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Design & Theory

Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings. The practice of architecture includes design from the macro-level of the total built environment (civic centers, subdivisions, urban planning and landscape design) to the micro-level of furniture and product design.  An architectural practice also includes trained and experienced individuals who are capable to complete in-depth facility assessments, technical analysis and strategy development for existing structures related to ongoing maintenance and potential repurposing.

Design & Theory Concepts

Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings. The practice of architecture includes design from the macro-level of the total built environment (civic centers, subdivisions, urban planning and landscape design) to the micro-level of furniture and product design.

The practice of architecture is a multi-disciplinary profession integrating the skills of mathematics, science, art, technology, social sciences, politics, history, geography and philosophy. Philosophy is key component in the analysis of an architect's practice. It is the philosophy of the practice that defines the rationale by which they produce particular solutions to definitive problems. Rationalism, empiricism, structuralism, post-modernism, de-constructivism structuralism and phenomenology are some directions from philosophy influencing architecture.

Architectural design provides a distinction between existence and living. The basic requirements of structures include shelter and arrangement of space, both of which are utilitarian. The additional feature provided by architectural design is that of aesthetics, the expression of a building. All three items; shelter, arrangement and aesthetics must be seamlessly integrated in order to achieve a successful architectural solution.

 

Buildings and exterior spaces affect us all the time, no matter where your location. The influence can be felt through experience of the building and courtyard or plaza. The experience is felt through the method of arrival, circulation or traveling through the building, lighting on both exterior and interior, views, textures, colours and details. These subtleties are typically invisible to most of us in our daily lives. Architectural buildings and spaces create an environment that always provides something new, something comforting, and something tangible. Architecture is man made and thus, we have control over how we create and live in our selected environments

Design theory varies between Architectural Firms and the individuals they employ. Some firms are well-renowned to adhere to a strict style or philosophical principle that guides and determines the aesthetic of their proposed solution. The one constant in the field, regardless of the firm, is that all architects ascribe to theoretical evolutions as their practice matures and develops.

The following links will take you to the various aspects of our theoretical basis for the practice of architecture. These items are continually being redeveloped as we grow and mature.

Design Theory

Preamble

Architectural design provides the means to interpret societal values, goals and concepts into a built form.

A structure achieves meaning through the way in which its form relates to the contextual surroundings and also how it relate to the human persona that inhabit it.

Architectural design is at its basis, ideological in the manner by which it may promote and enhance social positions and ideals. The design of our environment, with the exception of some current trends, has largely been essential in defining our culture and sub-cultures, while providing a long-term replication of cultural ideals in built form.

Buildings may be “read” relative to a specific culture. Architectural design is a process in which the needs of society are erected in a built form which subsequently defines the goals of the society itself.

Society provides the cultural basis for design and interpretation. Culture within a given society is often not a simply categorized element, being entwined on differing levels through many social instances. The practice of architectural design captures the cultural and societal influences relative to the specific design problem, and thus translates these influences into a structure which embodies the culture.

The sociological position of architectural design deals not only with society as a whole but also with society at the level of the individual. Design relative to the individual must provide for their basis needs as well as respond with a language that they may accept as defining their place within society. This idea of place carries meaning on two levels; place as a built entity, and place as a component of social order. It is at the level of the individual that people will seek out housing to suit their needs (local and social order) and will choose to work in locations which reflect their ideals of social position.

Individuals bear a great deal of influence on architectural design in the manner by which they interact, behave, occupy and control space, or ignore it. Safety and security are related to personal feelings that can be affected by the space that the individual inhabits. The feeling of security, or the perception of danger, will be affected by the built environment, and thus will affect the individual in that location. These feelings carry a great deal of influence in how an architectural design solution is viewed relative to its surrounding society.

Architectural design incorporates both the available technology towards construction and the known societal initiatives into a built form. It is not enough to view the Parthenon in Rome as a structure, as to some it may merely look like an old building. A building such as the Parthenon must be viewed relative to the context in which it was constructed. It must be fully appreciated with regard to the society that constructed it, the design rationale that conceived it, and also with regard to the citizens of the specific culture that inhabited it.

