Sunday, March 1, 2009

Foundations Unit Summary


Over the course of the semester, we have followed Leland M. Roth and Robbie G. Blakemore in our quest to understand the foundations of architecture and interior design. In order to build on elements that make up what we see today, we must first understand where everything began, or the FOUNDATIONS of architecture and design.

[nautilus : everyday]
Architecture is the unavoidable art. All buildings and forms of architecture are considered art for many reasons: expression, expandable skill, its a test of time, and there are many forms of it. Except, art is not something that you can inhabit, but architecture is inhabitable to most all people. Architecture is physical and a necessary place of shelter to live, making it most definitely unavoidable. Louis Kahn believes it is something that "nature cannot make" (Roth, 3), but architecture and nature do relate. When one considers a nautilus shell, they are able to see all the different chambers and sections that build upon one another in the circular piece of nature. These different sections figuratively carry all of its past on its back as it rounds out to the opening. Metaphorically, architecture has been building upon itself for centuries.

[shed l cathedral : what's the difference]
As Nicholas Pevsner states that "a bicycle shed is a building; lincoln cathedral is a piece of architecture" (Roth, 4), architecture must be studied and understood, not assumed. People must be careful when they label something either a building or a piece of architecture. Using the shed and cathedral example, the shed is a building whereas a cathedral is a form of architecture. A building is an everyday object that primarily serves its function and is mainly only utilitarian. This is not to say, however, that some buildings do not have meanings because they do. For example the White House is where people gather collectively to form a community; the Empire State Building means commerce and hope in height of depression; and the World Trade Center is viewed as power and might of the United States and lead of nations of the entire world. In comparison, architecture is a piece of art, it is meant to be looked at, it is aesthetic, it is carefully designed, and is usually a symbol for something else. Understanding this simple distinction of architecture and design is very important for continuing the chambers of a nautilus shell.

[commodity : firmness : delight]
Sir Henry Wotten says something that is a great foundation for the explanation of every overall design process. Wotten says, "In architecture, as in all operative arts [music or theater], the end must direct the operation. The end is to build well. Well building hath three conditions: commodity, firmness and delight" (Roth, 11). Commodity, firmness and delight is the process for well design. Commodity is the utility of a building. It should answer how to allow function and accomidate people who occupy the space. The structure, or firmness, of a building is most important as it is the backbone to the form actually existing. The ultimate goal of most buildings should be to stand the test of time, with the composition staying in shape and in position. Delight is simply that each building should consider rhythm, proportion, texture, light, color, material, sound, ornament, and ugliness. If this design process is completed, buildings will be able to complete cycles as they can be reused easily and functionally.

As the overall building is what most viewers see, it is important to consider the "small building" or the pieces that make up the whole. Looking at a column or early post and lintel is an example of a small building. Aedicule is a way for dividing a space or creating a space.

[time : passage] MESOPOTAMIA
Four major times of study from the beginning architecture are Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Mesopotamians were the early starters of architectural design creating the first arch and column and dome shapes. An example of early mesopotamian age design is Stonehenge as many questions have remained unanswered as to how and why the structure is the way it is. The form of a circle and having the center be the important, sacred spot is an example of symbolism and religion of early times. Using natures materials was all that the early comers had, making stone a huge resource. The Mesopotamians were "masters of construction using bricks made of mud, their one abundant, but impermanent, building material" (The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago). The simple buildings were made of this form and were later crumbled mounds as years of rain destroyed the forms. Early efforts were also made through the tee-pees that were created simply by skins stretched over bones and interiors of caves telling stories. The passage of the Nile for Egypt was a great way of trade for civilizations to gain materials and spreading civilizations. The Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu was also a great monument that became a symbol marking a specific location. This stone creation then served as a later prototype for pyramids in Mesopotamia. Moving further east, Japan and China have also started creating structures to tell stories of creation using light and darkness, for example the Wedding Rocks. So far, there have been different themes between the western and eastern civilization, however, they are all similarly formed, expressing how architecture's base is generally the same.

