. Outlined by 36

the client, often with the assistance of either an architect

or a special consultant, this type of program generally

represents a compromise between desire and budget.

And although determined by the client, the client is not
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Beginning with the Roman continued to evolve in

Empire, the freestanding meaning and interpretation—

arch conveyed a message of as a monument of wartime

memorialized triumph. The victory (alternately by the
Arch of Augustus outside French, the Germans, and the
Aosta, for example, connotes Allied troops), and as a monu-
a first-century BCE victory ment to achieved peace. Its
over a Gaulish tribe. The attic stories have been
nineteenth-century Arc de programmed to include
Triomphe in Paris, although associated museums, most
originally programmed to recently one dedicated to the
commemorate Napoleon’s iconography of the arch itself.
victory at Austerlitz, has

necessarily the user. Even in the case of a The Empirical Program of dimensions concerning height, grasp, eye
house, it is unlikely that a client would The empirical aspect of a program can be level, and the variable dimensions related to
forever be the only occupant. derived from charts, tables, and direct the body while sitting, leaning, or reclining.
measurements: in general, observations of These dimensions differ considerably in the
In schools of architecture, the program may the way things are. The data that contributes case of children from infancy toward
resemble a client-generated program, but it to the empirical program are basically adulthood. Additional dimensions should be
inevitably encompasses specific pedagogic dimensional, functional, relational, and taken into account for the accommodation
objectives. The studio instructor usually measurements determined by building of those in wheelchairs, those with special
generates such programs, with stated and safety codes. physical requirements, and the innumerable
requirements serving as vehicles for nonaverage adults.
achieving these objectives. Dimensional
There are certain dimensions that can Foremost in all of these cases are those
But despite the apparent clarity a program be taken for granted and that must be dimensions that permit someone to move
suggests, accommodating a program is more recognized when compiling a program. comfortably through space: hall and aisle
than solving a puzzle: It requires three- The most fundamental of these dimensional widths, ceiling heights, the angles and
dimensional strategizing, an understanding imperatives is the accommodation of lengths of stairs and ramps, as well as the
of space, the addition of missing elements, the human body. suitable arcs and angles that permit the
and a concept. Further, many programs tend unimpeded operation of doors, windows,
to include contradictory requirements that The architect should be aware of the kinds and other moving elements.
need to be resolved through some form of of bodies that will occupy a building. The
negotiation or innovation. average adult tends to conform to a range (continued on page 41)
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Program as Tactical Device: Rem Koolhaas

and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture

Bordeaux House, exploded axiometric sketch

It can be argued that the fundamental moti- The Bordeaux House addresses a unique user—with specific practical and custom-
vations guiding the work of OMA include a domestic program assignment by produc- ary needs: His program centers on a
relentless reconceptualization of the mod- ing a courtyard house on a sloping site, piston-driven elevator that serves a verti-
ernist project, an opportunistic attentive- organized into three horizontal slabs of cal house comprising an office, library,
ness to the intricacies and forces of formal associated functions. The result is a layered living, dining, sleeping, and wine cellar.
and cultural-political contexts, and persis- sandwich of program elements manifesting This elevator is a moving room, providing
tent exploration of the grammar-syntax- as a heavy floating house for sleeping in the access while fusing with the functional con-
language intersection. However, the most sky, a light house carved in the ground for ditions it engages on each floor, producing
essential act of invention and intellectual cooking and access, and an invisible glass a temporal alteration of activity that con-
rigor is asserted through OMA’s description, house for living and leisure compressed flates functions with users. The three
organization, distribution, and theorization between the two—each element self-suffi- daughters occupy a private sanctum within
of what we call program. With program, Rem cient and composed according to its own the compound’s levitated red box, achieved
Koolhaas—and earlier, Elia Zenghelis—con- programmatic logic. Within this structured by slicing the entire composition along the
struct a conceptual framework for making subdivision of program are rituals and longitudinal axis, bifurcating the house
function and use architectural, and against sequences that penetrate and actuate the into two halves: parents and daughters. The
which all context-based and culture-specific horizontal separations. The first is the father’s elevator is countered by a spiraling
experimentation is understood. domestic realm of the father—a wheelchair stair in a mirrored cylinder that serves only
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the girls’ bedrooms, linking them from the
entry “cave” in the ground to pinwheeling
bedrooms in the sky.

In their project for the Kunsthal in Rotter-

dam (1992), OMA was challenged to satisfy
a complex set of functional requirements
including three independently accessible
galleries, an auditorium, external café,
administration, storage, smaller galleries,
and service components. The scheme
assumes the form of a square penetrated by
a continuous exterior ramp facilitating the
connection between the boulevard and
Museum Park. A second passage, posi-
tioned below and perpendicular to the
public passage, allows for vehicular service
access. These crossing paths produce a
square cut into four distinct, disconnected
volumes. The resulting circulatory experi-
ence is conceived as a circuit of sloping
floors and ramps crafted into episodic
twists, turns, and counterintuitive move-
ments that ultimately connect each part of
the complicated sequence, suturing parts
fragmented by their initial functional
assignments, producing access and orienta-
tion along the way.

OMA understands the inherent value of

addressing architectural program, of
embracing functional requirements to help
advance the intellectual and performative
basis for their work. They consistently per-
form complex acts of functional elasticity
whereby the edges, names, and restrictions
associated with typical functional limits
are tested and teased, allowing for the
intermingling and co-occupation of other-
wise disparate programmatic elements.

—Richard Rosa II (Syracuse University)

Kunsthal, north-south and east-west sections

Rotterdam, 1992
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The dimensions required of certain furnishings Occasionally, even boats of various types Parking garages have been irregular floor plates (irregular
among the most inflexible in in plan and section, with some
must also be considered when developing a must be accommodated, each with its own
their programming and ceilings exceptionally high for
program. This is true not only of the obvious dimensions and docking requirements. functions, invariably optimized a typical parking facility),
furnishings one might encounter—for example, Moreover, vehicles usually require special for the accommodation of discontinuous structure, and a
automobiles: access ramps, number of intermittently
a single bed not only occupies a very different ventilation and fire enclosures.
turning radii, dimensional placed supplemental functions
amount of floor area than a king-size bed, parking spaces, lack of (such as shops, restaurants,
but the requisite areas surrounding each type Paradoxically, regardless of the people, obstructions, utilitarian and an “event” space often
pedestrian sequences, and used for product unveilings
of bed vary substantially—but also relates to furnishings, or vehicles one anticipates in a
vertical structure that is burly and weddings) to produce a
specialized furnishings. A trophy collection, program, it is inevitable that other people, and repetitive. One of a new continuously changing
a library of 10,000 volumes, a classroom with furnishings, or vehicles will need to be series of parking structures in sequence of episodes
Miami, the garage at 1111 connected by a grand,
thirty desks, or various medical treatment housed. People have children, age, develop
Lincoln Road by Herzog and cascading pedestrian stair.
and imaging machines, to name a few, all permanent or temporary infirmities; there de Meuron (2005–08) uses
have specific requirements for accommoda- may be more or fewer of them to be
tion, access, and occasionally for security or accommodated during the building’s
safety enclosures. lifespan. The motorcycle may be traded for a
minivan. New medical advancements will
In addition to the empirical data determined require different equipment. A high school’s

by the human body and by furnishings, one athletic team might become exceptionally
must also consider the accommodation of victorious, needing more room for practices
other specialized dimensions, such as those and trophies; or the number of desks in each

of various vehicles. Automobiles have a classroom may need to double or halve.

clear range of length, width, and height
dimensions as well as ideal turning radii. In other words, one should not put too much
Delivery trucks, however, inevitably require faith in the dimensional data one gathers while
a completely different range of such programming, to aim for the tightest fit. A
dimensions, as well as suitable dimensions loose fit is more likely to satisfy the vicissi-
for loading docks or mechanical lifts. tudes that accompany the life of a building.
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There are few reasons for an architectural
design to fail to meet its basic functional
requirements—to perform as it is required—
as long as those requirements are clearly
defined and there are the technical, material,
and budgetary means to accomplish them.
Functionality is the extent to which the
design is able to perform its tasks. Thought-
ful programmatic development can enhance
the functionality of a design.

A musical rehearsal room, for example,

might require specific acoustic characteris-

tics—depending on the instruments that

use the space,—as well as be isolated from
other performance spaces. Most classrooms
benefit from significant exposure to regulated
daylight and some even with direct access
to an exterior space. Other rooms, however,
especially those that deal with various
controlled media—such as projections and
computing—or light sensitive materials may
require an easily darkened space, or one
with no direct sunlight.

Often, a program will require a multi-

functional space, or the designer may decide
that several requirements can be simultane-
ously accommodated by merging spaces and
their functions, especially if these usages
might occur at different times of the day or
different seasons of the year. In designing
multi-functional spaces, however, the
architect must be certain that the space is
ideal for each of the separate functions. It is
often the case that such spaces, in their
aspirations for flexibility, eventually serve no
function very well.

The program for Alexander precipitous stairs and pass
A program should also note those elements Brodsky’s Pavilion for Vodka through the narrow doors.
that usually require direct proximity, such as Ceremonies (2004) at the Within the unheated pavilion
Klyazma Reservoir near (vodka should be near
pantries and kitchens or kitchens and dining
Moscow required the design frozen), the participants
spaces. Lobbies tend to be near entries, for of both a pavilion and a stand on opposite sides of a
example, which should in turn be near ceremony. Just as the simple wooden table and dip
reservoir is a retreat for tin cups—attached to the
Muscovites, the pavilion is table with very short
constructed of windows chains—into a basin of vodka.
salvaged from a factory in They toast each other with
the city. The whitewashed modest, slightly stooped
mélange of windows suggests postures. The ceremony’s
a typical rural shed. In single conclusion is indeterminate.
file, two people mount the
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vehicular access. While loading docks maximum availability of sunlight. Prevailing In 1792, John Soane began laboratory for his architec-
inevitably require proximity to a road or winds might be considered for the sake of purchasing and then heavily tural investigations as well an
renovating a row of educational environment for
driveway, they are rarely positioned in the passive ventilation. townhouses and stables on his sons, for whom he hoped
most publicly viewed faces of a building. Lincoln’s Inn Fields in architectural careers.
The notion of arranging elements by proximity Codes London. While the program Unfortunately, his surviving
for his manipulations was sons developed apathy for
is based on the optimization of usage or, Building codes, including safety, zoning, ostensibly that of a large architecture and a distaste
occasionally, of expense. For example, spaces construction, and even esthetic codes, urban residence, Soane, for their father’s architecture,
requiring plumbing are famously arranged can have a major influence on a program. architect of the Bank of in particular. He willed his
England and other great house to the nation, and it
close to each other, often back to back and These codes are generally determined by structures, saw his house as is now known as Sir John
vertically stacked, so that the expenses of municipal, state, and national bodies. Codes serving a didactic function: it Soane’s Museum.
construction and repair are minimized. can determine everything from the required was a continuously evolving

distances from property lines to the maximum

Orientation is also important in determining building volume with setbacks, from the
programmatic relations. A painting studio may widths of corridors to the numbers of fire
prefer north light, whereas a breakfast room is exits, from the types of materials that can be

best complemented with light from the east. used between spaces to the percentage of a
One may decide that public spaces, such as wall that is permitted to have windows, from
living and dining spaces, or waiting rooms and the types of steel that can be used to the

theater lobbies, should be oriented toward a performance requirements of that steel.

preferred view. Obviously, solar collectors Some codes even determine the color, style,
inevitably have a preferred orientation, and so and exterior materials that are permitted
their location must be determined by the when building in a specific location.
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Building codes can guard the safety and the
living qualities of those who use a building
as well as those neighbors who might be
affected by the effects of a construction as
it alters an environment: its shadows, its
emissions, its traffic patterns, and so on.
The designer who understands these codes
during the programming stage will immedi-
ately know the range of a project’s possibilities,
and will be able to make decisions that
benefit from the accumulated knowledge of
experiments, experiences, and examples.
(Overly restrictive codes, however, may
permit only predetermined design solutions,

a replication of set ideas, and prevent

innovations that may be beneficial to a group
of users, a society, or an environment.)

The Innovative Program

Jerzy Soltan, once a colleague of Le Corbusier,
and later a professor at Harvard’s Graduate
School of Design, succinctly observed, “It
seems the concept of the program is so often,
too often, accepted by the designer passively.
The relations between programming and
designing constitute often the most painful
part of the process in the birth of a building.
Le Corbusier coined the famous phrase:
‘to design well, you need talent; to make
a beautiful program, you need genius.’”
(“Architecture 1967–1974,” in Harvard GSD’s
Student Works 5)
When Le Corbusier was building, completed in 1963, program: the public is
brought in to design the introduced a ramp that invited to observe both the
Carpenter Center for the drew pedestrians from the artworks and their production Great works of architecture inevitably
Visual Arts at Harvard bounding streets and upward in what is essentially an
transcend the simple empirical data
University, the program called through the heart of the academic building turned
for exhibition spaces, studios, building. With the ramp and inside out, inaugurating a of a program, introducing elements and
a lecture/theater space, its accompanying spaces, new academic program in relationships that can bring more to a
offices, and, later, an apart- Le Corbusier introduces a the midst of a traditional
building than a simple resolution of its
ment for a visiting artist. The significant addition to the campus environment.
fundamental requirements: it can inspire
its users and address audiences beyond
its boundaries, accommodate unimagined
futures, and improve its environment both
physically and experientially.
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Empathy cafeteria workers and janitors. The architect
The eighteenth-century architect Claude- must be able to empathize with those
Nicolas Ledoux, wrote in his treatise on potential users of a work, to try to see
architecture that “the role of the client is to through the eyes of others.
express his needs, often badly. The role of
the architect is to rectify those needs.” While An architect should be able to grasp cultural
this may seem to be somewhat dismissive of and economic differences, to discover the
the role of the client, Ledoux underscores techniques with which a blind man senses his
the fact that, unlike the client who may be environment, the ways a child with mental
aware of only a confined set of forms and disabilities perceives her daily rituals, the
ideas, the architect must be aware of the conditions in which a senior citizen might
world beyond that of the client, of the wish to engage a community, or the

potential users and of the conceivable future importance of the family dinner within certain
of a project. Ledoux often had the French cultural groups. All of these understandings
monarchy as his client, but in the case of his can lead to modifications of a program. No

Royal Saltworks, for example, the users were two individuals can have the same experi-
an entire city of managers, workers, and their ences, but the architect is obliged to try to
families. Today, when designing a school, a understand the best means of empathizing
school district may be the client, but the with a user, in order to initiate a productive
users are the teachers and students, the and gratifying dialogue.

A municipal orphanage on humanist aspects of the of concrete modules neighborhoods centered on benches, door stoops, orphanage introduced open,
the outskirts of Amsterdam city—markets, streets, and containing interior public domed volumes accommo- archways, and ledges— unassigned, semiurban
provided the ideal program squares—as they might spaces while encircling a dating residential, living, and respond to the scale of its spaces as well as transitional
for Aldo van Eyck, whose correspond to the design of a sequence of exterior classroom spaces for each age young residents, with mirrors niches and nooks to a

interests involved the building. The building, courtyards. From above, the and gender group. Despite its and windows placed in building program that usually
relationship of architecture completed in 1961, is building reveals its village- overall diagrammatic unexpected places and nearly values efficiency over vitality.
to community and of the composed of an aggregation like organization, with precision, its components— invisible to adults. Van Eyck’s
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The Spanish Steps were
designed by the architect
Francesco de Sanctis,
possibly in collaboration with
the papal architect
Alessandro Specchi after
more than 125 years of
debate over how to connect
the Piazza di Spagna to the
church of the Trinità dei
Monti, located at the top of
a steep slope. While
programmed as just a stair,
the Spanish Steps function as
a vertical urban garden, a
market, a place to rest, a
viewing platform, and seating
for spectators.

Hybridization senior citizen’s center with a cooking school,

Some of the more innovative programmatic maybe even of a bowling alley with an art
manipulations come from the combination of gallery, all serve to bring the potential for
customarily isolated programmatic elements. provocative experiences to normally
For example, while shopkeepers often lived restricted programs.
above or behind their shops, this tradition
has been abandoned in favor of planning When human behavior is unconstrained
that separates commercial from residential by singular and proscribed roles, when a
programs, especially in modern cities. This program blurs the distinctions between one
results in districts that exhibit little life or more functions, humans tend to expand
outside a few circumscribed hours each day. the range of their observations and to
innovate new behaviors.
The hybridization of programmatic elements
can lead to a constantly reinvigorated Limitations as Advantages
environment, where unanticipated juxtaposi- Every program establishes a set of limits. Far
tions can inspire unexpected and unimagined from being deterrents to the design process,
thoughts and activities. The combinations of these limits are occasionally the sites of
a children’s library with a secret garden, an genuine architectural innovation. For
art school with a public passageway, an example, the necessity for using only locally
advertising agency with a billiard parlor, a available materials—pine, bamboo, or
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clay—may initiate an inventive use of these of public transportation, day care, commu-
materials that can have implications well nity, and educational facilities in these
beyond the development of a single project. neighborhoods has provided designers with
The unique cultural composition of a considerable challenges but has resulted in
neighborhood may suggest relationships some of the more inspirational productions
between previously ignored programmatic in contemporary architecture.
elements, like the use of a garage as an
exterior dining space. Jerzy Soltan, in the essay cited previously,
goes on to add his own interpretation to Le
Some of the most inventive architectural Corbusier’s words, “But good programming is
works are originating from studies of areas related to a broad and deep attitude toward
with very limited material and economic the whole world, and life, real and dreamed.”

resources, such as some of the “informal Programs may begin with measurements and
cities” that have grown surreptitiously (and, expectations but will mature only with
often, illegally) in the almost inaccessible thoughtfulness and understanding, anticipa-

centers and edges of many of the world’s tion and empathy.
most dense urban environments. The design

In Urubo, a small village in

Bolivia, Jae Cha designed a
small building to be
composed of locally
harvested wood and
translucent polycarbonate
sheets. Once designed, the
community built the
structure in just ten days.
Although programmatically a
church, the building’s plan—
a circle within a circle—is a
form that fundamentally
evokes the notion of
gathering, indicating its
capacity to function as a more
general type of communal
gathering space. With its
luminous wall surfaces
lending the structure a sense
of lightness and spirituality,
the church at Urubo (2000) is
a beacon of assembly and
both the religious and civic
nucleus of the village.
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Every architectural work exists in the


presence of a chorus of contexts that can

impart meanings to and, in turn, derive
meanings from their associations with
the work.
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While a context can be measurable, it is also always malleable.

A work never exists in isolation. There is always a

context in which it is situated, and in which a relation- 48

ship to that context is established. And while that

relationship can be platonic, casual, symbiotic, or

detrimental, it is the specifics of that context and the

ways in which it is interpreted that establish the terms
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A composite building that forming streets and squares terminate them. It fuses Through its single columned viewed from the city below. within a residential
evolved and expanded over as it sidles up to existing itself with its context, it is an portico the Einar Jonsson However, its opposite side neighborhood. The design of
600 years, the Vienna linear edges and as it architectural chameleon that House (Reykjavík, Iceland, addresses what was planned the house thus inspired the
Hofburg had an extended completes fragmented urban appropriates, blurs, and 1916) establishes a to be an intimately scaled scales and proportions of the
conversation with its spaces, but creates a produces its urban monumental presence when public space embedded city as it developed around it.
surrounding context. It not previously illegible axis as it boundaries.
only alternates between constructs backdrops that

of dialogue. For one project, it might be the Material

physical context that emerges as the most Material can establish a context for a work.
pressing voice to engage, for another it might If one is to build a house in a town of wooden
be the infrastructural, for yet another it might houses, perhaps one might build it out of
be the ephemeral or the environmental. The wood. Or perhaps the material context might
dialogue can be one of friendship or of foe, be a particular species of wood in a local
one of accomplice or of exploitation, one of forest, or the granite of a nearby quarry.
exaggeration or of disregard, one of exposure Or, inversely it might be thought of as an
or of obfuscation. Yet, ultimately, a work has extension of the ground on which it is
the ability to give meaning to a context, to constructed—as in a stone house situated on
encompass all that already exists within that a rocky outcropping. Or perhaps it will be
context and the opportunity to inflect made out of brick to refer to an abandoned
previously unknown contexts. brick factory whose very existence created
the town. In other words, a material context
At the Center for the extinct local quarries to
Advancement of Public develop a material dialogue Physical Context is an expansive one.
Action completed in 2011 for with many of the civic Within any site there are the physical ‘givens’
Bennington College in structures that populate
that bring unique identity to the context in Scale
Bennington, Vermont, Tod the villages and towns of
Williams and Billie Tsien used Vermont. which a work is to be situated. They can also Within a context there are two aspects of
reclaimed marble from now be strong factors in motivating the concept of scale that need to be addressed. One is the
that work. Existing structures have specific scale of the site: a building in the middle of
dimensional and spatial characteristics (heights, the city will be affected by the scale of the
widths, openings, volumes), and material and neighborhood—whether it is embedded in a
construction methodologies. Natural and block or surround by skyscrapers—or by the
artificial topographies (flat or sloped, soft or scale of the landscape in which it is situated (a
hard) can be powerful determinants in vast plain or a dense forest). Then there is the
establishing a building’s relationship to its site, scale of perception—the distant views from
and views from and to the site bring an which one will perceive the building and the
expanded identity to a specific context. Yet, views that will be perceived from the building.
while these ‘givens’ are measurable, they are
often malleable, as a work can either emphasize (continued on page 53)
or deemphasize their significance through what
it chooses to call attention to.
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Álvaro Siza, Site-Seeing

If the engagement of a context is one of a

work’s most powerful forms of dialogue—
the intimate, meaningful contact between
a condition and a proposition—the works
of the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza
Vieira are some of architecture’s most
articulate communications. Siza has devel-
oped a practice in which his buildings
seem to gather both natural and man-made
contexts into virtuoso compositions that
suggest they have always been integral
features of their environments, even
as those environments are constantly

For example, the horizon is a recurring

theme in Siza’s earliest project, the Boa
Nova Tea House in Leça da Palmeira. Highly
controlled views define the building’s vari-
ous relationships to its contexts. The steps
leading to the front door tell us of our prox-
imity to the sea, of our position within the
rocks, of the nature of the large, hovering
roof that shelters the tea house. A long, low
horizontal dormer in the entryway reiter-
ates the ocean’s always calm horizon while
a tilted skylight directly above shows a
piece of the sky, and another window below
frames a contrasting view to the turbulent,
rocky shore.

Later, the Galician Center of Contemporary

Art is surrounded by important baroque
structures, most notably a former monas-
tery with its cascading gardens. While the
museum’s stone cladding recalls the gran-
ite of its neighbors, this stone is clearly
cladding rather than stacked masonry,
appearing at times to be suspended in the
air and surprisingly thin. On its most
public side, the museum’s masses follow
the edge of the street, their profiles subtly
deforming, causing the building to continu-
ously reshape itself, based on one’s position Boa Nova Tea House,
Leça da Palmeira, Portugal, 1963
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in the surrounding spaces. When approached
from the neighboring school, the angled
soffit and ramp seem to elongate the dis-
tance toward the monastery, making the
historic structure appear to loom larger
than it is. From the monastery, these same
angles distort perspective in the opposite
way, shortening the apparent length of the
street and reducing the scale of the muse-
um’s volume. The regular grid of the stone
cladding underscores the distortion of the
surface. On the garden side, the museum’s
mass seems to be reduced, adapting to the
scale of the former gardener’s shed, and
stepping downward until it becomes itself
a garden wall.

The works of Álvaro Siza Vieira do not

simply denote their contexts, but they
observe, analyze, and even explain their
surrounding conditions—connecting con-
texts that have dissolved into a past with
those being discovered in an ever-new
present. As Siza has said, “Architects don’t
invent anything; they transform reality.”
Working with the layers of realities found
in a site, Siza manages to produce works
that elaborate, expand, test, and inevitably
alter our perceptions, demonstrating that
even finished buildings are capable of con-
tinuously renewed and expanded dialogues
with their contexts.

Galician Center of Contemporary Art,

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1988–93
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Space Álvaro Leite Siza’s Tolo House
There are primarily two scales of spaces. in Lugar das Carvalhinhas–
Alvite, Portugal (2000–05)
A building exists within a network of public amplifies the steepness of
spaces, and how a building relates to these site by hugging its surface as
spaces can establish conditions of entry and it cascades down its extreme
embankment, a staircase that
orientation. And then there is the building’s connects upper and lower
internal and sometimes private spatial circulation networks. The
network, whose circulation and access to air, dwelling becomes a surrogate
landscape within which and
light, and view are equally dependent on its on which the occupants reside.
relationship to those public spaces.


The natural site will have specific physical
attributes as in impenetrable or porous,
sloped or flat, irregular or even, permanent or

temporary. It can also be a constructed site
Peter Eisenman’s City of
that operates as a surrogate ground (a block Culture of Galicia (2001–11)
of buildings, a retaining wall). It can be a visual references the city plan of
nearby Santiago de
one—as in the views that are seen from the
Compostela, Spain, in
site. The dialogue established with these site producing a surrogate
conditions can initiate spatial complexities. landscape that connects the
rural topography with the
urban center. The landscape
Infrastructural Context is metaphorically inscribed
There are aspects of contexts that already by pedestrian “rivulets” that
define the volumes of the
have elaborate networks and systems
complex’s eight buildings.
embedded within them, some of which may
be tapped into whereas others simply may
have to be contended with. These can take
the form of physical traces, as in archaeologi-
cal or geological layers, or more formalized
transportation and service infrastructures. It
is the dialogue with these infrastructures that
can locate a work within a specific context.

Occasionally, a site has been previously
occupied—an archeological palimpsest,
layered with traces of what was once there
over an extended period of time. One has to
decide how, if at all, these sometimes physical
and other times implied, traces of previous
occupations are going to inform a subsequent
layer. A museum built over a great roman ruin
might be considered differently than a house

built over an old ice shed. Similarly, the

structure of a site can be the result of an even
The form of the View House apparently contradictory
more distant set of geologic events that can

by Johnston Marklee and desires to have privacy within

subsequently provide insights as to its future Diego Arraigada Architects in a suburban context and yet
Rosario, Argentina, develops establish framed views of the
evolution. The nature of this transformation
in response to a perceptual distant landscape. Direction
and movement over time can inform an and environmental engage- of prevailing winds and angles
architecture that anticipates potential disasters. ment with context. A series of sunlight situate the house
of formal distortions solve in its more ephemeral context.
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Referencing their Roman new site for the display of the

ancestors, Rafael Moneo’s town’s excavated objects. As
1986 Museum for Roman with an archeological site, the
Artifacts in Merida, Spain, geometry of the parallel walls
overlays a series of load- registers the location of the
bearing masonry walls onto excavated ruins onto which
the ruins of a first-century they are overlaid and through
BCE Roman town and which they pass with
subsequently becomes the abandon.

A building’s relation to existing circulation
and service networks has to do with suturing
the various systems that would make a
building a vital component of a larger
network. Existing paths at multiple scales
(pedestrian, automotive, bicycle, public
transportation) may be pulled into the
building to not only provide access but to be
In manufacturing a new site narratives. Its moss walls
part of a larger whole. Access to various on the lake, Studio Granda’s recall the flora and fauna of
service elements such as water, air, sewage, 1992 Town Hall in Reykjavík, the sagas, its volumetric
Iceland, both collects existing porosity an extension of its
and electricity can also provide parameters
paths and manufactures new urban context, its circulation
that inform a project’s engagement with this ones that were previously a walking route between two
expanded context. unseen. Its resulting form distinct neighborhoods and
becomes a civic collector, one in winter it operates as
that is reinvented seasonally staircase to the frozen lake.
Ephemeral Context and at multiple scales and
The idea of a Grand Prix being held in
the city of Monaco or the Spirit Path at the
Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul Korea where only
The stepped water structures
spirits are allowed to walk are but two as documented by Klaus
examples of the many invisible contexts that Herdeg in his portfolio of
drawings that accompanied
require a different form of investigation.
his 1967 exhibition Formal
Cultural traditions, narratives, and local Structure in Indian
histories are often embodied in the physical Architecture are examples of
how the rituals and customs
constructs that a culture produces.
embedded within a particular
culture find expression in
their architectural constructs.
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The fourteen chapels of the pavilion establishes the

Sacro Monte located near spatial context for one of the
Varese, Italy, and completed important events of the life
in 1623 contain scenes of the of Christ, and like the
life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, chapters in a narrative, each
and the saints. The chapel pavilion is situated in relation
pavilions construct a to its adjacent pavilions to
pilgrimage path up the now produce a seamless spatial
sacred mountain that journey through the landscape.
terminates in the church of
Madonna del Monte. Each

Tradition Narrative It is through the geometry intersecting domestic rituals

Rituals and traditions specific to a culture Architecture has the ability to illustrate a of Ben van Berkel’s 1993 of sleep, work and domestic

Möbius House in Het Gooi, life of the couple that inhabit

can be inscribed within a context. They can story, one of legends and of wars or one of Netherlands, designed for a it are spatially mapped within
produce specific buildings or landmarks that loves and of obsessions. A translation inevitably couple with two children, that the volume of the house.
mark an extended route along which the has to occur and it is in perceiving that the two independent and yet

ritual occurs, or they can produce spaces translation that the work is able to address a
within which cultural practices can be user, and then it tells a story.
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The red, pyramid-topped
cones of Souto Moura’s 2008
Casa das Historias Paula
Rego in Cascais, Portugal,
reference both religious and
secular contexts. By evoking
both the kitchen chimney of
the monastery at Alcobaca
and the pointed turrets that
dot the cityscape of nearby
Sintra’s National Palace, it
situates and interprets the
museum within multiple
histories and contexts.

Historical Extreme Variability

The reading of a historical context reveals Architecture has a responsibility to anticipate
what might have happened before on a that the environment in which it is situated
particular site. It can connect a series of will change, and often in quite unpredictable
events that might have occurred in vastly ways. Extreme weather—floods, earthquakes,
different time periods. And even though it hurricanes, and avalanches—introduce design
may not be physically present, a historical parameters that situate a work in a specific
context continues to be alive in the environmental context. A building erected in
memories of the citizens. a flood plain might be raised on stilts while
one in a frequent avalanche zone might be
Environmental Context wedge shaped and embedded into the
One of the most important and pressing mountainside.
Constructed over 4,000 years
aspects of the design of a structure is its ago, sunken courtyards dot
environmental context, a context that can Weather the landscape of Henan
province. These ingenious
either affect the building positively (as Rates of environmental change can be more
dwellings not only take
provide warmth or shade) or extremely predictable, from a twenty-four-hour cycle to advantage of the relative
negatively (as in erosion or collapse). Most seasonal variations. A building’s anticipation constant temperature of the
earth to keep them cool in
characteristic of this context is that it is of the behaviors of basic yet constantly
the summer and warm in the
continuously transforming, either in changing environmental elements of sun, winter but free up the ground
predictable or unanticipated ways. And the rain, and wind cannot only be traced in the plane for agricultural fields.
building in turn has a responsibility toward placement and dimension of apertures, the
that context: perhaps at worst it will coexist, slopes of roofs, and the materials used, but
but at best it will enhance it. in the more fundamental placement of a
building within its actual physical site.
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Atelier Bow Wow’s 2008
Double Chimney House in
Nagano, Japan, reflects the
firm’s belief that architecture
should express the behaviors
of its occupants and the
inherent elements of the
environment in which it is
constructed. Here the house
is split open into two halves,
permanently registering both
its program (one side for
guests, the other for the
owner) and its environment,
as the house carefully
situates itself amongst the

trees, opening itself up to the
southern light.

The Global Seed Vault in the avalanches and major storms.
Svalbard Mountains of The roof and front of this
Norway (2008), designed by concrete and steel entry is a
Peter W. Søderman of beacon signaling the
Barlindhaug Consult, is a presence of the structure
highly secure facility while suggesting its function
containing up to 4.5 million as a potential source of life
seeds from around the world, rediscovered. This sculpture,
partially carved into a entitled Perpetual
mountain for protection from Repercussion by its artist,
variable temperatures, Dyveke Sanne, consists of
earthquakes, climate change, prisms, mirrors, and steel
and other potentially shards that combine with
devastating environmental turquoise fiber optics to
impacts. Its entrance is alternately reflect the subtle
designed in both shape and arctic light and to glow with
material to avoid the risks of its own luminosity.

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Architecture can be considered an


instrument that, either through passive

or dynamic means, actively engages
or takes advantage of environmental
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Architecture exists as just one part of a total environment, engaged in an intricate balance
between exploitation and enhancement.

A building exists in, and interacts with, the environ-

ment at various scales—from the cellular to the infra- 58

structural—and the definition of that environment is

important in framing its relationship and engagement

with a design. Every design should anticipate not only

its impact on the environment but also the changes in
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Rahul Mehrotra Associates’
2004 Rural Campus for the
Tata Institute of Social
Sciences (TISS) located in
Tuljapur, India, builds on an
ancient ventilation practice
by introducing wind towers in
all its buildings. These wind
towers catch the wind that
exists at higher elevations
and draws it into the
building, facilitating the
integration of passive cooling
to its interior spaces.

the environment that will subsequently environmental conditions to a building’s

impact it. Variable conditions that include benefit. Taking advantage of the natural
seasonal change, temperature, precipitation, insulation and thermal properties of earth,
wind, solar exposure, as well as potentials for example, can suggest embedding houses
for extreme weather that can be responsible within the ground or making walls out of
for fires, flooding, avalanches, and so on, adobe bricks or rammed earth.
can be powerful conditions that inform
architectural form. A building’s orientation can take advantage of
prevailing winds by allowing cooling breezes to
Architecture can be considered an instru- move through apertures specifically designed
ment that, both through passive or dynamic to capture and facilitate airflow. It can harness
means, actively engages and takes advantage sunlight to warm its interiors through the
of environmental elements. Defining the addition of a plane of glass layered proud of its
terms of the environmental boundaries within exterior walls, making what is called a Trombe
which a building exists is critical to establish- wall. Daytime heat, captured between these
ing the nature of its interaction. And the two surfaces is subsequently absorbed through
The Icelandic turf house
emerged as a response to the awareness that a building impacts not just its the walls to its interior at night. The Trombe
northern climate’s harsh immediate environment, but that it exists wall effect greatly minimizes temperature
temperatures. A roof covered
within an expanded environmental cycle can variations and reduces the need for
with thick turf and walls
made from double rows of influence such aspects as choice of materials supplementary heating systems.
earthen ‘bricks’ cut directly and its subsequent ability to be an active
from the surrounding
participant in improving the environment. Responsive
landscape form an insulating
cover around the timber Architecture can be performative at multiple
structure. Grenjadarstadur, Instrumentation scales as it engages the environment. Whether
Iceland, nineteenth century.
As with any kind of instrument, architecture it is a material that is embedded with an
too can be an opportunistic device that environmental intelligence (a form of genetic
exploits, passively, and/or actively, environ- engineering, where materials are altered to
mental conditions and contexts to benefit serve architecture), an individual manipulating
the comfort and rituals of its inhabitants. a vent, or a mechanism that rotates an entire
house, a dynamic architecture is one that
Static, Passive actively interacts with a continuously
Form, orientation, siting, and material changing environment.
choices can use or even amplify existing
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The bamboo folding screens control the amount of
that enclose FOA’s (Foreign harsh sunlight filtered
Office Architects) 2007 into their individual
Jenny Sabin and her their speculative e-Skin Carabanchel housing project units, working together
collaborators, spanning project—a responsive wall in the periphery of Madrid to create a continuously
across the fields of cell assembly of biomimetic allow the occupants to transforming façade.
biology, materials science, surfaces composed of
electrical and systems sensors, signals, and
engineering, and architecture, responses. (Cell-matrix
search to understand how interface by Ihida-Stansbury
context or environment can and Yang, responsive wall
specify form, function, and assembly by Sabin, Lucia,
structure. Dynamic biological and Nicol)
processes offer unique
insights into generative and
ecological design and inform


Controlled by a three-button
panel, Angelo Ivernizzi’s
1929–34 Casa Girasole (or

Sunflower House) in northern

Italy rotates so that it can
follow the position of the
Sun. Borrowing its revolving
technology from railroad
turntables, the wheel’s tracks
are subsequently traced
within the garden’s plantings.
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Sustainable Environments Energy
Architecture influences the planet in which we Solar panels and geothermal systems are just
live, and the question one should ask is: How two examples of how the environment can be
does this sensibility affect architectural form? used to provide the necessary energy to
enhance a structure’s heating, cooling,
Vegetation—local and infrastructural benefits ventilation, and power needs.
Earth-covered roofs can both insulate and
manage runoff erosion by absorbing One Man’s Trash Is another Man’s Treasure
rainwater. Green walls planted with native An opportunistic architecture is one that
vegetation can provide habitats for natural reuses material that has either been discarded
species, improve air quality, absorb rainfall, or considered spent. Tires, discarded soda
as well as provide building insulation and cans, material salvaged from building
Epi-phyte Lab’s Green environmental analysis. The noise reduction. demolition, and so on, can be appropriated
Negligee proposes an screen hosts a range of bio- for new constructions. Manufacturing

environmental armature for diverse systems, species, and

an existing housing block in energy-capturing devices Materials processes that reuse already used products to
Bratislava, Slovakia. The that together address the The effect of depleting the Earth’s resources produce recycled building materials reduce
performative veil, part inefficiencies of the existing in the choice of building materials can be postconsumer waste. Material fabrication
building part landscape, building and create new
finds its form through spaces for social interaction. minimized if they themselves are replaceable. processes that use biodegradable materials
It is well known, for instance, that bamboo can also insert themselves into this cyclical
forests are replenished every five to seven years. concept of regeneration.

