Monday, May 9, 2011


More notes for tomorrows final. Posting these for buddies in need of full notes, since I am a nerd who never misses class. If you don't care, just take a listen to a good tune and please don't hate me!


Origins of Architecture

There are two kinds of buildings in the world, “tents” and “caves.”
In 200 BCE Vitruvian claimed that forest fires led to the development of structures, which were emulated by others who saw them. Eventually these structures were improved. Also mentioned tunneling, caves, structures with logs. “Tents” have frames. (Thus humans are “tents” in the sense that tents have structural frames, our bones, covered in skin.); Play-doh or a loaf of bread are examples of “caves” – plasticity is a primary defining identifier. Most cave buildings pre-date the 20th century. Most tent buildings began in the late 19th century – due primarily to the industrial revolution and introduction of mass produced steel. Steel allowed large buildings to be built with frames. Elevators also allowed tall buildings to be usable. Italian architect Alberti (1400 AD) wrote a ten part treatise on “observations of buildings.” Spoke of walls in order to create different spaces, construction of roofs and windows. Windows allowed water vapor and smoke to exit. Also allows air flow internally and externally. Two kinds of openings: light and ventilation, and those that allow people to enter and leave. Without windows and/or doors buildings will rot!

Abbe Laugier – 18th century French – created an image in which he postulated that architecture, as we understand it. In a clearing in a forest, those who sought shelter found four trees that grew large enough to fork out. Beams were then able to be supported via the fork, which allowed the creation of an arched roof. (Image shows a natural structure, a cherub, and an unidentified goddess).

The tent structure is “coevol” – tents are found across many cultures who had no intercommunication. Doorways are “celebrated” – often exaggerated and decorated.


Cities exist as places of architecture, and architecture is a function of cities. Inseparable in their execution, the city is the primary place of architecture. Differences between public and private space: Public spaces cannot kick people out, for instance. Cities are extraordinarily public. Architecture and cities are very political. Cars were the driving force for the growth of suburbia in the 1950s. Eisenhower created the interstate highway system. The Chicago fire occurred in 1871.
The Twin Towers fell pancake style due to the use of the most minimal building materials allowed by law – actually poorly constructed.
Successful cities have high degrees of density – both of people and buildings. Having a consistent edge is critical to the health of a street. Conversely, a street missing “chunks” is considered “unsafe.” Heterogeny of age (both of buildings and people) contribute to a cities health. Mass transit help density.


Construction informs architecture (assembly and production). Two periods – the “massive period” and the “frame period.” Pyramids are massive. (Steel is strong and light). In bearing walls, the windows may be small. Strong verticality shows a transition from bearing walls into frames. Sometimes co-planar construction “hides” the depth/thickness of the wall in some stone structures. The Monadnock building (16 floors) in Chicago is a bearing building, meaning that the walls are several feet thick in order to support it. (Considered to be the last large “cave” built). Bay windows go to the ground, Orial windows do not. They do, however, look quite similar. Frame buildings sometimes are built with the impression of the grid with which the cage building style uses as the superstructure. Elevators took away the “change of section” of the building – something you experience when walking up stairs. Heavy timber construction was the most prevalent building style in 1700s America. Each timber is 5’ x 5’. Mortise and Tenon – the triangle brace gives the frame rigidity. Mortise = post. Tenon = beam.
The porch is a mediator between public and private space.
Wrought iron’s fibers become interwoven – stronger than cast iron, especially with regards to tension.
Public Realm: Stairs, path
Private Realm: Rooms
Porches negotiate the transitions from the public space to the private space. Threshold is reduced to a linear condition.
Porch – depending on which side of the door, semi-public, semi-private.
Cella – through the doorway – sacred space
Relieving Arch – in the wall to redistribute weight

Evidence based design: Design that is not based on assumptions, the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes. “People oriented design”

Domesticity – doors, windows, shutters

Floors and Ceilings

Ceiling limits a space. Roof encloses a building. Ceilings modulate space. Expression of structure sometimes other than exposure of structure. Ceiling can be support of a space in terms of spatial characteristics; reduced to a mere service plane. Many ceilings today have been reduced to a service plane.
In Venice, churches are typically called “el schola.”
Floor, wall, ceiling – design surfaces.
Campidoglio – the capitol of Rome. The steps are made in such a way that it plays with perception, making it look much longer than it actually is. Straightens out. Forced perspectiove “trompe l’oeil” – “fools the eye.” Michelangelo modified conditions so they appear more comfortable, less distorted.  Condition of pressure created by expansive pattern on the floor. Piazza San Marco is the largest public space in Venice. Floors give order to the space.
Even a service plane, when done properly, can be elegant. “Popcorn” ceilings exist only to hide mistakes.


Poche translate to “pocket.” In architecture it refers to thickness, generally in a wall. In traditional architecture (cave architecture) it refers to the spaces that are carved out of the thickness. Reading space in a monastery is a poche. Things exist “in the poche.” Baroque architecture uses poche.

Figure-ground Drawing

Glessner – integrative; Robie – assertive.
Nolli map of Rome, a famous map made in the 18th century, identifies major buildings in white space. Non-major buildings are black. Cortile (the courtyard) was shown as white space.

Weathering – patina

Something that reflects the passage of time. Dips in stairs – the “registration” of feet. A great building is one that weathers well. Vinyl siding and glass are NOT good weathering materials. Romantic obsession with death and decay led to buildings designed to make “beautiful ruins.”