True works of architecture are not fully understood without the inclusion of knowledge of the culture that surrounded these designs. The cultural influence is the “personal” sense of time and place that contribute to the building’s place. It is an interesting note that buildings are designated “heritage” properties within our cultural society. Heritage designation relates to the design elements of the structure as well as historical time placement of its erection. Quite often, historical sites no longer serve their original function within our current society.

An initiative contained herein is to promote a greater understanding of our societal (North America) behavioral roles and norms. An understanding of the concept of personal space is important within architectural design in order to create an environment that can respect the individual as well as groups. This initiative is explored within the concept of space to promote awareness of the nature and context of ourselves and those around us. While we may take societal behavior as a given through our daily lives, architectural design must be able to create environments respectful of those behavioral aspects that we take for granted.

Architectural design principles have to consider elements of known behavioral tendencies in resolution of the design. Basic human needs (physical and emotional) include:

  • sustenance (food and drink);
  • security (personal safety);
  • affection
  • self-actualization.

The first two needs relate to the physical sense of our existence. It is entirely possible to exist as an individual without interaction with others while satisfying these first two needs. The latter two needs deal with our emotional conditions as humans.

These needs can be further categorized into separate components with the exception of sustenance (a basic human need). The breakdown of needs is categorized as:

  1. Self-worth / friendship formation
  2. Group involvement
  3. Personal space
  4. Personal status
  5. Individual and group territory
  6. Communication
  7. Security and safety

The Role of Architectural Design

The social role of architectural design remains multi-faceted and complex. An architect must be trained in stylistic composition and theory, study through anthropology and journalism, as well as philosophy and history, steeped in the cultural nuances of the local societal culture and sub-cultures, and knowledgeable with regard to technical solutions. They must be able to synthesize this body of knowledge in a manner that successfully addresses the client’s needs, desires, requirements, and resources.

“Architecture reflects the cultural expectant that produces it.”R. Johnstone, (SAA Conference Speaker, 2005)

Architectural theory is crucial to the manner through which architectural design is completed. Theory in the profession has changed dramatically within the 20th Century as the means and methods of design and construction have grown. An abbreviated list of the various forms of contemporary architectural design includes:

  • Productivism (technically based)
  • Rationalism (formal composition)
  • Structuralism (anthropological)
  • Populism (contextual)
  • Regionalism (locality based)
  • Deconstructivism (abstract)
  • Post-Modernism (similar to Populism)
  • Modernism (similar to Productivism)

Architectural design, in order to succeed, must find the balance between reality, theory and practicality. Reality relates to the real time component of design, placing it within a given societal/cultural structure that provides the known elements of meaning for the solution. Theory is the mode of design that applies the architectural design constructs to the proposed reality. Practicality relates to the specific nature of the client’s needs (the building program and budget), as well as the technological capabilities available. It is technically possible to build a skyscraper in the arctic ice-fields but economically unfeasible and theoretically improbable.

To properly maintain the relevance of architectural design within society, there must always be a sociological concern applied to each design solution. A building achieves meaning through its constructed form and intangible space, in the way that these elements relate to the human persona that use and inhabit it. Buildings that are elevated to the status of ‘architecture’ are those that are able to relate their inherent meanings (physical and spiritual) to those that inhabit and view it, thus providing a higher level of appreciation.

"Every exit is an entry somewhere."Tom Stoppard

Design And Space

Preamble

'The challenge of architectural design lies in the task of resolving a wide variety of functional and aesthetic requirements (the problem) into a coherent, satisfying structure (the solution).  The effort to resolve the varied requirements makes use of specific design elements by assembling the properties of these elements into a coherent whole.

Architectural design is the result of solutions carried out through a design process to solve the individual issues while at the same time resolving the global issue of the building proper.  It is an intense and complex mix that involves all sections of this curriculum using the design elements defined herein to fulfill the purpose of the design.

Every design has a purpose or reason for its existence; otherwise there would be no point in the existence of the solution. The purpose of architectural design is to create the potential built solution to satisfy the purpose or need of the client. The tools used for the design methodology are these design elements and principles.

Architectural design provides solutions for the human existence.  The apparent success of good design will be evident in the continued use of the structure for its intended purpose. In our ever-changing worlds, flexibility is a key component of design, allowing for multiple uses of the same structure over time.  The ability to adapt is a key function of human survival; the same can be said relative to the survival of our built environment.

