Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Perfect Principles

Children are told from an early age - "you have to have principles". So what are principles anyway? Principles are guidelines and rules that are followed and become a structure for our personalities and character as human beings, Similarly, in the built environment, architecture has a system of ordering principles that give structure to buildings.


The axis is formed by connecting two points in space and can can allow spaces to be formed in a symmetrical or balanced way.


This is the balance of forms and spaces situated around the axis. This could be be balanced symmetrically or it could be visually balanced using asymmetry.


Hierarchy is a way to show the importance of a form or space by its size, shape or where it is placed in relation to the other elements of the environment.


Datum uses a line, plane or volume to gather and organize a series of forms and spaces.


 This is the repetition  of elements or motifs that create a unifying movement.


This principle states that a concept or form can be altered and manipulated without losing it's original concept.

Does Size Really Matter?

"Bigger is always better". "Less is More". There seems to be many differing opinions on aesthetics and size, but in the built environment, the principles of proportion and scale are absolutes and have theories and ratios that govern proper proportions and the idea of scale. As humans we see proportions in the natural environment as well as the human body itself. Our eyes are trained to a set of norms that feel "right".


The Golden Section is mathematically based and is the ratio between two sections of a line or the two dimensions of a plane. This has properties of both algebra and geometry.


The Orders was a system of proportion based on the Greek column that the greeks had fine tuned over hundreds of years to insure the peoper proportion of buildings. There are 5 orders of columns and they include, Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.

One of the most famous American buildings, The White House is a classically inspired piece of architecture that shows the use of the Greek Doric Column.


Widely used by many geniuses of the Renaissance and particularly by Andrea Palladio, This mathematical series of numbers and measurements ensure the proper proportions of roof and ceiling heights as well as the proper size of rooms.

This classical building designed by Andrea Palladio shows the Renaissance Theory of proper height and with of facade to roof and in relation to the width of the entire space.


This play on the Golden Section was the invention of famed architect le Corbusier and uses a series of measurements to ensure proper human scale anywhere.

This apartment block designed by le Corbusier is made up of hundreds of small spaces being used as apartments.


This is a Japanese architectural unit of measure that was originally based on the Japanese mat and was standardized  for residential architecture by the Japanese during Japan's Middle Ages.


This is the study of the human form in its relation to it surroundings. This is used in the built environment to insure proper space for movement and performance of common human functions, such as sitting.

This shows how everything in this desk is in comfortable reach of where the user would sit. These measurements and space planning would have been based on anthropometric studies.


This is how small or large something appears compared to its normal size or in the context of its environment.

This visual shows the scale of the oversized portrait in relation to the size of the normal dining chair.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Clueless is one of my top five movies of all time, and I have to say it is the main character, Cher, who makes me smile and laugh the whole way through. One of my favorite lines of the movie is made when Cher arrives at a party and while educating her less popular friend in the ways of the popular high school elite she says "We have to make a lap before committing to location". Funny enough, this movie scene popped into my head when reading the chapter on circulation.

What many people never realize is that in most spaces we may visit, our circulation patterns and how we move through the space is being constantly directed. How we make our "laps" has been carefully planned and is now being guided throughout the space. We are being led and controlled to move at perhaps a certain pace and turned in different directions. Where we pause, gather, move faster or slower, or maybe stop altogether has been planned and is being executed as soon as we arrive. There are principal components of a building's circulation plan that affect our movements and perceptions of the space.


This is the distant view as we approach a building or space. Our first thoughts about the space are being formed as we approach.

In the pictures above, the approach to this building is shown. This is an example of a frontal approach.


The passing from the outside (exterior) to the inside (interior) of a space or building. This is a moment when we are drawn inside. In many building the main entrances are very obvious, while in others they are not.

The pictures sow the rather breathtaking and grand entrance of a cathedral. There is no doubt for the visitor where the main entrance of the building is due to the size of these doors as well as the indented space that leads the visitor in.


This is the flow and sequences of Spaces. Types of configurations include Linear, Radial, Spiral, Grid, Network, and Composite.

These pictures show an obvious linear configuration. The path is very straight and linear. The user is clearly directed in this space.


 This includes edges, pauses, pass throughs and termination of the flow or path.

These pictures show the termination point of a space. the aisle leads the user directly to the destination of the altar.


This includes corridors, halls, stairways galleries, rooms and other spaces that direct or channel traffic flow of the circulation path.

This shows the stairway that directs the flow of traffic between floors. The handrail and the shape of the staircase point diagonally upward and show movement in the direction the user will be following.

So the next time you enter a building, room or any space, take notice of where you're being led and remember always make a lap before you commit to a location!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Resolution #125 - "This year I will be more organized"

I always make New Years Resolutions and many times during the year I will make random ones or do a special "mid-year" version. For almost as long as I can remember, year after year, there has been one resolution that always makes the list: "This year I am going to be super organized!!" Now let me say that this is not as easy as it seems. Perhaps my expectations of myself are somewhat unrealistic. Even though I haven't fully mastered or attained the perfect level of organization I long for, I think the yearly goal to be more organized will continue to make my list, and the lists of many other people. Humans instinctively understand and yearn for organization in their lives. Whether it's your closet, purse, tool chest, desk, office, home or life in general, we know that these things being logically organized will make our lives flow easier and will improve the quality of our lives.