Sequence and Procession

Sequence: An order of spaces and events. Hierarchy can be a function of direction, program (use) location, position, articulation, history.
Procession: experience of the sequence. Processions may have sequences of expansion and compression of space. Hardian’s Villa – empress of Italy – Hadrian – Palace outside of Rome. Procession is random, but sequence is determined.
Spherical form negotiates between forms.
Villa Babaro – half circles allow for renegotiation of geometry.
The word casino means “small house.”

Tops and Bottoms

Traditional architecture has been built using tri-partite methods, with a top, a middle, and a base. Buildings always “touch the ground and sky.” Many buildings have a concerted effort by which they touch the sky. In some cases, rustication is used to separate sections. Ornamental decorations on roofs are used to draw the eyes skyward.
The Chrysler building uses a very modern approach to meeting the sky. (Note: some of the stylized eagles on the building are seen carrying tires, signifying the auto industry)
The base, the middle and the top can happen in many ways. Sometimes how it hits the sky can be very minimal. Other times it can be extremely ornate. Many modern buildings meet the ground much more subtly than traditional buildings.
Piloti – raising the building with piers or columns (Mies loved this)
Roof gardens establish and complete the meeting of the sky. Benches are a common renaissance building technique for Palazzao (palaces.) Pointed arches usually indicate gothic or late Romanesque. Columns – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Doric is the strongest. Ionic mediates between Doric and Corinthian. Corinthian is very elaborate.
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohne

1886 – 1969 – Generally referred to simply as “Mies.” Educated as a mason/builder. Grew up in a family of masons. His primary architecture was based on how things are put together, using minimal materials. Coined the reductive phrase – “Less is more.” Ornament was out of the question. The utmost simplicity is desired. Effected by the modernist painters who sought to de-objectify paintings; more abstract. Early in his career he build houses for the wealthy. Everything began to change in WWI – elimination of the old order. “Architecture should be part of this new world,” Mies thought. He used composite photography, took his draft drawings and merged them with photographs of everyday life in Germany at the time. His images were considered extremely radical. His buildings would “wear no crowns” (meaning roofs) of the old order. Mies brought to architecture that which was once relegated to art and sculpture. Used space and special enclosure to identify rooms. Thought about spaces as an open condition; to break out of the box – space without limitations. Used columns to define space instead of walls. “Barcelona Pavilion” was demolished, but then rebuilt in the early 1990s. (Official name was “German Pavilion”) It had disconnected walls; no applied ornamental. Mies used veining in marble as an ornamental aspect. (Also known as constituent ornament; inherent to the material) He designed spaces using “horizontal symmetry,” used bookmatched stone in the Barcelona Pavilion. Also used reflections to extend walls. No applied ornament – constituent ornament only. Famously said “God is in the details” – things built by man had divinity in the details.
Entartete Kunst – “degenerate art” – the Third Reich exhibited modern artists next to paintings made by insane asylum patients. Mies fled Germany and moved to Chicago. Became dean of architecture at ITT. Fused modernism with American architecture. Columns used as special organizational devices. Also used reflections to change aspect of rooms – make them feel as if they are large. Designed the “Farnsworth” house in the 50s for a woman who was infatuated with him. She later sued him for problems with the house. Recessed columns to make them feel as if they were floating in space. Mies ornamented buildings using I-Beams. Tried to dematerialize corners, make them feel lighter.

Charle Edourd Jeanneret “Le Corbusier”

188? – 1965. Was both a painter as well as an architect. Would paint (naked) in the morning, design buildings in the afternoon. Cubist/purism art style, similar to Picasso. “Le Corbusier” had five points of architecture:

·         Piloti – columns/posts raises us up off the ground
·         Free Plan – walls are free
·         Free Façade
·         Ribbon Windows – declared, “The wall wasn’t holding the building up”
·         Roof Gardens – restated the ground plane – no longer burdened by limitations of Earth

Believed buildings should be freed from the Earth. Basements = bad! Since we are freed from load-bearing walls, the walls could thus be in any configuration – ribbon windows or free façade. His masterpiece is the Villa Savoye, built in 1927. Was used as a hay barn during nazi occupation. Was very interested ramps as a way to slowly move from one level to another. Maison Dom-ino – Stacked tiles. Had to do with fascination with mass production.

Manifesto was “Toward an Architecture” (incorrectly translated as “Towards a New Architecture”)
Great architecture is made in a system of proportions (regulating lines) “Le Modular” based on the proposition of a human being.
Ronchamp Cathedral “Nuns Cap”

Introduced sunscreens to buildings with his Salvation Army Building. Developed “skip-stop” elevator systems which would skip certain floors. Carpen Center for Visual Arts at Harvard. Only building of his in the USA. The Arkansas Union is, in part, based on a building named “La Tourette”. Died while swimming.

Balance asymmetry: distinction one side to another, but still symmetrical for the most part. Much like a human face.

Constituent Ornament: characteristics of the material that make it ornamental. Mies was known for it.

Spatial Hierarchy: One space more important than another

Free Plan: walls not holding up building, columns do.

Universal Space: not configured in a particular way.

Dog-trot” or double pen – two rooms separated by a breezeway covered by a single roof. Made to encourage and maintain airflow. Only appear in heat-dominated regions where summer is the most intense season. Separated to keep heat away from living space as well as to minimize fire hazard. Sometimes above ground to keep safe from flooding and to help with airflow.

Procession:  In front of the stage


  1. good luck, material doesnt seem that bad

  2. Empress of Italy? I thought Hadrian was an emperor. Is it something about the place that makes it empress?

  3. a techno version of pink floyd......not working