[male : female] EGYPT
Temple of Amon : Karnak. Social hierarchy is reflected in pieces of furniture as well as architecture itself. People who had furniture resembled their social class as the higher back reflected a someone who was higher in society; A low of no back was someone who was low in society. This concept can be related towards the pyramids as the height and verticality of the pyramid resembled the importance of the figure. Kings would have the highest pyramid because they were viewed as the most important and since the Egyptians were religious in their own culture, they believed that the higher the pyramid, the more important since heaven is closer to the top. As such in the Temple of Amon, the temples are larger and the materials blend to the environment making use of what they had and their important symbol.

[real : ideal] GREECE
Moving into Greece. The Greeks tried to achieve the ideals, perfect perfection, but realistically, it is too far away from them. Their world is surrounded by the Mediterranean, making water very important to all Greek cities. It made it easier to travel and borrow freely from other groups such as Asia and Egypt.

[archetype : prototype : hybrid]
Archetype, prototype and hybrid show progression of design (opus week 4). The archetype is what is the ideal or what becomes greatly recognizable, a prototype is what gets you to that recognizable state and a hybrid is the after part when a combination of forms come together. The Greeks incorporated this design process simply in their major columns that became a trademark of the Greek period. The classical orders and their titles are - tuscan (prototype), doric (archetype) : ionic (archetype) : corinthian (archetype) : composite (hybrid). An actual form example would be that of the Parthenon (Parthenon : archetype . doric columns : prototype . composite columns : hybrid)

[porch : court : hearth]
Use of porch-court-hearth system started with Greece but continued through time. Porch being the entrance, court is the columns or the area surrounding what is important, and hearth is the importance and main structure, usually the temple. A great example of this is Acropolis, embracing the importance of the goddess Athena symbolized by the Parthenon.

[demos : empires] ROME
bread + circuses are the primary use of this time. Romans created structures that kept citizens busy and competitive and used architecture as a reflection of what the society was all about. More theaters and places of food supply were created providing entertainment and social living. Places like the Colosseum and trajan markets and baths were built to support this new idea. Modern cities and extravagant pleasure and decorative, even ostentatious furnishings were created by the empire. Buildings types varied in design and concrete and vaulting began to widespread, arch construction breakthrough, and columns were decorative instead of structural.

[the wu-wu]
Wu-wu's were created to mark territories. The bigger the wu-wu, the more empire that person had. It is purely a land-marker that began to shape environments. The forms are very masculine as they are tall structures places usually in open areas to make them appear larger than they really are, and together they can tell stories of the times. Some would argue that they could even be considered a sculpture rather than architecture.

[architecture + civic life]
Romans soon built architecture on the site and are more adaptive. Pompeii is an example of this new civic life, as it incorporated a temple, bath, commerce and villa of the mysteries. Baths specifically were a new life for many people. They provided sports, relaxation and social living that became part of everyone's daily routine. The baths also combined architectural elements of a dome (sacred), courtyard (separates basilica and dome sending a dialogue across open space) and basilica (gathering people in one designated area).

[parts : whole]
Design is a process that evolves over time as new ideas and new technology arise. The basic rules of design that seem to move with the times are the ideas of commodity, firmness and delight. As cultures and centuries follow those meanings, most forms of architecture will continue to impact and shape the world around us. As Ancient Civilizations built upon the one that preceded them, each set foundations for later centuries to either continue building upon or minimize and take away. These foundations and processes are used even by me in my designs for Interior Architecture. Each project that I complete has gone through a series of steps that I built and improved some ideas while eliminating others, sort of like what history has done.

Relating a piece of home with the foundations unit is the Rhode Island State House. This is a great example of architectural forms: dome, corinthian column, arch, aedicule/porch, hearth, court (grass field surrounding structure), and hierarchy (highest hill overlooking city of Providence).

Photo taken by

Photo taken by LI PhotoGuy's Weblog

Roth, Leland, M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Blakemore, R.G. (2006). History of Interior Design & Furniture: From Ancient Egypt to Nineteenth-Century Europe. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

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