Architectural design principles are not neatly identifiable as "fixed parameters". The reality is, they are flexible.  It remains the responsibility of the architect to interpret the client needs through the use of the intended principles; allowing for variation and abstraction as required to suit the intended solution.

Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose. Charles Eames, as quoted in The Nature of Design

Introduction

Design is a systematic process of organization and interpretation.  The desire for order within our environment is a basic human characteristic. This process towards order can be traced in almost every cultural history wherein legend and myth detail the creation of our world, gods and civilization from the origins of chaos.

The assembly of order continues to dominate environmental design through the design of civilizations, civic planning, environmental controls and land management. Order can be found within smaller designations such as the grouping of like-minded persons into guilds, civic organization and clubs.

Architectural design is a component of the desire for order in the manner by which we choose to control our living environment; providing space for desired activities and establishing a place within the world itself.

Architectural design is the method of organizing materials and forms in a specific way to satisfy a defined purpose.  Two key aspects of human involvement are contained in the design process.  The first aspect relates to the architect, the second aspect relates to the user or participant of the solution.

The architect contributes to the process of creation through interpretation of the problem, inspiration in the design solution and originality stemming from personal style which defines the work as individual and unique.  The user or participant contributes to the process by provision of a clearly defined set of needs as well as through the use of the completed structure, recognizing the aspects of architectural design that contribute to the success of the solution.

The Process of Design

Architectural design as a conscious act begins with a level of organization. The specific steps in the order of this organization vary on a personal level with each individual, however a general outline for the process involves:

  • Definition of the project
  • Analysis of the possibilities
  • Definition of the specific problem
  • Examination of the alternatives
  • Selection of characteristics
  • Production of the solution
  • Clarifications/revisions to provide a final result.

The tools and devices used in the process of architectural design can be defined as either design elements or design principles. Design elements are those which can be defined as specific "parts" of a design solution. Design principles are those items which influence, direct or resolve the overall composition of the design elements.

Architectural design elements include:

  • Materials
  • Colour
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Mass
  • Space
  • Texture

Architectural design principles include:

  • Balance
  • Connection
  • Contrast
  • Emphasis
  • Form
  • Grouping
  • Imagery
  • Meaning
  • Symbolism
  • Pattern
  • Placement/Proximity
  • Proportion
  • Rhythm
  • Scale
  • Unity
  • Value

As was noted earlier, these elements and principles work together to provide a final solution according to their respective influences. The impact of the final solution will depend as much on the individual elements and materials as it will on the manner by which the architect applies specific principles to the solution.

Architectural design as a creative artistic act sometimes requires defiance of established or accepted principles in order to achieve the desired result. These elements and principles noted are guidelines which, when used properly, may provide a satisfying result but they are neither flawless nor complete. The skill of the architect is found in the manner by which they apply aspects of design combined with artistic sensibility and vision.  Application without interpretation or the personal sense of design is building, not architecture. 

In the same way as the artist, trained in the basics of production and design, interprets to produce art, so the architect interprets to produce design. It is an interesting note that only a few persons untrained will attempt to be artists (painters, sculptor, mixed-media), yet a multitude of persons, having read a book or seen the latest design show, will provide architectural experience freely

The Concept of Space

Architectural design involves the practice of enclosing undefined space to serve a defined use or need. Architecture as an entity contributes to the richness, effectiveness and variety experience of human life within the spaces created.

There is sensation in every inch of it (Living Architecture), and an accommodation to every architectural necessity with a determined variation in arrangement, which is exactly like the related properties and provision in the structure of organic form. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

The concept of undefined space is sufficiently vast to encumber the mind in limitless thought. Space stretching on outside our borders and world into infinity defies the imagination. It may be said that space exists in the absence of form. We do not begin to grasp the concept of space until it is enclosed by form.

Space as a psychological concept may be understood, though its influence on the mind can render lives unbearable.  Claustrophobia is a psychological condition brought on by the fear of enclosure – the absence of space.  Agoraphobia is a psychological condition brought on by the lack of enclosure – the fear of exposure in open spaces. These conditions are very real, existing in many persons relative to their specific environment and spatial arrangements.

The limits of space, the actual enclosure, are applied by the means of design to create enclosed spaces (voids) within the larger constructed solution. Design uses forms and shapes, creates a unique relationship between these elements and space, and provides the effect of positive or negative space.