Building envelopes for example, can be Remediation Holistic View

engineered to breathe or sweat to repel Buildings and landscapes can contribute to Architecture exists as part of a total
moisture or to become more opaque as the cleaning of polluted environments. environment. Environmental economies can
they acoustically mediate inside and out. Contaminated soil and water often found in begin to emerge as a result of considering
A responsive architecture is one that under- abandoned industrial wastelands can be the potentially dynamic reciprocity between
goes transformation as motivated by its remediated through introducing frameworks multiple species and the environments that
engagement with environmental stimuli. It that support plant growths that absorb sustain them. As with the cell, where half of
is one that is often embedded with scales existing pollutants or earthworks that isolate what defines its behavior is what exists
of programmatic responses from the cellular and contain contaminated earth. outside of it, complimentary systems feed
to the mechanical. each other and build on symbiotic and
cyclical relationships to construct sustainable
Composite materials can be engineered to and fluid environmental ecologies.
combine behaviors and characteristics that
were previously identified with individual
materials. The study of nature’s models
increasingly serves as inspiration for the
development of material systems that mimic
nature’s ability to adapt to a continuously
changing environment, where performance
is often directly related to form.

Siobhan Rockcastle’s 2008 it back into the water. A

Bachelor of Architecture component system of
thesis at Cornell University triangulated forms of various
proposes a series of artificial dimensions and densities
groundscapes that draws constructs a system of
contaminated water up from elevated walkways, bridges,
the water table and filters it and follies, allowing the
through a canopy of live pedestrian to experience the
material before reintroducing remediated landscape.
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MINIWIZ uses recycled PET

bottles to form its POLLI-Bricks,
an architectural brick capable
of cladding entire buildings.
The 2010 EcoARK constructed
as the main exhibition hall of
the Taipei International Flora
Exposition uses these recycled
bottles as its primary building
material. The translucent
blocks can be disassembled
and reused elsewhere.

Caroline O’Donnell of CODA’s
“Party Wall” uses detritus
from a skateboard
manufacturer as its primary
cladding for MOMA’s PS1
2013 summer pavilion. The
scalelike wooden shards
create a porous skin that not
only offers summer shade but
can also be detached to
provide event seating.

Terreform ONE’s Rapid Re(f) compacted, is transformed

use: Waste to Resource City into various shapes that can

2120 project proposes a be subsequently assembled

landscape in continuous for new construction.
motion, where nothing is ever The city is continuously
really thrown away. Here, rebuilding itself from what
trash is separated into has been discarded.
material categories and,
instead of being arbitrarily
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In architecture, a sense of mass is


derived from the noticeable presence

of volumetric density.
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Paradoxically, a sense of massiveness can be most evident in conditions of apparent

Most consider the making of buildings to be an additive

process—and indeed it usually is. It is the layering of 64

multiple materials and systems that, together, construct

the completed edifice. However, when a work is concep-

tually conceived as a monolithic volume, the resulting

mass transcends the thinness of these layers.
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The walls of Wang Shu and the seeming fragility of each
Lu Wenyu’s 2008 Ningbo material component. It
Historic Museum in Ningbo stands as a monumental
China are constructed of testament of the absence of
bricks and tiles recycled from those structures devastated
local buildings. A delicate by disaster and of the
imbalance is achieved presence of (vanishing)
between the massive form construction traditions.
with its tilting surfaces and

And though buildings tend to be thought of

as massive if they are very large, a sense of
mass in and of itself does not necessarily
suggest scale. Mass is the distinct presence
of volumetric density.

The pyramids of Egypt are masses that

convey solidity and impenetrability.
Embedded within their cores are the inner
sanctums of the pharaohs for whom they
were built. Here, mass is both a literal volume
In Peter Zumthor’s Thermal The spaces that are defined
of stacked blocks of stone and a symbolic between these piers are read
Baths in Vals, Switzerland,
one of impenetrability and longevity. The mass is achieved at two as the primary spatial voids.
secret passage through which the mummy distinct scales. A series of At another scale, bands of
(often occupiable) piers in compressed gneiss produce a
was transported is conceptually understood monolithic mass of material
spatial dialogue with one
as an excavation within this mass—a negative another together construct density.
space that is conceived through the removal mass at the building scale.

of mass.

A sense of mass is achieved by the relentless
repetition or aggregation of material or
volume that subsequently transcend their
individual incrementalism in favor of a
monolithic surface or volume. Yet, conceptually,
mass is conceived as a solid form, from which
spaces have been subsequently “carved.”

A sense of mass is exaggerated by the
repetition and accumulation of elements that Alberto Burri’s Cretto—a land concrete poured atop the
are known to possess considerable mass—as in art installation in Gibellina, rubble. The abstracted urban
Sicily—is conceived as a monolith references the
a pile of stones or bricks or a stacking of logs. memorial to the victims of town’s physical past and
the 1968 earthquake that embedded within the masses
(continued on page 69) destroyed the town. Here, the that construct the ghosted
wreckage was amassed back streets is the physical
into the blocks by which the detritus of imagined
town had originally been narratives.
organized and a blanket of
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Mendes da Rocha
and the Levitation of Mass

The Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da

Rocha asks a group of students if they know
why the pyramids were built. After all of
the traditional answers have been hesi-
tantly proffered and rejected, with Mendes
da Rocha all the while shaking his head, he
goes on to say, “The pyramids were built
because someone pointed at a giant rock
lying on the ground and asked, ‘How can
we get this up there?’ ” and then he points
up into the sky.

The exhibition of getting this up there is a

recurrent theme in his work, which inevi-
tably involves masses that are not simply
floating but, at times, appear to be caught
between ascent and descent, hovering over
plazas, pools, and even other buildings.

Because concrete, his material of choice, is

intrinsically very heavy, to see it float is to
witness an almost supernatural event, with
viewers’ responses being more of a subjec-
tive, emotional order than an objective,
rational one. Still, the levitation of mass
demands a resolution in physics, and
Mendes da Rocha supplies these resolu-
tions … sparingly.

One encounters the importance of mass at

the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São
Paulo. If the neoclassic museum required
a grand portico to signify its entrance as
well as its importance, Mendes da Rocha
uses a giant beam spanning the site to mark
the presence of this important museum. Mendes da Rocha: Brazilian Museum of Sculpture,
São Paulo, Brazil, 1988
This hollow beam, delicately supported on
its two end walls with seven steel joints,
houses lighting and storage for outdoor
events, while protecting from sun and
weather the plaza that is in turn the actual
roof of the museum as well as its principal
exterior public space. Investigating this
hulking yet buoyant block, one discovers
the primary interior spaces of the museum
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Mendes da Rocha: Underground passage entry on the Patriarch Plaza, Mendes da Rocha & METRO Arquitetos: Cais das Artes, Vitória,
São Paulo, Brazil, 1992 ES, Brazil, 2008

below, carved into the gently sloped site The main gallery block of the Cais das
on a corner of a residential neighborhood. Artes (Arts Quay) in Vitória, designed with
The block provides the museum with its METRO Arquitetos, seems to leap and frolic
symbolic portico, yet preserves the scale above the pavement of the quay, permitting
of the neighborhood by reducing the bulk views of the bay beyond and contrasting
of the museum itself. with the resolute groundedness of the audi-
torium cube. Supported only on three pairs
Similarly, the huge steel blade that soars of columns, the massive hollowed concrete
above the entrance to the underground pas- side walls (gigantic trussed beams, actu-
sage in Patriarch Plaza in São Paulo protects ally) support the interior floors, their
the escalators and stairs from the elements varying heights indicated by the steps of
while sketching an elegant arched entryway the walls. Light reflected from the plaza
over what might otherwise have been just below lights the galleries through the gaps
a hole in the ground. The huge square arch between the staggered floor slabs. One
that marks entry into this important space moves about within the museum with the
seems almost to twist and crack as it sends same grace the museum moves about the
two brackets downward to support the quay. Once more, Mendes da Rocha derives
asymmetrical, curved arch over the stairs. lyricism from massiveness.
This arch then frames views from within
and through the space, ironically providing Concrete becomes cloudlike.
a human scale from beneath while present-
ing a monumental scale when viewed from
the city, a monumentality that suggests the
importance of the gallery buried below,
giving access to one of the city’s primary
urban parks.
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In Ethiopia, Bete Giyorgis and space results from a

(or the Church of St. George, subtractive process, a literal

twelfth century) has been excavation that simultane-
carved from the solid volcanic ously produces the mass
rock in which it is located. (solid) of the church and its

Here, the construction of mass occupiable spaces (voids).

By cutting into a solid, its thickness is
revealed; massiveness is disclosed by the
removal of substance that allows one to
perceive its dimensions.

Architectural poché, on the other hand, is

the occupiable space that appears to be
excavated within the mass. Typically, it is
hierarchically secondary in programmatic
significance yet introduces another spatial
layer within the “ground” of the mass whose
surfaces define the primary spaces of the
building. This ground can often become a
figural accomplice to the shaping of
Conceptually understood as of the regulating lines and architectural space.
an initially solid volume from data of the surrounding
which discrete masses have context: extensions of
been removed, the resulting existing campus paths, views The Nolli Plan of Rome, for example (see
voids in I. M. Pei’s 1973 that align the building with chapter 11), represents the city as a solid mass
Johnson Museum in Ithaca, the distant landscape, and
New York, are spatial parapet heights of adjacent
within which a series of figural voids has been
inscriptions and extensions buildings. conceptually excavated. There, the city is
conceived as the inhabitable poché of everyday
life whose building surfaces produce the
background for the figural voids of civic and
religious spaces. Here, the public interior

spaces of the city are given for the first time

equivalent status as public exterior spaces,
producing a seamless spatial condition of

quotidian market, palazzo courtyard, religious

sanctuary, and ceremonial piazza, all defined by
The showers, toilets, and Their volumes reveal their
cupboards of Pierre programmatic contours
the backdrop of the inhabitable mass of the city.
Chareau’s 1928 Maison de and dimensions while
Verre in Paris, France, occupy establishing the spatial
the poché that sculpts the perimeters of the spaces
spaces of the principal that their surfaces define.
bedrooms and bathrooms.
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Grafton Architects’ sectional are conceptually carved from

study model for their 2008 a geological mass, producing
Bocconi University in Milan, an occupiable landscape that
Italy, demonstrates a spatial mediates between the scale

density where both the of the building and the scale

primary auditoria and of the city in which it is
“streets” between buildings embedded.

In Pezo and Von Ellrichs- Pacific Ocean. The perimeter

hausen’s 2005 Casa Polli in walls that also define its
the Collumo peninsula of primary spaces not only serve
southern Chile, the cubic to locate its services and
mass of rough concrete circulation, but they become
emerges from its site as a the primary screen through
lighthouse might on the which the landscape and gaze
rocky precipice of the is framed and mediated.

The “Siamese Towers” of the surface, privileges the

Technology Center at reading of a solid mass—one
Catholic University in where scale and detail give
Santiago, Chile, are clad in a way to profile and silhouette,
series of skins, an outer one a monolith set against the
of clear glass and an inner distant snow covered
one of fiber cement. The mountains. Alejandro
collectively opaque, yet Aravena, 2003–05
Characteristics mass—however here density is not equated
constantly transforming
Density and gravity are terms that are most with weight or lack of space, but rather with
commonly associated with mass—the impene- opacity and lack of scale.
trability of a volume or its perceptual weight.
Density While all buildings are in a perpetual state of
A sense of mass can be achieved through resisting gravitational forces, an awareness of
material or spatial density, as in a stone wall this resistance can be amplified through
or a medieval village, where the heaviness of detaching or articulating a structure from its
the material and the relationship of solid to ground. It is in this condition of apparent
void contribute to the perception of density. weightlessness that a sense of massiveness
Monolithic form can also convey a sense of can be most evident.
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The two shells of detaches its industrial

Massimiliano Fuksas’s San context from its interior
Paolo Apostolo in Foligno, sacred space. The idealized
Italy (2001–09), are interior is suspended within
simultaneously heavy and this exterior shell by strands
light. The exterior concrete of concrete shafts that, in
shell is a seemingly turn, draw exterior light to
impenetrable box that its interior.

Lina Bo Bardi’s 1968 São are embedded the museum’s

Paulo Museum of Art lifts the auditoria and supporting
volume of the museum’s spaces) and the hovering

primary galleries and mass above creates the

Mario Fiorentino and 1944. Here, the solemnity of suspends it from two Belvedere—an urban piazza
Giuseppe Perugini’s Fosse the event is given presence enormous beams supported that connects the Paulista
Ardeatine, the 1945–52 through the mass of the on four pillars. The resulting Avenue to the city of São

cemetery and monument enormous concrete space captured between the Paolo and the distant
outside Rome, marks the sarcophagus that hovers lower ground plane (in which mountains beyond.
mass execution of Italian above the graves and beneath
civilians by the German which the visitors pass.
occupation on March 24,
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Structure can be understood to be that


aspect of every construction that assists

in countering gravity and transferring
loads into the ground.
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The interplay between elements in tension and those in compression has been a
fundamental aspect in the development of architectural forms.

A common metaphor, whereby architecture is

represented as a body, considers structure to be a
form of skeletal system. This is only sometimes true,

however, in the cases when the various building


systems—skin, mechanical, interior finishes, and so

on—are separated. It is perhaps most profitable to
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The Hemeroscopium, a house beams piled in a spiral that

outside Madrid, Spain, culminates in a twenty-ton
completed in 2005 by Antón counterweight that is located
García-Abril and Ensamble at the “G[ravity] Point.” Two
Studio, is a composition of beams of water—swimming
expressed equilibrium, pools—offer compositional
comprised of six different balance to the construction.

consider structure to be that aspect of every branches, leaves, and bark were most likely
construction that assists in countering gravity used to simulate the protection of trees. It is
and transferring loads into the ground. While commonly believed that with these branches
gravity is a constant for most earth-bound and the trunks against which lean-tos were
architecture, loads can vary widely—even supported, columns may have had their origin.
during the life of a building—depending on Perhaps memories of the spatial characteristics
the materials used, the occupation of the of caves encouraged the development of
building, and even the effects of wind and vaults and domed spaces.
Regardless, most early structures were
The beautiful efficiency of the earliest human composed primarily of elements that were
shelters probably developed from the in compression; that is, the tree trunks,
occupation of natural structures: caves and bricks, and stones—then columns, walls,
trees. Once humans found themselves and arches—were typically being squeezed
searching for food in situations where there by gravity.
might have been no available shelter, The billowing and apparently of steel tensile structures
weightless roof structure of covered with PVC-coated
(continued on page 77) the 1972 Munich Olympic polyester and supported by
Stadium by Frei Otto and steel masts and concrete
Gunther Behnisch is only one anchors. As with traditional
part of a comprehensive tent structures, the Olympic
architecture that connected a buildings were fully
number of the Olympic sites constructed off site, and then
beneath a continuous mesh erected in just a few days.
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Shigeru Ban and the

Softness of Structure

Shigeru Ban delights in making strong

structures out of weak material. Through
multiplication and increases in dimension,
previously unimagined structural proper-
ties are introduced to standard materials.
The result is a structural expression that is
characterized by the distinct qualities of
the weak material, one that is simultane-
ously familiar and yet abstract. The
building’s spatial program is the structure
and whether it is through recycled paper,
cardboard tubes, wood laminates, or ship-
ping containers, the structures are
designed according to the strength of the
material used, taking advantage of the
characteristic of the material itself. The
material operates as a found object,
imparting its inherent limitations to its
creative redeployment.

Shigeru Ban has said that he discards

material preconceptions and in so doing
is able to connect the material or shape of
a standard material with an abstract idea,
one that is often informed by an environ-
mental sensibility. As with his 2009
installation for the London Design Festival,
his paper-tube structures have introduced
a poetic value to a relatively low-tech and
adaptable material. Here, the triangulated
filigree of compressed cardboard tubes
rose 72 feet (22 m) above the south bank
of the Thames, a skeletal structure that
simultaneously evoked the area’s indus-
trial past while referencing the underlying
timber-framed structure of the nearby
reconstruction of the Globe Theater and
the timber navigational pylons of the
Thames. A material normally used to make
boxes was redeployed to produce a geo-
metric spider web that not only pushed the
boundaries of the material’s potential, but Shigeru Ban: London Design Festival,
London, England, 2009, tower and detail
situated it within a complex set of cultural
and historical contexts.
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Shigeru Ban: Temporary Housing Shelter,

Onagawa, Japan, 2011, axonometric

Top: Shigeru Ban: Paper Bridge, Gardon River, France, 2007

Above: Shigeru Ban: Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club House,
Yeoju, South Korea, 2009

In Onagawa, Japan, following the earth- challenges our material and structural pre- Club House in Yeoju, South Korea. The bun-
quake of 2011, Shigeru Ban deploys a conceptions. In the shadow of the massively dling of individual timber elements gives
checkerboard of 20-foot (6 m) shipping constructed stone bridge of Pont du Gard, way to a hexagonal latticework—fusing col-
containers to construct a temporary hous- a proliferation of lightweight cardboard umns with surface into an uninterrupted
ing shelter. Here, the prosaic shipping tubes construct two arched trusses that structural expression. The aggregation of
container is reused as the basic building support a suspended walkway of recycled an otherwise inconsequential material
block of a three-story structure. The struc- paper and plastic, a ghosted reference to amplifies its structural and spatial poten-
tural expression of the construction the Roman engineering that preceded it. tial—the material itself seems to have been
emerges as a result of the multiplication Not unlike the stone that produced the enlarged under a microscope as we experi-
and stacking of the standard container, a Roman bridge, the spanning structure is a ence the beauty of its magnified world.
found object—the alternating arrangement demonstration of the discovered proper-
producing the simultaneous spatial ties of the cardboard tubes that function as
requirements for both storage and open its primary building block.
living spaces.
“Structure itself is decoration,” Shigeru
Imagine a bridge that would span a river, Ban explains in a 2007 Design Boom inter-
and that bridge would be made of paper. In view—and nowhere else is this more evident
the south of France, Shigeru Ban again than in the 2009 Haesley Nine Bridges Golf
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Perhaps it was the bending of saplings
against stronger trees, and the stretching of
ropes, and later chains, upon which bark or
slivers of stone were added, that led to the
usage of structures in tension. When a
material is in tension, it becomes stretched
by gravity, even if such stretching is not
noticeable to the naked eye.

The interplay between elements in tension

and those in compression has been a
fundamental aspect in the development of

architectural forms.


The basic elements of a structural system are
also the primary elements in the production
of architectural space: columns, walls, beams,
slabs, and their various combinations.
For the Burgo Paper Factory and its linear processing 98 feet (30 m) wide, supported
in Mantua, Italy (completed of wood pulp into rolls of by two pylons that clearly
Walls in 1963), a column-free area newsprint. The architect- communicate the transfer
of almost 90,000 square feet engineer Pier Luigi Nervi of loads from cables into
It is not surprising that most of the earliest
(8,100 sq m) was needed to designed a graceful suspen- the ground.
architecture to survive until our time was accommodate the paper sion bridge–like structure,
a mural architecture, that is, buildings manufacturing equipment 815 feet (248 m) long and
composed of walls. Walls could be easily
constructed by stacking earth, wood, or
masonry. Thick walls, whether straight sided
or battered (with sloping sides), are among
the most efficient methods for transferring
loads from a roof into the ground. They are
also very effective in the separation of
spaces, especially in dividing the public from
the private elements of a building or city
(not to mention fortified walls, separating a
city from an attacking enemy).

Retaining walls are used to hold back earth

or sand and to prevent erosion and other
forms of soil migration. It is often necessary
to construct retaining walls in order to
stabilize the ground when constructing on a
slope. Retaining walls essentially reconfigure
hillsides, transforming a natural topography
into an architectural feature.

In addition to collecting roof loads from

arches or beams and then transferring them

vertically into the ground, columns provide
In the Johnson Wax toward their tops to become The effect is of a carefully
a way for space (and people) to move Headquarters building in elements of a roof network, modulated grid of delicate
through the various layers of a building. In Racine, Wisconsin (1936–39), with ample skylights columns with a flood of
by Frank Lloyd Wright, spanning between the natural light penetrating
their earliest manifestations, columns were
columns gradually spread hovering, disclike slabs. between their canopies.
understood as pieces of a discontinuous wall,
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squarish in plan and massive in dimension.
Eventually, columns began to become more
objectlike, and arches—especially when
connected in a series—could span fairly large
distances, with their loads carried downward
by increasingly slender columns.

Perhaps originating as replications of trees

or, among the more nomadic groups, of tent
poles, columns have always been considered
to be among the most expressive elements
of architectural construction. Since the
ancient Egyptians modeled columns on the
culturally significant papyrus plants, palm

trees, and lotus flowers, with faceted sides

possibly implying tree bark, columns have
been among the most sculptural components
of a building. Columns have been shaped to
reflect theories of architecture’s origins, of
classical perfection, or harmonic order.

While a wall can be composed of a variety

of pieces, even of mud and piled stones,
singularly or in combination, columns require
more carefully constructed elements; the
failure of a column tends to be more perilous
than the failure of a piece of wall. It is not
surprising, then, that in order to symbolically
fortify the apparent strength of a column, one
even finds columns that personify the carrying
of weight: female caryatid figures appear on
the Acropolis, with the male versions—atlantes
and telamons—becoming very popular from
the sixteenth century onward.

It is a testament to the architectural

importance of columns that, as architecture
evolved, columns were even applied to walls
as a form of decoration—pilasters and half
columns—as if to bring to the surface the
latent strength and order that columns can
impart to a wall.

The Porch of the Caryatids at metaphorical condition, with

the Erechtheion in Athens the massive weight of the
(c. 420–405 BCE), probably roof transferred through the
sculpted by Phidias, necks of the individually
demonstrates columns in carved maidens.
their most decorative and
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Beams Structural arches—more common today in The Rolex Learning Center in is composed of individually
Beams are a building’s principal element of bridge construction than in architecture— Lausanne by SANAA shaped laser-cut curved wood
(completed in 2010) is beams supporting a series of
horizontal structure. Beams typically accept might be considered to be bent beams. They composed of an undulating thinner roof membranes. The
loads along their entire length to be are wholly in compression, transferring their base slab, much like a series effect is that of being in an
transferred downward to be collected into forces downward in an arc onto a column or of domes that forms a rolling expansive interior landscape
interior terrain of mounds, with very few columns, from
two or more points, on either walls or wall. The addition of hinges at the two points archways, and courtyards. which one can view the
columns. Most structures have a hierarchy of contact and, on occasion, also at the apex The equally undulating roof distant Alpine landscape.
of beams, with primary beams being the of its arc, allows an arch to flex under a
principal contact with the vertical structure variety of loads and changes in temperature.
and secondary beams (or joists) spanning
between these primary beams. In the case of Slabs
especially large structures, there may even As Sandaker, Eggen, and Cruvellier point out
be tertiary beams. in The Structural Basis of Architecture, “The
slab is perhaps the most ubiquitous and yet
While walls and columns are generally being under-appreciated of all structural elements.”
compressed, beams are most frequently in a Providing the predominant horizontal surfaces
state of bending. For this reason, beams are of a building, slabs often present themselves
usually composed of materials that can as floors and ceilings. The structural aspect
withstand a degree of flex. Occasionally, a of slabs (they could be considered to be
beam will be comprised of laminated layers, expansive, flat beams) is often overlooked.

often of glued wood, in order to more Not only do slabs span between columns, they
effectively resist bending. can also provide stability to the perimeter
walls, support intermediate non-load-bearing

Trusses are composed of triangulated partitions, and carry the massive “live” loads—
elements, usually of metal or wood, that can essentially people, vehicles, furnishings, and
span great distances with less mass and occasionally wind, rain, and snow—that a
greater efficiency than most beams. Because building needs to accommodate.
trusses are largely open, they offer greater
possibilities for containing service elements
and, if large enough, even entire floors.
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Slabs do not necessarily need to be flat or even
straight. While the tops of slabs usually provide
the basic surface of floors, the undersides of
slabs can be ridged, providing directionality, or
with deep wafflelike indentations, thereby
performing in a multidirectional mode. When
exposed, the undersides of such slabs can
provide a visual complexity that can bring
scale and texture to a space.

A vault might be considered to be like either
a bent slab or an extruded arch. Vaults can
span large distances, transferring their loads

both downward and outward along their two

sides. Because of the massive loads that can
be deposited along these sides, vaults are
usually constructed either with thickened
walls lining their edges, additional counter-
vaults converging on the sides, or some form
of buttress that can assist in transferring the
loads diagonally downward into the ground.

Domes might be considered to be like arches

that are spun along their central axis. In fact,
beginning with gothic architecture, many
domes consist of a series of arched ribs that
converges in a center. As with vaults, domes
require a considerable amount of support
along their edges in order to transfer the
radial forces diagonally downward. As
materials evolved, it became common to
see tensile elements—chains, iron rods, and
cables—employed in vaults, domes, and
similar structures to bind the opposing sides
together in order to resist outward thrusts,
holding the structure together from within.

Felix Candela’s Bacardi Rum 90 degrees) that are little

Space frames are essentially three-dimen- bottling plant in Cuautitlan, more than an inch thick at
sional trusses: vast expanses of lightweight Mexico (1959), is one of the their peaks, the structure
most elegant examples of a presents large, high-ceilinged
elements—usually steel or aluminum—inter-
reinforced concrete shell interior space while providing
laced in a large, triangulated mat, like a giant structures. Composed of a ample light for the industrial
tabletop requiring few points of vertical series of groin vaults operations yet limiting direct
(two vaults intersecting at sunlight.
support. Because of their internal geom-
etries, space frames can be modified to take
on virtually any profile, even highly irregular
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The works of Spanish composition. The results
architect Santiago Calatrava often resemble the delicate
consistently propose an skeletal structure of birds,
elaborate balance between though at an enormous scale,
elements in tension and those as here at the Quadracci
in compression, rendered Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art
completely in white so that Museum (completed in 2001)
the structural figures with its combination of sun-
coalesce to form a singular screening with enclosed spaces.

Structural Space
In the earliest times, a construction was its

structure. The exterior forms and interior
spaces of prehistoric and ancient architec-
tures were inevitably a direct manifestation
of their structure. As time passed, the desire
to embellish this structure with additional
elements, to infill gaps with windows or
decorative features, to attach finials and
gargoyles and false façades, led to a certain
cloaking of structure. Issues such as acoustics
and temperature control eventually led to
the separation of a building’s interior
elements and its structure (one thinks of
wood paneled libraries and the vast
reverberation chambers above theaters).
Exteriors even displayed layers of implied
structure—aedicules, niches, pilasters, half
columns, and latticelike grids—that masked
the actual structure within.

As more materials and processes of fabrica-

tion became available, the elements of a
building’s structure began to develop greater
efficiencies and capabilities. It became easier
to subsume structure within the thickness of a
floor plane or the thinness of a membrane,
hiding the structure from view.
Columns, their shapes, and with movement flowing freely
spacing, can determine the around them. At the opposite
ways in which spaces are extreme, a row of piers can But, regardless of the visual evidence of a
perceived and imply the ways appear opaque when viewed
building’s structure, the enactment of its
in which one might move on the oblique but emphasize
from one area to another. movement parallel to their battle with gravity and its accommodation
Round columns, for instance, long surfaces. of loads continue to have a profound effect
tend to be multidirectional,
on architectural forms, on the shaping of

spaces, and on our experiences of the work

as a whole.
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A building’s surface is quite literally


its face to the public, its civic mask.

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A building’s enclosure is its primary contact with an exterior. Like clothing, its role is
protection, while offering an insight into the “personality” it projects.

Just as a first impression is often drawn from the

expressiveness of a face, the vertical surfaces of a 82

building are usually the first, most communicative

aspect of a structure’s design. From tepees tattooed

with autobiography to chalets embellished with

painted window frames, from the portals of gothic
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Within a thickness of just a

few inches, Michele
Sanmicheli’s Palazzo Canossa
in Verona (1527)
accomplishes an abundance
of apparent depth. Like a
huge and complex basket,
horizontal moldings weave in
and out behind pilasters and
in front of windows; in the
rusticated base, window sills
appear to be squeezed from a
recessed band; the pilasters
on the upper floors seem to
penetrate the massive cornice
line; and a central element of
three large arches—duplicat-

ing the proportions of those

above—lead the eye into a
deep porch and further to the
banks of the River Adige.

The eighteenth-century similar information. His

French architect Nouvelle Méthode text
Jean-Jacques Lequeu was employed numerous
convinced that human self-portraits (including Le
cathedrals encrusted with saints to the Perception physiognomy could inform Grand Baailleur [sic], or The
façades of Renaissance palazzi proffering During the Renaissance, for example, the design of buildings and Large Yawn, of 1777–1824),
that the overall facial then transferred by the
treatises on architecture, from the mechanical architectural treatises were inevitably based
distortions resulting from gridded techniques used by
efficiencies of early industrial buildings to the on the then newly defined artistic fundamen- specific emotional and draftsmen in representing
meticulously detailed slickness of a corporate tal of linear perspective. Perspective in the physical impulses could be both human figures as well as
translated into elevations engineering projects and
curtain wall, surfaces—transparent or arts gave us an awareness of the horizon, of
that could communicate military architecture.
opaque—will always introduce a building’s the vanishing point, and—perhaps most
essence. A surface is a building’s face to important for the evolution of surfaces—of
the public, its physiognomic expression, the picture plane. The surface of a building,
and its civic mask. especially the building’s most frontal surface
(the one facing the ideal viewer), could be
In most incarnations, the surfaces of a considered equivalent to the surface of a
building display to an observing public the painting: it can project objects from behind,
function of the structure—home, place of suggest objects in front, introduce various
bathing, place of worship, place of fortifica- subjects one in front of the other. A
tion, place of imprisonment, place of building’s surface can, within just a few inches
education. However, these displays tend to of thickness, imply unfathomable depths.
become subtler at times when architecture
passes through periods of reevaluating its The effects of light and dark, as well as of
material elements, when it becomes colors also lend a building’s surface a sense
As one’s eyes move over and The central opening at the
engaged in the polemics of other arts, or of relative depths, or of layers of information, around a surface, it is top appears to recede into
when it is determined to demonstrate a or even of a type of camouflage: it can blend possible to encounter many an illusory depth, suggested
levels of suggested depth. In by a false perspective.
scientific argument. in with its landscape, develop an affinity for
this wooden model of Upon focusing on this deep
its neighboring buildings, or recede into a Michelangelo’s project for the window, the proportional
texture of other, similar volumes. façade of San Lorenzo (made affinities to the larger door
to his specifications in 1517), below—framed by the two
the two buildings that appear original openings—become
(continued on page 87) to be stacked on top of each apparent, leading it to appear
other are unified by three to emerge into an artificially
openings topped by arches. close foreground.
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Barkow Leibinger and

the Active Surface

The architectural surface is normally con-

ceived of as a vertical plane that encloses—
one that is primarily concerned with pro-
viding security and ventilation and
demarcating the limits between public and
private. Barkow Leibinger challenge these
assumptions, arguing instead that the
architectural surface, regardless of its ori-
entation, is one that has a responsibility to
demonstrate the ephemeral traces of a par-
ticular program and site. Their surfaces are
conceived as topographical landscapes that
actively register the passage of light or of
gaze, the dimension of structural incre-
ment, the polychromy of context or the
collection of water. In so doing, they pro-
duce the spatiality of the surface, blurring
the boundaries between inside and out,
between sky and ground.

In their 1998 Laser Machine and Tool

Factory in Stuttgart, Germany, the roof is
the primary surface that is activated. A
normally static membrane is here trans- Barkow Leibinger: Laser Machine and Tool Factory, Stuttgart, Germany, 1998
axonometric and exterior view of roof
formed into an undulating surface of glass
and aluminum clerestories that simultane-
ously illuminates the production halls
below and collects rainwater for laser cool-
ing. The resulting three-dimensional
patchwork references both the physical
context of agricultural fields and an his-
torical context of annexed allotments.

The tower addition proposed in their

Bremerhaven 2000 competition entry
fuses surface with building mass. Surface
here is not relegated to a more or less
modest planar dimension. Instead, surface
is a volumetric registration of the build-
ing’s programs—a seamless expression of
the spatial configuration and material dif-
ferences of a wide range of programmatic Barkow Leibinger: Bremerhaven 2000 competition entry, 2000,
exterior rendering and upper floor plan
variables that are literally stacked one atop
the other—a full-scale Rubik’s Cube, where
a standardized unit gives way to a highly
articulated increment.
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Barkow Leibinger: TRUTEC Building, Seoul, South Korea, 2006,

exterior view

In Barkow Leibinger’s TRUTEC Building in polychromatic light—like a 1960s Moon

Seoul, South Korea, an entire city is regis- crystal that splits the spectrum into its cor-
tered within an 8-inch (20 cm) surface. responding colors and is simultaneously
Glass shingles clad an otherwise modest invested with its (urban) healing powers.
structure, and yet it is the precision of their
crystalline chamfers that collapses ani- The load-bearing concrete grid of precast
mate readings of its physical and ephemeral elements drapes itself across the rectangu-
Barkow Leibinger: Tour Total, Berlin, Germany, 2012,
context onto its surface. The surface is a lar body of Barkow Leibinger’s 2012 Tour
exterior view and exterior detail
pixelated skin—an architectural Chuck Total headquarters building in Berlin. The
Close—whose reading continuously fluctu- surface behaves as a structural moiré, fold-
ates, a function of weather, sun, angle of ing and crimping as it appears alternately
vision, and evolving urban contexts. Here, opaque and transparent. Here, surface oper-
the surface performs: at times the building ates as a constructed geometric pattern, one
is camouflaged as it reflects (becomes) its that is programmed by a dynamic interface
surroundings, at others it is a beacon of between gravity, scale, and material.
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Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa varying degrees of depth to
del Fascio in Como, Italy, the openings, ranging from
(1932–36; now a civic office very deep terraces (as above
building and renamed the on the right), to subdivided
Casa del Popolo) is windows inches behind the
proportionally a precise half surface frame, to volumes of
cube. Each of its four sides glass that protrude inches
has a similar geometric from the surface. The Orange Cube in Lyon, aluminum screen (with a panels on a concrete frame.
organization, but with France by Jakob + MacFarlane bubble pattern suggesting The solar heat is controlled
Architects (completed 2011), the river’s proximity) and through these layers, while
achieves the effect of external window shades, all the giant conical holes
considerable depth of surface of which cast shadows on a facilitate air movement
by layering a perforated wrapper of steel and glass through the structure.

