Necessary Characteristics of a Symbolic and Expressive Vocabulary of Modem Architecture
Cameron Kruger November 28,1988
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the School of Architecture and Planning
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
Master of Architecture
This thesis for the Master of Architecture degree
by Cameron Kruger
has been approved for the
School of Architecture and Planning
Table of Contents
The Historical Context 2
Problem Approach 4
Necessary Characteristics of Architectural Vocabulary 9
Rationale for Necessary Characteristics:
The Need for Order: Existential Foothold 9
The Need for Multiple Readings: The Purpose of Art 12
Order in Experience: The Existential Nature of Space 13
Order in Language: Grammar and Redundancy 18
Order in Perception: Gestalt Principles 26
Order in Use: The Role of Function in an Applied Art 31
Order in Construction: Techne 36
Order in History: Continuity and Tradition 39
Order in Today's Environment: Modernism 44
Appendix 1: Analytical Diagrams
Appendix 2: Design Problem
Codes and Zoning
With the capitulation of Classical architecture to Modernism in the early part of the twentieth century, a long tradition of symbolic and expressive architectural vocabulary was lost. The new architecture was rooted in building and turned its back on any vocabulary that did not honestly portray its constructive nature. Two architects of Modernism, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, realized the potentially great expressive power of architecture and sought to develop a Modern vocabulary of equal power to Classical vocabulary. The work and ideas of these two architects provides a vehicle for analysis in a search for the generative principles of a symbolic and expressive Modem vocabulary. These generative and universal principles of order, taken foPm a variety of disciplines outside of architecture, are described in the text and supported by diagrams. It is argued that these universal principles of order should be part of any architectural vocabulary and can be used to develop Modem architectural vocabulary to the point of equaling Classicism in expressiveness and symbolic content. It will be the purpose of the design project associated with this paper to test how effectively such principles can be used to establish an architectural vocabulary by demonstrating the use of the principles in the design of an art museum.
Architecture, of necessity, is made up of nameable parts, such as windows, walls, and columns. These parts can be said to form a vocabulary of which each element potentially reveals the order in the human experience of architecture along several dimensions. There are universal principles inherent in construction and experience that should be the basis of any architectural vocabulary so that it may realize its full potential of meaning. Many of these principles are similar to the principles of any system that is capable of carrying and transmitting information. Classical vocabulary
met the principles of order outlined in this thesis. Mainstream Modern vocabulary, however, fails to realize fully these principles. It is possible and desirable to extend the meaning of Modem vocabulary so that it is as rich and expressive as Classicism. It is also desirable to maintain a link with the vocabulary of the Classical tradition in order that continuity of meaning associated with form can be preserved. The way to achieve these aims is to create a Modern vocabulary that responds to the various dimensions of order described in this text.
It is my belief that the seeds for the continuing development and enrichment of Modem architecture have already been sown. The specific goals of this thesis are: the elucidation of various principles for the development of a symbolic Modern vocabulary, the description of these ideas in one coherent written work, and the demonstration of these ideas in a design project. These principles are based on the need humans have for order in their environment. They include the physical order in the environment, the order involved in ones perception of the environment, and the order required in any information carrying sign system.
The Historical Context
At the end of the nineteenth century, architecture was faced with two major problems. Both problems were due to the inability of the existing architectural vocabulary to meet the challenges of the new society brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The first problem was the incompatibility between the new materials used in construction and the exterior expression in traditional materials. Technology had made quantum leaps forward and the structure of buildings, be it steel or concrete, reflected these advances. Architects, however, had no vocabulary for using the new materials for exterior expression. They soldiered on with an exterior expression that relied on a vocabulary derived from wood and stone construction. The second problem was the emergence of new building types
and the inability to find expression for these with the existing language.
The rise of democracy, with its new institutions such as public museums and libraries; the rise of capitalism, with its skyscrapers devoted to commerce; and the rise of the highways and railroads, slicing apart cities and making possible the suburbs, all brought new building problems to architects. The early Moderns were successful in establishing an architecture to meet the demands of the new era by unashamedly using the new materials and developing solutions for new building types. However, the cost of this architectural revolution was the abandonment of the rich and expressive tradition of Classical architecture, which had enjoyed near universal understanding. This loss led to an impoverished architecture which reached its climax in the 1950's and 1960's.