A positive space is one that presents the enclosure, the actual form. It contains a measured volume of enclosure that is visual and tangible.  A negative space is the void enclosed by the form. Negative spaces may be said to be the interior volumes of a design 

The use of light provides an easy means to define positive and negative spaces. Positive spaces reflect light from their surfaces, negative spaces allow light to pass through undisturbed as there is no surface to reflect it.

Architectural design makes full use of positive and negative spaces to create the form punctuated by the voids that will define the shape and mass of a design solution.

These principles, a basic listing as there are others that may be defined through interpretation, work together to provide a final solution.  The overall impact of the final solution will depend on the manner by which the architect applies specific principles to the solution.

Truth In Design

Ability and Expression

The ability to shape our built environment and people's lives is a powerful expression of what it means to be human.   The expression of human nature can be found through many artistic formats, fueled by the emotional thrust and intentions of the artist.  Artistic works relative to the human condition spring from the artist's perception and interpretation of the "truth" relative to the human condition. Architecture, as seen in the adjacent fields of art, also searches for "truth" in design through the representational process of design. 

Perception and Truth

Public perception and acceptance of the unique personal creative skills provided by architects has been in place since the early days of design.  Though the public may not always agree or perceptions may be biased, the special position relative to building design has existed.  It is primarily through a lack of understanding that the specific role of an architect has been misunderstood.

Architectural design as an art form relies on the architect's understanding of "truth" in design.  Truth means many things in construction depending on which sub-trade you may be conversing with, and there are likely as many interpretations of "truth" as there are tradesmen on site at any time.

In the case of architectural design, "truth" has a very limited definition, restructured to the terms "absolute truth". Absolute truth speaks to the honesty and clarity by which the design solution resolves the problem presented by the client's purpose in hiring the architect.  Absolute truth speaks to the skill and honesty of the architect's ability to clearly and succinctly identify the problem presented by the client and resolve it in a built form.

Architecture as an art form provides more than vernacular buildings can since architecture provides the structure with a quality that cannot be clearly defined except to call it the "truth" in design. This truth quality is outside the realm of realism, boundaries, social class or race; as truth is without borders, boundaries and social delineations. Absolute truth in building design is universal within the culture that created it.

An architectural design may be faced with realistic constraints (specific item placement) however these constraints will have no bearing on whether or not the building achieves the level of truth in its design. The ability to achieve truth lies in the skill and personality of the design architect.

Design as an art form relies on the skill of the architect to include, either graphically or inherently, the artistic intent of the solution. This inclusion is part of the philosophical basis of the final design solution.

Good Architecture is space that is always interesting, providing discovery, inspiration, and always touching the senses. It doesn't become ordinary. It is like taking a walk in a forest, the trees are all there, but the forest reveals itself differently every time. Start to notice the details, and I promise this distinction of Architecture can enhance the quality of your life. Architecture is man made, and you do have control over it. You can create an environment that supports your being, and you can choose to be in an environment that enhances your day to day living. It is available. C. Michael Kitner, Architect

Design also uses art as the means of communication between the architect and the client.  It is this communication or dialogue of architect/client that creates the understanding among all parties as to the building’s function and philosophy.  The architect must be skilled in the practice of understanding the client’s needs and desires (intent) in order to interpret the items into the artistic building solution.

This dialogue is one built on an understanding of communication between the parties.  The primary means of communication with architecture is visual – a display of the intended solution for understanding and acceptance by the client.  The ability to visualize, to draw, to illustrate the solution of verbal needs begins with the architect’s ability to visually interpret the initial requirements of the client.  This process of initial interpretation most often is completed through the process of sketching.

"It takes a great client to create great architecture."Curtis W. Fentress

Function and Time

Function

Every design is completed in order to serve a defined functional aspect of our existence. The success of a design solution is evident when it resolves the problem by providing a suitable environment. The failure of function is evident when the design does not achieve this goal.

Function relates to the essence of the design solution. Function also has to respect the rhythm of life relating to those who occupy the spaces.