Interfaces express the public face of the building while penetrate outward. These surfaces might
A building’s exterior surfaces are, in effect, confronting its numerous environmental also breathe in that they may be required to
interfaces between outside and inside, public conditions. Inner layers may include control natural ventilation and heat gain from
and private, between the population of a city structure, mechanical systems, and insulation. direct solar penetration.
and the occupants of a building. The surfaces The most interior layer may express the
and the various membranes of which they are specific requirements of various interior In order to more effectively control solar
composed help to keep the occupants warm spaces, providing utilitarian amenities and penetration of a building, both for environ-
or cool, prevent the penetration of precipita- comfort to the occupants. If the outermost mental purposes as well as for privacy and the
tion, control sound levels, modulate the surfaces are required to provide the greatest control of views, the exterior surfaces of a
penetration of light, provide for the privacy visual effects of a building’s designed building may often be composed of screenlike
of those inside, frame views, provide access, intentions, the innermost layers of a components. These screens may take many
and facilitate egress. Depending on a design’s building’s surfaces are often those that are forms, such as concrete brise soleil, perforated
functions—theater, bank, farmers’ market, engaged most tactilely by the users. metal panels, or even computer-controlled
prison, courthouse, department store, and so arrays of louvers. Screens can provide a
on—the surfaces of a building may be Performance building with something like an exterior armor,
required to perform additional duties, such as All exterior surfaces of a building—roofs, rigid and impenetrable, or a floating veil,

to display the interior to a large audience out- walls, foundations—are obliged to prevent translucent and elastic.
side its volume, communicate the building’s weather from rendering a structure unusable,
function, propose its potential occupation, whether through rot, insects, the penetration The enclosure of a building is its primary

suggest security or permanence, or to invite of moisture, inhospitable temperatures, and contact with an exterior. Like clothing, its
or dissuade entrance. so on. At the same time, these surfaces must role is protection—of the building’s occupants,
often also be able to breathe: to allow gases interior finishes, and often its structure—
As interfaces, the surfaces of a building may and moisture (often in the form of condensa- while offering an insight into the personality
contain numerous layers. The outer layers tion) from within the building and its walls to it projects.
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Materials carry meanings through


embodying traditional materials,

methodologies, and rituals of
construction as well as through the
less tangible aspects of the uniqueness
of place, program, and culture.
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Materials, both natural and artificial, retain traces of their origin, and they communicate
intrinsic qualities that evoke associations and responses in their perceivers.

Materials are an architect’s instruments. When a

composer writes a piece of music, it makes a consider- 88

able difference if it is to be written for a solo piano,

a string quartet, an orchestra, or a marching band.

Similarly, an architect’s choice of materials has a

profound effect on both the form of the work and its
reception by an audience.
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A material’s behavior bears witness to its
interaction with a variety of both ephemeral
and physical contexts while its properties
inform its constructive processes: its
fabrication, transformation, potential
perforations, types of apertures, and the
details of its interactions with other materials
within a construction and its environment.
Materials, both natural and artificial, retain
traces of their origin, and they communicate
intrinsic qualities that evoke associations and
responses in their perceivers.


A material is often identified with its

sensorial capabilities, which in turn inform
how a space is perceived and how a surface

Intrinsic to each material are its physical
attributes, which can perhaps best be
described by a series of pairings—thick or
thin, opaque or transparent, matte or
reflective, dark or light. It is the qualities of
these attributes that suggest meaningful
associations with not only the program of a
work, but also its perceptual experience. A
wall made of glass might appear to dissolve
the boundary between public and private, or
inside and out, but it can also convey a crisp
brittleness and a reflective hardness that
suggests an atmospheric serenity. Of course,
the manipulation of this very same material—
tinting, screening, sandblasting, for exam-
ple—can easily reverse these characteristics,
and it is in exploiting these reversals that a
Overlooking Lake Lucerne in material, but one that brings
material’s capability to expand its programs Meggen, Switzerland, stands unexpected programmatic
and perceptions is often discovered. Pius Church designed and (stained glass windows) and
built by Franz Füeg between perceptual (illumination)
1964 and 1966. Here, marble, associations. The work
(continued on page 94) a typically opaque material, exploits marble’s potential as
has been thinly cut to just a material that can simultane-
over 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick to ously demonstrate multiple
produce a surprising characteristics: from the
translucency, demonstrating exterior, it is a cubic rock by
a characteristic that is not day and a lantern by night.
normally associated with the
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Material and “De-Material” in the

Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron

The Swiss firm of Jacques Herzog and Pierre

de Meuron, has been based in Basel since
1978. While their designs favor basic, easily
recognizable volumes (traditional house
forms, simple boxes), their provocative and
unfamiliar usage of materials has consis-
tently altered our understandings of the role
materials can play in an architectural work.
Herzog and de Meuron consistently deprive
materials of certain of their expected prop-
erties, leading the observer to experience
aspects of the building’s ambitions that
would normally be obscured by the “grip” of
the material’s more familiar usage.

As is already clear in their first Ricola

warehouse, it is very common for the “lan-
guage” of materials to communicate
through several modes of signification. The
Herzog & de Meuron: Stone House; Tavole, Italy, 1985–88
scale and detailing of the material not only
suggests similar constructions, such as the
wooden tobacco barns throughout the U.S.
that fascinated Herzog, but the horizontal
layering of panels reflects the horizontal house with its site. It appears to be a deco-
layers of limestone immediately adjacent rative touch, elaborated by the apparent
to the building. The use of materials can absence of the concrete on the corners. In
suggest a function: In this case, the dense reality, the concrete is the structure, with
storage of goods is represented in a build- smaller columns tucked within the corners.
ing that looks as if it were, itself, a pile of The dry masonry walls play no structural
stored wood. At the same time, the viola- role, being instead exactly what they
tion of some of the material’s expected appear to be: a film of lightly stacked
traits serves to signify a deeper sense of stones collected from the area. While the
the building: The “wood” is actually cement apparent lightness of the concrete leads us
panels; its “stacking” is accomplished to believe that it has no structural value,
through loose attachment to a frame; its the apparent massiveness of the stone sug-
“solidity” is actually highly permeable. gests structure. The house leads us to
question our material prejudices, referring
In the Stone House in Tavole, Italy, the dry to the traditional usage of materials while
stone masonry walls at first suggest the drawing us into new, unexpected impres-
other stone houses of the village, as well as sions. A material seduction begins to occur.
the retaining walls that shore up much of
the hill town. Thin concrete bands divide
the walls, apparently mere traces of an
organizing geometry that connects the

Herzog & de Meuron: Ricola Warehouse; Laufen, Switzerland, 1987
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Herzog and de Meuron’s most recent work
seems to employ more subtle modes of
material manipulation: materials such as
stone, metal, and concrete develop unex-
pected textures, and these fundamentally
opaque materials join essentially transpar-
ent materials, such as glass and plastic, in
beginning to assume a quality of translu-
cency and reflection.

For example, the gabions that line the exte-

rior walls of the Dominus Winery in
Yountville, California, at first produce the
image of a massively rusticated country
wall. Gabions—wire mesh cages usually
containing rough stones collected on-site—
are traditionally used for retaining walls,
most familiar for their usage in highway
construction where their strength seems to
be equated with their apparent solidity and
opacity. At the winery, however, Herzog and
de Meuron have used the gabions as an exte-
rior cloak, filling the cages with varying
sizes of rock and, occasionally, with no rock
at all. From the interior, glass walls behind
the gabions take advantage of the dappled
light that filters through the stones. What
is understood to be solid and opaque is
instead permeable and translucent.

Herzog & de Meuron: Dominus Winery; Yountville, California,

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In the Laurenz Foundation art storage facil- Subverting some of the traditional percep- also because a project’s physical character-
ity, the thick exterior surfaces of excavated tions of a material lead to that material’s istics are usually surpassed by its con-
earth panels with exposed pebbles propose perceived de-materialization, limiting a ceptual values. The architecture of Herzog
a massiveness that protects its contents, material’s anticipated characteristics, and de Meuron, however, proposes a sensu-
both environmentally and in terms of secu- while suggesting unexpected, previously ality that can be discovered only through a
rity. Yet this massiveness is belied in unimagined traits that are often even oppo- thoughtful encounter with the work. We
several ways. A large, horizontal cut on two site the initial impression. Herzog and de find architecture’s intangible values firmly
sides of the building is intentionally irregu- Meuron assume that material has no funda- rooted within our experience of materials.
lar, digitally derived and constructed to mental qualities, that “the quality lies in the
suggest enlarged pebblelike forms. work itself, where the material attains spe-
Although this gash serves to demonstrate cific value that leaves bare materiality
the wall’s thickness, its horizontality behind; … [it] is no longer a purely repre-
simultaneously undoes the wall’s mass. sentative means and therefore no longer
Then, as these apparently heavy walls make restricted to the visible surface.” Actually,
their way toward the street side, they seem in contemporary architecture, the immedi-
to end abruptly, with a knife’s-edge transi- ately visible is perhaps the least reliable
tion to a large, scaleless polygon of flat indication of a material’s attributes, not
white surfaces that defy scale and deny only because of the capacity of certain
material. materials to mime the traits of others, but

Herzog & de Meuron: Laurenz Foundation Schaulager;

Basel/Münchenstein, Switzerland, 1998–2003
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The walls of the basalt, nearby Rhine river

Walls of scalelike glass the reflective and translucent Kunstmuseum in Vaduz, gravel, and black cement. The
Liechtenstein, by the Swiss result is a highly polished

shingles envelop an interior exterior lantern to the stark

of cast concrete ‘drawers’ and cold of the concrete of architects Morger and surface that reflects the
in Peter Zumthor’s the gallery spaces. The two Degelo, with Christian Kerez surrounding buildings,
Kunstmuseum in Bregenz, are brought into focus as the (1997–2000) are of cast connecting the building with
Austria (1990–97). The light filters in through the concrete, and it is the sanding both its built and geological
contrasting materials plenum areas and the of their exterior surfaces that contexts.
produce an atmospheric polished concrete galleries reveals its composition:
dialogue that shifts between begin to glow.

Textural steps seem stealthy or monumental, modest

Materials can develop textures through their or emphatic, unobtrusive or processional.
installation, manipulation, finish, and wear. The acoustic traits of materials can inspire
These textures have significant impact not associations related to memories, perceptions,
only on a material’s durability, penetrability, and even other arts such as film or music.
and usage, but also on the distinctness of
space and surface. If cast concrete is highly Permeability
polished, it can virtually disappear as it The way a building can weep or breathe is an
reflects the environment surrounding it. Or important and even necessary aspect of the
its normally hard, inelastic surface can be selection of materials. The permeability of
softened through the imprint of the traces materials—especially those used in the
of its forming. Or if it is subdivided into exterior membranes of a building—can keep
individual blocks, it can be stacked into a a structure and its components dry or humid,
porous screen. The texture of a material can hot or cold, fresh or musty, even light or
determine the sharpness or blur of a shadow, dark. As a result, a material’s degree of
can suggest the finite or infinite impressions permeability has a direct relationship to all
of a space, and can tempt or inhibit the of the above material characteristics.
tactile engagement of a surface.
Acoustic It would be a mistake, however, to consider
Materials can be acoustically hard or soft; the nature of materials as being permanent
they can cause echoes or muffle voices. An and unchangeable. An understanding of the
acoustically reverberant space can appear behaviors of materials not only plays an
to be exaggerated in its vacancy or in the important part in protecting the integrity of
Texture is the material of into the tip of the rods,
grandness of its scale. A space that is a construction and ensuring the quality of Heatherwick Studio’s Seed which are illuminated by day
acoustically absorbent can be perceived life of those within, but it can also contribute Cathedral built for the 2010 as the sun shines through
Shanghai Expo. While the and, at night, by light sources
as more intimate, more comfortable. The significantly to the aesthetic qualities of a
primary structure is a wooden embedded in each rod.
materials of a floor or path can make our building. box, 60,000 clear acrylic rods The swaying of the rods in
intersect its surfaces, the breeze is a material
blurring the boundaries expression of its program:
between building and sky. the seeds growing into a
250,000 seeds are embedded field of wheat.
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Herzog and de Meuron’s that enable the concrete to
Ricola-Europe production and take on the characteristics of
storage hall built in the adjacent polycarbonate
Mulhouse, France (1992–93), façade. This intentional
is a concrete box with a engagement and registration
northern face that opens up of temporal aspects of the
as if to expose the strips of environment allows these
polycarbonate panels at its unrelated surfaces to be
entry façade. The building’s brought into material
drainage has been conversation, temporarily
intentionally choreographed transforming the concrete
to spill down its matte volume into a glistening
concrete surfaces and it is crystal.
these newly striated surfaces

Responsiveness quite pronounced, as in the case of copper as
Very few materials are entirely static. Most it changes from reddish brown to green, with
respond in a direct way to the stresses of weathering steel as it oxidizes to an earthen
gravity, heat, cold, moisture, and so on, albeit rust, or with cedar as it weathers from a
in varying degrees. Some of these responses reddish brown to gray. Less predictable is the
can be permanent, as with cracking or staining and eventual erosion of more
erosion, while others can be cyclical, as with resistive surfaces that allow initially untainted
expansion and contraction or flexing and materials to slowly fade into their surrounding
straightening. Recognizing these behaviors, context, to return to the earth. Mohsen
not only at a material’s various scales and Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow
dimensions but the interaction of these speculate on the intentional deterioration of a
behaviors among different materials, is funeral chapel, “… used deliberately as a
critical in accommodating these inevitable device for marking and infecting the purity of
transformative behaviors. the new building surface, … as the possibility
for showing the life of the building in time.”
Weather, or the inevitability of transformation (Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow, page 103.)
All materials have a lifespan, but how a Anticipating such material transformations is
material transforms over time is unique to a significant aspect of the design process.
its composition and to its interaction with a
Simon Ungers’s T-House, the extreme cantilevers of
specific weather and environment. It is Wilton, New York, built in the raised library block. The
important to understand that the end of the 1992, is a project that blurs house’s dimensions are

the boundaries between determined by its mode of

construction process is but the beginning of
architecture and sculpture. transportation: It was
a course of weathering and entropy, most of Its fundamental geometry constructed off-site in a
which can be anticipated. At the very least, and the relentless use of factory, brought to its site on

weathering steel suppress all eighteen-wheelers, and

most materials change color or texture when
detail and scale, reinforcing assembled in situ. Over time,
wet. However, some materials are much more the notion of the building as the steel has rusted to a dark
reactive, with transformations that can be a sculpture. Steel is also used brown, its weathered surfaces
as a functional material merging with the forested
capable of accommodating landscape.
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Through the use of thin-film Translucent, movable curtains customize the energy density
photovoltaic textiles, KVA’s convert sunlight into energy of the textiles according to
2007 Soft House transforms throughout the day while need and guides the
the prosaic curtain into an facilitating changing spatial relationship of building form
energy-harvesting textile configurations. Parametric to site: Technological
that can generate and design software developed invention produces the
distribute up to 16,000 watts for the Soft House project spatial experience.
of renewable electrical power. allows the homeowner to

Smart materials Similarly, nanotechnologies provide us with

Smart materials are materials that are the ability to manipulate material at its atomic
designed to actively perform, whose shape or and molecular scales. The material scientist
properties change in response to an external Michael Cima speaks of simultaneous
stimulus. Michelle Addington explains that fabrications in which multiple programs are
smart materials design behaviors, with the embedded within a single material structure.
actual materials being secondary to the effect Like a hearty stew, various predetermined
that they produce. These behaviors are material properties (such as transparency,
programmed into the material’s composition acoustic properties, strength, warmth, and
Inspired by homeostasis in It does so by using a simple
and when activated (by for example illumination) might be layered into the ‘process biological systems (a system actuator, or artificial muscle,
temperature, moisture, electricity, or stress) of their fabrication,’ introducing an interactive that regulates its internal to transfer electric energy
environment and tends to directly into mechanical
the material’s functionality is transformed, programmatic complexity to a single
maintain a stable, constant work. The façade’s silver-
allowing it to perform in or adapt to a particu- composite material. These nanocomposite condition of properties such coated ribbons automatically
lar set of circumstances. The use of smart materials not only improve material strength as temperature) Decker deform in response to heat,
Yeadon’s Homeostatic Façade increasing their surface area
materials alters our understanding of and performance, but recent exciting research
System regulates a building’s and thereby preventing
materials from being static elements that are reveals a potential for introducing multifunc- climate by responding to thermal gain and reducing
meant to withstand one or more predeter- tionality into singular building surfaces. environmental conditions. energy consumption.
mined environments to being animate
substances that have the potential to engage
continuously changing environments and
are fully capable of reconciling the body with
its cultural and physical environments.
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David Adjaye’s Genesis
pavilion installed at the
Design Miami 2011 fair is
constructed of hundreds of
equally dimensioned wooden
timbers. Floors, walls, and
ceilings are created out of the
same material increment, and
it is the manipulation of the
spacing between these planks
that allows for the various
programs of sheltering, struc-
turing, entering, framing,
viewing, screening, and

Constructive Processes
Constructive processes are often a function
of a material’s properties and of their intrinsic
dimensional standards and limits, which can,
in turn, greatly influence its usage and how
it might be detailed. These processes are
equally a function of the location of the
project (ease of accessibility, the expertise
of those building it) and affordability.

Manufacturing Methods
The dimensional limits of a material are either
determined by its natural state or imposed on
it by the manufacturing processes used to
transform a material from its natural state into
a useful building material. This link between
origin and application can be exploited
Bamboo is highly regarded for Yet a temporary church in
both its material behavior and Yogyakarta, Indonesia, (right) in projects where a material’s dimensional
sustainable properties. Its demonstrates a decidedly increment, either in its natural state or as
usage is directly related to alternative application. Here,
manufactured, is consistently registered while
the method by which it is the architect Eugenius
processed. Its stems can be Pradipto transforms bamboo accommodating a variety of programmatic
bundled, cut, split, flattened, into a series of flattened and environmental concerns. For example,
twisted, woven, and lamin- shingles that wraps the
the densification or expansion of a particular
ated, each process lending church’s structural frame-
itself to a unique construc- work. In both of these dimensional increment can alter a surface
tional process. Simon Velez’s examples, bamboo is membrane’s porosity or provide the logic for
“Church without Religion” in alternatively exploited as
the operation of its apertures.
Cartagena, Colombia, exploits both structural framework
bamboo as structural and porous skin.
armature, a framelike lattice Manufacturing processes not only inform a

of bamboo rods that tethers

material’s dimension but can also demon-
the building to its site.
strate a unique characteristic or behavior. For
example, a quarried block of granite can be

cut into monolithic blocks or sliced into thin

slabs—the one producing the effect of a
massive wall while the other, a thin mem-
brane. The exploitation and exaggeration of
these processes can be a powerful tool in the
development of an architectural concept.
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Massimiliano Fuksas’s weathering steel components
Museum of Graffiti in Niaux, protect the structure and
France, completed in 1993, is minimize the necessity for
located in an extreme site on maintenance, but their
the side of a hill and at the apparent weightlessness is
mouth of a subterranean suggestive of the delicacy of
passage that leads to the cave drawings to which
prehistoric cave paintings the pavilion provides access.
dating from 11,000 BCE. The The line of the cave drawing
difficulties of access required is conceptually extended out
the on-site assembly of steel to the face of the mountain,
components that had been erupting into a three-dimen-
precariously transported up a sional expression of the
small access road. Not only two-dimensional drawings
does the rusting of the deep within the mountain.

Assembly ture variations by exhibiting a unique range of

Site access, methods of transportation, expansion and shrinking behaviors. As one
and builders’ expertise can further inform material meets another, these behavioral
material choices. Transportation and site differences must be acknowledged either
access can limit the dimension of materials through not letting the two materials touch,
that can be delivered to a site, which will as in a “reveal” (a small gap left between the
then either require on-site assembly of materials), by allowing the materials to
smaller components (that have been overlap so that they can move independently
fabricated elsewhere) or demand on-site or by inserting a third material that can
fabrication. In these extreme sites, an mediate two materials’ distinct behaviors.
understanding of local or traditional
construction practices can inform material Differences in dimensional precision between
choices and construction processes. materials that are fabricated using precise
tools (as in steel fabrication or wood
Detail/Jointure cabinetry, for example) versus those that are
Materials undergo various degrees of change fabricated on-site using less controllable
as they react to environmental conditions technologies (as with poured-in-place
(gravity, temperature, erosion, and pollution) concrete) can also be accommodated by a
or as they react to other materials (corrosion reveal, or by introducing a third material that
and staining). Strategies for addressing these can accommodate the differences between
changes are often demonstrated at the the two (for example by inserting a piece of
intersections between adjoining materials. For cork between a precisely milled wood and a
The glass panels that enclose stone profile, while permit-
example, each material responds to tempera- rougher concrete surface). Sverre Fehn’s 1973 Hamar ting some of the weather into
(Norway) Bispegaard those parts of the museum
Museum float slightly away where controlled climate
from the thick exterior stone might be dangerous to the
walls of the existing barn. artifacts. The detail also
This detail negotiates the reinforces the primary
distinct dimensional concept of the project, that
differences between the of a series of material and
manufactured crisp glass historical layers.
edges and the fluctuating
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Chamber music was written Musica in Porto, Portugal,
to be performed in intimate 2005, though of another
spaces, often made of wood. scale, refers to that tradition
The interior of the Sala and the resonant qualities of
Suggia in OMA’s Casa da a wooden music box.


Materials carry meanings through embodying
traditional materials, methodologies, and
rituals of construction as well as through the
less tangible aspects of the uniqueness of
place, program, and culture.

A material often operates as an index to a
particular site. The use of wood from a local
forest not only inextricably links the work to
its immediate physical context but to those
projects that share a similar material source.
The ways in which materials are connected to
each other can further reiterate a context by
referring to traditional building techniques.

Often, the performance requirements of a
particular function will motivate material
selection. A wood railing carries with it
material warmth that is smooth to the touch,
or a stone staircase will withstand centuries
of wear.

Materials often carry symbolic expectations,
as in a granite tomb or a marble city hall or
a wood cabin. Granite implies eternity,
marble alludes to grandeur, and wood to a

natural primitiveness. It does not necessarily

mean that all tombs should be granite, but
it is important to be aware that traditional

Blocks of locally hewn granite its surfaces, transforming a

associations exist, and they may be unique to form the cubic mass of prosaic and unremarkable
each culture in which a work might be situated. Ensamble Studio’s Musical constructive detail into an
Studies Center in Santiago de essential ornamental motif.
Compostela, Spain, built in The material is converted
2002. The hydraulic drilling into a didactic tool, an index
techniques related to the to a fast-disappearing quarry-
stone’s extraction are ing technology.
expressed and celebrated on
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Space encompasses the stage for human


activity, the cadence of our movements,

the duration of our experiences.
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Space may be the principal defining characteristic of architecture and what distinguishes
it from the other arts.

Wallace Stevens’s poem, The Snow Man, concludes

with what might be a good definition of the distinction 100

between a void and what might be considered

architectural space: the “… Nothing that is not there

and the nothing that is.” If a void is the nothingness

that is absent, space might be understood as the
nothingness that is present.
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As Constantinos Doxiadis has Propylaea at the entry to the
famously diagrammed in his complex. This conception of
Architectural Space in space might be described as a
Ancient Greece, one can “site of perceiving,” in that
understand the organization the objects arrayed about the
of the structures of the Acropolis are perceived in
Acropolis as being based on a their relative positions—hori-
series of uninterrupted visual zontally and vertically—as
scans, radiating from a distributed across the site.
position at the portico of the

Architectural space provides the range

across which our gazes pass before resting
on objects, surfaces, and other people. Space
encompasses the stage for human activity,
the cadence of our movements, the duration
of our experiences. Space contains that
which is within our physical grasp and that
which may be “graspable” only through
perception, comprehension, and memory.

It was probably August Schmarzow who, in

1898, first argued that the manipulation of
space is the principal defining characteristic
of architecture and what distinguishes it from
the other arts, such as sculpture. This is not to
say that architectural space did not exist
before 1898—certainly the Pantheon exists as
an emphatic spatial volume—only that its
identity had not been adequately described.

There is also that conception of space as a

“site of perceiving.” In this sense, space is the
range within which a person, located at a
point, apprehends his or her environment,
Giambattista Nolli’s 1748 elegantly demonstrates the
actually constructing this environment based map of Rome is remarkable way that public exterior
upon prior knowledge, experiences, and not only for its accuracy, but spaces—such as piazzas and
it endures as an example of courtyards—and public and
techniques of observing.
the spatial equilibrium that semipublic interior spaces—
occurs during the experience such as the Pantheon and
(continued on page 104) of a city. The contrast various churches—become
between the darkened fabric equal participants in
of the city and the white, establishing a pedestrian’s
figural spatial elements perception of a city.
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“Phenomenal Transparency”
in the Spaces of Le Corbusier

In the twentieth century—the century the spatial implications of modern art and
roughened by unimaginable wars, yet of Cubism, in particular. Based on Gyorgy
emboldened by velocity, stream of con- Kepes’s notion—presented in his Language
sciousness writing, nuclear fusion, motion of Vision (1948)—of the Cubist-based phe-
pictures, jazz, Futurism, and Cubism— nomenon whereby two or more overlapping
there was an impulse to construct a concept figures claim the overlapped zones with
of space that was as unique to architecture equal priority (as opposed to the fore-
as the century was to its predecessors. ground figure occluding the background),
“transparency” connotes “a simultaneous
Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time, and Archi- perception of different spatial locations,”
tecture, based on a series of lectures given imparting a continuous oscillation of spa-
at Harvard from 1938–39, proposed a for- tial definitions. Rowe and Slutzky introduce
mulation of Einsteinian space–time as an the distinction between literal transpar-
intrinsic aspect of the new architecture. ency—which simply involves a clear layer,
Although ultimately more of a metaphor as vision through a film—and phenomenal
than a scientific validation, Giedion’s transparency, in which multiple and simul-
theory introduced Cubism as a form of spa- taneous spatial interpretations are evoked,
tial research, with important architectural and “the transparent ceases to be that
implications. which is perfectly clear and becomes
instead that which is clearly ambiguous.”
Bruno Zevi’s Saper Vedere L’Architettura (page 23) And Rowe and Slutzky find that
(1948, translated as Architecture as Space: such “clearly ambiguous” transparencies
How to Look at Architecture) came later, are especially evident in the work of Le
arguing that the history of architecture Corbusier.
was largely a history of architectural space,
by which he meant especially enclosed The view from the terrace of his Villa
space. Like Giedion, Zevi also argued that Savoye in Poissy (1928-31), for example,
time was an important component of the affords numerous such spatial transparen-
newer concepts of spatial definition, incor- cies (fig. A). Beneath the roof of the outdoor Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret: Villa Savoye,
porating the experiments of the Italian pavilion, one already participates in several Poissy, France, 1928–31
futurists, for whom speed was a Muse. He spaces: that of the pavilion itself, of the
promoted a version of “organic architec- exterior spaces, and of the shaft of space
ture,” a compilation of theories founded on that moves directly into the house (see the through the horizontal slot and then above
gothic architecture and the work of Frank blue zones, fig. B). A band at the horizon the roof, to emerge both upon the terrace
Lloyd Wright, stressing spatial ambiguity, line (yellow/orange) extends from the ter- and on the roof above; both outside and
with an indefinite flow of spaces often race through the interior, circumscribing within the volume of the house, the green-
crossing functional boundaries. the peripheral “frame” of the house; and a ery’s ambiguous presence is emphasized by
large exterior space (reddish) open to the the setlike walls (orange) that alternately
Then, combining their expertise in archi- sky moves from the center off toward the act as frame and backdrop.
tecture and the fine arts, Colin Rowe and right. Figural, in a more painterly way, is
Robert Slutzky’s Transparency (1955), pro- the band of greenery (green, fig. C), which Here, one finds the spatial depiction of the
posed a more articulate argument regarding begins beyond the house on the left, visible twentieth century fully realized.
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Just as a street can exhibit where there was once over
spatial qualities, both formal 130 arcades, the very
and experiential, an arcade is successful Passage des
perhaps the most spatial Panoramas (bottom of plan,
form of street. Developed 1799) was followed by the
primarily in the early first metal and glass arcade in
nineteenth century, arcades the city, the Passage Jouffroy
utilized the previously (center and photograph,
inaccessible inner blocks of designed by François-
large cities, increasing the Hippolyte Destailleur and
quantity of commercial Romain de Bourges, 1845),
properties while providing and the Passage Verdeau
safe routes independent of (top, 1847).
the crowded streets. In Paris,

Spatial Zones
One of the most important aspects in the
formation of architectural space is the concept
of definition. Just as the space within a
deflated balloon is difficult to grasp, and that
within an inflated balloon is clearly intuited,
in order to grasp a spatial figure—or spatial
zone—a sense of boundary is necessary.

However, it is possible that several spatial

zones might overlap, and that it is possible to
occupy several of these zones simultane-
ously. The complexity of such spatial
overlaps is resolved perceptually, with the
viewer understanding one set of boundaries
at a time, perceiving additional zones
through movement and shifts of viewpoint.

We can usually understand the relative

dimensions of height and breadth simply by
standing within a space. Depth, however,
requires at least some movement into or
around that space. This movement permits Artist Rachel Whiteread’s and the protrusion of the
Ghost (1990) is the solid hearth in the foreground.
us to extrapolate approximate depth, based
casting of the interior of a Essentially, Ghost is space
on our understanding of the relative London room. One can see made solid.
locations of surfaces and objects within our the imprint of the fireplace

angles of vision as we establish focus and

understand our movement in relation to time. In this plaster model from his Church of Santa Maria of the
“Structures and Sequences of Divine Providence in Lisbon,
Because movement across a distance is an Space” in Spazio 7 (1952–53), Portugal (shown in partial
essential facet of spatial experience, many Luigi Moretti constructs as plan on the left). The
theorists find that time is an inextricable solid the principal spatial solidification of space makes
sequence in the interior of its intangibility immediately
component of space. Guarino Guarini’s baroque graspable.
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One of the most effective methods of Spatial Illusion
promoting the understanding of depth is by The development of linear perspective
means of the rhythmic organization of affected many aspects of architectural
surfaces: the columns lining a cathedral’s nave, design. It altered the ways in which space
the beams of a ceiling, or the patterns in a was represented in architectural renderings.
floor. The measures of repetition are essential It provided architects with a tool for under-
in understanding the depth of a space. standing what might be visible (or hidden)
from specific points of view. The mecha-
While traditional architecture generally nisms of perspective—horizon, vanishing
establishes spatial organizations axially upon point, picture plane, and pyramid of vision—
Pietro da Cortona’s design for compression, all within a
our introduction to a space, modern architec- not only assemble an illusory space within a
the exterior of Santa Maria depth of just 5 to 10 yards
ture would often promote entry into the frame, but also “locate” a viewer in a space

della Pace (1656–67) presents (4.5 to 9 m). In this low relief
corners of spaces, so that our first glance constructed in front of the frame: the viewer a façade that suggests a model by Jonathan Negron
round, temple-like object (faculty, Jerry Wells), one
would be diagonal. In order to emphasize becomes an implicit subject of the work.
nestled within a semicircular can easily understand the
this concept of spatial depth, architects such

concavity. Located in a very spatial depths implied by
as Le Corbusier frequently utilize the “long Linear perspective also permitted the actual confined alley in Rome, the the warping, overlapping,
architect, a master of illusion- alternatively convex and
dimension,” essentially the diagonal view that construction of illusory space in architectural
istic perspective, uses forms concave sequence of mildly
penetrates a space or across multiple spaces. design. While height and breadth are clearly composed of elliptical objects curved surfaces.
in various degrees of

Renaissance artists would charged, three-dimensional

often supplement space. The low horizon, the
constructed perspectival strangely located vanishing
depth with gridded surfaces, point, and the clear distinc-
such as paving patterns and tions and resemblances
ceiling coffers, as in Piero between the foreground and
della Francesca’s Flagellation background scenes not only
of Christ (c. 1457). The contribute to interpretations
repetition of a grid of squares of the painting’s themes but
receding in depth assists in also serve to imply the viewer’s
the location of figures within location within the space in
an illusory, and symbolically front of the painted panel.

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Vincenzo Scamozzi’s set the theater’s backstage. From

designs for Oedipus Rex the abstract interior space of
(1585), have been perma- a theater that evokes impres-
nently installed since the sions of a grand outdoor
inaugural production in amphitheater, one looks into
Andrea Palladio’s Teatro the spaces of an idealized
Olimpico in Vicenza. Cons- and imaginary ancient city,
tructed in a false perspective, to eventually return to the
the sets represent the seven real streets and spaces of
roads of Thebes within the Vicenza as perceived through
understood when viewing a surface, an relatively limited depth of fresh eyes.
object, or into a volume, the spatial
dimension of depth can potentially be
constructed through more painterly means:
through the visual illusions of a perspective
construction combined with the memory’s
allusions to previously experienced spaces.
This is a technique that was developed most themselves called panoramas or cycloramas—
effectively in the architecture of the late appeared in cities throughout Europe and
Renaissance and baroque periods, where one the United States, and are continuing to be
can find numerous examples of relatively flat constructed throughout Asia. As a tool,
or gently molded surfaces invested with panoramas changed the way designers could
waves of implicit depths. see and interpret urban space, allowing the
viewer to move casually through a 360-degree
Building on these developments, a new form environment.
of perspective—the panorama—was developed
in the late eighteenth century. Rather than Eventually, panoramic paintings gave way to
simply present an illusory depth on a flat similarly constructed photographs, and finally
surface, the panoramas of the nineteenth panoramic cinemas developed popularity,
centuries enveloped their audiences with their although all forms are currently being revived
massive scales, multiple vanishing points, and as interest in immersive representation is
epic themes, transporting their viewers into increasing. The rapid development of video
the midst of another time and place. Buildings games, in which the viewer is an active
that housed these artificial worlds—often participant in a virtual three-dimensional
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environment, complete with audial and
additional sensory (haptic) effects, will
certainly influence both the interactive
nature of modeling and presenting architec-
tural projects, and the development of
spaces in which the mobility of the viewer
is an integral factor.

In the early twentieth century, people were

exposed to spaces that were previously
unthinkable, spaces initiated by internal
combustion, witnessed through auto glass

and dedicated to velocity, the combination
of distance and time. New concepts of
spatial definition emerged, enveloped in

structures of heroic massiveness and rhythms
The Lower Roadway of New design. This sunken roadway of Historic Places, it is a
Jersey Route 139 (William is naturally ventilated and lit, unique spatial invention— of increased rapidity. New types of architec-
Sloan, Fred Lavis, Sigvald open to the sky along its a cathedral of sorts—a deeply ture appeared, not only highway construc-
Johannesson, and the New northeast edge, with its beamed concrete nave
tions themselves, but also the buildings and
Jersey State Highway southeast flank a series of alternating stroboscopic
Commission, completed in arcades exhibiting, sequen- shafts of daylight with the spaces that began to materialize along these
1929)—born of the postwar tially when leaving the city: a ghosted diagonal traces of new roadways, such as toll plazas, rest stops,
necessity for the efficient, chasm of concrete light wells, cross streets above and a
fueling stations, and so on. Perceived at high
exclusive accommodation of rough rock formations, and series of rugged “side
vehicular traffic—was impromptu thickets of trees. chapels” casting variegated speeds and sited on or along roadways, these
unprecedented in scope and Listed in the National Register light onto the roadway. buildings address the highway and its
expanded vistas with spaces configured by
rates of acceleration and deceleration,
vehicular turning radii, driving lanes, and
viewing pyramids constrained by automotive
design and increasingly favoring the oblique
over the frontal. The result is an elongation
of spaces and the development of an
anamorphic architecture, one in which
landscapes, spaces, and volumes are
distorted in compensation for the visual
foreshortening and condensed observations
prompted by the highway.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel was mobility of the viewer around below, then strolling through
highly skilled in the construc- and through an urban space the upper vestibule, which
tions of panoramas and with frequent opportunities provides a vantage point as in
illusionistic stage set designs, for retrospection is an a panorama: elevated above
and, as historian Kurt Forster important aspect of spatial the plaza, with columns

has demonstrated, applied organization. His famous 1831 framing fragmented views of
this knowledge to his rendering of the main an urban panorama of an ideal
architectural designs for staircase of his Altes Museum Berlin that vies for attention
Berlin. For Schinkel, the shows figures ascending from with the works on exhibit.
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When it comes to scale, buildings are


eternal chameleons—shifty characters,

they thrive on belonging simultaneously
to multiple and interlocking scales.
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Scale can be fleeting or even imaginary, relational or perceptual.