The built environment is normally made up of several spaces that can be related by function, proximity, or a path of movement. There are basic ways that these spaces can be related to each other and organized into a coherent, easy-to-use overall space. There are four types of SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS that can be used to organize the individual spaces of a building:

Space within a Space - A space is contained within another space

Interlocking Spaces - The field of one space overlaps the volume of another space

Adjacent Spaces - Spaces are either side by side or may share a common border

Spaces linked by a common Space - Two spaces rely on a third space as a pass thru space to link and bind this spacial relationship.

Let's take a closer look at three  of these relationships:




There are 5 types of SPATIAL ORGANIZATIONS used in the built environment:

Centralized Organization - A central space is dominant and other secondary spaces are situated around it.

Linear Organization - A repetition of spaces in a linear progression.

Radial Organization - Secondary spaces "spin off' in a radial progression from a central space.

Clustered Organization - Spaces are grouped by spacial relationship or common visual traits.

Grid Organization - Spaces are organized in a structured grid or framework.

Let's analyze two of these organization types visually:



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Opposites Attract

There really is something magical about opposites - they really do attract. when i think of opposites I think of the yin yang as a beautiful symbol of the blending of opposites just in it's beautiful form and the use of total opposite but simplest of colors - black and white.

In the built environment, the combination of opposites creates interest and a dynamic space. Let's take a look at some of the terms associated with Form and Space:


Think about the positive and the negative. is the glass half empty or half full? Form and space relay on each other. Pictured below is a great example of the play on form and space. In this example, what is the form and what is the space?

Similar to the yin yang we can see how the form surrounds the space. Our eye typically sees the black as solid and the white as negative space. But is this always true? For a moment look again and imagine the white as solids and the black as negative space. Does this change your perception of the form? For me it does!

The Base Plane is one the elements used to Define space with Horizontal Elements. A Base plane is a horizontal plane that rests on a contrasting background and makes a simple space, Below is a room that shows how the floor is the base plane.

In these pictures we see the floor of the room as the base plane upon with everything , including furniture rests.


This element is a way define space with vertical linear elements. A single vertical plane has frontal qualities and has 2 different faces. The predominant line of the plane is vertical and moves the eye upward.

The entrance to this building is a great example of a single vertical plane. It show's height and emphasizes the verticality of the building.


 Light is a quality of architectural space and focuses on the illumination of the space along with the architectural surfaces and forms.. Through both natural and artificial light, this element will affect all other elements and will set the mood for the space.

While this space does include artificial light sources, it is obvious that the majority of light comes through the large glass window from sunlight and moonlight.


The are different types of openings that can be used in Space defining elements. Openings within planes

These photos illustrate the window opening within the wall plane.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


When I began this series of vocabulary words and terms that deal with FORM, my thoughts immediately went to the movie "Transformers". I love the scenes where the cars "transform" into these robotic super heroes.

Just like in the movie "Transformers", basic forms do actually morph (not with as much animated drama usually) into other more complex and many times more interesting forms.


PRIMARY SOLIDS are the basic primary shapes (2-D) that have been extended or rotated to become forms (3-D). A circle can transform to a cylinder or sphere, a triangle can transform to a cone or pyramid, and a square can transform into a cube.

One piece of the private residence featured below is a great example of a primary solid. Pay attention to the extreme right cone-like structure.

By focusing on this section, as seen above with graphic overlay, the cylindrical body of the space as well as the cone-like roof structure are evident. Below is a diagram of this structure that shows the cone and the cylinder and gives a simple visual definition of Primary Solids.


DIMENSIONAL TRANSFORMATION occurs when a form is altered by one or more of its dimensions, but it is still directly related to its original family of forms.

In the photo below, this beautiful garden scene shows walls as backdrops for garden elements. These walls are actually a transformation of a cube.

Take a look at the same picture with graphic overlay. Is this overlay, the origin of the cube is seen, while the wall is shown as the end of a 3 dimensional cube.

This form is show again in a simplified diagram that gives a visual example of Dimensional Transformation.


SUBTRACTIVE FORMS occur when a portion is subtracted from the original form to create a new form that may or may not become a form that can be considered its original identity.

In this photograph, a 3 dimensional wall has been used but areas have been "craved out" or subtracted, to create a logo for branding purposes in this retail space.

Looking at the picture with graphic overlay, we can focus on the negative space that has been subtracted.

In a simpler diagram, we can see how this logo is actually carved out of a solid cube.


ADDITIVE FORMS occur when a form has additional form added to its volume to create a new form.
A type of Additive Form is GRID FORM which is a set of modular forms organized by a 3-D grid.

In this picture we see an avant-guarde sculpture as an element of an interior. The building block type structure is set on a grid pattern.

In the photo below with graphic overlay, we can easily see the grid-like pattern on the surface of this 3-D structure.

Now lets look at this term and this photo in a simple form still showing the grid-like structure.


FORMAL COLLISION OF GEOMETRY occurs when true different geometric forms or like forms of different orientation collide or overlap. A type of Formal Collision of Geometry is CIRCLE & SQUARE which occurs when the circle interacts or overlaps the square.

In the photo below, the sphere can be seen interesting with the square lines of the pool, but also notice the curves of the corners and circular motif.

This is better represented when looking at the same photo with graphic overlay. Also notice the rectangular shrubbery and the triangular shaped shrubbery that meet toward the top of the photo.

Now let's look at a simple diagram that shows how the circles intersect or collide with the square of the pool. This demonstrates the Formal Collision of Geometry.

Although the way the forms of our built environment morph are not near as dramatic as the movies, it is obvious that all of the built elements around us can be traced back to primary forms and particular ways the forms can be manipulated to shape the environment that surrounds us.