Architecture is to be regarded by us with the most serious thought. We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her. There are two duties respecting national architecture whose importance it is impossible to overrate; the first, to render the architecture of the day historical; and, the second, to preserve, as the most precious of inheritances, that of past ages.John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

A house is meant to provide shelter from the elements and security or protection from others. These two aspects are the basic function of a house.  A house also has to provide a place for the functions of gathering, play, work, retreat, exposure, worship, celebration, consolation, etcetera.  All functions of daily life must be accommodated into the essence of a residence for it to fully serve its purpose. The same issues can be described for our educational, institutional, corporate and public environments.  It is a tall order to consider all of these aspects relative to architectural design; an order that architectural practice endeavours to satisfy constantly.

Time

The dimension of time is the fourth cognitive dimension applicable to architectural design. Time plays a crucial role in the manner through which architecture is experienced, appreciated and understood.

In order to properly experience architectural design, which is in fact an inanimate object, a participant must be able to spend time in and around the building to provide:

  • Time to walk through and experience the size relative to your passage.
  • Time to flow within the structure to experience the interplay of space resulting from your movements.
  • Time to observe and experience how the design is best suited for the intended function.
  • Time to observe the forms, solids and voids as well as textural effects and colours within the spaces.
  • Time to observe the lighting conditions, how they change during the days and seasons, how the effects within the structure are altered by the lighting.
  • Time to experience the acoustics within the spaces; echoes, stillness, reverberation, muffled sounds.
  • Time to experience the design with all of our senses, establishing our presence and sense of being within the design.
  • Time for the building to exist through the years of mankind, establishing itself as a work suitable for the mantle known as Architecture. This statement does not mean that anything old will be classified as architecture since bad design does not necessarily improve with age (nor does bad wine).

Architectural design provides a historic tableau through the passage of time that documents our lives and reflects our existence to future generations.

The passage of time creates a distinct bond between architecture and the user. We remember places, buildings and experiences based on the space and time in which it occurred. Our childhoods are made up of memories, many of which centre on the architecture we experience or inhabited at a certain point in time. Architecture as an enclosure element creates the opportunity for experiences; time as it passes creates the memory of architecture relative to our experience.

Those of use who are concerned with buildings tend to forget too easily that all the life and soul of a place, all of our experiences there, depend not simply on the physical environment, but on the patterns of events which we experience there. Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

The most intimate connection between structure and mankind may be found in our perception of Home. Through the passage of time, we bond with our personal environment; creating and changing it to suit our needs at the time but always relying on it to serve its basic purpose (shelter and protection) while providing us the opportunity to use it for our own purposes. At the end of our time in the home, we often personify the house as "family", going far beyond the reality that the house, though perhaps modified and aged, remains the same entity as it was at the time of construction. The house remains a compilation of building materials arranged in such a way as to enclose space.  This compilation (the house) has through time become a part of our reality and existence.

Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. Vince Lombardi

Lighting / Acoustics

Lighting in Architectural Design

The aspect of lighting relative to architectural design is crucial to ensure success.  The atmosphere and aesthetic of space and form can be obliterated by inadequate or improper lighting.

This portion of the design process involves the discipline of electrical engineering to provide data and background, participating in the fixture selection and design to provide lighting suitable to enhance the user's experience.  This process relates to the integration of artificial lighting. The process of day lighting is a more difficult one to control.

Those divisions (divisions of the design itself) are, necessarily, either into masses of light and shade. The power of architecture may be said to depend upon the quantity (whether measured in space or intenseness) of its shadow. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Day lighting in architectural design is difficult to adequately control yet it is essential to our own well-being and subsequently to the experience of the design itself.  Daylight is constantly changing as the solar path is never repetitive, nor is the weather on any given day or time in the year.  The design must strategically locate the necessary voids (windows, skylights, clerestory windows, doors) in order to capture and direct daylight to provide the desired affect.  These affects, when properly achieved, may add a sense of theatrical ambience to the space.

Acoustic Influences in Design

The acoustic influences relative to architectural design are an important concept.  To ignore acoustic properties of space, form and texture will run the risk of creating environments that do not serve their intended function. To provide for this consideration will enhance the ambience and experience of a design solution.

Acoustics respond to our sense of scale within a space, even with the lights off.  Human nature through experience is able to tell the relative size of a space solely by the sound of footsteps on the floor surface.

The generation of sound is enhanced or limited by the size of the space, forms, textures and surfaces and the type of materials used throughout.  This consideration has created a new discipline of Acoustic or Environmental Engineers that study the specific properties of sound. 