Size is how big something is—its actual dimension.

However scale is relative, it can be defined only in 108

relation to something. That something can be the

whole—in other words, a door has a scale in relation

to the surface in which it is located—or the perceived,

as in the position of the observer, from where (what
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Álvaro Siza’s Santa Maria entry door abnormally

Church in Marco de enlarged, at a scale
Canavezes, Portugal (1996), appropriate to the ritual of
manipulates scale in relation procession. Once inside, a
to multiple contexts. From long, low horizontal window

the square below, it appears at the eye level of seated

to be a modest church atop a parishioners returns the
hill, with a traditional window structure to human scale,
indicating its nave (although emphasizing the expanse of
this window is, paradoxically, the horizon and the valley
unseen from the interior). beyond.
Upon the hill, one finds the

distance, what orientation) he or she is

located. Scale is dependent on context, a
context that can range from the smallest
nanoparticle to a vast landscape. Scale is
fleeting, as a building for example can
simultaneously belong to multiple scales.
And, finally, there is the imagined scale—
where the mythology of the object has
established a scale greater or smaller than
the actual. How many times have we come
upon something that we have always read
about or seen in images and think, “Oh, how
The profile of Alvar Aalto’s acoustical necessities of the
much smaller (or larger) it actually is!” where ceramic-clad volume of auditorium that it encloses
its “reality,” once contextualized, is vastly the1968 Nordic House in and the mountainous
Reykjavík, Iceland, is shaped silhouette of the distant
distinct from its imagined scale?
simultaneously by the Mt. Esja beyond.

The body is a powerful determinant of scale.
It has the ability to generate measure through
either its necessity to physically engage an
environment at multiple scales and at multiple
speeds (be it a handle, a car, a parade) or
through locating its eye in relationship to that
environment (a window, a vista) so that it can
be perceptually experienced. Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del
Mondo, constructed for the
Venice Biennale in 1979,
Physical endlessly manipulates our
The height of a stair riser, the height and perception of the existing
context. As this temporary
profile of a handrail, the proportions of a structure literally floats into
chair are all scaled to interact with the proximity with the city’s
dimensions of the human body. The body’s great churches, their scale is
suddenly transformed from
monumental and massive to
(continued on page 112) pavilionesque and fleeting.
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Gerrit Rietveld
and the Scales of Art

“De Stijl” was the name chosen for the col-

lective efforts of a group of loosely
organized creative people in the Nether-
lands in the early twentieth century. The
work of this Dutch group coalesced around
the musings published in an eponymous
magazine. During its brief period of publi-
cation, De Stijl showcased images of
archi tecture, painting, sculpture, and
furniture-making amongst literary musings
that trended towards a heady sociocultural
cocktail of transnationalist politics and
universalist metaphysics. The second issue
of De Stijl, published in 1918, set out the
group’s manifesto. Painting was singled out
as the seminal visual discipline capable of
expressing a floating, unbounded spatial
continuum. Initially, there was resistance
to the inclusion of architecture due to its
obligation to address structural and func-
tional needs. The painter Piet Mondrian
noted within the pages of volume five,
“What was achieved in art must for the
present be limited to art. Our external envi-
ronment cannot yet be realized as the pure
plastic expression of harmony.”

In the face of the skepticism of Mondrian

and others, Gerrit Rietveld’s Schröder Gerrit Rietveld: Schröder House, Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1923–24 Gerrit Rietveld: Berlin Chair, 1923
exterior and interior
House was a remarkable achievement. The
house forcefully made a case for the expres-
sive capabilities of architecture and became
a canonical representation of the spatial creating territories of use in place of tradi- windows, partitions, and furniture—are
continuum admired by the De Stijl group. tionally defined rooms. Throughout the conceived and executed under a rigorously
The interior and furniture of the Schröder house, rectangular surfaces are singled out consistent regime. The geometry, surfaces,
House is beholden to the same conceptual at a variety of scales and finished in bright and color of all of these components were
thinking as the building shell. Walls on the primary colors. This consistency of treat- carefully considered and controlled by
exterior are simple rectangular surfaces ment extends from large architectural Rietveld. While providing a reasonably
that in many cases appear to float in defi- surfaces, such as a balcony wall, to small accommodating domestic environment,
ance of gravity. Inside, walls are movable details, such as the end of a chair’s arm. he organized the house as a singular
partitions (thus literally achieving the declarative representation of the princi-
aspect of “floating” implied on the exte- The Schröder House is a curated environ- ples of De Stijl.
rior). In the open position, interior ment where a variety of normally disparate
partitions allow space to flow unimpeded, components—roofs, balconies, walls, —Steven Fong (University of Toronto)
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Michael Webb’s 1966–67 its various appliances; in its

Cushicle is a “nomadic unit” open position, it is an inflated
that provides self-sustaining “domestic” skin. Both
functions to one individual. positions are scaled to the
In its closed “skeletal” human body’s proportions
position, it is carried on a and range of motions.
person’s back and supports

proportions and range of motion determine In Torino, Italy, the Fiat

automobile factory, designed
the scale of physical form that operates as an
by Giacomo Matté Trucco
interface between a body and its ability to (1921–23) juxtaposes two
comfortably occupy and navigate architec- scales, one motivated by the
movement and turning radii
tural space. This scale of engagement is most
of an automobile test track,
discernable within domestic spaces whose the other by the repetitive
primary responsibility is to house the body structural frame dimen-
sioned by the large machines
and is critical in accessible spaces that
and assembly lines of the
accommodate specialized user needs factory floor.
(disabled, geriatric, children, and so on).

The eye of the observer locates the origin of
the gaze that establishes both the horizon
line and the cone of vision. As this gaze is
superimposed onto an infinite picture plane,
the near and the far can be brought into
immediate relation to each other, giving
scale to an otherwise scaleless environment.
If site lines used in determining the locations
and dimensions of apertures, frames, and
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Conceived and perceived as
two enormous rocks
buttressing the banks of San
Sebastián’s Urumea River,
Rafael Moneo’s 1991–99
Kursaal Auditorium and
Congress Center exists at the
scale of the surrounding
landscape. Yet, as one enters
the lobbies of each volume, a
picture window frames that
distant landscape,
transforming the San
Sebastian bay and the
mountains of Mount Urgull

and Mount Ulía into
projected still lifes that
appear to be drawn onto its
interior surfaces.

grids through which views and light pass are Adolf Loos’s 1922 compe-
tition entry for the offices
carefully calibrated to the origins of both
of the Chicago Tribune is,
static and animate gazes, then these devices on one hand, a 120-meter
have the ability to register the scale of the (131 yd) high office building
scaled for human occupancy
human body. These foregrounds introduce
and, on the other, a singular
scale to distant backgrounds and horizons by and monumental column
juxtaposing them alongside the scale of the made of black granite.

body, establishing a tangible relationship

between the human body and the context in
which it is located.


Buildings are eternal chameleons—they are
shifty characters that thrive on belonging
simultaneously to multiple and interlocking
scales. As one views the Eiffel Tower from a
distance, it is a marker, an orienting pin that
protrudes from a once homogenous Parisian

skyline. Yet as one approaches, its scale

transforms to a monumental one, an upward
thrusting demonstration of engineering

ingenuity that dwarfs the observer. And

finally, from within its rooftop restaurant, it is
an instrument, a camera lens, scaled to the
body, with which to frame the city below.
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From 1556 until 1573 a approach, with a constantly mounting this terrace, one’s

pentagonal fortification in changing juxtaposition of ele- eyes move upward through

Caprarola, Italy, was ments: At first a loggia over a the villa’s various floors as
transformed into a villa by modest entry door, then as a they shift in scale until the
Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola. heavily rusticated base upon uppermost floors, where the
He also reconstructed the which an intermediate floor diminished windows cause
main street through the appears below the loggia, and the bulk to appear to have
village, so that the new Villa finally as a massive swollen to enormous
Farnese could be experienced pentagonal construction proportions.
at a variety of scales upon upon a generous terrace. On

Multiple Scales Scale is relative—and it is the various

One might ask—what scale must a work be? contexts from which buildings are experi-
A work can be of a more familiar and enced (and to which they are attached) that
intimate scale or of a monumental, larger- inform the various scales. As the cone of
than-life scale, one that impresses or awes. vision is reduced, as the building begins to
But regardless, the scale of a building is lose its relationship to its broader context,
informed by the scale of the context in which new references are established, ones that
it is located, by the scale of the context from more directly engage the body and the
which it is experienced, and finally the scale sensual. For example, when considered
of operation that it serves. And these scales through the wide-angle lens of an urban
are often at odds with each other. A building, skyline, like a Morandi bottle or a Cézanne
for example, exists at the scale of a city apple, a building’s responsibility is to interact
where it interacts with urban infrastructures with its “neighbors,” the collection of buildings
of public thoroughfares, spaces, and vistas. It that constitutes the city. Here, exaggerated
exists at the scale of the street as it interacts proportions and crisp profiles allow this
with adjacent buildings. It exists at the scale relationship to become legible at the scale
of the body, which allows an occupant to of the city. That very same building, however,
access it and interact with it both physically approached from a lesser distance and
The independence of the responsibility and this
and spatially. at street level, might take on a much more primary steel structure from independence is reiterated
defined scale—where proportions, color, the exterior and interior wall at the scale of the sliding,
panels of Pierre Chareau’s folding, and rotating screens
material, and textures become important
1931 Maison de Verre in Paris, that choreograph a series
characteristics in defining its relationship France (with Bernard Bijvoet of transforming interior
to its immediate surroundings. and Louis Dalbet), results in experiences that allows for
an open and continuous simultaneous, yet indepen-
spatial experience. Here, dent, programmatic and
walls are freed of structural spatial interpretations.
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Carlo Scarpa’s 1958–64 concrete floor slabs to the
renovation of Verona’s glazed enclosure walls sliding
Castelvecchio is conceived as independently of the existing

an independent programmatic, stone walls, to the bridges
material, and circulatory that extend the circulation The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, structure that marks the site
overlay onto the ancient between buildings. Here the designed by the architect of the 1764 origin of the city
medieval twelfth-century architecture operates as Eero Saarinen and structural and shifts to an imagined
fortification. This concept of intermediary device that engineer Hannskarl Bandel, scale as gateway to an
separate but connected bridges the intimate scale of transcends its status as a expansive western landscape.
systems informs the design the body and the enormity
of the building at multiple of the ancient fort structure.
scales—from the floating

Interlocking scales Kurt Schwitters’s 1923–37

Hannover Merzbau was
Like the nesting of Russian matryoshka dolls
constructed as an entire
whose theme informs the painting of each environment whose scale and
successively scaled doll, an architectural content fluctuated almost
daily. Constructed from
concept informs the development of a
scavenged detritus, it was
building at multiple scales. In other words, a simultaneously full-scale
detail, a door, a room, a building is devel- room and model of the world,
one that housed an incrus-
oped as variations of an overriding concept
tation of talismanic traces
that informs the totality of a work. and imaginary narratives.
(Reconstruction by Peter
Bissegger, Hanover, 1981–83)
Quotidian versus Monumental
Buildings, cities, and landscapes are
experienced at an everyday scale: the familiar
of the daily and the prosaic. It is through
making this scale unfamiliar, seemingly larger
or smaller than the familiar in relationship to a

specific context, that monumentality is

achieved. But they can also have a larger-
than-life scale—one that operates at the scale

of the imagination. And while these

“monuments” are often large in size, their
power resides in their ability to convey
meanings that transcend the quotidian.
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It is the manipulation of form through


an understanding of the shadows that

are cast that registers the generative
presence of light.
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Le Corbusier has said that “… light for me is the fundamental basis of architecture.
I compose with light …” (von Moos, page 98).

Imagine if one were to begin with a box, a dark box—

or a surface, a dark surface—how might light be intro- 116

duced into that space or onto that surface? How might

light structure a space or surface so as to bring order

to it—bring it scale, bring it texture, bring it hierarchy?

As light is incrementally introduced, objects and
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Light is given a spatial
presence in this 1970
Sculpture Gallery by Philip
Johnson in New Canaan,
Connecticut, as it structures
the surfaces onto which it is
cast. Its traces not only help
to define the dimensions of
the works exhibited but
transform the gallery itself
into a work of art.

The introduction of natural the brick courses and

light at the perimeter of Eero geometries of the undulating
Saarinen’s 1955 Chapel at walls are surfaces that are
MIT in Cambridge, Massa- activated by the filtered light
chusetts, accentuates the that is reflected off of the
plasticity of its interior exterior moat that surrounds
surfaces. The roughness of the chapel.

surfaces are articulated as they come in and Spatial Transformation The church at Le Corbusier’s moving light, where one’s
out of focus and it is the dialogue of this Light is temporal and as it moves through a Sainte-Marie de La Tourette gaze is continuously
monastery complex in Eveux, refocused to sequentially
light with the surfaces that it illuminates or space it has the capacity to transform it. As France (1956–59), is a large illuminated focal points, but
passes through that produces an expanded surfaces come under the spotlight, they can concrete volume whose the sanctuary itself
spatial experience—a continuous transforma- alternately advance and recede from view, apertures obscure the direct transforms spatially as the
source of natural light. Not surfaces alternately flatten
tion of form. and the space through which light moves can only are the church’s rough and advance as the shadows
expand and contract along its path. Materials concrete surfaces animated come and go.
Yet, it is not the light, per se, that creates can appear altered as their textures transform by kaleidoscopic patterns of

the space—it is the shadows that are cast and volumes can seem distorted as their
that construct the space, for as Louis Kahn proportions appear to change.
said, “All material in nature, the mountains
and the streams and the air and we, are Textures
made of Light which has been spent, and The surface onto which light is directed not
this crumpled mass called material casts a only becomes hierarchically more significant
shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.” than one that remains in relative darkness, but
(Lobell, p. xx) Thus, it is the manipulation it amplifies its presence through the shadow
of form through an understanding of the that it casts. Textures can be revealed and
shadows that are cast that registers the exaggerated through exposure to light, just
generative presence of light. as they can be smoothed and made flat.

(continued on page 121)

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Steven Holl’s Sculpting of Light

Steven Holl’s architecture is one that

deeply engages the senses, and it is through
the interplay of light, color, shadow, and
time that he choreographs an architectural
experience. One could even say that his
built forms are a result of the sculpting of
light, and that it is this light that con-
structs the space of his architecture. His
works are perceived as compositions of
light that are literally experienced as one
is drawn from space to space and further
enriched as the gaze is guided toward the
imagined spaces created by distant illumi-
nations appearing within the surfaces that
define the very same spaces through which
one is moving. Steven Holl: The Chapel of St. Ignatius,
Seattle, Washington, 1997
views of exterior and interior
In his Chapel of St. Ignatius, completed in
1997, it is the sculpting of light that not
only produces the three-dimensional forms
that emerge from the rectangular shell of
the chapel, but it is the light that these
forms in turn produce that renders tangi-
ble St. Ignatius’ foundational guidebook
and teachings: the necessity for moving
between and making decisions amongst
constantly shifting “lights and darknesses.”
Spatial complexity is subsequently pro-
duced within an uninterrupted interior
volume through a series of spatial zones
that are choreographed by these light-
producing forms. As with Le Corbusier’s
light towers at Ronchamp and his light can- Le Corbusier: Notre Dame du Haut,
Ronchamp, France, 1954
nons over the priests’ altars of La Tourette,
interior and exterior views of light towers
Steven Holl’s “bottles of light” continue
the modernist tradition of constructing
light as a primary generator of both archi-
tectural form and architectural space. And
not unlike Morandi’s still life paintings
of the 1920s that construct a canvas of
(exterior) spatial relationships, the collec-
tion of St. Ignatius’s “Seven Bottles of
Light” represent a canvas of volumes that
have been carefully selected to devise an
interior space of “gatherings of different
lights.” (Holl, Cobb, page 9) Giorgio Morandi: Still Life, 1952
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Here, continuous yet spatially distinct
three-dimensional spaces are constructed
through the projection of these volumes of
light onto surfaces that are as if perma-
nently imprinted by the transmitted light,
resulting in a series of abstracted interior
canvasses. The necessity of fixed three-
dimensional form gives way to continuously
transforming spatial compositions that are
defined by these intersections of surface
and light.

In the expansion to the Nelson-Atkins

Museum of Art, the introduction of light
occurs at multiple scales. At the scale of
the landscape, the enormous buildings of Steven Holl: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,
Kansas City, Missouri, completed 2007
light that serve to illuminate the embedded
view of exterior light boxes
galleries operate by day as sculptural pavil-
ions around and between which leisure
activity occurs, and by night as luminous
lanterns that suggest imagined worlds
lurking below the surface.

At the building scale, these volumes create

Piranesian spaces of light and shadow that
draw the visitor to the galleries below.

And, finally, at the infrastructural scale,

the fusing of structure, air, environment,
and light produces the optical instruments
that can be precisely calibrated to experi-
ence the collection of art.

In Holl’s architecture, light is the protago-

nist in the production of a relentless merging
and blurring of architectural space. And it
is in the construction of the softness of
these volumes that one experiences the
pleasure of his architecture—that one Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Untitled etching (called Steven Holl: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,
The Smoking Fire), plate VI from The Imaginary Kansas City, Missouri, view of interior
inhabits the glow.
Prisons (Le Carceri d’Invenzione), Rome, 1761 edition

Steven Holl: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,

Kansas City, Missouri, view of light structure
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Light reinforces the spatial symbolically and physically, Tadao Ando’s Church of the presence. The minimal In Sauerbruch Hutton’s multicolored ceramic rods
order of the Pompeian house. this central space of light was Light in Ibaraki, Japan dimensions of these 2002–09 Brandhorst combine to produce a
The atrium is the first room the heart of the household, (1989), is conceived as a apertures exaggerate the Museum in Munich, the continuously fluctuating
into which one arrives, above around which guests and concrete box that is contrast between the sunlit polychromatic façade façade that alternately
which is centered an aperture families would meet and subsequently incised to exterior and the dark interior, connotes its program. It intensifies and fades, and
that admits both natural water would be collected. introduce natural light to its while the profiles of the stands as a three-dimensional solidifies and dematerializes,
light and rainwater. Both interior. Here, light has both incisions simultaneously Pointillist painting whose as one experiences it from
a physical and spiritual convey religious meaning. independent layers of close and afar, frontally
bicolored sheet metal and and obliquely.

Chiaroscuro within a fairly shallow space. Volumes can of an object from each other.” (Goethe,
Establishing contrast between light and dark appear flatter or more three-dimensional page xxxviii) And as all color perception is
serves to delineate spatial and programmatic and dimensions can appear increased or both relative to the eye of the observer and
boundaries. The crisp profile lines that decreased. Spatial sequences are introduced to the (often colored) context in which it is
render legible contrasting patterns of light as one is drawn from dark to light. Alternately, perceived, it follows that an understanding
and dark, control the effect of this duality. boundaries between spaces can be blurred as of color in architecture introduces a potent
Extreme contrast can be achieved by the light becomes more uniformly distributed. symbolic and dynamic dimension to
introduction of light through a controlled This play of light cannot only produce architectural form and space.
aperture where the profile of the cut is simultaneous and shifting spatial readings—
important in demarcating the amount of light but it also challenges static programmatic Symbolic
that enters a space, allowing the imagination relationships, where unique behavioral Colors have traditional meanings associated

to complete that which is left in darkness. patterns emerge as occupants’ gazes and with them—meanings that shift, depending
movements seek shade and/or light. on the culture in which they are located. Red
Distortion is a symbol of luck in Asian cultures and often

Spatial experience can be intentionally Color the color worn by brides, yet in South Africa
transformed through choreographing the In his Theory of Colors, Johann Wolfgang it can symbolize mourning. Colors are also
relationship between a light source and the von Goethe writes “The eye sees no form, thought to produce certain environments that
surface onto which it falls. As darker spaces inasmuch as light, shade, and color together can alter perception and behaviors.
tend to recede and brighter spaces advance, constitute that which to our vision distin-
three-dimensional depth can be exaggerated guishes object from object, and the parts
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The color of Luis Barragán’s The dining-pool room at the
Casa Gilardi (1976) in rear of the house introduces
Tacubaya, Mexico, not only an almost mystical source of
recalls Mexican textiles and light where color, through its
pottery, markets and sun- palette, reflectivity, and
drenched street walls, but intensity, creates the illusion
illuminates the interior of infinite spatial depth.
spaces of an elongated site.

Certain materials and colors reflect light,

others absorb it—effects that can accentuate

formal relationships. For example, spatial
depth can be exaggerated within a shallow
field by juxtaposing a lighter colored surface
against a darker background. Or a white
volume against a black background will
appear larger than a black volume against a
white background: The perception of scale is
always a function of the interplay between
forms. Color can compensate for light or
darkness and provide solace or destination or
it can animate an otherwise uniform surface.

Entire buildings can operate as instruments
for light, and nowhere is this more evident
than in the Pantheon in Rome. Its 27-foot (8 m)
diameter oculus dramatically illuminates—
spiritually, literally, and temporally—the vast
space over which it presides, and as the Sun
moves across the sky, its sculpted light is cast
onto the dome’s spherical surface. The
building is an instrument that produces a
visible measure of the passing of time.

The cinema and ballroom of

Devices that capture or filter light can the Café Aubette in
become a dominant, sometimes singular, Strasbourg, France, designed
by Theo van Doesburg, Hans
characteristic of a project. Often, these
Arp, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp
optical devices motivate exaggerated forms and opened in 1928, deploys
that are capable of directing or modifying color as a device that negates
any sense of materiality while
generic light for a specific interior condition.
simultaneously blurring the
boundaries between floor,
walls, and ceilings. The
diagonal compositions are
inspired by van Doesburg’s
own paintings, an exploration
in creating a corresponding
three-dimensional colored
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The façade of Jean Nouvel’s
Center for the Arab World in
Paris, France, is an optical
instrument constructed of
thousands of individually
calibrated lenses that
respond to changing lighting
conditions. This mechanical
brise soleil (sun breaker)
retracts and opens its lenses
as the sun intensifies or
fades, the resulting spatial
(and audial, as the metal
shingles click open or closed)
effect being one of flickering

shadows and changing

Höweler + Yoon Architecture’s
2004 installation in Athens,
Greece, constructs a space of
illumination and sound. As
individuals move through a
field of optic rods and floor
speakers, emitted light and
sound register their
The painted corrugated-metal containers of passing
movements, producing a
siding of the houses in freighters, these colored
constantly transforming—
Valparaiso serve to delay panels introduce a vibrant
and fleeting—spatial field.
their inevitable rust in this palette to this hillside
Chilean seaport. Reputed to community.
have come from the shipping

Louis Kahn’s 1972 Kimbell light to enter and be

Art Museum in Fort Worth, reflected back upward to the
Texas, is an instrument for underside of the smooth
producing light. The parallel concrete vaults by aluminum
rows of the iconic concrete reflectors that are attached
cycloid vaults that distinguish beneath the skylights.
the building’s form are a The now indirect light is
function of Kahn’s desire to subsequently diffused
introduce indirect natural downward along the curved
light to illuminate the gallery surfaces of the concrete
spaces. Skylights located vaults into the gallery spaces
between the extruded shells below, where the artworks
of concrete allow natural are displayed.
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It is movement that transforms an


otherwise monosyllabic and inert

architecture into an endlessly complex
and animate one.
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Like a symphony, an extended sequence often has an identifiable theme that begins with a
whisper and concludes with a bang, exploring along the way variations on the central theme.

Movement through a building or a city is a way of

organizing one’s experience of it, of orienting the 124

body in relationship to something outside of itself.

And while architectural and urban form and space are

typically static, it is one’s movement through them

that constructs a continuously changing environment.
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Le Corbusier, in his 1929 Villa
Savoye in Poissy, France,
constructs a series of archi-
tectural compositions that
subsequently choreographs
the movement through the
building and landscape. The
relationship of volumes and
surfaces in space and light
creates a series of still lifes
that the observer passes
through as he/she navigates
the building. A ramp carries
the gaze diagonally through
the building, from the entry
vestibule up toward the raised
courtyard and, finally, toward
the sky.

As relationships between forms and spaces Curating Space Processional

transform, and as one perceives these spaces Choreographing the movement through The reliving of a memory or the reenactment
and forms from multiple points of view, an space constructs formal relationships and of an historical event can be embedded in the
otherwise monosyllabic and inert architecture reveals concepts. The order in which elements architectural works that mark that route. Like
is transformed into an endlessly complex and are experienced and the way in which they the Stations of the Cross that line cathedral
animate one. And it is the structuring of are framed become powerful lenses through walls and religious walks and are used especially
these relationships through a variety of which a work is given meaning. during Passion ceremonies, architecture can
movement systems that choreographs and thus preserve the fleeting event as a
defines that experience. A stair can collapse Filmic permanent memory. At a larger scale, there
vertical relationships between spaces while Le Corbusier coined the term “promenade are, for example, several pilgrimage routes
a ramp might construct a more elongated architectural” where architectural elements that traverse Spain and end in Santiago de
unfolding of the architectural experience. are not experienced from a single point of Compostela, where the apostle St. James is
Regardless, it is the introduction of space view but from multiple vantage points as one entombed. El Camino de Santiago is marked
through time that produces a series of spatial strolls through the architectural landscape. In with Romansesque churches with enormous
and formal relationships, a fourth dimension this case, architecture can be thought of and portals designed to accommodate vast
to architecture. experienced as a series of spatial stills or numbers of pilgrims and that, during much of
filmic frames that together constitutes a the year, serve as a reminder of the now
complete spatial experience. largely touristic but once ecclesiastical ritual.
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Richard Meier’s 1975 Wabash River, moves through
Atheneum in New Harmony, the building’s interior ramps
Indiana, is essentially a and stairs, ending with a
viewing machine that uses its stepped ramp that gently
circulation to constantly deposits the visitor at the
reorient the visitor to its entry to the historic village.
historic site: first to the The central ramp further
modern town, then to its maps the formal and spatial
location next to the river, structure of the building
then to other nearby as it adjusts and resolves
structures, and, finally, to its shifting geometries so
the historic village of New that it addresses the
Harmony. The sequence elements contained within
initiates from the edge of the its historical narrative.

Architecture can tell a story—real or
imagined—about an individual, a place, an
event. The circulation can operate as an
armature that collects and frames the visual
icons that render the narrative legible.

Architecture has the ability to frame the
relationship between its various occupants
and, in so doing, either establish or

reinforce various behaviors. Movement In Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC

through space continually reframes the Pompéia São Paulo
Recreation Center in São
occupants’ visions, constructing roles that

Paulo, Brazil (1977), a spatial

shift from actor to audience. web is constructed by a
continuous circulatory scan
as athletes pass between the
changing-room tower and the
sports facilities—as if actors
on display for the audience
below and yet afforded a
privileged view of those who
are, in fact, watching them.
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Sequence Circulation and gallery space
The type of movement and the speed in are fused in Frank Lloyd
Wright’s 1959 Guggenheim
which a work is revealed defines the Museum in New York City.
architectural experience. A sequence can Here, an enormous ramp
be highly choreographed and follow a defines the space of circula-
tion, of art gallery, of interior
specific (physical and spatial) itinerary or court, and of building form.
it can be intentionally random and allow for It allows for both near and
a multiple—virtually infinite—variety of distant views of the displayed
works, with the movements
encounters. It can be defined with a clearly of the visitors defining the
articulated path (as with a bridge, stair, or space of the interior.
ramp) or it can be constructed through
formal and spatial relationships, where one
moves toward a source of light or toward and
between figural forms (as through a row of

columns or between two volumes).

Tethered to the hillside by a
light metal bridge, Mario
Continuous Botta’s 1971–73 single-family
house in Riva San Vitale,
An uninterrupted sequence creates a fluid
Switzerland, collects both
and continuous spatial experience with each distant and near views of the
space unfolding into the next. This sequence landscape, beginning with
the bridge and continuing as
is often associated with ramps or generous
one descends the central
staircases, where the speed of movement staircase. Each level radiates
allows for an extended gaze that scans and from this spiraling stair,
which in turn registers
collects the near and the far.
openings in the perimeter
walls that reveal the forested
Attenuated landscape and lake beyond.
Like a symphony, an extended sequence
often has an identifiable theme that begins
with a whisper and concludes with a bang,
exploring along the way variations on the
central theme. It often responds to contex-
tual conditions—a narrowing of the space,
an elevational difference—and occupancy—
a trickle of wanderers versus a crowded

Adalberto Libera’s 1938 Casa

Malaparte in Capri, Italy, is
an extension of the rock
from which it appears to
seamlessly grow. Its majestic
staircase triumphantly
extends the circuitous rocky
ascent that is initiated in the
sea far below it, culminating
the sequence with the view
of a distant horizon.
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Throughout the archeological from the Roman Legion’s and Questioning—are
park at Gigon Guyer’s route along the ramparts, to distributed throughout the
Museum and Park Kalkriese the Teuton’s positions as they park, points in a landscape
in Osnabruck, Germany advanced and retreated, to between which multiple
Each of the eighteen National route’s own particular history For example, along the Senja (1999–2002), a network of a nonmilitaristic neutral encounters and trajectories
Tourist Routes in Norway has and character. These Route, Code Arkitektur’s symbolic paths represents layer of park trails. Three can occur.
a unique constellation of fragments are discovered at Tungeneset rest stop (2006– various layers of occupation, pavilions—Seeing, Hearing,
service buildings and access unique moments along each 07) extends the island’s
infrastructures (bridges, paths, route—constructed traces perimeter road, gesturing
parking) that reference a that render each route visible. downward to the sea.

Guy Debord’s psycho- Interrupted

geography (1955) develops The experience of a building or a landscape
the idea that a thoughtful
need not be continuous—in other words,
understanding of the city is
developed by an aimless fragments of primary spatial experiences
wandering, one driven by can be collected and reconstituted in one’s
impulse rather than order,
memory as a comprehensive, if not
where one can construct a
series of narratives that is continuous, experience.
unique to each itinerary.


Here, the accidental encounter is privileged

over the controlled, where the movement
through a building or landscape is intention-

ally unstructured. This creates an experience

that allows for a continuous recombination
of architectural experiences, with each
combination producing a unique reading
of the work.
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The building volumes of Zaha networks of meandering

Hadid’s 1996–99 Landscape circulation paths, creating a
Formation-One in Weil am three-dimensional spatial
Rhein, Germany, are an weave and obscuring the
extension and transformation distinctions between

of the park’s existing architecture and landscape.

Movement through space is often a distinct
system that establishes a dialogue with a
particular context. It can either amplify and,
in so doing, render legible an existing
infrastructural network or it can overlay a
distinct spatial, material, and temporal
dimension. The dimension, geometry, and
material of movement systems often
demonstrate their occupants’ requirements,
from turning radii (automobiles), to angles
of incline (accessibility), to minimum widths
(egress safety).

Movement systems can originate within the
context in which the work is situated. They
can attach themselves to existing circulation
networks, amplifying their presence into
three-dimensional form, thereby blurring the
boundaries between exterior and interior,
landscape and architecture.

Studio Labics and Nemesi Italy. The distinct material
Systems of movement can operate as Architetti Associati and dimensional layer
material and spatial mediators between (1999–2004) overlaid a introduces an independent
system of steel bridges, circulation system that allows
distinct conditions: between past and
ramps, and thresholds onto the visitor to navigate the
present, between two scales, between two the archeological ruins of traces and remains of the vast
programs, between two materials, between Trajan’s Market in Rome, 113 CE brick structures.
two speeds. Often, they introduce the
human being into a liminal space between
two conditions, establishing a critical
dialogue that allows one to be understood
from the lens of the other.
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Multiple movement systems Multiple/Parallel
define the architecture of Simultaneous or parallel sequences reveal
Centre Georges Pompidou,
designed by Richard Rogers alternate architectural experiences: The short
and Renzo Piano and and sweet is distinct from the long and
completed in 1977 in Paris, leisurely, the honorific from the prosaic, the
France. Be it the movement
of air, water, electricity, art, once a year from the every day. The
or people, each system is enormous central brass doors to the Vatican’s
given a clear expression that St. Peter’s open on special occasions, allowing
defines the form of the
building. The city of Paris is for an axial procession up the stairs and into
displayed as a picturesque the central nave, versus the everyday
canvas as one moves up the perimeter doors that provide access to the
exuberant, and now iconic,

escalators that traverse the local and the touristic. Courthouses also have
exterior of the building. multiple sequences—one for the accused, one
for the public, and a third for the judiciary—
each demonstrating various scales of access

and security that reflect the special circum-
stances of each group.


The form of the 2008 formed and deformed as a each layer, introducing yet
Automobile Museum in function of the automobile’s another dimension and
Nanjing, China, by 3Gatti external upward spiral, operation to the folded plates

Architecture Studio is a transforming the car from as the inner surfaces adjust
function of the building’s prosaic machine to exhibited to the human scale. An
independent, yet intertwined, object as it navigates the elevator adds a third means
circulation trajectories. ramped surfaces. The of navigating the structure—
The building’s paper-thin pedestrian’s inner descent a direct route back to the top
concrete floor wafers are ramps back down through layer of parking.
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It is through dialogue that everyone


becomes an architect.
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A work is constantly renewed by its encounters with new perceptions, new works.