As a reaction to this situation, two counter movements emerged that attempted to reestablish the symbolic and semiotic dimension of architecture that had been lost with the emergence of Modernism. In America, Post-Modernism, generally exemplified by Robert Venturi and Michael Graves, proposed, as an alternative to Modernism, the use of widely recognized architectural symbols from the Classical vocabulary. Typically these signs are applied to an otherwise Modem building. This attitude towards the use of symbolism in the Modem age Venturi calls "the decorated shed." In Europe, Neo-Rationalism, generally exemplified by Aldo Rossi and Leon and Rob Krier, proposed a return to the nineteenth century's tradition of typology, hoping that the conventional symbolism of the type would carry more meaning than Modem solutions. This approach is limited in its uses. By definition, it is inapplicable to new building types such as airports or high-rise office towers. Both Post-Modernism and Neo-Rationalism are good critiques of mainstream orthodox Modem architecture's failure to provide the symbolic dimension that is a necessary part of a whole architecture. However, both of these movements return to a pre-Modem vocabulary in order to find expression. They return to the very vocabulary that the heroes of early Modernism rejected because it was
incompatible with the nature of the new materials and construction tasks of our time. They are requesting an architecture that lacks integrity, that belies the ordering principles of its own construction and use. Their solution is wrong but their critique is valid. We need an architecure that has a symbolic dimension, that reveals its own order. The purpose of this thesis is to propose a method for developing such a symbolic architectural vocabulary.
The work of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn will be used to demonstrate that it is possible to make an architecture of symbolic dimension with a Modern vocabulary. Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn are the two major protagonists of an effort to establish an expressive Modern vocabulary. Each architect has provided a different approach towards the development of such a vocabulary: Kahn from a search for "beginnings" and an intimate understanding of building and the nature of materials and Corbusier from a search for evolution of form and an impressive ability to synthesize wide ranging influences form divergent sources into architectural form. Le Corbusier approached the problems of Modernism from an intellectual standpoint. He was more concerned with abstract principles than specific details. A good example of his intellectualism, or what one could call his Rationalism, was his insistence of the primacy of the five Platonic solids in Vers une Architecture. Kahn's work, on the other hand, is inextricably linked to the nature of materials and construction. In this way the work of Kahn is the same American tradition as the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Both Wright and Kahn had a uniquely American respect and a pragmatic attitude towards construction materials. There is none of the intellectual distancing from the materials which one can see in Corbusier's Five Points. Corbusier treats materials abstractly in the Five Points: proclaiming principles that have to do with the structural properties of the Dom-ino system rather than its physical reality of poured concrete, as Kahn would.
The Five Points deal with issues related to the larger concerns of the concrete slab and column system: the expression of the spatial freedom implied by the system, the expression of the curtain wall, and the expression of the structural concrete itself. Kahn also responded to tradition in a way different from Corbusier. It was Corbusier's lifelong goal to extend the Classical tradition. As Colquhoun writes: "The modification or contradiction of traditional works is the constant leitmotif in [Corbusier's] work."i That is, Corbusier looked at the Classical tradition as the foundation for his work. He developed strategies for transforming traditional rules of architecture into his new system. These strategies led to the development of the Five Points as outlined in his book La Ville Radieuse. While Corbusier dealt with tradition through inversion, an attempt to perpetuate continuity through an evolutionary process of replacing known forms with their opposites, Kahn was concerned with a search for "beginnings." Instead of looking for a way to evolve the Western tradition, he looked for its roots. Understanding the root principles on which tradition is based, he was able to reinterpret the generative principles in a Modern way. Kahn spoke frequently about what he called the "Volume Zero" of history. The "Volume Zero" concept refers to the existence of universal principles behind architectural form which are timeless, have existed since before "Volume One" of history. But this does not negate the importance of tradition. Tradition for Kahn was a way to see these beginnings; tradition was a record of "Volume Zero traces.
In summation, Corbusier and Kahn have been selected as the comer stones of this research for several reasons. First, they each have a large number of built projects of considerable variety. This body of built work I believe to be essential in testing their architectural ideas, as well as the other ideas presented in this thesis. Second, taken together these two masters' work provides a comprehensive framework through which to analyze the
!Alan Colquhoun, Essays in Architectural Criticism (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1981), p. 51.
potential continuity of the Western Classical tradition. Corbusier and Kahn represent two very different ways of working with tradition. They approach the history of architecture from two different ends. Corbusier is concerned with the evolution of tradition w'hile Kahn was concerned with "beginnings." Corbusier was concerned with broad intellectual concerns, such as the expression of the Dom-ino structural system, while Kahn was concerned with the practical matters of building, such as expressing the difference betwaen poured concrete columns and walls (which he differentiated by using tie rods in walls only). Corbusier was concerned with a rational system for the new architecture, exemplified by his Five Points, w'hile Kahn was concerned wdth mystical aspects of architecture. This is why a study of these two can be called comprehensive. Additionally, no other architects of the Modem period have been as concerned with the furthering of the Classical tradition.