This discipline of Acoustic Engineering provides input to the design process to aid in the resolution of the acoustic ambience intended.  Performance and practice areas require separate treatments from lecture and office areas; classrooms need proper sound attenuation for spoken word while auditoriums and gymnasiums may require the addition of specific directional sound systems.  Each of these instances will have an impact on the design solution and must be carefully studied during the architectural design process.

The influence of sound and space can be found in the inflection of religious ceremonies.  Original cathedral designs, as noted in the History section, were based on Roman Basilica plans; a large central space with parallel narrow aisles.  Celebrants were required to cast out their voices in order to carry the sound throughout the interior space. This loud sound however created a rhythmic echo, causing a reverberation of the sound off the wall, floor and ceiling surfaces.  Audibility of a monotone, non-rhythmic prayer was lost due to overlaps in sound coming from the celebrant and repetitive echoes.  It would seem like many people were saying the same thing at different points in time, all blending together in a chaotic sound pattern.

To overcome this audible deficiency, the modulation of the prayers and chants were established, emphasizing the crucial components of the text and celebration, minimizing or making use of the potential echo. These rhythmic intonations are still in use today, respected as the manner through which celebrations are conducted. This current aspect of religious services is a direct result of the attempt to overcome the acoustic deficiencies of early church design.

Modern technology now provides the means and methods to test spaces, prior to construction to ensure that proper acoustics are achieved.  It is known that hard surfaces will reflect sound and soft surfaces will absorb sound.  The type of material used, the texture and even the shape of the form will be used to direct, control, augment or absorb sounds based on the intended use of the space.

"There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish."Warren Bennis

Site Influences

Lighting in Architectural Design

The aspect of lighting relative to architectural design is crucial to ensure success.  The atmosphere and aesthetic of space and form can be obliterated by inadequate or improper lighting.

This portion of the design process involves the discipline of electrical engineering to provide data and background, participating in the fixture selection and design to provide lighting suitable to enhance the user's experience.  This process relates to the integration of artificial lighting. The process of day lighting is a more difficult one to control.

Those divisions (divisions of the design itself) are, necessarily, either into masses of light and shade. The power of architecture may be said to depend upon the quantity (whether measured in space or intenseness) of its shadow. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Day lighting in architectural design is difficult to adequately control yet it is essential to our own well-being and subsequently to the experience of the design itself.  Daylight is constantly changing as the solar path is never repetitive, nor is the weather on any given day or time in the year.  The design must strategically locate the necessary voids (windows, skylights, clerestory windows, doors) in order to capture and direct daylight to provide the desired affect.  These affects, when properly achieved, may add a sense of theatrical ambience to the space.

Acoustic Influences in Design

The acoustic influences relative to architectural design are an important concept.  To ignore acoustic properties of space, form and texture will run the risk of creating environments that do not serve their intended function. To provide for this consideration will enhance the ambience and experience of a design solution.

Acoustics respond to our sense of scale within a space, even with the lights off.  Human nature through experience is able to tell the relative size of a space solely by the sound of footsteps on the floor surface.

The generation of sound is enhanced or limited by the size of the space, forms, textures and surfaces and the type of materials used throughout.  This consideration has created a new discipline of Acoustic or Environmental Engineers that study the specific properties of sound. 

This discipline of Acoustic Engineering provides input to the design process to aid in the resolution of the acoustic ambience intended.  Performance and practice areas require separate treatments from lecture and office areas; classrooms need proper sound attenuation for spoken word while auditoriums and gymnasiums may require the addition of specific directional sound systems.  Each of these instances will have an impact on the design solution and must be carefully studied during the architectural design process.

The influence of sound and space can be found in the inflection of religious ceremonies.  Original cathedral designs, as noted in the History section, were based on Roman Basilica plans; a large central space with parallel narrow aisles.  Celebrants were required to cast out their voices in order to carry the sound throughout the interior space. This loud sound however created a rhythmic echo, causing a reverberation of the sound off the wall, floor and ceiling surfaces.  Audibility of a monotone, non-rhythmic prayer was lost due to overlaps in sound coming from the celebrant and repetitive echoes.  It would seem like many people were saying the same thing at different points in time, all blending together in a chaotic sound pattern.