Most works of art—including, of course, architecture—

are evaluated by their capacity to “live” beyond their 132

boundaries. That is, a work is seen to have an enduring

artistic value when it repeatedly transcends its superfi-

cial subject matter, and to engage others in an ongoing

exchange of observations, understandings, and even
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The Vietnam Veterans a transitory bolt of lightning, supplement the wall with a
Memorial wall in Washington, a timeline, an arrow, a mute realistic sculpture repre-
DC (designed by Maya Lin, tombstonelike symbol of senting three male soldiers
completed in 1982) is a death, a vibrant mirrorlike and, later, another depicting
complexly dialogical con- reflection of life. Here, the three female nurses and an
struction that has evoked construction of memory—and injured soldier, explicit
countless, occasionally meaning—is wholly the task representations intended to
contradictory interpretations: of the individual visitor. delimit the range of possible
a wound in the ground, However, concern over the commemoration.
a ditch, a bulwark, a “V” unpredictability of inter-
(Vietnam or victory?), pretation led politicians to

Rafael Moneo’s El Greco irregular system of Ragnar Östberg’s Stockholm affinities. Additionally, (like the crescent moon to the
Congress Center (2012) “buttresses” that resonates Town Hall (1923) is a festival details such as the right of the large window),
establishes a clever dialogue with other externally- of dialogues, from the occasionally aberrant and intentional misalign-
with the fortified walls of supported ramparts that were historic to the internal. Its column—only one in the ments, Stockholm’s Town
historic Toledo, Spain, but reinforced by necessity over Riddarfjärden façade is loggia being octagonal for Hall keeps the viewer’s eyes
incorporates the traditional time, are in reality, hollow composed of bands of instance—signal their varying dancing and mind speculating
rubble construction within ventilation shafts serving the windows that seem to follow roles within the circulatory on its countless layers of
bands of concrete, and the subterranean parking garage. their own rhythms, remini- paths of the building. meaning and elusive systems
scent of the Doge’s Palace With its blind “windows,” of order.
in Venice, an allusion to apparently erratic apertures,
Stockholm’s maritime subtle brick hieroglyphs

behaviors that can persist long after the work worlds. This work insists on the unambiguous Architecture also approaches the status of
is complete, even after the author and the singularity of its meaning and resists—occa- a monologue when it is designed with a
original audience are no longer present. Such sionally fears—multiple interpretations. It is singularity of intention (perhaps a work
works initiate an open-ended, dialogical the unequivocal voice of authority. Monu- intended as a manifesto) or one in which the
engagement with their world. Indeed, much ments will often adopt a monological tone, designer is determined to make an autobio-
of a work’s meaning and identity is developed lest the subject of their commemoration be graphical or otherwise private statement,
by an audience’s past and present experiences subject to unanticipated interpretations. with the identity of the author being the
as elicited by the work, and of their percep- Also, buildings considered to be primarily predominant message. Works of limited
tions of the work’s relationship to other works. utilitarian might operate monologically capacity for dialogue include those that
A work is constantly renewed by its encoun- (factories, water towers, electrical substa- simply mimic another work—like someone
ters with new perceptions, new works. tions, and grain silos), but this does not who annoyingly repeats another’s words—
preclude them from being overlaid with or those that merely negate without rebuttal,
A monological work, on the other hand, has imposed interpretations, or for these a “no” without any positive assertion.
no intention of engaging its audience in a functions to be accommodated in a design
new or transformed understanding of their that has more expansive aspirations.
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Left: In converting the ruined
Santa Maria do Bouro
Convent in Amares, Portugal,
into a hotel (1987–97),
Eduardo Souto de Moura uses
contemporary materials to
articulate the modern
occupation of the structure
while scrutinizing its former
status both as a once grand
convent and—perhaps more
compellingly—as a ruin.
Highly reflective, frameless
windows simulate the empty
apertures of a ruin, the thinness of the steel. Above: The minimally Fernando Távora’s Pousada

pretending to reveal sky Fragments of now irrelevant punctured wall of a wing of Santa Marinha in Guimarães,
within. A weathering steel masonry protrude along the the former convent’s cells Portugal (1984). Viewed from
panel traces the window’s clean, scarred wall, joined by serves as both a background above, this new wing appears
proportions while displacing rust stains leaching from the and a primary rhythm for the to be a simple terrace; it is

it in space, underscoring the newly inserted balcony. syncopated rhythms of the both literally and figuratively
massiveness of the wall with new, highly fenestrated wing a new ground for the convent.
of hotel rooms in this part of

The architectural designer has numerous experiences, and by seeing architecture’s are dialogically open ended; they have no
resources for the production of a work that capacity for shading the memories of past determinate past and can have no fixed future.
engenders dialogue: program, site, various experiences and establishing a framework The role of the architect is to facilitate the
forms of representation, other buildings for future observations. discursive aspect of forms, and by engaging
(adjacent as well as unseen or even unbuilt), various types of dialogue, to allow the
materials, forms (basic and compound), Inevitably, architectural forms invite a certain continuous redefinition of a work’s meanings
personal experiences, memories, and the amount of discourse. No architect can be fully by all of its observers and all of its contexts.
participation of a cadre of others. The role aware of the meanings that have accumulated
of these others—instructors, critics, collabora- in even the simplest of forms, forms saturated In the more dialogical works of architecture,
tors, clients, users, historians, and casual by centuries of history and the countless everyone has an opportunity to “construct”
observers—is essential to the continuation recollections, world views, and experiences of the work, to assign it values and meanings,
of a work’s capacity for dialogue, not just individual observers. For this reason, most both internally and in relation to its
through active critique, but also by placing forms—from spheres and cubes to petal- environment. It is through dialogue that
a work in the context of other works and shaped roofs and insectlike substructures— everyone becomes an architect.

The façade of Francesco bulge at the Oratory; the belt

Borromini’s Oratory of the across the Oratory’s middle
Filippini on the left aligns with the church’s
(completed 1650) both lower cornice and frieze;
translates and analyzes its the capitals of Borromini’s
neighbor, the Chiesa Nuova pilasters are reductive

(façade by Fausto Rughesi, versions of those at the

c. 1605); to gaze at one is to church; and while the church
interpret the other. The steps forward at its center,
Oratory’s segmented gable the Oratory’s façade presents

refers to the subtle layering an emphatic concavity.

of that on the church; the The main entry to the new
small arch of the church’s complex is through the small
upper window becomes a door in the gap between the
flattened half dome in the façades, duplicating the
Oratory; the shallow arch dimensions of the church’s
framing the church’s central side doors.
doorway sponsors a shallow
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Giuseppe Jappelli’s Caffé porch motif with its largely fabric (although the “gothic” of these motifs are used as
Pedrocchi (1831–42) in the blank background story with structure to its left is actually bookends terminates in
historic center of Padua, a single door and embedded a later addition by the same another piazza in which two Within a former cloister near by excavating a carefully
Italy, is triangular in plan frieze sits alone in one piazza, architect, engaging his own of these porch/pavilion the entry of the Santa delineated “window” into the
and uses the same motif to establishing a center to the building in a complex, motifs are subordinated to Marinha Convent in wall, making the viewer aware
establish multiple dialogues space while appearing to be a time-bending dialogue). framing a large central bay, Guimarães, Portugal, now a of the building’s complex past
in varying contexts. The pavilion embedded in the A street façade in which two sheltering an outdoor café. pousada, Távora reveals the while establishing the case for
building’s promiscuous history its current transformation
of repeated reconstructions into a hotel (completed 1984).

Forms of Dialogue orthogonal forms, figural components within Redirection

One of the most effective techniques of background field conditions. It is also Redirection can also be a means of engaging
interpreting forms is to measure them possible for an element to develop evolving a work or form in a dialogue. This can occur
against other forms, not just through understandings when understood in dialogue by means of reprogramming, as in the case
similarities but also through differences. with an environmental or temporal phenom- of a doorway becoming a window, a factory
enon. For example, a form can be under- becoming a museum, or a garden becoming
Contrast stood alternately as opaque, translucent, or a roof. It is possible to directly supplement
The dialogue between two contrasting transparent, based on the time of day, the meanings of a form by adding or
forms is especially powerful, in that contrast changes in location of the Sun, the engage- subtracting details or characteristics.
provides a relational means of defining a ment of screens, or the transitions between Examples of subtraction include cutting into
form. To perceive something as being small, external daylight and internal artificial light. buildings in order to reveal aspects that
it is necessary to perceive it in relationship might have been previously unconsidered,
to something else that is big. Heaviness Enrichment to open views previously inaccessible, or
is understood in its relation to lightness, The enrichment of meanings can also arise to introduce new sequences that retell a
roughness to smoothness, oldness to from a dialogic engagement. For example, a building’s narrative.
newness. Without a sense of one of these design can elaborate on the meanings of an
terms, the value of the other remains existing building or site by highlighting—by Addition
undefined. Moreover, each term carries framing, isolating, or uncovering—previously Addition may produce an expanded or
within it a remnant of its opposite: The underemphasized or hidden aspects of the unexpected interior within the implied
concept of “natural” always retains traces of previous forms. volumes of an exterior, bring new emphasis
“artificial.” In each case, further dialogue can to one component in a series, or suggest
lead to a reorganization of these terms, with Dialogue can arise from the reiteration of further meanings by presenting a form or
something heavy, for example, suddenly forms, supplementing meaning by resituating motif in an alternative material (what was
understood as being weightless. or reframing other forms in differing contexts. brick becomes stone) or shape (one in a
A form—just as a phrase—transplanted into row of round columns is hexagonal instead).
A work can also develop through a series of a different context absorbs new inferences,
internal dialogues: unique versus repetitive new potential meanings, that reflect back
elements, curvilinear as opposed to onto the original.
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a population’s shared memory. Many public
buildings (especially courthouses throughout
the United States) have made reference to
the Parthenon when they attempted to appeal
to a sense of monumental importance.
Similarly, a work might recall a local building
technique or typical materials and utilize
these resemblances to develop a design that
establishes a dialogue with a vernacular.

As the façade of the result is a clever formal

Michelangelo’s Palazzo dei conversation that challenges Scales of Dialogue

Conservatori at the the viewer to interpret the Architectural dialogues can occur at multiple
Campidoglio in Rome wraps surface and its components—
scales: at the level of the city, of the building,
the corner of the building, its pilasters, railings, frames,
elements incrementally brackets, apertures—in or of the detail. It is even possible for a dialogi-
merge with the medieval contrasting sets of cal relation to cross over scales: for a building

As much because of his suggests a portal composed fabric of the earlier building. implications, depending on
unique style as because of of a thin roof draped over two to engage a city, or for a detail to consider
Whether this resolution was whether one reads from the
his brilliant application of logs supported by four bulls, originally intended or not, left or from the right. the entirety of a building in microcosm.
complex forms, Jože Plečnik’s but it is, in effect, a covered
interventions in the Castle of stairway descending to the
Prague suggest an indefinite garden from a courtyard, The City
chronology while suggesting revealing a large gap to a Urbanistically, a design can engage an
possible systems of green space opened beneath
aspect associated with its city—a canal or
symbolism. His “Gate to the the heavy walls of one wing
Garden of Paradise” (1925) of the castle. a boulevard—presenting it in a unique way.
A building can reiterate the massing or
silhouettes of other structures in its vicinity
while introducing a new pattern of usage. Or
Indexing a building can open unseen vistas into some
Some facets of dialogue are derived from the of the unobserved crevices of its urban
concept of indexing, whereby there is an fabric, suggesting through a dialogical
indirect, relational aspect between a form engagement those conditions and traits that
and the perception of its meanings, often introduce new perceptions of a city that had
one that has been learned from experience. once been known in a very different way.

Just as smoke seen rising from a chimney is an The Building

index of a fire inside, certain forms have had A design can engage another existing
either a general (to a population) or specific building in a new dialogue, superimposing
(to an individual) relation to meanings. For new modes of understanding on a once
example, the typical image of a house form— familiar structure or condition. Such
a rectangular box with a gabled roof, a single engagement can reinforce another building’s
door, and possibly a chimney—is a standard role within a community. It could also subvert
index of “home,” despite being as historically previous understandings of a building to
associated with classic Greek temple forms suggest new values and significances.
and traditional barn structures as with any
actual residences. In the world, very few The Detail
individuals actually lived in buildings that Or a design can address specific details of its

looked like this “house.” Nevertheless, works precedents: a roof shape, a traditional system
that incorporate such a form may resonate of joinery, an entry condition. Dialogical
In transforming the remodel. A sunken door
with some viewers as having a cozy, familiar, engagement of details can focus attention on

Monastery of the Lima beneath an asymmetric

Refóios into the Agrarian window is reorganized into a domestic impression, despite being perhaps aspects of craftsmanship, can reinvigorate
Graduate School of Ponte de balanced composition with
institutional or commercial structures. forms that have become overly familiar, can
Lima, Portugal (1987–1993), the forceful interruption of
Fernando Távora clearly the new window. More than a overwrite previous implications, or can even
indicates his newer door and window, the result is A work can also index other works, usually infer new or forgotten social or cultural
intervention, but with no a trio of diverse voices.
historical, that may or may not be an aspect of interpretations.
attempt to simply restore or
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Tropes build connections between


many aspects of our world, proposing a

relativity between the knowable and
yet-to-be-known phenomena we observe.
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A trope may be employed in order to instigate fresh understandings of something that
has become conventional.

Conceptions founded on rhetorical figures—especially

the tropes of metaphor, metonymy (and synecdoche), 138

hyperbole, irony, and personification—have been instru-

mental in the design and reception of countless artistic,

scientific, and even cultural constructions. Ubiquitous

in every branch of the arts and sciences (one thinks of
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Commercial architecture successful, due largely to Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight to ticketing to boarding. One
often indulges in overt their conspicuousness and Center at John F. Kennedy of the most exhilarating and
metonymy, with restaurants the mock monumentality of Airport in New York City iconic airport designs ever
shaped like chickens or their gigantic derby hat cum

(1962) sought a formal produced, its layered

flanked by lumberjacks, and dome. The hat suggested vocabulary that could metaphors conjure an elegant
corporate headquarters associations with Western represent “the spirit of raptor just before flight, and
configured as their products. heroes and outlaws, as well flight,” as well as embody a a weightless sense of soaring.
The famous Brown Derby as famous Hollywood fluid efficiency from arrival
restaurants in Los Angeles characters such as Charlie
(the first was constructed in Chaplin’s Tramp.
1926) were extremely

the atom as a miniature solar system, or the Types

“flow” of electric “currents”), tropes are There are many types of tropes, with many
frequently assimilated so completely they classes and subclasses. But certain tropes
often go unnoticed. Buildings, for instance, have appeared with greater frequency
are described as “sitting” by the road, throughout architectural history and continue
“facing” the park (both personifications), to have a value in the design of buildings
“cascading” down a hill (metaphor), or “the and the education of architects.
White House announced …” (metonymy).
At first, a trope is evasive—the actual subject In a metaphor, something that is potentially
is temporarily absent, replaced by something unfamiliar or less known is elaborated by a
else—creating a diversion that initially reference to something that is known—a
defamiliarizes the original subject, distancing similarity is established. This usually involves
it from the observer. But upon realizing a removing one component from its literal
The oversized vitrine of is analogous to the same
connectedness to the original subject, tropes meaning so that it can stand for something
Bordeaux Law Courts characteristics in the law,
ultimately prove to be devices for familiariza- else. When, for example, Jimi Hendrix sang (France, completed 1998), by but the building’s seven
tion. Architecture, for instance, usually (in 1967), “And so castles made of sand fall in the London-based Richard wooden casklike courtrooms
Rogers Partnership, not only metonymically refer to
constrained by its own internal language of the sea, eventually,” he was not discussing
argues metaphorically that Bordeaux’s preeminence as
forms, is made familiar by its association with castles, sand, or seas but, instead, aspirations, the transparency and a wine region.
more universally recognized forms or ideas. time, and fate. accessibility of a courthouse

Tropes build connections between many Aristotle argued that metaphors were the
aspects of our world, proposing a relativity greatest tools of the poet, and that they
between the knowable and yet-to-be-known instigate learning in their audiences. Kenneth
phenomena we observe. Burke saw the analogical extensions we develop
through interpreting metaphors as essential
in shaping our perspectives of the world.
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The use of tropes was “speak” directly to its
especially pervasive in the audience (architecture
architecture of eighteenth- parlante). Étienne-Louis
century France, when a Boullée’s metonymic design

reaction to the exuberance for a Cenotaph for a Warrior
of the late baroque led to a (c. 1780) proposes the
reductive classicism and an monument as a colossal
attempt to make architecture sarcophagus. The summer house that The entire house is built
Françoise Racine de Monville as a fragment of a colossal
designed for his estate at the column, implying the
Désert de Retz near Marly, imaginary presence of a
France (1774), is an example gigantic temple that has
of a synecdochic architecture. since collapsed in ruin.

Words and images accumulate metaphorical Metonymy

values through time, occasionally displacing With metonymy, there is contiguity between
their objective identities—think of “storm,” the original and its substitution, which is
“willow,” “snake”—evoking instead emotional, often an associated icon. The classic example
behavioral, mythological, and even ethical is, “The pen is mightier than the sword,”
associations. In the same way, after thousands where “pen” stands in for writing and “sword”
of years, most architectural forms have been for combat. Related to metonymy is the
overcome by metaphor: hearth (heart of the synecdoche, in which a whole is replaced by
home, warmth of family), thickened wall one of its parts, or a part is replaced by a
(protection, security), gabled roof (shelter, whole. Most movie criminals seem to be
homestead), lighthouse (forewarning, named synecdochically, as in Louie “the Ear”
guidance), gateway (initiation, transition). or Bertie “the Chin.”

Jean-Jacques Lequeu’s arcade to a Palladian pavilion

Because, as with most poetic language, If there is an intrinsic romantic poeticism to
project for a Rendezvous at in the attic of a composite
metaphors usually exceed their boundaries, metaphor, metonymy is basically realistic. Bellevue (1777–1814) villa, and so on. The project—
their analogous relationships can bring new While the series of possible analogs represents the other aspect a rendezvous of forms—is an
of synechoche, in which the argument for the idealization
insights to otherwise insufficiently observed accompanying a metaphor often extends
parts are composed of of episodic architectural
phenomena. At the same time, because they beyond the initial presentation, in metonymy wholes. Here, a Greek temple events and the potential
are susceptible to layers of interpretation, there is a focus on a singular condition, with becomes the lantern of a harmony of eclecticism.
Renaissance tower that is, in
often based on individual experiences, an abridged, delimited perception. In

turn, attached by an Islamic

metaphors can occasionally spin out of synecdoche, this abridgement can even lead
control. (For example, Romeo’s “Juliet is the to a sense of surrealism, as with Nikolai
Sun” hardly means that she is yellow or Gogol’s “The Nose,” in which a minor

round, although to some of today’s audience, official’s nose surpasses its owner’s social
it could mean that she is “hot.”) prominence. Architecturally, metonymy can
be employed as a type of shorthand,
providing immediate recognition of a
structure’s function or character.
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Irony Oswald Matthias Ungers used As in Shakespeare’s version,
While there are many forms of irony, they Shakespeare’s retelling of the wall is also a character in
Ovid’s “Pyramus and Thisbe” Ungers’ design, with the
all share the characteristic that what is myth as the central theme for house bisected into a work
presented has some opposition to what is a house in West Berlin (c. cube and a residential cube,
intended. Jonathan Swift’s famous essay, 1976), not far from the Berlin connected only through a
Wall, on a site once single aperture in the thick
“A Modest Proposal,” in which the author containing a medieval wall. wall. More than a house built
seems to advocate the eating of children as The story tells of two lovers on personification, Ungers’
a solution to rural poverty, is considered to from neighboring estates, Pyramus and Thisbe develops
forbidden to meet by their a metaphor and eventual
be a masterpiece of ironic writing. feuding families. Their only commemoration for the
communications occur divided Berlin.
Irony is one of the more difficult tropes. An through a crack in the wall.

audience unaware of the ironic intent (usually

indicated by a larger context or a subtle
“wink”) may understand an assertion at its

face value. Irony constantly fluctuates

between seriousness and jest, between
positive and negative poles. While Swift was
not advocating cannibalism, for example, a
simple understanding of the opposite—that
cannibalism is bad—would also miss his point.

In architecture, ironies are most effective in

The Barrière du Trône (1787), exaggerated voussoirs
challenging beliefs that may be entrenched, comprising two identical surmounted by a pediment
or in overturning formal complexes that have pavilions and two giant shouldered by inflated
columns, is one of Claude brackets—leading to a
been overcome by facile interpretations. For
Nicolas Ledoux’s tollhouses remarkable understatement—
this reason, one finds that many memorials, at the gates to Paris. The an unassuming doorway.
especially those that remind us of painful pavilions combine a Hyperbole denotes the
hyperbolic monumentality—a structure’s civic pomp while
historic events—such as acts of genocide—
massive façade containing a understatement connotes the
employ ironic formal devices: Determined to grandiose arch with civic functionaries within.
be noticed, they invert traditional monumen-
tal forms such as obelisks and stelae or tease
with an act of disappearance (as in the
Monument to the Deportées, chapter 20).

Hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration,
intended to emphasize a specific characteris- Frank Gehry’s Nationale-
tic or condition, as in “waited an eternity.” Nederlanden building in
Prague (1996) is known as
“the Dancing House.” Its
The architectural hyperbole is often forms originated in part as a
incorporated when the designer wishes to personification of the famous
dancing duo of Fred Astaire
introduce a new form-type (a cone in place (the portion with the more
of a dome), to emphasize the uniqueness of vertical deportment) and
a feature (bulbous protrusions on a rectangu- Ginger Rogers (the more
dynamic). The dancing meta-
lar block), or to underscore a characteristic phor is especially approp-
(as with exaggerated classical motifs on a riate, given the building’s
design grasping at monumentality). proximity to neighboring
baroque structures,
extending their regularity
One occasionally finds hyperbole’s opposite, with its fanciful distortions.
understatement, incorporated in architecture
that attempts to recede into an urban texture,
where conspicuousness may be considered a
liability—as with certain clandestine clubs or
utility buildings, for instance.
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Carlo Mollino’s Teatro Regia contours of a female torso, a reference to womb and
in Torino, Italy (completed in figure the architect held in royalty, with the stage’s
1973) incorporates a subtle the highest esthetic regard. proscenium intended to
form of personification with The auditorium volume itself suggest the shape of a
its plan assuming the is a deep reddish-violet, a television screen.

Personification process progresses, often overcome by

With personification, animals, natural additional design concerns or by other
phenomena, abstract concepts, and conceptual investigations. To some extent,
inanimate objects are given human traits. every diagram is an operative trope.
Personification is very common in fables,
fairy tales, and mythologies. An expressive trope is central to the design’s
concept and, when understood by the
Personification can also have a double observers of a work, provides them with tools
reading, in that while a fox might be for expansive interpretations. A trope may
presented as a man, there is the implication instigate a range of fresh understandings for
that men can be foxlike. Personification can something that has become conventional. An
be a technique for representing architecture’s architect might also use an expressive trope
abstract characteristics in a way that can be to introduce an audience to an unfamiliar or
understood on a “human” level, as with ineffable program that has no established
Lequeu’s attempts to apply physiognomy to formal language.
façade design. It has also been quite prevalent
in architecture that addresses the human body There is, however, an inherent danger with
as a source for the organization of space. tropes, for both the designer and the

observer: one can become lost in the endless

Jože Plečnik wanted his symbol in Christianity,
Values and Perceptions analogs of the metaphor, the fragmentation Church of the Sacred Heart in incorporating the nobility of
In the design process, there can be both of metonymy can permanently obscure the Prague (1932) to incorporate Christ and, because the

a brick pattern that suggests ermine’s coat becomes

operative and expressive tropes. An operative whole, or one might become content with
the texture of an “ermine darkened in the summer to
trope is used primarily for motivating the the absence of the actual subject. cloak.” The metonymy here is lighten again in the winter, a
design process and is usually “buried” as the a reference to the traditional reference to resurrection.
cloak of royalty and a central
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The goal of defamiliarization is to prompt


others to actually perceive for the first

time something that has perhaps already
been seen on countless occasions—to
grasp the extraordinary in something that
has, until now, been routine.
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By introducing unfamiliar sources of conjecture as well as unfamiliar techniques of observ-
ing, of conceptualizing what is observed, and of describing what has been conceptualized,
the architect is able to cultivate a set of enhanced sensibilities.

Just as a building is expected to provide shelter, facili-

tate our day-to-day activities, and give us a sense of

comfort and familiarity, architecture may also on occa-


sion lead us to question what we believe about the

world, to contemplate what has become customary or
habitual, to reevaluate what makes us comfortable, to
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From its exterior, the Mãe city’s primary source of fresh

D’Água Amoreiras Reservoir water. Occupation of the
in Lisbon (constructed 1834 interior had been limited to
from designs by Carlos the perimeter, with a grotto-
Mardel), seems to be an like cascade announcing the
elegant urban monument, water’s grand entrance into
perhaps even a temple. The the city. The Mãe D’Água
roof is a public plaza, Reservoir diverts notions
providing vistas of the city. of building and landscape,
Inside, however, the structure inside and outside, rustic
is full of water, being the and urbane, even floor and
termination of an eighteenth- wall from the realm of the
century aqueduct, once the expected.

Device,” published in 1917. He saw

defamiliarization (his term was ostranenie)
as a technique, central to many of the arts,
This pencil drawing by a of an animated model that
first-year student illustrates may later be used to propose whereby the reader or observer is given
an interpretation of the a structure capable of turning a more indirect perceptual route than in
defensive movements of a itself inside out.
everyday presentations. The goal is to
vampire squid. While not an Student: Allison Wills
anatomical representation, challenge what we think we know. Similarly, in prolong the act of perception in a poetic
(faculty: Val Warke &
the record of these Jim Williamson, teaching the education of an architect, evoking the work, to make it less automatic and
movements is already associate: Larisa Ovalles) unfamiliar is an essential technique for more thoughtful.
anticipating the construction
motivating the creative process and going
beyond mere reiteration. By introducing While we may feel close to the familiar, such
unfamiliar sources of conjecture as well as closeness may obscure the genuine object.
unfamiliar techniques of observing, of Defamiliarization distances the object from
conceptualizing what is observed, and of its observer, opening a space of cognition
describing what has been conceptualized, the that requires thoughtful navigation. But there
architect is able to cultivate a set of enhanced is more than poetry in this gap. If there is a
sensibilities. An architecture that results from comfortable stability to what is familiar,
this process can provide the observer with an defamiliarization ultimately discloses the
exceptional way of comprehending the world, instability lurking within—the variability of
and consequently an expansive, intensified observations across times and cultures and
way of living in the world. from individual to individual—as well as
exposing the opaque veil that “familiarity”
“Defamiliarization” was first evoked by the often constructs around a subject, preventing
literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky in “Art as one from seeing its deeper significance.
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This acrylic, glass, steel, and development of a design for a
wood model illustrates structure capable of physical
concepts derived from a expansion as it adapts to
drawn analysis of the variable site configurations
expansion of a cheetah’s and circulation routes.
spine and the lowering of its Student: Lisa Zhu
body as it accelerates. This (faculty: Val Warke and
model represents an Jim Williamson, teaching
intermediate stage in the associate: Larisa Ovalles)

There are consequences to defamiliarization: Even the tools of design can be redefined:
when practiced by the producer of a work, an one can challenge the implications of
understanding of the unfamiliar is inevitably representational conventions (a photograph
and eventually practiced by its perceiver. might be interpreted as a plan, a silhouette
as a basis for a model), or unlikely objects
Operations can be incorporated in a representation
Defamiliarization can play many roles in the (children’s toys in a model, anatomical
design of a project and especially in the illustrations in a section).
education of an architect. An architect may
sketch a mountain silhouette that later It is the discovery of a fluid relationship
becomes a roof, dissect a fruit cart in a local between things—forms, contexts, functions,
market that later becomes a preschool, translate and scales—that consistently renews our
the translucent tessellations of a Paul Klee understandings of the world around us,
Le Corbusier’s de Beistegui its cornice, a croquet lawn as
Penthouse (completed “carpet,” and the “fireplace”— painting into an urban design, or apply a pig’s suggests new questions, answers previously
1930) was located atop a which appears to “smoke” penchant for wallowing to a design for desert unresolved problems, and initiates one of
nineteenth-century when steam is exhausted
structures. Mining the unfamiliar often results architecture’s most powerful discursive
apartment building on the from a flue behind the
Champs-Elysées in Paris. wall—as an Arc de Triomphe, in an expanded inventory of forms, contextual capabilities.
It is an essay on surrealist suggesting simultaneously and environmental responses, and analytic
defamiliarization in that the Arc de Triomphe is
and representational techniques. Subversion
architecture, whereby one a fireplace (that does not
term partially displaces function) and that every Another technique involves the “overthrow” of
another. In this view, a fireplace might aspire to Appropriation a form or formal complex’s traditional values
rooftop “room” has the sky as being an Arc de Triomphe.
Architectural concepts can be derived— or relationships, perhaps by upsetting its
its ceiling, the hills of Paris as
through analysis and conceptualization—from hierarchical status (a kitchen might supplant
virtually any artifact, even those that are not a living room’s predominance, an electrical
explicitly architectural (such as a tree, a beetle, substation might be a civic monument), by

a crinoline, a periscope). The appropriation of making it nonfunctioning or dysfunctional

forms, operations, or representational methods (a gabled roof is filled with holes, a staircase
from the investigation of such sources is one goes nowhere), or by distorting its customary
of the most common techniques a designer social value (a shunned subject is framed as
can employ in defamiliarizing a design process if an object of reverence, a private space is
during its early stages. made very public).
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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s In these instances, the designer, critics,
German Pavilion for the 1929 and observant colleagues should remain
International Exhibition in
Barcelona (rebuilt 1986), receptive to the serendipitous potential such
introduced modernism to an “accidents” might provide for defamiliar-
unaware audience using izing and reinvigorating a process. While
simply walls, columns, a floor,
and a ceiling. Large, polished “accident” is often considered an antonym
planes of glass and marble of “design,” many schools even attempt to
appear to wander, unadorned promote the occurrence of such “accidents”
throughout the pavilion,
touting the virtues of an as valuable opportunities for expanding a
independent column grid student’s repertoire, an important aspect
and “free plan” space. of self-education.
Defamiliarized by reflection
and controlled illumination,
marble surfaces dematerialize Reception
before our eyes as glazed The work that proposes a defamiliarized view

surfaces solidify. The thickest

wall in the pavilion is actually of the world often fosters in its observers a
a well of translucent glass; modification of their familiar world, although
milky and luminous, it casts it would be incorrect to say that reception
no shadows. And as the glass
wall symmetrically disposed is an exact mirror of production, since
between the black pool and cognition is always personal and temporal.
carpet within fluctuates Nevertheless, there is an illuminating force
between being a vitrine and a
mirror, the carpet seems to behind defamiliarization, one that permits
ripple while the Georg Kolbe designers and observers to consistently
sculpture dances inside exchange roles.
the structure.

Since all forms have promiscuous and
unknowable pasts—no one can know all of
their liaisons and manifestations—the
acceptance of cursory, preconceived
interpretations is the most efficient path for
the observer. The viewer of a defamiliarized
More than a simple inversion, the subversive Accident formal complex must be willing to reconsider
operation in design may permanently and Occasionally, during a design process, an forms within the entirety of a new context
even retroactively reorient an observer’s “accidental” understanding emerges from the and to disengage some of these forms from
interpretation of a form as well as of all misinterpretation—intentional or not—of a their prior, more superficial denotations. Since
similar forms. representation: solids might be interpreted many of these forms are fully present only in
as voids, paving as ceiling, a detail or an memory, the effect may be retroactive.
De- and Recontextualization urban plan “mistaken” for a building. This
Because much of interpreted meaning is could even be the result of misreading site Wonder
derived from the context in which a form is or program data: An incorrect scale, an Whenever one encounters something for the
situated, relocating a form or system into a exaggerated or inverted topography, a first time, especially when that thing is
new—and possibly resistant—context will demolished building may be absorbed into somehow extraordinary, there is inevitably a
inevitably defamiliarize the original. When a proposal. sense of wonder. Since the goal of defamil-
an opera house is placed beneath a highway, iarization is to prompt others to actually
one’s biases regarding the status of the Alternatively, an actual accident might foster perceive for the first time something that
institution may be altered, taking with them alternative understandings: a drawing may be has perhaps already been seen on countless
the material aesthetic sensibilities of the damaged, reversed, or misprinted; a model occasions—to grasp the extraordinary in
project. When a tenement becomes fractured, incomplete, or inverted; a “wrong” something that has been routine—the
isolated in a park, it begins to assume a word might be used in a verbal presentation. observer’s first reaction may be one of
monumental presence. By disengaging intention from execution, the wonder. The emotional tingle of wonder is
assimilation of such accidents can inspire a generally followed by an inquisitive urge
designer to consider an approach outside a and, eventually, a critical sensibility.
familiar method.
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The CaixaForum gallery in drapery, window as opening
Madrid by Herzog & de or marking, and building as
Meuron (completed 2007) entity or material. A familiar
incorporates the brick body building is rendered unfamiliar,
of a former power station, promoting previously
estranging its fundamental unthinkable perceptions of
character: its stone foun- architecture. The adjacent
dation is removed; its brick Vertical Garden by Patrick
envelope suspended above a Blanc (2007) further
sunken entry court; and a defamiliarizes concepts of
ponderous, oxidized steel mass and material, with
volume erupts as an alien “wall” as “ground,” sugges-
mansard. The manipulation ting a dislocation of the
of the older structure nearby botanical gardens.
contests our understandings

of brick as structure or

Poetics almost perverse, collision of vehicular and
The defamiliarized form, shaken loose from domestic cultures. For those observers, the
its rote denotation, is free to develop new defamiliarization of the cladding of an
levels of connotation. With this “thickening” everyday, mass-marketed wagon—an object
of architecture’s language, observers become that would normally be visually consumed in
aware of architecture’s capacity for poetic a moment—initiated a thoughtful contempla-
implication: Even the most prosaic forms tion that would forever alter their percep-
begin to resonate with unforetold significa- tions of such wagons and, possibly, of
tions and possibilities. These poetic artificial veneers and even industrialized
consequences may influence our societal, domesticity.
environmental, ethical, emotional, and
esthetic prejudices and understandings. Exposure to the unfamiliar aspects of the
familiar, the habitual, and the commonplace
Extension of Awareness not only discloses the lost and hidden
Walter De Maria’s The New columns seem to “grow” from
York Earth Room (1977), the dirt, lighting fixtures When the vinyl wood-grained body paneling meanings behind the forms in our world, but
curated by the Dia Foundation, seem as sunlight penetrating fell from a colleague’s 1970s station wagon, frequent encounters with the unfamiliar
consists of a second-floor a canopy of foliage, walls as
she felt it was necessary to somehow cover extend our abilities to “read” the world
Manhattan loft filled with fragments of a ruin. The
140 tons (127 metric tons) of persistent whiteness, almost the exposed splotches of black glue and through forms.
dirt. Discovering the loamy- a platitude in modern rusted screw heads. Combining inexpensive-
scented space in Soho not apartment lofts, exaggerates
ness, efficiency, and an architect’s sensibility,
only underscores the rarity of the unnatural contrast,
earth in this part of the suggesting a reciprocal she replaced the plastic wood with thinly
city—of country relocated artificiality between the molded sheets of plastic bricks. The
into city—but it suggests a vacancy of the loft and the
unremarkable wagon became a very
reevaluation of the elements soil permanently tilled for
remarkable object. While few people were
comprising the space: growth that never happens.
willing to park next to it, many were willing to
comment on what the wagon revealed of the
suburban esthetic it engaged: “wood” siding

on automobiles represents a very peculiar,
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Architecture’s capacity for transformation


can sponsor alternative programs, inhabi-

tations, appearances, and performances.
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Transformations occur at multiple scales, from the smallest particle to an entire building,
and at any interval, from a one-time event to a cyclical transformation.

While the material of architecture might be predomi-

nantly static—concrete, steel, stone, glass, wood—the

experience of architecture can be a highly dynamic


one. Architecture has the capacity to transform from

minute to minute, day to day, year to year.
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Ernst Giselbrecht in 2005–07 allowing for both personalized
created the “Dynamic orientations and environ-
Façade” for the Kiefer mental responsiveness.
Technic Showroom in Bad The origamilike surface
Gleichenberg, Austria. Here continually transforms the
an independent surface of experience of the building
perforated light metal bifold and the landscape from
panels can be positioned in within and from without.
an infinite variety of ways,

By inserting a series of full- Hangar 16 in Madrid, Spain,

height steel doors into the creates multiple spatial
vast, seemingly limitless readings that also facilitate a
space of the former range of programmatic scales—
slaughterhouse structure, from intimate art openings to
Iñaqui Carnicero’s 2012 full-blown rock concerts.

These transformations can be literal, implied, movement of the Sun), programmatic (a Temporal (Animation)
or often both. In other words, a panel can train compartment transforms from living Architecture registers the passage of time.
slide from one position to another, or as light room by day to bedroom by night with the Embedded within its transformations are the
moves across its surface, it can transform lowering of the bunks), or spatial (a volume traces of human rituals and environmental
from reflective solid to transparent. But in all enlarges as its occupancy increases). stimuli. The sliding, rotating, opening, and
cases, this transformative capacity can Transformations occur at multiple scales, closing of surfaces have the ability to
sponsor alternative programs, inhabitations, from the smallest particle to an entire transform spatial scales and relationships,
appearances, and performances—in other building, and at any interval, from a one- determine conditions of public and private,
words, architecture really is never very static time event to a cyclical transformation. and transform functions and operations.
at all.
For example, it is very common in modern Topological
Literal theaters for the audience/performance Architectural space, form, and surface can
A kinetic architecture not only registers and relationship to be physically altered by also transform through the deformation of
adapts to the effects of external stimuli but it rotating stages, lifts, and movable loge underlying structural patterns, based on
also provokes behaviors as a function of its seating; while projection technologies can mathematical models that subsequently
transformation. External stimuli can be perceptually alter the sense of enclosure, inform the qualitative aspects of such
environmental (shutters adapting to the weather, and time. patterns. As an alternative to literal
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Eileen Gray’s expanding furnishings transform to
wardrobes in Tempe à serve multiple spatial and
Pailla—the house she functional programs. The
designed for herself in entry hall’s extendable
Castelar, France, from wardrobe expands to
1932–34, are but one example accommodate its changing
of an interior conceived as contents, but in doing so,
an enormous piece of transforms the entry hall’s
furniture—where both spatial sequence.
surfaces and freestanding

movement, these seamless physical Implied

transformations produce a fluidity of form Architecture transforms in nonkinetic ways
where walls become floors become ceilings as well, where the implication of transforma-
as they respond to programmatic stimuli. tion can reside in programmatic, formal, or
perceptual interpretations.
Smart Materials
Programmable materials—synthetic materials Programmatic
that can be “stitched” into everyday materials Buildings that undergo programmatic
and that self-activate when exposed to heat, transformation appropriate elements that

water, and electricity—transform the surfaces were once designed for another specific
In 2013, Skylar Tibbits of the absorbing material equips
and forms into which they are embedded purpose. For example, light projected Self Assembly Lab at MIT, the resulting composite
through processes such as contracting, through the stained glass windows of a along with Stratasys and material with a built-in

Autodesk Inc., have functionality when exposed

swelling, and thinning. Often these church-turned-nightclub transforms the
developed a process whereby to water, one that, when
activations occur at the nanoscopic scale— meaning of those windows from religious a composite material can multiplied and introduced
the scale at which particles, hence material, texts to disco balls. While nothing has expand and deform according over a larger territory,
to preprogrammed constraints. anticipates the transfor-
undergo change. physically changed, it is the context of the
The binding together of a mation of form as it responds
experience that transforms one’s perception malleable material with a to external stimuli.
of the work. polymer-based, water-
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In their 2009 design for the produce a continuous vertical one, where the
Astana National Library in spiraling path, a three- patterns of its surfaces map
Kazakhstan, BIG (Bjarke dimensional Möbius strip, the thermal requirements of
Ingels Group) combines a that begins as a horizontal its changing orientations.
series of geometries to space but that shifts to a

The ground floor of Norman space used by Filipina

Foster’s HSBC building in domestics. Plugged into an
Hong Kong (1978–85) is a existing infrastructure of
permeable space that, during pedestrian, vehicular, and
working hours, operates as subterranean networks, it is
institutional entry to the a continuously transforming
banking halls and offices public space with the ability
towering above, yet on to be appropriated by an
Sundays is transformed into a evolving urban culture.
marketplace and gathering

Theme and Variation

Recognizable repetition that constructs a
recognizable and cohesive overall “pattern”
permits uniqueness and difference to exist
within it without destroying the cohesiveness
of the whole.

Role of Perception and Memory

Things once experienced in a specific way
appear to undergo change when perceived
from a context that has been altered.
Architecture has the ability to anticipate,
and even produce, this altered context.
On the other hand, memories of previously
Donald Judd’s 1980–84 to enclosed on only the two its individual frames and
experienced architectures rarely remain collection of sixty-four 2.5 x short sides. Any single strewn across the landscape.
intact when revisited, as meanings are often 2.5 x 5 m (2.8 x 2.8 x 6 yd) volume does not literally The comprehensive
concrete boxes distributed in transform, but when understanding is of a form
drawn from and transformed by experiences
fifteen clusters across the experienced as a collection, and of a space that is
collected over time. Chinati Foundation’s valley in the implication is that each undergoing transformation—
Marfa, Texas, are each container and each cluster is and as a result transforming
constructed in one of several a formal variation of the the perception of the
states of enclosure, from other, as if an animated landscape in which they have
enclosed on all sides save one filmstrip were dissected into been located.
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Bernard Tschumi‘s Parc de la 11.8 x 11.8 yd]), its material

Villette in Paris, France (steel), and its color (red),
(1982–98) presents a grid of each pavilion is a unique
thirty-five pavilions super- spatial exploration of the
imposed onto an open field to cubic volume, developing its
create an urban park. While specificity in relation to the
each pavilion is related to the spontaneous programs that
other in its basic dimension they were intended to sponsor.
(10.8 x 10.8 x 10.8 m [11.8 x

Through the carefully ceiling of the interior is

calibrated orientation of the perceptually dematerialized,
exterior glass surfaces of transforming the space into
Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass an exterior arbor supported
House in New Canaan, by trunks of steel and bark.
Connecticut, the solid plaster

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Infrastructure introduces a systemic


order, an identifiable armature to which

other components can be subsequently
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Infrastructural systems are intermediary devices between the requirements of the program
for which they have been designed and the context in which they are located.

Like the human body, buildings, cities and landscapes

have intertwined layers of independent networks, or

infrastructural systems, that work together to create


a total system. A network not only serves a specific

function, but that function, in turn, establishes the
parameters of the network—its scale, its dimension,
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The infrastructural network highways produce an


of Japan’s highway system independent, constructed

follows an entirely landscape. The Hakozaki
independent spatial logic Interchange of the Tokyo
than the cities over which it Metropolitan Expressway is a
passes. Motivated by automo- dense structural web of
tive access to dense urban enormous scale, transforming
conditions with severe spatial the exterior spaces of the city
constraints, these layers of into a cathedrallike interior.

Weiss/Manfredi’s 2007 uninterrupted circulation

Seattle Art Museum: Olympic through the complex site,
Sculpture Park blurs the spanning existing highway
boundaries between museum and rail infrastructures while
and city, building and providing site drainage and
landscape. Conceived as a remediation systems. Within
continuous landscape linking the building, the topography
the city’s sidewalks above to is reiterated at a smaller
the waterfront esplanade scale, as a sequence that cuts
its functionality, and its visibility. And like an Physical below, the museum’s concept through and connects its
motivates all architectural galleries. Finally, its exterior
orchestra, where each instrument contributes Infrastructure introduces a systemic order, an
and environmental decisions. surfaces provide outdoor
to the overall symphony, each network is also identifiable armature to which other things can At the urban scale, its amphitheaters and exhibition
independent, serving a specific purpose and subsequently attach. At a larger scale, undulating topography both areas, expanding the
houses the museum’s museum’s cultural program
behaving in a specific way, yet together they infrastructure often becomes the connective
principal galleries and service into the city.
operate to create the larger work. tissue that links fragments of existing spaces and creates
programs, creating a larger and more visible
Infrastructural systems can be physical or network. A series of parks can establish an
ephemeral. As a physical network, they are urban infrastructural network, with individual
intermediary devices between the require- neighborhoods organizing themselves, both
ments of the program for which they have culturally and physically, around a specific park
been designed and the context in which they along the network. Alternatively, a system of
are located. A network of highways operates repeating structural pylons that supports an
as an interface between the speed and overhead viaduct might become an organizing
turning radii of the automobile and the city device that serves as points of reference for
or topography through which it passes. the neighborhoods nestled below.
Alternatively, one may have an ephemeral
network that is not physically constructed. Systemic Armatures
For example, the Freedom Trail is a Like the grand structures of the Roman
collection of buildings and sites where aqueducts, basic infrastructural amenities
important events throughout Boston’s history such as transportation, water, plumbing,
have occurred. It is an historic armature that electricity, and so on can operate as
crosses time and space, marked by a simple architectural armatures that spatially
red line inscribed on the sidewalks of Boston. organize the complexes they serve. When
visible, they become orienting devices that
provide an underlying structure to the
context within which they exist.
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An abandoned rail line that buildings into primary faces,
once served to bring meat always demanding alternate
into lower Manhattan is forms of orientation and
transformed into an urban access. The continuity of this
park, lifting pedestrians into new linear park overlays an
a part of the city they were uninterrupted spatial
never intended to utilize. experience onto what is
This now occupiable typically the interrupted
infrastructure reframes the series of urban blocks and
urban experience as it streets below.
develops a secondary route Diller Scofidio + Renfro
that engages the city in Architects and James Corner
unanticipated ways, Field Operations with Piet
transforming the previously Oudolf (Phases I, II , and III:
inaccessible backs of


Introducing a formal circu- a spine of commercial activity
lation network into the to areas that would otherwise
informal hillside neighbor- be too dangerous to venture
hoods of Medellín, Colombia’s within, much less service.
Metrocable links the crowded Here, infrastructure operates
and marginalized, often both as cultural lens and as
dangerous, communities to connective and programmatic
the city’s primary subway armature, transforming
routes. Floating gondolas the context through which
that scan the densely it passes.
populated landscape not Proyecto Urbano Integral
only bring an audience to (Integral Urban Project),
communities that are The Metrocable San Javier,
typically very insular, but the completed in 2008
cable car stations introduce


Exquisitely thin armatures introduce a series of At Álvaro Siza Vieira’s 1977 the separate residential
inscribe pedestrian structural ribbons that Quinta da Malagueira clusters is attached. The
movement over and through tip-toes three dimensionally housing community in Évora, structures that support the
the Icelandic landscape—lift- across a newly constructed Portugal, a system of raised raised channels overhead
ing skyward what appear to highway and from which concrete aqueducts not only mediate between individual
be mysterious traces of pedestrians can experience provides the infrastructure houses and shops and the
Viking passages. Studio an expanded and directed necessary for water and adjoining public spaces while
Granda’s 2003 Footbridges visual field. electric distribution but also creating shaded loggias along
over Hringbraut & Njardagata an armature to which each of which the residents circulate.
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In his meticulous urban with the historic city, same diameter, which then
renovations for Guimarães, underscoring the bay serve a series of functions:
Portugal (begun 1987), rhythms and motifs of the as fountain ornament, as
One of the ten themed it not only creates an isolated Here storm drainage pipes Fernando Távora uses paving, city’s more public buildings. boundaries for the pedestrian
gardens at Parc de la Villette and unique ecosystem of become elevated thresholds an occasional fountain, and Here, in Largo de João realm, and even as parking
in Paris, France, Alexandre bamboo forests and falling beneath which one moves, various infrastructural Franco, the round windows of bollards.
Chemetoff’s Bamboo Garden waters, but also exposes the assembled into a network of elements to initiate what is, the building at the end are
(1987) is sunken below the layers of infrastructure that bridges and walkways in effect, an analytic dialogue translated into spheres of the
rest of the park. In so doing, normally remained concealed. hovering above.

Scales of Engagement
Bus stops, street furniture, fountains, street
lighting, and the like, are infrastructural
elements whose details, textures, and
dimensions introduce a scale of engagement
that mediates the human body with its larger

Making visible what is typically invisible or
appropriating existing infrastructural
elements in surprising ways are devices that
can raise ecological consciousness, often
introducing an unexpected dimension to an
otherwise necessary, yet prosaic, function. In the Netherlands, Thor ter
In other words, while infrastructural projects Kulve converts the prosaic
urban infrastructures of
might be motivated by functional necessities, streetlights and fire hydrants,
they can also provide shelter, recreational, parking poles, and garbage
environmental, and cultural amenities. receptacles into whimsical
and unexpected programs.
Temporary installations
Cultural attach themselves directly
Processional routes can be important to existing structures,
interpreting their intrinsic
infrastructural systems that reside in the and passive functions into
memories or behaviors of the cultures in playful urban interventions.
which they occur. Sometimes unmarked, it is A fire hydrant is transformed
into sprinkler, a metal
through their occupation that they momen- signpost into swing, a
tarily isolate a particular route within an garbage can into barbeque,
otherwise unremarkable context. Pasadena, and a streetlight into
glowing place marker.
California’s annual Rose Parade celebrates
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Constructed from the
material in which they are
located, rocky cairns, like
these in Iceland, are an
example of way-finding
devices that mark routes
through often inhospitable
landscapes. From each one,
the next is perceived,
bringing measure to an
otherwise infinite horizon.

the first day of the new year with flower-
covered floats, horses, and bands as it
follows a 5.5-mile (9 km) route defined
primarily by the hundreds of thousands of
spectators that line its sidewalks.

Circulation networks that are embedded
within or overlaid upon existing urban
landscapes are rendered “visible” by the
bridges, shelters, or pathways that mark their
trajectories. A bus route, for example, is
populated at specific intervals throughout the
day and night, marked by a series of shelters
that line its path and that serve to trace a
route that would otherwise be invisible.

Anticipatory Frederick Law Olmstead and aquatic. Additionally, the

An infrastructural network can be open- Calvert Vaux’s 1858–73 New spatial experience, and often
ended—explicitly designed as an incomplete York Central Park created a the separation of one system

series of independent from the other, is achieved

system that provides the framework for circulatory networks that through sectional and
transformation over time. Because the was given material and topographic manipulation,
precise requirements for future usage can dimensional specificity carefully calibrated to choreo-

according to the particular graph views or minimize

never be known, with changes in population, program for which each was conflicting programs and
changes in technology, and changes in designed—be it vehicular, experiences.
society and taste, the network that antici- pedestrian, equestrian, or

pates change will inevitably be the one that

remains functional for the longest time.
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The five main arteries that the riders pass, purchase post offices, and small retail.
constitute the backbone of tickets, and access the buses. Dimensionally and formally
the Bus Rapid Transit system They provide not only shelter suggestive of the buses to
in Curitiba, Brazil, are and functional requirements which they allow access, the
identified through their of accessibility and ticketing, kiosks mark a route that
raised cylindrical steel and but have the added would otherwise be invisible.
glass bus stops through which functionality of news kiosks,

Cedric Price’s 1960–61 Fun

Palace is an example of a
structural infrastructure—
in this case a steel grid of
occupiable columns (contain-
ing stairs, plumbing, electrical)
and beams—one that antici-
pates programmatic elements
that could be subsequently
attached or suspended. These
“plug-in” elements comprised
floors, walls, and ceilings, as
well as theaters, restaurants,
and workshops; and, as with a
theatrical production, the
elements were to be easily
mounted and demounted to
produce a continuously
transforming environment.
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In New York City, a series of
urban infrastructural
initiatives aims to construct
the missing links of a
continuous 32-mile (51 km)
Waterfront Greenway Park
that encircles Manhattan
Island. SHoP Architects’ East
River Waterfront Esplanade
(2007–11) is defined by an
armature of plug-in programs
that include bicycle and pedes-
trian paths, recreational, event,
and community spaces with
seating areas, all serving to

define this urban infrastructure.


Alejandro Aravena’s 2001 with each unit subsequently

low-cost housing project, and progressively modified
Quinta Monroy in Iquique, by its inhabitants. An
Chile, introduces an infrastructural field is
aggregation of standard introduced that facilitates
concrete units that are individual transformation
intentionally incomplete, and yet resists total chaos.
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A datum is the point of reference


that collects dissimilar or random

elements into a unified whole.
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Common data are surfaces, spaces, geometric organizations, visual phenomena, and very
large masses.

A datum can be thought of as a singular and hierarchi-

cally identifiable object, space, or organization. It is the

common denominator, the point of reference, by which


dissimilar or random elements can be measured, located,

or given dimension or scale. A datum can be composed
of similar elements that, together, form a primary and
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Le Corbusier’s 1932–33 City contains the communal
of Refuge—or Salvation Army spaces of entry, reception,
Building—aggregates the and library. Here, the
repetitive dormitory spaces dormitory building operates
into a hierarchically dominant as a datum that provides a
linear building in front of common background surface
which are collected a series of for the objects arranged
smaller unique buildings that along its base.

In their 2004–07 public

housing scheme in Madrid’s
new peripheral district of
Carabanchel, Design
Dosmasuno Arquitectos
cantilevered steel-framed
“object rooms” to extend the
interior spaces that reside in
the concrete “wall” of the
primary apartment block that
supports them. These
additions reflect the variety
of apartment types and sizes
producing an ever changing
shadowed texture onto the
surface datum from which
they are attached.

Adler and Sullivan’s 1886–89 zones (a base, middle, and recognizable figure that has the ability to relationship between two or more elements
Auditorium Building in top). This façade interface subsequently organize its surrounding “field.” establishes a visual datum along which other
Chicago, Illinois, is a thus operates as a datum that
multifunctional building of simultaneously registers This datum figure can take on many forms: unrelated elements might be gathered. A
theaters, offices, and hotel two scales: one of its interior a surface, space, grid, axis, horizon line, mass, horizon line or plane provides a singular
rooms. Instead of expressing organization that then and so on. visual reference that locates elements that
each floor as a separate gives way to the scale of its
entity, its façade collects urban context. are either below or above it. A mass is a
multiple floors into discrete A continuous street wall, for example, can be recognizable volume from which spaces are
the organizing surface that connects a series excavated or objects are extruded.
of individual buildings. A courtyard can be
the organizing space that relates the irregular Surface
rooms that surround it. An identifiable grid A surface can be a principal organizing
of streets produces an organizational device as it provides visual continuity. Like a
structure that collects an infinite variety of canvas, a vertical surface can provide the
individual buildings and programs. An axial backdrop for a series of independent objects

(continued on page 169)

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John Hejduk’s Protagonist Wall

In John Hejduk’s Wall Houses, his multiple

meditations over the tensions between the
two-dimensional surface upon which art-
ists and architects work (draw) and the
three- or four-dimensional world that is
depicted upon that surface is fundamen-
tally important. In fact, one might say it is
the whole point. As such, it represents an
invitation for us to ponder basic questions
about representation and larger philosoph-
ical questions about our place in the world.

In all of the Wall Houses the place of this

tension is most clearly enacted by the wall,
a datum that paradoxically both joins and
separates the independent elements in the
house’s composition. Typically, the free-
standing—and functionally purpose- John Hejduk: Wall House 2 (Bye House),
Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA, 1973
less—wall divides the support elements
Model by the NAi Collection
of the house (a ramp or passageway and
services such as stairs and bathrooms)
from the living elements (living, dining,
and sleeping spaces). One approaches the
house and enters through a threshold in
the wall that would typically mark the tran-
sition from exterior to interior, only to find
oneself on the exterior once again.

This experience is repeated as one passes

through the wall and from exterior to exte-
rior whenever one passes from one room to
another. In this way, the wall is both the
primary, mysterious protagonist of the
house and also that element that structures
a profound engagement in space and time;
or as Hejduk himself stated, “The wall is a
neutral condition … It is a moment of pas-
sage. The wall heightens that sense of
passage, and by the same token, its thin-
ness heightens the sense of it being just a
momentary condition … what I call the
moment of the ‘present.’ ” (Hejduk, page 67)
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Hejduk was an architect who built very

little but drew very much. The drawings of
the Wall Houses, particularly the frontal
drawings of the major living elements of
the Bye House, embody some of his most
important preoccupations with representa-
tion. This is the transformation of the three
dimensional into the two dimensional and
the moment that stands between them: the
blank surface of a piece of paper. And it is
made possible by Hejduk’s use of oblique
axonometric projection where plan and
section are simultaneously present without
the distortions of conventional axonomet-
ric projection.

Drawings such as these tend to “flatten”

the illusory space of the drawing and
emphasize the surface of the page. And in
the case of the Wall Houses, this becomes
true for the wall that is drawn upon it as
well. In this way, the “present moment” to
which Hejduk refers is also the threshold
between the architect and an idea that
he or she might project into the future.
The datum, in this case, is the paper itself,
the site—for Hejduk—of the mystery of

—Jim Williamson (Cornell University)

John Hejduk: Wall House 2 (Bye House),

Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA, 1973
Drawing by John Hejduk, Collection
Museum of Modern Art, New York
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At Bernard Tschumi’s 1991–97 the technologically addition of this new roof not
Le Fresnoy Art Center in sophisticated new structure. only collects the existing and
Tourcoing, France, a new roof And while the old buildings randomly organized buildings
blankets the existing 1920s house the spaces traditionally into a cohesive whole, but it

structures, collecting them associated with an art and produces a discovered space
beneath one continuous education center—exhibition of walkways and suspended
surface, producing a liminal spaces, a library, a cinema, a seating areas: an extension of
space between the roofs of restaurant, and apartments the urban landscape beyond.
the old and the underbelly of for faculty and students—the

that might otherwise not have any spatial

relationship to one another. It can also serve
as an interface that simultaneously separates
yet collects opposite conditions on either
side of it. A horizontal surface, as in a large
roof, for example, can act as an umbrella,
one that collects smaller elements beneath it.
Likewise, it can be a common base on which
a variety of structures might stand.

Spaces are recognizable references that
exist in both buildings and cities. Spaces
with recognizable shapes—such as squares,
rectangles, or ovals—act as orienting devices
to which one often returns. These become
especially recognizable references if they
exist in contrast to a series of smaller spaces,
as with a significantly larger space or
exterior courtyard surrounded by smaller
rooms or, within the density of an urban
fabric, as in a public square or a larger
José María Sánchez García’s again objectified, while also
2011 project in Mérida, Spain, producing a continuous avenue flanked by a continuous surface of
mediates between the pattern of volumes on the similarly scaled buildings.
archeological ruin of the other side that allows it to

Temple of Diana and the stich itself into the dense

existing encroaching urban urban fabric surrounding This is true even of curved armatures. The
fabric, producing a perimeter the temple. Here, the datum Grand Canal in Venice, for example, is not
wall on one side that makes a has two faces, operating
only an armature collecting the palaces that
continuous backdrop for the as a mediator between two
temple and a cleared space in distinct conditions. line its edges, but it is also a datum that
which the temple is once provides spatial orientation within the city’s
dense urban fabric.
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João Álvaro Rocha’s 1991–98 laboratories of varying sizes,
National Veterinary the employee cafeteria, and
Investigation Laboratory in the oval animal corral at its
the parish of Vairão in Vila do end. This space of circulation
Conde, Portugal, is an steps down the sloping
example of a datum that terrain as it provides the
physically constructs the skeletal armature for the
circulation zone as a wall that various building blocks that
links the head administrative are plugged into it from
block, the blocks of either side.

Axis and Grid

An axis is a line that connects two or more
things (this line might be folded or bent). It
determines the relationship between a series
of spaces or things. This line can be a visual
and/or physical one, such as a line of sight or
a procession along which one walks (as in a
series of rooms enfilade). A grid, on the
other hand, provides a reference field, a
continuous framework of repeated and
recognizable dimensions by which multiple
objects can be measured.

The horizon is the line that literally separates
earth and sky and, as in a perspective drawing,
it is the line of human sight. In architectural
space, the horizon line is a constant visual
datum that locates and relates elements that
are both below and above it. It is also the datum
shared by both infinite space and foregrounded
elements. Spatial depth is shaped by the
continuous dialogue and fluctuation between
this background and foreground.

A dense volume can serve as a powerful
physical datum—it can be a constructed
object or a metaphoric ground. It is the
Aurelio Galfetti and Flora sports facilities along its way. various programs at multiple
mass from which occupiable space can Ruchat’s 1967–70 public pool Nestled beneath the walkway scales but also provides a
be extracted or objects can be extruded. in Bellinzona. Switzerland, is are the entry stalls, changing continuous line through
an elevated open-air rooms and facilities through which the sky, the horizon,
circulation path that begins in which the pedestrians access and the landscape can be
the city and extends to the the variety of pools below. measured.
river, a linear datum that The concrete path not only
collects a series of pools and physically connects the
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In Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1908
Frederick C. Robie House in
Chicago, Illinois, the unbroken
rhythm of continuous
fenestration reestablishes the
horizon line of what was once
an open prairie—a space
captured between the planes
of the cantilevered roof and
continuous terraces and
parapets. The domestic rituals
of living and dining play out
against this horizontal datum
interrupted only by the

vertical chimney mass.

Georges-Henri Pingusson’s
1953–62 Memorial to the
Martyrs of the Deportation
in Paris, France, is located
on the southeastern tip of
Île de la Cité. The sequence
into the memorial is
initiated by symmetrical
staircases inscribed into the
horizontal ground plane of
the island, bringing the
visitor down into the space
of the river below. Its
interior spaces are
subsequently excavated into
the mass of the island,
Paolo David’s 2004 Arts terminating with an
Center—Casa Das Mudas in infinitely projected hall of
Vale dos Amores, Madiera, illuminated glass beads.
Portugal, is conceived not as
an object but as an extension
of its surrounding landscape.
This topographic datum
produces a surrogate ground

from which the occupiable

spaces appear to be excavated.
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In architecture, the concepts of order


that are evident in a design can affect

our understandings of a design’s
intended uses, of its potential alternate
use patterns, of its sociocultural
milieu, and of its designer’s attitudes
and priorities.
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A reason that the orders of architecture have occupied much of architectural is that they
inevitably brought order to programs that were becoming increasingly complex.

Whether because of an innate need or an intel-lectual

desire, much of mankind’s inventiveness—artistic and

scientific—has involved a search for order, and for new


systems of order when older systems seem insufficient.

We look for order in nature and, if we suspect that it
is not there, we find ways to formulate the disorder, to
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Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67, multiple levels are combined

(constructed 1964–67) in with the urban prototype of
Montreal, Canada, arranges communal dwelling, building
354 externally similar, density, and collective
An undulating landscape of nonhierarchical space without prefabricated concrete units amenities. Up to eight
2,711 concrete blocks of orientation or reference, a stacked in three pyramids to concrete boxes are linked in a
varying heights memorializes city of the dead that is produce a dense urban variety of combinations to
the approximately 6 million subsequently appropriated structure. The suburban provide a range of dwelling
Jews who were killed during and brought back to life only prototypical characteristics sizes, each with multiple
the Holocaust. The seemingly by an engaged public. Peter of individual identity, views and exterior terraces.
infinite pattern of blocks Eisenman: Berlin, Germany, exterior gardens, and
creates an intentionally completed 2004.

program randomness, to find complex layers of engagement—such as probable entries

of order in chaos. and possible destinations—and, at times,
even a sense of program. An observer’s
In architecture, the concepts of order that recognition and identification of such
are evident in a design can affect our components (the first stage of a discursive
understandings of a design’s intended uses, engagement) can occur at the level of the
of its potential alternate use patterns, of its system, of the unit, or of the increment.
sociocultural milieu, and of its designer’s
attitudes and priorities. This is as true for the To this end, similar elements are most often
design of a doorknob as of a city. placed together in a row, in a stack, or in a
mat. The degree of similarity (as with two
Repetition versus one bedroom apartments) or the
A basic design tenet has always been that irregularity of secondary attributes (terraces
“like elements should be treated alike, and appearing off living versus dining rooms)
different elements should be treated may suggest an overlaid system, a counter-
differently.” This is especially helpful in large point rhythm.
complexes when there is a field comprising
The iconic form of the single twelve iconic single-family
many similar units (such as housing) against The apparently endless repetition of objects family house has been houses has been repeatedly
which one can identify a number of unique is undoubtedly dramatic in certain circum- abstracted, repeated, and stacked, with each “house”
aggregated to form focusing on a remote
objects (community facilities). stances, rousing the sense of awe that can be
Vitrahaus—a showroom for landscape. The intersecting
inspired by magnitude. However, when the domestic furniture designed volumes introduce an interior
Also, whereas some projects might be designer is required to accommodate a large by Herzog & de Meuron in spatial complexity that cuts
2006–09 in Weil am Rhein, diagonally up and across the
designed to suggest to observers something number of similar elements for inhabitation—
Germany. A suburban field of domestic shells.
mysterious or ineffable, it is much more
common that a work communicates a sense (continued on page 177)
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Louis Kahn, Rome,

and the Greek Cross

The dictionary defines order as “A condi-

tion of logical or comprehensible arrange-
ment among the separate elements of a
group.” For Louis Kahn, especially after his
experience in 1950 as a Fellow at the Ameri-
can Academy in Rome, the discovery of this
logic became the main challenge in the
design process.

Kahn discovered, in some of the ancient

buildings of the city, a deep connection
between the geometry that forms the space
and the program for which it was designed.
For example, the circle that generates the
plan of the Pantheon is a perfect response
to the structure’s goal: defining a space for
a multitude of divinities without prefer-
ence for any individual god.

Frank Brown, a former history professor at

the American Academy in Rome, taught
Kahn that “the first Roman architects were
the priestly leaders who prayed, made sac-
rifices, and asked the gods for signs. For
these rituals of worship they framed the
appropriate spaces.” The idea that event
generates space will be present for the
remainder of Kahn’s career, despite his
defense of the “the room” as a generic
space where various programs can occur:
“Architecture comes from the making of a
room,” he said, and “[i]t is the creating of
spaces that evoke a feeling of appropriate
use.” (Kahn, page 68)

The architecture of Andrea Palladio offered

Kahn a great source of inspiration, particu-
larly in the ways in which a geometrical
pattern can be used to define a specific order
and hierarchy among spaces. Similarly, Pal-
ladian villas would constitute excellent
examples of the richness and variations that Louis I. Kahn (with Anne Tyng): Trenton Jewish Community
Center Bath House and Day Camp, Ewing, New Jersey, 1954–59,
can be achieved between parts and a whole.
sketch plan and photograph
Louis Kahn used the drafting table as a labo-
ratory for discovering the patterns that
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define the perfect relationships between

spaces. His design process generally began
by defining a generic space—a room—with
its own structural and functional identity, a
unit he would repeat until fulfilling the pro-
gram requirements. In his own words, “The
plan is a society of rooms … where it is good
to learn, good to work, good to live.” (Kahn,
page 254) The process ends with the discov-
ery of an overall geometry that perfectly
adapts and transforms a collection of indi-
vidual spaces into a whole.

After 1950, Kahn returned to Philadelphia

and began using a specific form—the Greek
cross, with its four equal arms—as a mecha-
nism to provide order, constantly reusing
it regardless of program or scale. We rec-
ognize this form as an obsession in designs
such as the Trenton Baths, the Washington
University Library competition, the Mill-
creek Apartments, and the Adler, Fleisher,
and Goldenberg houses.

In some cases, Kahn implements this geom-

etry as a constraint that would remain
through the final version—in the Trenton
Baths, for instance—whereas, in other
cases, such as the Adler House, the Greek
cross that appears in the early sketches
disappears once the final program is
installed into the plan and the house begins
to address its context. Kahn consistently
used the historically symbolic geometry of
the Greek cross as the primary mechanism
for initiating a comprehensive arrange-
ment of the distinct elements of a plan’s
organization. Louis I. Kahn: Adler House, 1954–55
project sketches

— Iñaqui Carnicero (Cornell University;

Polytechnic University of Madrid)
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often the case with housing, offices, or
schools—the challenge is to avoid tedious
repetition, ideally without resorting to
arbitrary distinctions.

Especially with housing, it is often believed

that the ability of people to identify their
own units is an important aspect of promot-
ing a sense of individuality within a context
of community. The challenge is to develop
distinction within a repetitive system, often
The four distinct programs of program are iterations of the

accomplished by composing variable overall
the Wolfsburg Cultural same form, increasing in scale
masses, arranging the units into several Center, designed by Alvar from the smallest which holds
typologies (such as courtyards, slabs, and Aalto in 1958–62 in Wolfsburg, 26 persons, to the largest
Germany, are organized which holds 238, all fanning
towers), or, often with less success, using

around an exterior central out as the principal marquis
changes in materials or colors to artificially court. The five lecture halls for the building’s entry from
indicate uniqueness. Of course, when every that comprise the adult the town square below.
education component of the
unit is treated distinctly, the opposite of
particularity occurs; the complex is perceived
as a uniform, mottled texture.
whole—circulatory, services, units, and heights or volumes based on degrees of
In projects founded on texture, especially possibly even structural and mechanical. public or private usage.
those involving pattern fields, the manipula- It is often common to identify the various
tion of the pattern—three dimensionally, hierarchies that emerge within these systems, The organization of similar elements that
morphologically, through distortion or with, for example, entry circulation, vertical vary only slightly (by volume or height, for
transformation—is the primary tool in circulation, and horizontal circulation each example) can be accommodated through
developing a sense of variation and order. given a distinct form. This can even extend clustering or by serial sequencing, whereby
to the level of the city, with hierarchies of both their similarities and their differences
A typical strategy in organizing highly vehicular traffic or public transit being are identifiable.
repetitive elements is to emphasize the articulated in terms of highways, boulevards,
individual systems that comprise the streets, and alleys, or hierarchies of building

MVRDV’s 2001–12 Mirador in

Madrid, Spain, takes the
typical urban block composed
of a series of individual apart-
ment typologies surrounding
a collective courtyard space,
and conceptually hinges it
90 degrees to create a single
vertical neighborhood of
connected, yet still distinct,
apartment complexes with
the former “courtyard”
becoming a window that
frames the city beyond.
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While the plan of Jørn modestly dimensioned space


Utzon’s Bagsværd Church above the congregation and

outside Copenhagen, builds to an enormous wave
Denmark (completed 1976), of concrete reaching toward
is extremely straightforward, the sky above the altar,
the interior section is defined capturing the Nordic light
by an undulating concrete and drawing it deep into the
roof plane that begins with a primary space of the church.

Aggregation fragment. The various programmatic Hierarchy

The designer is presented with different elements might be given their own materials Hierarchy can provide an ordering system in
challenges when attempting to represent or even their own stylistic languages. which elements or groups of elements, while
order when given a series of individual recognized as being related to an overall
elements with little or no repetition. Decisions Alternatively, the designer might wish to whole, are not necessarily of equal signifi-
must be made regarding how the identity of suppress difference, to cloak everything cance. It is this inequality that signals the
the elements might be constituted and how within the same skin, possibly within a relative significance of the part to the whole.
conspicuous these identities might be. The singular mass, so that only internal divisions
designer must consider the varying scales determine the differences. Hierarchies are revealed in every aspect of
that must be accommodated, even when architecture’s constitution. One can identify
those scales run counter to the relative Similarly, a reason that the orders of architec- levels of importance in the composition of
importance of the elements. Finally, perhaps ture—Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and plans, in the development of sections, in the
of the greatest consequence, is the problem Composite, among the most familiar—had disposition of elevations, and in the produc-
of how the disparate elements might be occupied much of architectural theory from the tion of distinctive objects or figural voids.
associated. In situations involving the Renaissance until the twentieth century is that
aggregation of such elements, the connective they inevitably brought order to programs that While a program might suggest hierarchies,
tissue—circulation, structure, services, were becoming increasingly complex. There the designer’s determination of program-
surfaces—might, paradoxically, be the most were prescriptions regarding the appropriate matic hierarchy can have great significance.
important aspect of the design. hierarchies of orders and even suitable When designing a city hall, for example, an
functional uses for the orders when used in a architect communicates much about a
The designer may choose to merge a design. Each order proposed its own propor- government when determining whether the
collection of distinct elements into the tioning system. It was possible to understand meeting hall or the mayor’s office predomi-
intrinsic differences of a city, dispersing a the interior of a building by reading the orders nates in the building’s organization.
building throughout an urban fabric or used on its exteriors. A street, district, or entire
simulating the production of a new city city could be unified by subscribing to a Hierarchy can also be sociocultural. For
consistent theory of the orders. example, the mihrab, denoting the direction
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for prayer in a mosque, may be one of its Louis Kahn’s Dominican
Sisters’ Convent designed in
smallest spaces, but it is also one of its most
1965–68 organizes the cells
hierarchically important components, a focal into a perimeter wall,
point of the mosque. Or the only fragment creating a large “container”
within which is arranged the
of a village to have survived an earthquake
communal programs of the
may develop a special place in the new city. convent, with the exterior
spaces between these primary
figures and the enclosing
When the components of a work are nested
cell wall forming a series of
within each other—when the overall archi- private “cloisters.” The corner
tecture frames other architectures, like a connections allow for a
continuous sequence through
set of matryoshka dolls—the sense of order
the interior of the complex.

resembles the mise en abyme effect: the
process of penetrating buildings within
buildings reveals the relationships between
the pieces. This is, for example, frequently

the case in buildings like theaters and
concert halls, where one moves through
numerous distinct buildinglike spaces—
entryway, lobby, stairways, loges, hall, and The forum of Pompeii is the around large open spaces.
then (vicariously) the space of the stage primary urban “courtyard” Beyond are the residential
around which the city’s public blocks, with interior court-
with all of its autonomous architectures—
buildings are gathered, yards that both organize
each proposing its own identity. and the first of a series of and bring light to rooms
courtyards begetting that surround them while
courtyards. This organizing choreographing the sequence
While rare, the absence of hierarchy may
device of a primary space that moves from the public
be intentional in designs where complete lined by subsidiary spaces is street to the atrium and
equality or anonymity is desirable. And while a frequent motif in ancient finally to the inner sanctum
Roman towns. From the of the peristyllium (garden
a sense of order may be one of the basic
forum one moves to the courtyard).
human compulsions, human involvement basilicas and markets with
can always be counted on to introduce an interior spaces also organized

element of vital disorder to even the most

rigorously ordered architectural designs.

The two distinct semispheres which are located the

of Oscar Niemeyer’s 1957–64 complex’s more public spaces,
National Congress of Brazil in their forms demonstrate their
Brasilia both house and programmatic and cultural
represent the two principal significance. Additionally, the
government bodies, the complex’s siting on the capital
Senate and the Chamber of city’s main visual and organi-
Deputies. Juxtaposed against zational axis announces its
the low rectangular plinth in significance at the urban scale.
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A grid is the stage on which something


might happen. It exists in anticipation

of an event.
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Without the ideal aspect of the grid, the distinctiveness of the incidental would
go unnoticed.