To overcome this audible deficiency, the modulation of the prayers and chants were established, emphasizing the crucial components of the text and celebration, minimizing or making use of the potential echo. These rhythmic intonations are still in use today, respected as the manner through which celebrations are conducted. This current aspect of religious services is a direct result of the attempt to overcome the acoustic deficiencies of early church design.

Modern technology now provides the means and methods to test spaces, prior to construction to ensure that proper acoustics are achieved.  It is known that hard surfaces will reflect sound and soft surfaces will absorb sound.  The type of material used, the texture and even the shape of the form will be used to direct, control, augment or absorb sounds based on the intended use of the space.

"There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish."Warren Bennis

Environment

Architecture and the Environment

Architectural design makes a conscious choice when creating structure within the natural world. The choices available are to either harmonize with the surroundings (natural or constructed) or to stand apart from them.

To harmonize with the environment is to blend in, sympathetic to the nature of the landscaping or adjacent structures, becoming a coherent component within the contextual area.

To stand apart creates a distinct statement relative to the design solution. This statement includes the isolation of the design solution within the built environment, setting it apart as a focal point within the greater area. To create in this manner within a natural environment constitutes the statement of mankind's impact on the world; dominance, manipulation and focus being the resulting perception.

The value of architecture depends on two distinct characters: the one, the impression it receives from human power, the other, the image it bears of the natural creation. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

The environment itself may be urban or rural, depending on the specific commission. Whether architects choose to follow either of the two paths, they must remain aware of the environmental conditions.  Never, in any situation, should consideration of the environment be ignored.

The natural environmental considerations are covered in greater detail within the Geography section of this curriculum.  Briefly described, environmental considerations should include:

  • Natural topography (land formations and types)
  • Natural landscaping
  • Surrounding or adjacent building themes that exist
  • Land use/area (industrial, residential, corporate)
  • Climate: this element incorporates a vast array of considerations including energy use (green building concepts), natural lighting, water usage and solar orientation.

Architectural design must be considered in its context that is relative to the intended location, time and space.  Good design is only good for a one time specific use application – repetition elsewhere without change or modification will not achieve the same successful result.  Along with this consideration, one must realize that no design solution exists in isolation for there is always a contextual element present. A design solution that is completed relative to its contextual application is more likely to be accepted (judged) as appropriate.  A design solution completed in contrast to its context must be done so with intent.

The task is to engage the design problem at all levels, considering the application of design principles, to fully resolve a successful solution.

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, and environment in a city plan. Eliel Saarinen, as quoted in The Nature of Design

Landscaping and Architectural Design

Architectural design is a process that involves the design of the structure as well as the surrounding context.  The landscaping elements adjacent to or leading up to a design solution contribute a great deal to the user's perception of order, pattern and development.  Design must strive to create a transition between interior and exterior spaces, unifying the overall composition into a whole and blending structure with the environment.  Without this effort, the structure is laid bare upon the site like a rock dropped on hardened soil.

It follows that a building which is whole must always have the character of nature, too.  It will have the same balance of repetition and variety that nature does.Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

The element pertaining to landscape design and integration are the same as those reviewed in this section relative to architectural design principles and elements. Landscape design involves:

  • Line to establish the flow and geometry (natural or rigid) on the site
  • Horizontality provided by walking surfaces, ground walls, hedges and shrubs
  • Verticality provided by trees and constructed site elements
  • Texture provided by plants and material surfaces
  • Variety in constructed elements and plant life
  • Unity provided by consistent and complementary materials, forms and textures.
  • Repetition in forms, shapes, colour and texture
  • Pattern providing a visual rhythm and cadence for movement
  • Emphasis for focal points and the structure itself.
  • Balance between site elements, structure, colour, texture, massing, proportion and scale.
  • Constructed site elements provide the opportunity to reflect the structure around the site, reinforcing the symbolism and imagery, adding colour, line and shape as well as movement of line around and within the site.  Colour is a specific aspect which must be considered relative to its impact in all seasons (summer through winter) in order to provide a consistent site relative to the structure.

The process of landscape design forms a distinct component of the design profession. This com of Landscape Architecture must be understood and implemented by the design architect through the concept to ensure that the completed structure is a total integrated composition within and around itself.

We will not know unless we begin. Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Theory is as much personal expression as it is professional development. It is the culmination of experience, education and effort that allows an architect to formulate their true theory of successful architectural design.Unknown


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