If there is perhaps one central phenomenon to all of

architecture, from the smallest shed to the largest city

and even, at times, to entire states and provinces, it is


the grid. Given the expansiveness of the environment

in which we live, laying out a grid provides an acces-
sible field of operations for the designer. It provides a
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A gridded “forest” of 856 cathedral being methodically
columns fills the interior of inserted into the midst of the
the Mosque-Cathedral of column field. Despite their
Córdoba (first built 784–786, uniform layout, the columns—
extended 833–852, 961–976, reused from various Roman
987; current church inserted, and early Christian construc-
with modification, in the tions—retain their individuali-
sixteenth century). The ties, each telling of a different
various building campaigns past. Their rhythm and regu-
are evident in the thickened larity is alternately disorient-
walls and piers in this plan by ing or serene, facilitating
James Cavanah Murphy, meditation and reverie.
published in 1816, with the

means of marking locations within a poten-

tially boundless field. From the earliest
days of human settlement, the grid has
represented humankind’s attempt to organize
nature, to propose an order, even where
a sense of order seems ungraspable.

Grids are always implicitly infinite, and so

they end only by collision with a natural or
constructed entity, with a predetermined
boundary—such as a property line or a zoning
envelope—or by the intentional decision of
the designer. Still, while grids can suggest
infinity, they also foreshadow their own ends.
Since the sixteenth century, but also a refined sense of
The regular pattern of a grid means that
the rooms of traditional proportion. In his own home
each section forecasts every other section, Japanese homes were often in Seijo (1953), for example,
thereby already implying in their centers composed of an array of Kenzo Tange combines a grid
tatami mats, usually made of of tatami mats and sliding
their eventual and probable boundaries.
rice straw and in a 2 : 1 fusama screens with a very
proportion, with its length slender wooden skeletal
A grid can be two dimensional—flat on the close to the dimension of a structure and an open plan
prone human body. These to achieve a modern version
ground or on the surface of a building—or
mats bring not only a sense of of the Japanese house.
three dimensional, as in a structural grid. gridded order to a dwelling
Grids often represent an ideal condition
that can be replicated throughout a building
or a site. It can be a condition derived from
the proportions of the human body (as
with the tatami mats of traditional Japanese
residential construction), from an optimal
dimension for spanning a space, from
harmonic proportions derived from natural
phenomena, or from the apparently efficient
accommodation of a programmatic require-
ment (as with classroom sizes, parking bays,
and hotel rooms).

(continued on page 185)

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Mies van der Rohe

and the Grid as Site

The grid is the beginning and end of Mies’s perspective-negating fluctuations of vision
architecture—the site of architecture’s produced in Crown Hall, where the glass is
emplacement and its eventual effects. frosted to a line just above the horizon, thus
Mies’s grid operates on two different planes. forbidding access to the stabilizing vanish-
The first plane is the plane of Idea. The grid ing point; or the whirl of space in the plaza
on the plane of Idea is a template compris- in front of Seagram’s vibrating surface, as
ing instructions for organizing forms, well as surface qualities like reflectivity,
materials, and functions to which it stands refractivity, dullness, and blankness; or the
in a transcendental relation. This grid is 6-foot (1.83 m) deep roof of the New
deeply imbricated in the history and disci- National Gallery, floating on trabeated
pline of architecture, which provides whispers, disturbing the certainty of stabil-
specific precedents (Schinkel, Behrens, and ity of the earth itself. This second plane
Wright among them) and guarantees rigor brings together heterogeneous elements
and relationship. Consider, for example, the and makes them function together, creating
urban connections organized by Mies’s plan unprecedented and continually shifting
of IIT, where the grid—originary diagram relations without unifying or fixing them.
of the polis itself—represents the ideal The vocation of this plane is not to produce
urban condition of Chicago’s South Side. Or a whole but to constantly search for the new.
the metrically controlled surface of glass Its nature is virtual and abstract. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: S. R. Crown Hall
interior (with the architect), IIT, Chicago, 1956
and metal panels at the Seagram Building,
which confronts metropolitan chaos with Thus the grid as site comprises both gen-
the sheer materiality of abstraction. erative concepts and relational, sensual
events. The grid announces and insists on
Mies’s grid operates simultaneously on a architectural autonomy and authority, and
second plane, which is a virtual site where yet is infinitely productive of difference
architectural experiences and events cir- and otherness. The grid is pure relation-
culate, combine, and recombine. It is the ship, perhaps the degree zero of architec-
plane of Event. This plane hovers just above tural thought.
or just below the actual elements of archi-
tecture, more like a field of potential —K. Michael Hays (Harvard University)
charged by invisible forces than a thing or
even a geometry. The grid on this plane is
not an inaugural ground or the source of an
idea. Indeed, the grid on this plane is but a
shimmering phantasm, the constant flux of
immanent material and spatial images.
Here percepts and affects are organized
into material architectural experiences.
Examples of such experiences include the

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Seagram Building, New York, 1958
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The founding of the New presented by William Penn—
World required the founding the grid became the device
of a multitude of new settle- of choice. But such neutrality
ments that attempted to is never ensured, if even
represent the colonies’—and desirable: the occasional park
later, country’s— aspirations or nearness to water even-
for legislating and formalizing tually alters the value of one
an egalitarian society by property over another, so
means of property divisions. that the development of the
In Philadelphia, seen in this grid inevitably becomes
detail of Thomas Holme’s distorted by economic and
1705 map of Pennsylvania— environmental pressures.

Each grid type carries its own spatial and hierarchical implications when used to influence the organization of structure or partitions.

The four-square grid provides The nine-square grid, on Once the grid reaches a
equal status to each of its the other hand, brings an certain density, the relative
quadrants and suggests a inherent dominance to the equality of the bays is ensured
centrifugal movement pattern. space located in its center. and the grid begins to imply
Medieval chapter houses were Such grids were strongly infinite extension, although
often versions of this grid type, preferred in church design, peripheral bays might assume
with a large, supporting column most evident in those of the some prominence, as in the
located in the center, branching equal-armed Greek cross case of market buildings.
into an ornate ceiling. plans in which the central
element would be topped
with a dome.

Irregular grid patterns, Irregular grid patterns can Of course, not every building
however, can relocate these also create a mixture of major utilizes an obvious grid.
hierarchies, suggesting, and minor zones as in a The absence of a grid makes
for example, diagonal “tartan” grid, suggesting the columns or partitions
developments. directional movements as dominant elements of the
well as possible service and composition. This situation
stair precincts. This is an can emphasize the presence
organization common among of a casually defined space,
villa designs from Palladio like a clearing in a crowd.
onward through Wright
and Le Corbusier.
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The surfaces of Charles But it is also a function of the grid, funda-
and Ray Eames’s own house mentally neutral and indefinite, that the
(Case Study House #8) in
Los Angeles, (completed intentional disruption of its regularity—
1949) consist of a regular through the introduction of a rotated grid,
steel grid approximately sudden shifts in bay sizes, or the insertion of
7.5 x 8 ft. (2.3 x 2.4 m)
tall, with additional sub- figures that resist conformity—can bring note
components between the to unique or special elements. In the later
floors. This grid not only grid paintings of Piet Mondrian, for example,
summarizes the architects’
aspirations for industrial the variable grid itself becomes the subject
prefabrication but also of the work. Without the neutral, ideal
generates both structural aspect of the grid, the distinctiveness of the
elements as well as interior

partitions, collects a variety incidental would go unnoticed.
of infilled elements, and
lends the overall structure Reference
a unified system while
Just as a Cartesian coordinate system

visually organizing the
trees on the site. provides an essential tool for understanding
the characteristics of various points, lines,
and figures, grids permit occupants of an
architecture to fully understand the locations
of elements within a space, from columns
and walls to constructed and inserted

Another important trait of the grid is its

usefulness as a measuring device. As
discussed in chapter 11: Space, grids can
provide an indication of height and width,
and a useful indication of spatial depth.
After walking through one bay of a grid, we
develop a sense of cadence and an anticipa-
tion of our further movements through a
space. In this sense, grids can be understood
as demarcating linear measurements,
volumetric measures, and increments of time.
The Carré d’Art in Nîmes,
France (1987–93), by Norman
Foster + Partners, provides
one edge of a large plaza
containing the Maison Carrée,
a Roman temple from the
first century BCE. Foster’s
building is itself a temple of
expanding and contracting
grids, with a huge but slender
five-columned portico that
contrasts with the regularity
and density of the columns of
the Maison Carrée, beneath
which a smaller, six-columned
volume corresponds more
directly to the size and front The grid has long been used (1525), Albrecht Dürer

portico of the monument. as a device for the transfer demonstrates the use of a
From the interior, the columnar of one image to another or gridded wire frame and an
grid of the Carré d’Art provides from an actual figure to a obelisk (in order to fix the
both a measure and a locator drawn representation. In location of the eye) in
for the temple outside. his Draftsman Drawing a transferring a figure to
Recumbent Woman from his a similarly gridded piece
Four Books on Measurement of paper.
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Tartan plaids are composed establishing a complex multiple rhythms of For the final version of his structured the façade of the distinct component of the
of specified combinations arrangement of varying color superimposed grids. On the courthouse addition to the existing town hall. While this town government while
of colored threads woven fields. In architecture, the right is a tartan grid derived Gothenburg (Sweden) Town reductive approach was maintaining a staid symmetry
together in perpendicular “tartan grid” is a term used from the “MacGregor of Hall, completed in 1937, Erik considered scandalous at the for the original structure and,

warp and weft patterns of to describe a similarly Cardney” tartan shown on Gunnar Asplund constructed time, it has proven very at the same time, providing a
varying dimensions, variegated grid comprising the left. a version of the underlying successful in asserting its consistent surface for one
organizational grid that presence as a functionally edge of a major public square.

In one sense, a grid is the ultimate abstrac- Additionally, a grid can be generated from a
tion, most evident in its ability to legislate distortion of an orthogonal grid, warping a
an order without being fully present; in pattern so as to imply a directional inflection,
another sense, it is one of architecture’s most an adjustment to an irregular site boundary,
substantive mechanisms of comprehension. the accommodation of an irregular insertion
In the end, a grid is the stage on which (such as a theater volume), or even an
something might happen. Grids exist in attempt to develop an exaggerated depth or
anticipation of an “event” that is then shallowness by means of false perspective.
quantified and identified by its occupation
within the gridded system. Proportions
The selection of a grid’s increment is perhaps
Rhythm the clearest way in which to develop a
While structural grids are the most common, proportioning system that can permeate a
grids can be composed of circulation paths, building’s design, unifying its parts with its
service elements (like plumbing or lighting whole. A grid might be based on specific
systems), systems of furnishing (such as dimensions (such as those of a standard
library shelves or auditorium seating), or human body, of a regularized work space, or
even daylighting elements (including of the predominant grid in a neighboring
skylights or windows). structure), or on proportional relationships
that are independent of scale (as with
The proportions of the belief that the human body is
human body have been a shaped in the image of God, Often, a grid may consist of more than one proportions derived from string lengths in
frequent template for the which would suggest that increment, as in the case of tartan grids, with the production of musical chords).
disposition of grids, even proportions derived from the
their counterpoint of major and minor bays.
when not at human scale, as body would transfer upon a
in this sketch for a church building a divine and Such complex grids can also be understood Regulating lines have been an important
design by Francesco di therefore beautiful harmony as an overlap of grids, with a consequent aspect of architectural aesthetics since
Giorgio Martini (c. 1492). and coherence.
compounding of rhythms, hierarchies, and ancient times. Such lines are based on the
This often follows from the
programmatic attributes. characteristics of similar triangles—those
sharing identical angles, regardless of the
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In his Vers une architecture of Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
1928, Le Corbusier dedicates (1916). The repetition of
a chapter to the importance angle A (and its complemen-
of regulating lines, which he tary angle) across the
considers to be “an inevitable elevations provides the villa
element of architecture” and with an intrinsically harmonic
a “basis of construction and a proportioning system
satisfaction.” He illustrates whereby the proportion of
this chapter with numerous the elevation’s central block
buildings of historical is present throughout the
importance, among which he various subdivisions and
locates several of his own, fenestration elements.
such as the Villa Schwob in La

lengths of their sides. Such triangles will
always share proportional relationships
among their sides, so that the use of
regulating lines in architectural design lends
a consistent proportion to the entirety of the
structure. For this reason, regulating lines
are considered an effective technique for
guaranteeing harmonic proportions
throughout a building, from elevations to
sections to plans, with regulating lines
often providing the basis for variations and
subdivisions within the fundamental grids.
From the Renaissance onward, there was a
distinct relationship between the use of such
lines and the construction of linear perspec-
tives, where similar rectangles would be used
to imply the recession of a figure in depth.

Le Corbusier was one of modernism’s most

An “active” grid becomes the figures, service elements,
vociferous advocates of regulating lines—
subject and object of Peter circulation systems, more often than not based on the golden
Eisenman’s House II (1969) enclosure, glazing, and section ratio—seeing in them “[t]he
in Hardwick, Vermont. The gradients of density. The
obligation to order. The regulating line is
building is the consequence result is a house that uses
of a series of three-dimen- one of architecture’s most a guarantee against arbitrariness. It brings
sional manipulations of a fundamental and abstract satisfaction to the mind.” (Le Corbusier,
basic nine-square grid— components, the grid, as an
page 132) Despite this, very few of his

dislocations, solidifications, all-encompassing generative

evacuations, transpositions— device, eliminating nearly all contemporaries had enthusiasm for what was
that leave traces that the artifacts of traditional inevitably considered to be a remnant of the
engender elements such as domestic architecture.
physical structure, spatial
architecture they were trying to leave behind.
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A knowledge of geometry not only


provides the architect with the ability

to represent and communicate basic
ideas, but it is also an essential aspect
of understanding the genuine and
illusionistic aspects of architectural
space, for calculating the actual surface
areas and volumes being described, and
for describing the potential fabrication
of forms to others.
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There is a certain aspect of descriptive geometry that prefigures the visual impact of certain
forms: geometry can present not only what something physically is, but projective geometry
can also prefigure what can be seen from specific viewpoints, and how complex figures can be
broken down into buildable components.

As alchemists sought inscrutable objectives that included


philosophical and spiritual insights, material transmuta-


tions, astrological projections, and even immortality, they

forged a path that led them to discoveries in sciences
such as chemistry and medicine. Similarly, architects
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Vincenzo Scamozzi’s merged with hexagons,

Palmanova (designed 1593) squares embedded in
was considered to be the ideal trapezoids—combined
The golden section rectangle Senatore in Rome (completed fortified outpost city of the optimized strategies of
has been used throughout in the seventeenth century), Venetian Republic. Its defense with Renaissance
much of architecture’s history revealing golden ratios original ramparts form a theories of ideal proportion
as a proportioning tool. Here, between the base and upper nine-pointed star with its and universal harmony. As
it is superimposed on stories as well as within the three entry boulevards with most intended utopias,
Michelangelo’s restructured overall dimensions of the culminating in a hexagonal Palmanova’s idealization has
façade for the Palazzo del surface.

central piazza. Its proven uncongenial to

geometries—nonagons everyday inhabitation.

Le Corbusier’s Modulor 2 use of these proportions with diverse utopian aspirations, including artists for over 2500 years. Golden ratios
proportioning system begins throughout a building would the idealization and optimization of various and their rectangles have a capacity for
with the height of a 6-foot assure a harmony of the parts
(1.83 m) person—the ideal and a sense of human scale spiritual, cultural, aesthetic, material, health, continuous regeneration and subdivision,
English detective hero, as well as to foster the and environmental goals, have found their and can be found throughout nature, from
according to Le Corbusier— development of potential paths most frequently plotted through nautilus shells to the length of our finger
with an uplifted arm at 7 feet, standards for building
5 inches (2.26 m), subjecting materials and fixtures. It is geometry. bones, and it forms the basis for many
the increments to subdivision here imprinted on his Unité investigations into five-fold symmetry
by means of a Fibonacci d’habitation in Marseille, For thousands of years, most architecture has (important in pattern theories). Perhaps
series. His belief was that the France, of 1947-52.
been composed of cubes, cylinders, spheres, because of its ubiquitousness, artists and
cones, and pyramids. Perhaps more than the architects have long considered the golden
development of new materials, new represen- rectangle to be one of the most visually
tational techniques eventually accompanied pleasing geometric figures.
by new skills in fabrication have caused
architectural form to develop more elaborate The golden ratio is closely approximated by
geometries. Guilds of medieval stonemasons the more finite Fibonacci series—1, 1, 2, 3, 5,
sharpened their skills as cathedrals reached 8, 13, and so on—which approaches the
higher. In the Renaissance, linear perspective golden ratio of 1:⌽ (1.6) as it progresses.
expanded techniques for the study of The Fibonacci series forms the basis for
descriptive geometry. Later, in the baroque, Le Corbusier’s Modulor proportion system
geometries merged and warped as stereo- as well as numerous theories of plant and
tomic techniques were perfected and animal growth.
craftsmen developed skills in turning wood
and ivory on lathes in fabricating exception- Religious and governmental architecture
In Jan Blažej Santini’s cally appear in every aspect
exuberant Church of St John of the building complex, ally complex objects. has frequently employed geometries for
of Nepomuk at Zelená hora in often combined with the their symbolic significance, with equilateral
Žd’ár nad Sázavou (Czech figure of a tongue, relating
Numbers triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons,
Republic, 1721), the numbers to the legend of St. John’s
five and three—which figure martyrdom upon his reputed Perhaps the most pervasive and persistent and so on being used in plan, elevation,
prominently in the saint’s refusal to break the silence geometries are those based on the golden and volumetrically in order to emphasize
hagiography as well as of the confessional.
ratio. Known since the time of Pythagoras, the liturgical or historical importance of
Christian theology—symboli-
this ratio has fascinated mathematicians and certain numbers.

(continued on page 192)

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Geometry of Pure Motion: Buckminster Fuller’s

Search for a Coordinate System Employed by Nature

Richard Buckminster Fuller, a self-proclaimed

design scientist, is perhaps best known for
his lightweight geodesic domes and his
structural concept of tensegrity. While his
applied geometries in a variety of forms—
from tents to domes—served highly
functional purposes for clients including
the U.S. military, and also garnered numer-
ous patents, Fuller’s dedication to solving
the world’s problems through functional
geometries was driven by a much larger
obsession with the fleeting relationships
between nature and mathematics. Fuller’s
Buckminster Fuller: Geodesic dome Donald Ingber: Geodesic form
obsession was rooted in an omnirational
(U.S. Pavilion, Montreal, Canada, 1964-67) in the tensed cytoskeleton of
understanding of the universe, where drawing a human cell, 2011
form emerges from a continuous chain of
connected events. He understood the limi-
tations of the Cartesian system as it described as a network of discrete com- concept of synergy as it forms a bridge
emphasizes fixed coordinates as opposed pression components held in continuous between the purity of mathematics and
to coordinated variations of geometry and tension. Each member is dependent upon geometry with the instability and complex-
matter. Fuller was interested in a design the next in a network of forces that undu- ity of nature. Given the systemic properties
space that embraces all the known mathe- lates in an on/off fashion, much like of these lightweight skeletal assemblies,
matics from Euclidean to non-Euclidean. the process of weaving. Fuller observed such structures are capable of changing in
Therefore, he abhorred disciplinary the efficiency and economy displayed by response to their environments. The result
“silos” as they fundamentally undermined the sculptural work of the artist, Kenneth is a variegated tensegrity system where
his concept of synergy, that is “…the behav- Snelson, thus leading to Fuller’s term internal rule systems share reciprocal rela-
ior of whole systems unpredicted by “tensegrity,” a combination of the terms tionships with external and environmental
the behavior of their parts taken sepa- “tension” and “integrity.” forces. This differentiated behavior oper-
rately.” Fuller’s applied projects such ates at the level of the individual com -
the Dymaxion House (a conflation of Perhaps limited by technology and a mod- ponents and at the level of the global
dynamic + maximum + ion) explored dynam- ernist bias toward the reproduction of system. Imagine these structures growing,
ics in form through the application of his single parts, Fuller was not able to realize contracting, and expanding in response to
synergetic principles combined with a his theories of variation between parts and the presence of people, light, or tempera-
search for structures that he considered whole systems in his functional geometries. ture. Fuller pioneered a systemic design
minimal through a reduction of overall Recent advances in digital and fabrication process, where flows of energy connect
weight but were ultimately limited in their technologies allow for the exploration of form with communication, geometry, and
ability to change dynamically in response interconnected parts and material behav- matter. Digital technologies and computa-
to environmental conditions. Interestingly, ior, where forces external to three- tional thinking have afforded a material
Fuller’s concept of tensegrity, which he dimensional tensegrity structures may translation of Fuller’s “geometry of think-
understood as a system of energy where influence and alter the continuity of the ing” that will finally fully realize his
space is not static, has subsequently been tensional forces and the discontinuity of functional geometries, as informed by the
adopted by the pioneering cell biologist, the compressive forces. Ingber’s link dynamics and complexity of an expanded
Donald Ingber, as a model for understand- between the mechanics of the cell cytoskel- context.
ing how cells are structured at the nano- eton with the dynamics of tensegrity is,
meter scale. Tensegrity may be simply perhaps, the closest translation of Fuller’s —Jenny Sabin (Cornell University)
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In his treatise of 1567, corner and a convexity—
Le Premier tome de beneath a small chamber in
l’Architecture, the French the Château d’Anet. Careful
Renaissance architect reading of the drawing
Philibert de L’Orme reveals the actual dimensions
illustrates his method of and angles a mason would
stereotomically representing need in order to accurately
the squinch—a vaulted cut the seven pieces of ashlar.
transition between an inside

Descriptive Geometry
Every architect can benefit from an under-
standing of the fundamentals of descriptive
geometry (also called “applied” or “construc-
tive” geometry). Not only is the ability to
represent three-dimensional forms two
dimensionally a necessity for representing
and communicating basic ideas, but it is also
an essential aspect of understanding both the
genuine and illusionistic aspects of architec-
tural space, for calculating the actual surface
areas and volumes being described, and
for describing the potential fabrication of
forms to others.

With descriptive geometry, one can present

not only what something physically is, but
projective geometry can also prefigure what
can be seen from specific viewpoints, and
how complex figures can be broken down
into buildable components.

Modern descriptive geometry also assists

the designer in being able to identify and
quantify linear curves in space, as well as the
measures of warped surfaces and irregular
volumes. But while many computer graphic
programs can simulate much of the construc-
tive aspects of descriptive geometry, allowing
programs full control over the formation
Amid concerns regarding the wooden model (c. 1961) that
of such figures means that the designer structural and constructional each of the shells could be a
becomes merely a consumer of predeter- possibilities of the shells in segment of the same sphere,
mined forms and techniques. For example, the original design for the meaning that curvatures
Sydney Opera House (inaugu- would be identical,
rather than understanding a sphere as a rated 1973)—especially based facilitating structural
singular geometric figure, certain programs on the technologies of calculations and
1960—architect Jørn Utzon prefabrication.
demonstrated with this
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UNStudio’s Burnham Pavilion then distorts the roof plane
in Chicago’s Millennium Park of this grid using various
(2009) begins with a plat- parametrics in recognition of
form organized on Daniel specific vistas within the park
Burnham’s famous Chicago and toward the city.
grid as its initial figure and

require it to be understood as a polyhedron central to constructive solid geometry (CSG) etries can approximate highly irregular and
that approaches an infinite number of sides, a techniques of modeling solids. even organic figures. Nonhierarchical meshes
hosohedron composed of lunes, or a circle can be subjected to specific metrics—by
rotating about one of its diameters. The Also, the use of parametrics in design has means of Voronoi diagrams or Delaunay
version of the sphere to which one subscribes become a significant tool in the designer’s triangulations—in order to achieve more
directly affects the transformations to which repertoire, influencing every scale and aspect regulated surfaces and masses. These

the sphere can be subjected. of design, especially in academic settings. techniques are especially important in the
Parametrics, at its most fundamental, development of responsive surfaces.
Complexities involves the use of a set of parameters or

The combination of forms through Boolean limits—such as networks of circulation, In these instances, the geometric complexi-
operations—merging positive forms (solids), patterns of congregation, or measures of ties often prohibit nondigital methods of
positive and negative (subtractive) forms daylight—as a means for exploring a range three-dimensional modeling.
or more complex combinations resulting in of geometries through multiplication,
the systematic addition or subtraction of distortion, transformation, or all three. The challenge is for parametrics, useful for
overlapped forms—is one aspect of design developing tantalizing formal abstractions,
that has become vastly facilitated by digital Various meshes can also be introduced, to transcend predictable outputs based on
representation. Such Boolean operations are whereby an aggregation of surface geom- predetermined inputs. A continuous reevalua-
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It is often assumed that there Line Array project (2010) from columns to beams and
is a singular relationship proposes the use of from tensile to compressive.
between the geometry of protocell-based materials in These materials are composed
a structure and the mater- the construction of an of cells capable of gathering
ials of its construction. asymmetrical, highly variable or dispersing at the nanoscale
San Francisco–based structure with irregular spans, in response to requirements
IwamotoScott Architecture’s loads, and that even change at the macroscale.

In this project by James tion of the initial and evolving parameters organization through constant adaptation.
Pelletier, a simple repertoire
is critical to its instrumentality. And for Many architects argue for an architectural
of forms—teardrops, wedges,
and tubes—is distorted, meshed surfaces, which tend to solidify their version of this biological epistasis in which
multiplied, rescaled, and “responses” to the designer’s input during variation occurs well beyond the onset of a
treated alternately as solids
the design process, to become actively building’s design, even throughout the life of
and voids, and then used as
the geometric primitives responsive during the life of a construction. the building. The configurations of spaces
for the simultaneous might change as the users age, with changes
development of both a
Variability in family dynamics, with altered economic
complex architecture and
the manipulation of its site. Genuinely responsive surfaces and objects— situations, or with seasonal and long-term
Such modeling would be those that morphologically alter throughout climatic changes.
impossible using exclusively
the life of a structure—are beginning to
analog tools. (Critics: Andrew
Batay-Csorba, Thom Mayne, appear as new materials and techniques are Similarly, concepts of self-organization—
and Val Warke; Cornell being developed, often through convergent whereby a system finds its own optimized
technologies and disciplinary hybridization. structure, often with very little predictabil-
ity—seem to more fully duplicate natural
One of the issues facing architecture is the human settlement patterns. Self-organization
extent to which variation and variability enter may prove quite valuable at developing
the process, and for how long they persist large-scale organizations.
within the work. In biology, a homogeneous
system, determined by genetics, is often Networks
transformed into a heterogeneous system Today, there can be a direct, instantaneous
by its immediate contexts, deforming a connection between design, two-dimensional
predetermined and undifferentiated digital modeling, rendering, and three-
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The sinuous geometries of BIM management company dimensional modeling, so the designer has of being shared among architects, project
Trahan Architects’ Louisiana Case, making it possible to
immediate access to a vast array of consultants, fabricators, and contractors,
Sports Hall of Fame Museum carve a path directly from
in Natchitoches, LA, USA design to fabrication. The representations and viewpoints for exploring whereby changes made to one element
(2011), would have been interior is shaped by over the qualities of a design. instantly affect changes in related areas.
virtually impossible to con- 1,000 individually cast stone
struct a decade ago. The close panels supported by an equally
digital collaboration, begin- individualized steel framework It is becoming increasingly necessary for the Graphic programs have fostered an
ning with the architects’ with thirty connection types, designer to utilize and combine numerous ability to generate forms that are imaginable
three-dimensional documents, all digitally programmed
software systems during each phase of the only through digital processes. As these
included steel consultants through a combination of ten
David Kufferman and Method software packages. design process, especially as the information programs become more available for
Design, and fabrication and involved in producing the representation of adaptations and modifications through
a design can also be used to investigate scripting, designers begin to require a keen
multiple facets of that design. Digital models knowledge and skepticism of available data
can be used to evaluate a work’s environmen- sources, with input needing careful ranking
tal relationships (such as solar orientation, and traceable algorithms so that portions

heat loss or gain, and various comfort of the process can be edited or redirected
criteria), material usages (including types and upon evaluation of the output. Such
amounts), contextual aspects (shadows cast, evaluation will require the development of

view corridors, public accessibility), and even effective skills and tools. While the digital
legal compliance (zoning or other codes). realm will provide real-time data as a design
evolves, the designer will still need to
Additionally, building information modeling select and prioritize the data, humanize its
(BIM) has become a contemporary version of conclusions, and assess esthetic qualities.
stereotomy, with digital representations—even
during the earliest stages of a design—capable
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Aspects of fabrication—the equipment,


tools, and methods that form and

assemble a structure’s materials—are
essential in defining the character of
a finished work.
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Techniques of fabrication often expand the characteristics of an existing technology that
might have originally been intended or limited to a particular, even nonarchitectural applica-
tion, making material and structural discoveries that were previously untapped.

Construction methodologies—how a material, a detail,

or a building is made—are an important aspect of the

design process. Where a knowledge and appreciation


for a specific construction method is privileged

and subsequently embedded within the conceptual
development of a work, the specifics of those methods
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The architecture of Ciudad concepts into houses and
Abierta in Ritoque, Chile, a academic structures. Here
school that was founded in the construction process
the 1970s, is a built emphatically does not come
expression of a participatory from a set of architectural
process that engages an drawings. Instead, it is the
unstable landscape of sand result of a continuous and
dunes and wetlands. ongoing process—an
Architectural concepts are architectural laboratory for
initiated through poetic the testing of ideas,
collective events and materials, and rituals in a
happenings, with faculty and continuously evolving
students developing these environment.

In Laxe, Spain, in 2010, earth serving as formwork

Studio Ensamble constructed into which the concrete was
the Truffle—a mass of space poured. As the concrete
that emerged from its hardened and the earth was
environment. A hole was dug scraped away, the hay was
and subsequently filled with slowly consumed by a cow,
bales of hay, with the existing revealing the space within.
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The inner space of the Bruder teepee formation upon which
Klaus Field Chapel by Peter the concrete was layered.
Zumthor in Wachendorf, Their textured residue bears
Germany (2007), was created witness to the farmers’ use of
The enclosing wall of Hanil the fabric-lined formwork by burning away the locally local materials to construct
Visitors Center & Guest that was used to construct it. forested spruce trees that this modest chapel.
House in South Korea, The concrete takes on a had been arranged in a
completed in 2009 by BCHO surprising fragility, as if, like
Architects with Mark West of a curtain, it is about to sway
CAST, registers the trace of in the wind.

inform the characteristics of the architecture. CRAFT

For example, the dimensions of plywood The act of building can be understood as
panels that compose the formwork of a the result of a process, one that through a
poured-in-place concrete wall are perma- series of steps produces the finished work.
nently inscribed, as measure and as texture, While drawings typically serve as the
onto the surfaces of the wall that they have instruction manual for the construction
formed. The plug holes that served to process and operate as intermediaries
distance the plywood surfaces into which the between the designer and the finished work,
concrete is poured, and that are either left the equipment, tools, and methods that form
open or subsequently plugged, provide yet and assemble the materials are essential to
another clue as to its process of coming into the characteristics of the finished work.
being, adding another scale of measure and The characteristics—physical, cultural, and
texture to its surfaces. Similarly, a wall might economic—of the site in which the work is
be constructed of a series of individual constructed and the methodologies of local
metal components where the potential for building practices can provide a unique
incremental geometric mutation and variation specificity that clearly situates a work within
is inherent to the wall’s fabrication. The a particular context.
computational and fabrication systems
The walls of the 2011–13 surrounding paddy fields.
necessary to both conceive of and Kantana Film and Animation The stepping of each brick
manufacture each component are traced Institute, designed by transforms the massive wall
Boonserm Premthada of into an undulating curtain
within the wall’s scalelike surfaces as well
Bangkok Project Studio in full of light and shadow,
as its responsive geometries. Nakorn Prathom Province in punctuated by openings that
Thailand are built of bricks reveal its thickness and mass.
handmade from the
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Beginning with an abstracted teristics are individually
doric column, Michael tagged and then assigned
Hansmeyer’s Sixth Order specific behavioral parameters.
installation at the 2011 The result generates an
Gwangju (South Korea) ornamental system of endless
Design Biennale explores a variation and complexity, yet
subdivision process where one that retains a sense of
inherent formal charac- overall order.

Digital fabrication generates form directly
from computer drawings, enabling increas-
ingly complex forms to be constructed.
Designs and details are developed using
specific computer software that is compat-
ible with various types of fabrication
machinery. These drawings are then
transmitted to machines that subsequently
fabricate the forms. This fabrication can
occur at multiple scales and with extremely
precise detail and dimensional tolerances.

Furthermore, while industrialization

introduced an efficiency that depended on
the repetition of both assembly and
fabrication, the development of computa-
tional design and fabrication processes
brings an equal efficiency to the mass
production of differentiated elements, where
standardization is no longer necessary for
either material or economic optimization.

And not all fabrication processes are initiated

within architecture. Techniques of fabrication
often expand the characteristics of an
SHoP Architects’ Camera system—whether it be the
existing technology that might have initially Obscura, completed in wood cladding or the metal
been intended or limited to a particular Greenport, NY, in 2005, is an panels or the steel connector
(and perhaps nonarchitectural) application, early example of a project plates—necessitated a unique
constructed entirely from fabrication technology,
making material and structural discoveries digitally fabricated which was then subsequently
that were previously untapped. While the components. Each material assembled on site.
technology remains embedded within the
work, these technological “misuses” can
often produce surprising results that expand
an existing technology’s potential.
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Jenny Sabin’s myThread weave the pavilion into the
pavilion, exhibited in 2012 at surrounding space. The
the Nike Stadium in New York scale at which the textile
City, deploys textile-based is deployed, along with its
technologies to weave reactive capabilities, intro-
reactive and photolumines- duces new and surprising
cent threads into a gauzelike characteristics to a familiar
fabric. A skeleton of technology—this is no longer
aluminum rings stretches the a sweater.
fabric into spatial tubes that

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An architecture of prefabrication is often


conceived as a mobile architecture, one

that can either be moved or reassembled,
or one that touches lightly on the land,
minimally disturbing the context to
which it has been brought.
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Prefabrication often begins with a specific set of performance criteria that leads to an
idealized solution.

As a boat is fabricated in a shop and then introduced to

water, a prefabricated architecture is simultaneously

site-less and site-ed. It is constructed away from its site


and subsequently brought to its site, either as an entire

module or as a kit of parts that can be assembled upon
arrival. It is often made of standardized parts or modules
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Studio Ensamble’s 2007 The beams are brought to the John Entenza, the editor of duplication and in no sense specific site, was constructed
Music Tower for Berklee site and stacked into place, Arts and Architecture, wrote be an individual performer.” of standardized steel and
School of Music in Valencia, producing a dense structural in the 1945 announcement of Pierre Koenig’s 1959–60 glass components that could
Spain, proposes a system of skin that both supports its the magazine’s case study Case Study House #22 is an be recombined and deployed
prestressed concrete beams, interior floors and allows house program, “The house example of a project that, on a very different—and less
of the scale and profile more for cantilevers that create must be capable of while designed for a very extreme—site.
typically associated with enormous voids of suspended
infrastructural projects (such exterior piazzas.
as bridges and overpasses).

that can be repeatedly (mass-) produced or Standardization The scale of “standardized” components can
it can appropriate existing already-made In his foreword to the 2008 MoMA range from a brick, a plywood panel, a 2-inch
components that have not necessarily been exhibition catalog Home Delivery: Fabricating x 4-inch (5 x 10 cm) wood stud or a steel
fabricated explicitly for architecture. A the Modern Dwelling (page 7), museum beam, to a room or even an entire building.
prefabricated architecture is one that is often director Glenn Lowry writes that “mass All depend on repetition, expansion or
conceived as a mobile architecture, one that customization [will] trump mass standard- aggregation to construct something larger
can either be moved or reassembled, or one ization.” And while, certainly, there is a than itself. It is a unit of measure that is
that touches lightly on the land, minimally paradigm shift under way concerning the embedded in the material (or space, or
disturbing the context to which it has been definition of standardization in light of process) that not only facilitates duplication
brought. Technological experimentation and emerging digital technologies, where the but also brings a form of logic to the
ease of assembly are often motivated by a production of identical parts is no longer constructive process.
site’s remoteness or difficulty of access, a a prerequisite for the efficiencies typically
need to quickly expedite shelter in a time of associated with standardization, optimization
crisis, or the ability to incrementally expand (as defined by the speed of production,
over time through accretion of additional minimum waste, and reproducibility) remains
modules or assemblies. one of its most identifiable characteristics.
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Prefabricated 1.00 m (l) x tects Jose Maria Saez and
0.20 m (h) x 0.28 m (w) David Barragan conceived a
(1.09 yd x 8 in x 11 in) universal system where each

concrete troughs are stacked prefabricated module can
to construct the primary serve alternately as planter,
bearing and space-defining storage unit, or bookshelf,
walls of the 2006 Casa while wooden planks slipped
Pentimento in La Morita, between each course serve
Quito, Ecuador. The archi- as stair, table, or chair.






The elevator shafts were surrounded by a steel panels, rust-preventative paint, and

The Nakagin Capsule Tower tural elements (stairs,
in Tokyo, Japan, designed elevators, utilities, and so
reinforced concrete spiral staircase, enclosed a weatherproof plastic with an estimated
in 1972 by Kisho Kurokawa on), the +/–100 square-feet
in the lift-formed concrete stair shaft. These twenty-year life span (C). consists of 140 individual (30 sq m) steel modules are
stairs were usable throughout the construction living capsules cantilevered fabricated off-site and

Large trucks transported the capsules 280 from two concrete cores. individually bolted to the
process (A).
miles from the assembly plant to the outskirts While these cores are built concrete core—they were
The service risers were, in fact, exterior fins of Tokyo where they were individually loaded on-site and contain the designed to be replaced every
building’s main infrastruc- twenty-five years.
on the lift shafts, eventually concealed by the onto smaller trucks (D).
attached capsules (B).
The capsules were lifted by crane and bolted
The capsules were prefabricated in a shipping to the lift core with four high-tension bolts,
container factory. They are welded, lightweight, and all were attached within thirty days (E).
steel truss boxes clad with galvanized ribbed
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Prefabrication often begins with a specific
set of performance criteria that leads to an
idealized solution. While usually developed
independent of a specific physical site, the
manner in which a prefabricated project is
transported to a site, the way in which the
work is eventually situated on a site, and how
it might engage a site’s environmental and
programmatic factors can have an enormous
impact on the initial design parameters. This
expanded context for a prefabricated work
suggest that there be a certain adaptability
built into the work, that it have embedded

within it the potential for local modification

(legs that adjust, panels that operate) or
incorporate adaptive components that allow
Albert Frey and A. Lawrence from window frames.
for an eventual expansion through the Kocher’s 1931 Allied and Arts Innovative building materials
addition of additional bays or components. Industries exhibition house and construction
Aluminaire was entirely technologies were used to
A prefabricated architecture is often entirely
manufactured from existing propose an affordable
independent of site but, necessarily, deeply new materials. Here, form architecture that could be
adaptive to it. was developed independent produced in a factory setting
of site, with lights that and subsequently erected on
simulated daylight recessed any site in only ten days.
into ceilings and projected

Difficult access to this parameters of the design

remote Icelandic site process. Using standardized
necessitated that the 1999 materials of corrugated metal
construction of this (recalling the Icelandic
summerhouse, by Óli houses of the early twentieth
Mathíesen of Glama Kim century) and an interior
Architects, occur off site. lining of plywood panels, it
The dimension of the is through its precise dimen-
transporting truck and the sions that it has the ability to
weight of the overall bring measure and scale to its
structure were critical endless landscape.
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Shipping containers are
transformed into occupiable
space through Spillman
Echsle Architekten’s 2006
design for Freitag’s Zurich
showroom. Units that were
designed according to a
distinct set of dimensional
and material parameters are
now reused in an entirely new
context, where high fashion
now rubs up against industrial
grit and demonstrates both
the company and architect’s
commitments to sustain-

ability and recycling.

Yona Friedman’s (Untitled)
Bridge proposes a spatial
infrastructure that has the
ability to undergo infinite
incremental change through
the multiplication and
densification of the basic
component units that
populate its megastructure.

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Presentation drawings are intended to


stand in for the form and the experience

of an eventual, constructed work.
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A presentation will amplify the most important readings of a work, directed toward a
specific audience.

The presentation drawing or model represents the

conclusion of a particular phase of a design process.

Once the design process is complete, a presentation


drawing or model does not serve as a set of instructions

to construct the work but, instead, as a device that
embodies and communicates the most important ideas,
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BIG’s (Bjarke Ingels Group) urban block and topographic
2011 competition presentation landscape into an enormous
drawing for Europa City, a earthwork that collects retail,
new commercial center near cultural, and recreational
Paris, France, realistically and programs—a modern medieval
emphatically presents the city presented from above
underlying concept of the within the context in which it
work: the fusing together of is located.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1936 looking up from the falls


colored-pencil and pastel reinforces the primary

perspective of Edgar J. understanding of the house
Kaufmann’s house, Falling both as an extension of its
Water in Mill Run, rural landscape and as a
Pennsylvania, gives us a very series of Cartesian planes
real sense of the final work. superimposed and hovering
The use of perspective above it.

the critical characteristics, of the work. And a particular reading of the work that is
while it often documents a work whose most important to be communicated to a
intention is to be materialized, it can also particular audience.
present a body of speculative ideas—in other
words, it can be an end in and of itself. Documentary
Presentation drawings and models can be
Audience documentary and serve to explain, to
A presentation takes into consideration its demonstrate, the project. They are intended
audience or the context within which the to stand in for the form and the experience
presentation will be read and understood. of an eventual, constructed work. For
An architectural competition jury is distinct example, a perspective might demonstrate
from a fund-raiser, which is distinct from a to a client the experience of what it’s like to
client presentation, which is distinct from occupy the building or what will be seen
a museum exhibition. Each forum has unique through the architectural lens of the
criteria through which the work will be building’s skin. Or a site model might show
Hugh Ferris’s delineations that emphasized the
considered, criteria through which the the building’s mass and scale in the context
advertised the buildings to building’s mass, light, and architectural concept must be framed. of its surrounding context—how tall or how
the consumers for whom they shadow with very little The presentation will inevitably amplify bulky it is in relation to its neighbors.
were intended. This 1929 attention to detail, the
moody nighttime image of drawing intentionally
the Chanin Building in New presents a building full of (continued on page 213)
York City designed by Sloan mystery, waiting to be
& Robertson was a real estate inhabited—the luminous star
marketing tool. A silhouette emerging from the city below.
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The Projections of Zaha Hadid

In a strict reading of the terms, presenta-

tion conveys ideas that may have not yet
been materialized but that are conceptually
determined. In contrast, representations
denote the “presenting again” of an idea
that may already exist in another medium
such as photography or life drawing, or the
progression of an idea that is in the process
of coming into being.

Architectural drawings, images, and models

are presentations of constructions prior to
their being built. Photorealistic renderings
seek to collapse presentation into reality,
masking the unsettling gap between. Alter-
natively, architects can exploit the power of
architectural presentations by heightening
the distinctions between realism and pre-
sentation, destabilizing expectations and
understandings of the world to come. Within
the discourse, most architectural presenta-
tions privilege not the construction yet to
come but the conceptual framework and
ideas that have informed the design process.
Their role is often to seduce the audience
into a specific understanding of the work.

Zaha Hadid’s work explores the immense

power of architectural images to be both
presentations of a new world to come as well
as the visual documentation of the theoreti-
cal structure of images understood as
representations of ideas. Hadid built her Zaha Hadid: The Peak Leisure Club, Hong Kong, 1982–83

reputation as an architect by dispensing

with the obligation to present architecture
according to rules of construction, choosing
instead to construct striking and unex-
pected presentations of her projects as she
would have us see them. In her drawings for
the Peak, a 1981 competition for a social
club high above Hong Kong, Zaha Hadid
demonstrated a project that lacked any
overt concern for tectonics, gravity, struc-
ture, enclosure, or façade, organized instead
by the underlying rules of the presentation
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Zaha Hadid: Cardiff Bay Opera House, Wales, UK 1994–96

Zaha Hadid: Hoenheim-Nord Terminus and Car Park,

Strasbourg, France, 1998–2001

technique deployed—perspectival drawing opened up an unsettling gap, exemplified entire parking surface is rendered as a
and oblique projection. The Peak and Hong early in her career by the controversy over large canvas, presenting the systems of the
Kong were cast in representational capitula- the Cardiff Bay Opera House: Her winning transportation hub to the user. In Zaha
tion with the logic of her design, as if the presentation was never built, doomed by Hadid’s recent work, the development of
city would be entirely remade through the misperceptions regarding the capacity of digital technologies has enabled the visu-
lens of the competition presentation. the drawings and images to be realized. alization and subsequent construction of
complex spatial conditions. Yet, as presen-
Zaha Hadid’s presentation drawings and These early paintings and drawings prefig- tation succumbs to the seduction of
models become complicit in the exploration ured her future built works. While the Vitra photorealism, it paradoxically erases the
of their architectural ideas. Her work is not Fire Station and IBA Housing demonstrate tension once held in her earlier presenta-
simply illustrated through perspective, but the constructive ambitions of her early tions: that of a didactic tool for imagining
it is spatially transformed by perspectival perspectival drawings, the Hoenheim-Nord what we are about to experience.
presentation, conflating the design with its Terminus and Car Park convincingly merge
presentation. By pursuing the explorative presentation with the final project. Oblique —David J. Lewis (LTL Architects; Parsons,
potential of presentation over the tectonics angles of the building solidify in concrete the New School for Design)
of building, Zaha Hadid’s work has often the explorations of drawings, while the
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Evocative Media
A presentation can be more conceptual and The media of presentation serves to reinforce
suggest an intention of a potential work, an the architectural concept. While collaged
evocative image that envisions a future world material will often carry with it the meanings
or what architecture could possibly be. In the and textures embedded in the fragments that
hands of architects like Giovanni Battista are appropriated into the collage, it is the
Piranesi or Lebbeus Woods, these drawings process of overlaying multiple “voices” in the
and models can take the form of an architec- presentation (styles, materials, and scales)
tural manifesto—a speculative position that that can reinforce an architectural dialogue
encourages debate and often critiques the fundamental to the concept being presented.
contemporary views on architecture and the Video animations or “walk-throughs” place the

city, imagining a world free of the material, audience within the work but can also present
structural, and political conventions with a temporal experience that was critical to the
which architecture is bound. Their strength development of the architectural idea. While
often lies in their ambiguity and their ability computer-generated images can introduce an

to suggest rather than explain. uncanny reality, they can demonstrate with
great precision and detail the responsive and
often environmentally interactive dimension
that informs the final forms and geometries.
Alexander Brodsky and Ilya brink of the abyss. Here,
Utkin’s 1987 competition- the drawing operates as
entry drawing, entitled simultaneous metaphor and
Bridge over a Precipice in the critique of a relentlessly
High Mountains, constructs a banal state of contemporary
magical glass chapel architectural production
impossibly teetering on the and thought in Russia.

Archigram argued for the contemporary society. The technologies that might
cultural aspect of building by collages that they produced invigorate a banal suburban
placing it within the context to envision this new world landscape. The convincingly
of what was occurring in the were populated with people invented “existing” suburb is
sixties and seventies. They imported from contemporary populated with background
were producing structures and popular magazines. Ron drawings of amusement park
that would often require Herron’s Tuned Suburb structures and foregrounded
collage, produced for the 1968 Superstudio’s 1969 photo- reinforces a visionary
technologies that did not yet with collaged figures of
Milan Biennale, proposed a montage “The Continuous scenario of a distinct
exist, arguing them within everyday life.
Monument: An Architectural world defined by its

the framework of “Popular Pak” of imported

Model for Total Urbanization” monumental scale and
begins with a photograph on abstracted vocabulary,
which a drawing is subse- one that proposes a future
quently overlaid. The shift order superimposed over a
in both technique and scale messy and obsolete past.
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The Telamon Cupboard of precise pencil drawings

Ben Nicholson’s 1986–1990 demonstrate the cabinet’s
Appliance House exaggerates structure, hinges, knobs,
the prosaic repository for mechanisms, and operations,
everyday detritus into an while the collages suggest
(only partially) accessible the materialistic density for
domestic instrument. The which they are intended.

Buildings and cities are alternative view, a city of urban form and instead motion diagrams, together,
intrinsically static, bound by relationships between spaces borrow freely from filmic construct urban storyboards
material and by gravity. Yet and their use, between form conventions such as the jump that fuse the physical with
the drawings of Bernard and program. The drawings cut, the montage, and the the ephemeral, the
Tschumi’s 1976–81 Manhattan leave behind more singular splice. Here, photographs, permanent with the fleeting.
Transcript project present an representations of space and architectural drawings, and
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C. J. Lim’s collage drawings underground transportation
construct visual narratives— system into a floating
dreamlike landscapes that infrastructural network—
intertwine the real and the a “sky-river” for both
fictional through hybridized commuters and recreational
drawings and models. In his enthusiasts alike. Ink
proposal for a Sky Transport drawings serve as context for
for London, he pays homage pop-up paper models that
to the cartoonist Heath reinforce the dialogue between
Robinson’s “crazy contrap- the real and the imagined,
tions.” Here, he lifts and the familiar and the strange.
transforms London’s Battersea, London, UK, 2007


Andrew Kudless’s drawings surface of 1,000 digital cells

for his 2012 Chrysalis III is suspended from an
structure required the use of underlying body, with each
particular computer software cell competing for spatial real
to generate a complex estate as they compress and
barnaclelike surface of unique expand three dimensionally
shapes. The undulating into their final state.
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abstraction a translation that condenses a elevation an architectural drawing that poché the less consequential aspects of a
complex form or concept to a fundamental provides the measured documentation of building or city that usually serve as back-
figure or principle one side or flank of a structure, with no ground or supportive material for the more
perspective distortion significant aspects of the building or city
anamorphic distorted when viewed from
most positions, but normalized when seen enfilade a series of spaces connected along precedent something that has come before
from a specific point of view an axis or line, generally through a range of and that is evoked in the production of
doorways something new
axis an imaginary line that connects a range
or sequence of spaces or objects. façade a building's face, it is a structure's rusticated a surface (often at the base of a

most public visage; buildings can have more building) composed of large masonry blocks
axonometric a constructed drawing on the than one façade, especially if they front on with a rugged texture and rough joinery; or
oblique in which a plan view is kept multiple venues. alluding to such a surface
undistorted, and vertical surfaces are
projected upward or downward. familiarization a process whereby section an architectural drawing that reveals
something that is unknown is represented in what can be understood when an imaginary
brise soleil a “sun-breaker,” is a device— terms of one or more things that are known vertical slice is taken through a building,
usually appended to a structure—intended garden, or city, usually suggesting the
to control the penetration of sunlight. loggia an open, exterior gallery, usually at vertical relationship of spaces
ground level, through which people might
chiaroscuro the relationship between light circulate scale a relationship of size between one
and dark, generally established through entity and another; in architecture, human
contrast membrane a thin structure or layer that scale refers to the relationship between a
separates two conditions of differing spatial body's dimensions and range of motions and
context the situations—formal, temporal, characteristics, functions, temperatures, and the architecture designed to specifically
climatic, and so on—in which a building finds humidity accommodate these dimensions
itself, and that will inevitably affect its
perception mimetic exhibiting a characteristic that site the physical location in which a building
resembles in some manner the characteristic is to be located, possibly including those
cornice a horizontal projection, often of another entity nearby features that shape its views,
emphasizing the top of a building, the upper approach, and configuration
boundary of a segment of a façade, or the perspective a simulated three-dimensional
ceiling of a room view, generally constructed from a specific space a definable volume of emptiness that
vantage point along a horizon, with one or can be occupied, or that otherwise estab-
defamiliarization the process of construing more vanishing points toward which surfaces lishes the range across which an observer
something that is normally very familiar to be appear to converge perceives enclosure
something unfamiliar in order to promote
new observations or fresh understandings pilaster a rectilinear suggestion of a column, trope an aspect of language in which
usually emerging from the surface of a wall; something is used to stand in for something
dialogical participating in a discursive occasionally used to refer to a half column, else with which it has some association
exchange, whereby meaning is expanded, which is semicircular in plan as it engages a wall
exchanged, and renewed through the void an indefinite emptiness
engagement of one or more other voices or plan an architectural drawing that represents
artifacts; the opposite of monological, in the parts of a building, a complex of
which only a single voice can be perceived buildings, or a city, looking downward from a
horizontal slice generally taken at eye level
eclecticism the deliberate combination or (in building plans) or from an indefinite
merging of various styles, expressions, or position above a city or complex
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Sources in bold are recommended as general introductions to architecture. Numbers in brackets [ ] indicate chapters to which the texts refer.

Addington, Michelle, and Daniel L. Schodek. Kepes, Gyorgy. Language of Vision: With Rowe, Colin, and Robert Slutzky, commen-
Smart Materials and New Technologies for the Introductory Essays by S. Giedon and S.I. tary by Bernhard Hoesli. Transparency. Basel:
Architecture and Design Professions. Oxford: Hayakawa. Chicago: P. Theobald, 1944. [11] Birkhäuser Verlag, 1997. [11]
Architectural, 2005. [10]
Le Corbusier, Jean-Louis Cohen (introduc- Rüegg, Arthur. Le Corbusier—Polychromie
Cook, Peter. Drawing: The Motive Force of tion), and John Goodman (translation). architecturale. Basel: Birkhäuser Architecture,
Architecture (Architectural Design Primer). Toward an Architecture. Los Angeles, CA: 2002. [13]
Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, Getty Research Institute, 2007. [3]
2008. [3] Samuel, Flora. Le Corbusier and the Architec-
Lobell, John. Between Silence and Light: tural Promenade. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2010. [14]
Doxiadēs, Kōnstantinos Apostolou. Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn.
Architectural Space in Ancient Greece. Boulder: Shambhala, 1979. [13] Sandaker, Bjorn N., Arne P. Eggen, and
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972. [11] Mark R. Cruvellier. The Structural Basis of
Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow. Architecture. 2nd ed. Hoboken: Taylor and
Evans, Robin. The Projective Cast: Architec- On Weathering. Cambridge: MIT Press, Francis, 2013. [8]
ture and Its Three Geometries. Cambridge, 1993. [9]
MA: MIT, 1995. [23] Sherwood, Roger. Principles of Visual
Moos, Stanislaus von. Le Corbusier, Elements Organization. Philadelphia: M.C. De
Forster, Kurt W. "Schinkel's Panoramic of a Synthesis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Shong, 1972. A later version is also occasion-
Planning of Central Berlin." Modulus 16, 1979. [13] ally available: Principles and Elements of
Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1983, Architecture, Los Angeles: School of Architec-
62–77. [11] Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Existence, Space, ture, University of Southern California, 1981.
& Architecture. New York: Praeger, 1971. [11]
Giedion, S. Space, Time, and Architecture; Shklovsky, Viktor. Theory of Prose. Trans.
the Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge: Otto, Frei. Occupying and Connecting: Benjamin Sher. Elmwood Park, IL, USA:
Harvard UP, 1954. [11] Thoughts on Territories and Spheres of Influence Dalkey Archive, 1990. [17]
with Particular Reference to Human Settlement.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Goethe's Ed. Berthold Burkhardt. Stuttgart: Edition Axel Soltan, Jerzy. "Architecture 1967-1974."
Theory of Colours: Translated from the Menges, 2009. [23] Studio Works 5. New York: Princeton
German. Trans. Charles Lock. Eastlake. Architectural Press, 1998. [4]
London: Murray, 1840. [13] Pérez-Gómez, Alberto. "The Space of Archi-
tecture: Meaning As Presence and Represen- Straaten, Evert van, and Theo van Doesburg.
Hejduk, John, with Kim Shkapich (editor). tation." Questions of Perception: Phenom- Theo van Doesburg: Painter and Architect.
Mask of Medusa: Works, 1947–1983. New enology of Architecture. San Francisco, CA: The Hague: SDU, 1988. [13]
York: Rizzoli, 1985. [20] William Stout, 2006. [11]
Summerson, John. The Classical Language of
Herzog, Jacques. "Conversation Between Pevsner, Nikolaus. An Outline of Architecture. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1963.
Jacques Herzog and Theodora Vischer." European Architecture. Baltimore: [Introduction]

Gerhard Mack. Herzog & De Meuron Penguin Books, 1960. [Introduction]

1978-1988. Basel: Birkhauser, 1997. [10] Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth. On Growth
Ramsey, Charles G., and Harold R. Sleeper. and Form. Ed. John Tyler Bonner. Cambridge:

Holl, Steven. The Chapel of St. Ignatius, Architectural Graphic Standards. Hoboken, Cambridge UP, 1961. [23]
introduction by Gerald T. Cobb. New York: NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. [4]
Princeton Architectural Press, 1999. [13] Todorov, Tzvetan. Mikhail Bakhtin: The
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. Experiencing Dialogical Principle. Minneapolis: University
Kahn, Louis I. Louis Kahn: Essential Texts. Ed. Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT of Minnesota, 1984. [15, 17]
Robert C. Twombly. New York: W.W. Norton, Press, 1962.
2003. [21] Zevi, Bruno. Architecture as Space: How to
Look at Architecture. Trans. Milton Gendel.
New York: Horizon, 1974. [11]
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Photographs courtesy of the authors with the excep- ©Courtesy of Ensamble Studio/, Taleen Josefsson, 185 (top), Deuk Soo Jung, 47,
tion of the following: 99 (middle & bottom); 198 (middle, bottom, left Tad Juscyzk, 115 (top, left), Drawing: Mia Kang,
& right); 204 (top, left), Courtesy of EPIPHYTE 153 (top, right), Aya Karpinsk, 103 (bottom, left),
Courtesy of 3Gatti, 131 (bottom, left & right), Lab, 62 (top), Jonathan Esslinger, 163 (bottom, Emil Kaufmann, “Three Revolutionary Architects”
Travis J. Aberle, 120 (middle, right), Courtesy left), The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, 191 in Transactions of the American Philosophical
of Allied Works Architecture, 25 (bottom, left (left), Marloes Faber, 10 (top, right), Courtesy of Society, Vol. 42, Part 3, p. 545, 1952, 141 (bottom),
& right), Luís Ferreira Alves, 170 (top), ©Pirak Per Olaf Fjeld, reproduced from Sverre Fehn: The Ros Kavanagh, 70 (top, right), Joseph Kennedy,
Anurakyawachon/Spaceshift Studio, 199 (bottom), Pattern of Thoughts, 22 (top, left & middle), Fon- 135 (bottom), ©Kennedy & Violich Architecture/
Archivo Histórico José Vial Armstrong Escuela de dation Le Corbusier, 126; 147 (bottom); 187 (top),, 96 (top & bottom, left), Yongkwan Kim,
Arquitectura y Diseño, PUCV, 198 (top), Gianluca Fondazione Il Girasole/Angelo e Lina Invernizzi, 199 (top, left), Florestan Korp, 160 (middle & bot-
Aresta, ITS LAB—I Think Sustainable Laboratory, 61 (bottom), Foreign Office Architects, 61 (top, tom, left & right), Andrew Kovacs, 39, ©Yoshinori
71 (middle, left), ©Pétur H. Ármannsson, 110 right), ©David Franck, 32 (bottom), The Frank Kuwahara, 148 (top), Natalie Kwee, 33 (bottom),
(middle); 161 (top), Anna Armstrong, 119 (middle, Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum Labics, 130 (bottom), Ryan Lancaster, 115 (top,
left), ©Arnauld Duboys Fresney Photographe, 160 of Modern Art/Avery Architectural & Fine Arts right), ©Andreas Lechtape, 121 (right), James
(top, left), ARX Portugal Arquitectos, 24, Atelier Library, Columbia University, New York), 210 Leftwich, 111 (top), Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki,
Bow Wow, 57 (top), Peter Bardell, 123 (top, left), (middle), Frederick C. Robie Residence, Chicago, David Lewis, Alex Terzick, 35 (top, right), Licensed
Barkow Leibinger, 85, David Barragan, 205 (top IL, 1906-1909, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. by SCALA/Art Resource, NY, 28 (left), ©C. J.
left, middle & right), Joaquim Barros, 146 (top, Richard Nickel Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Lim/Studio 8 Architects, 215 (top), Tiffany Lin, 66
right), Bednorz-Images, 182 (top, right), Courtesy Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital (bottom, left & right), Arwen O'Reilly Griffith, 43,
of Benjamin Benschneider, 18 (right), Bernard File #201006_120118-014 © The Art Institute of ©Jeff Lodin, 41, Lotus International 22, 1978, 142
Tschumi Architects, 155 (top, left); 169 (top, left & Chicago, 171 (top), Yona Friedman, 207 (bottom), (top), Louis I. Kahn Collection, The University of
right); 214 (bottom), Jordan Berta, 174 (top, left), Andrew Fu, Cornell University, B.Arch, 2014, 94 Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Historical and
©Hélène Binet, 212 (top, right), Courtesy of Bjarke (middle & bottom); 128 (bottom), Carlo Fumarola/ Museum Commission, 175 (bottom); 176, Lan-
Ingels Group (B.I.G.)/, 154 (top, left & right);, 92 (top), Fundación Anala y Armando franco Luciani, 71 (top, left), Mark Lyon, 114 (bot-
210 (top), Cameron Blaylock/cameronblaylock- Planchart, 34 (bottom, left), Aurelio Galfetti & tom), Machado and Silvetti Associates, 13 (top),, 115 (bottom), Ignacio Borrego, Néstor Flora Ruchat/Drawing: Anh K Tran, 170 (bottom), Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, Architects/
Montenegro, Lina Toro/dosmasuno arquitectos/ Genesis by David Adjaye for Design Miami, 2011, Photo: Moreno Maggi, 71 (top, right), Árni Sv.
Photo: Miguel de Guzmán, 166 (bottom, right), 97 (top, left & right), ©Gigon-Guyer Gigon/Guy- Mathiesen, 206 (left & right), ©2012 Matsys, 215
Courtesy of Mario Botta, Architetto/Photo: er Architekten/Photo: ©Henrik Helfenstein, 129 (bottom), Mitsuo Matuoka, 121 (middle), Creative
Alo Zanetta, 128 (middle, top), Mario Botta, (top, right, middle & middle, right), ©Giselbrecht, Commons, 142 (middle), ©Stephen McCathie 75
Architetto, 128 (middle, bottom), From Robin 152 (top & middle, left & right & bottom, right), (bottom), Ken McCown, 120 (top), Stefano Ab-
Boyd, Kenzo Tange, New York: Braziller, 1962, Paola Giunti, 143 (top, right), Eileen Gray Archive/ badessa Mercanti, 71 (bottom), José María Lavena
182 (bottom), Alexander Brodsky, 42, Burçin Photo: Eileen Gray, 153 (left, top & bottom), Juan Merino, 74 (top, right), Metro Arquitetos Associa-
YILDIRIM, 22 (top, right), Burnham Pavilion in David Grisales, 162 (top), Guerilla Office Archi- dos, 68, Enric Miralles and Carme Pinós, 28 (right),
Chicago’s Millennium Park, 2009, ©UNStudio, tects, 166 (top), Wojtek Gurak/, 99 Leonard Mirin, 161 (bottom), Mobius House,
193 (bottom), Burnham Pavilion in Chicago’s (top); 130 (top, right), ©R. Halbe, 85 (middle), © 1995, UNStudio/© Christian Richters, 55 (bottom,
Millennium Park, 2009, UNStudio/©Christian 2013 Duyi Han, 69 (middle, left), William Harbison, right), Rafael Moneo, 134 (bottom, left), Photo by
Richters,193 (top), Chalmers Butterfield, 140 (top, 204 (bottom, left), ©Ron Herron of Archigram/ Michael Moran, 113 (top), Morger Degelo Kerez
left), Barnabas Calder, 175 (top), Canadian Centre Ron Herron Archive, 213 (bottom, left), Herman Architekten, 94 (top, right), Courtesy of Morpho-
for Architecture, 162 (bottom), Iñaqui Carnicero/I. Hertzberger, 13 (bottom), ©Herzog & de Meuron, sis Architects, 29; 30, ©Musées de Strasbourg/M.
Vila A. Viseda, 152 (bottom, left), ©Lluís Casals, 31 (top, right), Detail of drawing by Thomas Bertola, 122 (middle), ©The Museum of Modern
54 (top, left), Celtus, Creative Commons, 186 (top, Holme, Library of Congress, 184 (top), Courtesy Art/ Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY,
right), Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 11 (bottom, of Höweler + Yoon Architecture, 123 (middle), 31 (top, left); 122 (bottom); 168; 213 (bottom,
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Chew, 17, Chicago History Museum, 183 (top), chitectural Drawings and Papers Collection, Avery Hart, 177 (middle, left), Nacasa & Partners Inc., 23
Justin Chu, 15 (middle), Justin Clements, 69 (top, Drawings and Archives, Columbia University, 212 (middle & bottom), Leo T. Naegele, 148 (bottom),
left), Courtesy of CODA, 63 (bottom, left), Code: (bottom), FG+SG Architectural Photography, 53 Jonathan Dietrich Negron, 105 (top), Netherlands
Arkitektur AS, 128 (middle, left), Wayne Copper, (top), Figure from Architectural Space in Ancient Architecture Institute, 167, Ben Nicholson, 214
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sity, Department of Architecture, 15 (bottom); by MIT Press, 102 (top), Leonard Finotti, 92 (bot- Nolan, 46, ©Nicole Nuñez, 86 (bottom), Victor
16, ©Conor Cotter, 75 (top), Nils Petter Dale, 23 tom), Thomas Flagg, 107 (top), Oddó, 70 (middle, right), Ken Ohyama, 158 (left),
(top, left), ©DeBoer Architects/Simón Vélez, 97 marinanina/2068310964, 111 (bottom, right), Ziver Olmez, 154 (middle), Courtesy of Orfeus
(middle), Courtesy of Dia Art Foundation/Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Frampton, 69 (bottom), Publishing, reproduced from Sverre Fehn: Samlede
John Cliett, 149 (bottom), ©Didier Boy de la Tour, Flagellation of Christ, by Piero della Francesca, Arbeider, 21 (right); 23 (bottom), John Ostlund,
76 (top, right), ©Diego Arraigada Architects and collection Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, 183 (bottom), Larisa Ovalles, 118 (top, left), Mia
Johnston Marklee, 53 (bottom, right), Digital scan Italy, (public domain), 105 (bottom), ©Gustavo Ovicina, 15 (top), Cristobal Palma, 70 (top, left),
from printed map (no copyright information, recto Frittegotto, 53 (middle, bottom), Photo: Masako ©Paulo David Arquitecto Lda, 171 (bottom, left),
or verso); printed in Denmark by Permild & Rosen- Fujinami, 154 (bottom), Carol M. Highsmith, This James Pelletier, 194 (left), Pier Luigi Nervi Project
gren c. 1957, in collection of Beinecke Rare Book is America! Library of Congress Collection, 77 Association, Brussels, 77 (top), From Giovanni
& Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, (bottom), ©Eduard Hueber/, 95 Battista Piranesi, Le Carceri d’Invenzione, Rome,
CT., 129 (bottom), Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + (middle & bottom), In the public domain, 84 (top, 1761, (public domain), 120 (middle, left), Karel Polt,
Renfro, 31 (bottom), Drawings: Mikhail Grinwald, right); 102 (bottom); 185 (bottom, right); 186 (bot- 142 (bottom), Eduardo Ponce, 66 (middle, right),
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Antiquities of Spain, by James Cavanagh Murphy, IwamotoScott Architecture, 194 (right), Joëlle Lisa 97 (bottom), ©Matthias Preisser/matthiaspreisser.
1816; reproduction by Kroch Library, Cornell Uni- Jahn, 131 (top), Jakob & MacFarlane Architects/R. ch, 94 (top, middle), Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.,

versity, 182 (top, left), Drawings: Anh K. Tran, 69 Borel Photography, 87 (top, right), Tadeuz Jalocha, 35 (bottom), Printing kept at the public library
(middle, right); 81 (bottom); 104 (right); 177 (top); 163 (bottom, left), Aris Jansons, 143 (bottom), of Varese. This reproduction was realized by the
178 (right); 179 (top & middle); 184 (bottom); Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS Arkitekter MNAL, 23 (top, Municipal Administration on the occasion of the
186 (top, middle), Ludovic Dusuzeau/Elementa, right), Xavier de Jauréguiberry, 123 (bottom), ceremony for the Unesco’s certificate registration
Tadeuz Jalocha, 163 (bottom, right), Courtesy of Mitchell Joachim, Maria Aiolova, Melanie Fessel, of the site., 55 (top, left), Private Collection, 10
Eisenman Architects, City of Culture of Galicia, Emily Johnson, Ian Slover, Phil, Weller, Zachary (top left),, 206 (top, right), Wajeha
study model, 1999, 53 (middle), Courtesy of Eisen- Aders, Webb Allen, Niloufar Karimzadegan, 63 Qureshi, 115 (top, middle), Mahuqur Rahman/
man Architects, 187 (bottom), Courtesy of Pezo (bottom, right), José María Sánchez Architects, Arlington, Virginia, 134 (top)
von Ellrichshausen, 70 (middle, left) 169 (bottom)
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Reproduced from Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture fabbriche e i disegni di Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, Andrew Heumann, 33 (top, right), Team Leader:
without Architects, Wulf-Diether Graf zu Castell 1796; Kroch Library, Cornell University, (public Dana Cupkova/Design Team: Monica Alexandra
Munich/Reim, 56 (bottom), Reproduced from domain), 106 (right), From Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Freundt, Andrew Heumann, Daniel Quesada
Klaus Herdeg’s Formal Structure in Indian Architec- Sammlung architektonischer Entwürfe: enthaltend Lombo, Damon Wake, Consultant: William Jewell,
ture, (1967), 54 (bottom), Reproduced from Philib- 148 Kupfer-Tafeln mit erlauternden Text, Potsdam, Ph.D., 33 (top, left), ©Teatro Regio Torino/Photo
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de deux …, Kroch Library, Cornell University, Heiermann, 199 (top, middle), Michael Schroeter, Tibbits, 153 (bottom), Janice Tostevin/jhtostevin@
(public domain), 192 (top, left & right), Reproduced 190 (top, middle), Scott Schultz, 66 (middle,, 140 (bottom), Trahan Architects,
from Thomas L. Schumacher’s Surface and Symbol: left), ©Kyle Schumann, 50 (bottom), Michael 195, Anh K. Tran, 140 (top, right), Turismo FVG
Giuseppe Terragni and the Architecture of Italian Schwarting, 206 (top, left), Davide Secci, 149 ph Fabrice Gallina, 190 (top, right), Courtesy of
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Reproduced from Spazio, Vol. 3, No. 6, December Ban Architects, 76 (left), Courtesy of Shigeru Ban, 159 (middle), Mauricio Vieto, 74 (bottom); 78;
1951–April 1952, 12, Reproduced from Spazio, Vol. Architects/Photo: ©Hiroyuki Hirai, (76 (bottom, 81 (top); 106 (left); 122 (top), From Visionary
7, December 1952–April 1953, 11; 104 (right), Cour- right), SHoP Architects, PC, 163 (top & middle); architects: Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu, Catalogue of
tesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP, 200 (bottom), Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson, 159 (bot- an exhibition held at the University of St. Thomas,
14; 127 (top), ©Siobhan Rockcastle, 62 (bottom); tom, left), ©Petr Šmídek, 56 (top), ©Margherita 1968, (public domain), 141 (top, left), ©Rajesh
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York/, 213 (top), Richard Rosa, Architects, 20; 35 (middle), Still Life, c.1952 (oil on ©Michael Webb, 112 (top), Kathy Wesselman, 119

40, ©Corinne Rose, 86 (top, left & right), Aoife canvas), Morandi, Giorgio (1890–1964)/Private (top, left & right), Julian Weyer, 71 (middle, right),
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Institute of British Architects Library Books & right), Subdivided Columns, Michael Hansmeyer, ©Decker Yeadon LLC/, 96
Periodicals Collection,