Obviously, Corbusier and Kahn were not the only architects who helped to develop Modern Architecture. Alvar Aalto, Mies van der Rohe, and many others have contributed a great deal. Mies is often called a classicist, but his w'ork does not address the number of issues that were covered by either Corbusier or Kahn. His building solution, whether for a house, a museum, or a school, is nearly always a glass and steel pavilion. Thus, he ignores the expression of function wdiich is described below as one of the necessary characteristics of a full and rich architectural vocabulary. Aalto, though extremely sensitive to the expressive nature of materials, placed little emphasis on the experiential dimension of spatial experience. The geometry of his plans is unrelated and unexpressive of fundamental attributes of human experience and at best can only be described as idiosyncratic. Additionally, his fan shaped plans are unrelated to the history of building, and it will be seen that the continuity of tradition is a central issue in this thesis. Of course, there are numerous other Modem architects, but none of them have produced a vocabulary that functions along as many dimensions as the vocabulary of Corbusier or Kahn.
This thesis is an analysis of basic principles used by the great Modern masters as well as Classical architects in their architectural vocabularies. All of the principles of order that are described below are exemplified in the work of Palladio, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Though the work studied is specific buildings, the principles discussed are applicable to any building.
It is important to note that the purpose of this analysis is not to study the specific design ideas that Palladio, Corbusier, or Kahn used but rather to get at the underlying principles they used to decide specific design issues. For it is these more fundamental principles that allowed all of these masters to work a lifetime on a variety of building tasks with a variety of design solutions.
Because I believe that there is no better demonstration of an idea than a concrete example, each one of the points made below will be diagrammed. Analysis drawings of the work of Palladio, Corbusier, and Kahn are used to illustrate and test the ideas proposed in this thesis. The drawings do not parallel the text exactly. However, they are roughly tied to it by virtue of being broken down into topics that are analogous to the breakdown of the text. Under the heading "The Characteristics," there is a short description within each one of the sub-headings that explains how the diagrams are intended to express the ideas in the text. These descriptions are set off from the main body of the text by a smaller font. The first sheet of analysis drawings is a plan, elevation, and section of the buildings used in the rest of the diagrams and is intended to be used as a reference.
The choice of the building to represent Kahn is obvious due to the nature of the thesis project described below (see Appendix 2). The Kimbell Art Museum is similar to the thesis project on two counts: it is a museum and it is located in a park setting. It is considered one of Kahn's greatest works. No example could be more related to the program of the thesis project.
The choice of the building to represent Corbusier was more difficult. While he did three museums, one in Tokyo, one in Chandigarh, and one in Ahmedabad, none of these are considered among his great works. The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, though not a museum, does include gallery space and is considered to be one of his finer works. Like the Kimbell, though not in a park, it is an object in space. It has also been chosen because Corbusier considered it a demonstration of his life's work. Curtis writes:
In the Carpenter Center, Le Corbusier assembled a sort of summa of his discoveries; the results of his life-long quest for principles. The piloti, slab, brise-soliel, ondulatoire, aerateur and other parts of the architect's language for concrete were given their quintessential definition. Perhaps they were his modem answer to the certainties of the Classical language: elements rooted in construction, but elevated above the mundane, and approximating the status of natural facts. In the Carpenter Center they could be seen inside and out from the ramp, and all together in the 'coup de poing' ('punch'), or demonstration facade looking out towards Harvard Yard.2
Additionally, Corbusier demonstrates all of the Five Points in this one building and used all his fenestration devices in a single facade.
The Villa Rotunda by Palladio was chosen to represent the Classical tradition: a foil to the two examples of Modernism. As explained in the introduction to the thesis, the principles or characteristics of vocabulary described here are assumed universal and therefore applicable to any architectural vocabulary. It will be shown that the principles discussed were used more often and more effectively in the days of Classicism than today. Villa Rotunda was chosen because it is a well known and often used example of Classicism. Also, like the buildings chosen to represent Modernism, the Villa Rotunda is a free object in space. This similarity will allow more comparisons with the two Modem buildings.
2William J. R. Curtis, Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms (New York: Rizzoli, 1986), p. 220.
The real test of the ideas presented here will be the design project. The successes and failures in that part of the work are the real blood and guts of the thesis, and the findings presented in this preliminary part are only hypotheses which must be tested in a project with a real program and a real site.
Necessary Characteristics of Architectural Vocabulary
"To bring together is, in Greek, sumballein. The work is a symbol."
These so-called characteristics, which are listed, explained, and demonstrated below, are taken from a wide variety of thought in many disciplines. Yet, all of these ideas provide a way of elevating architectural vocabulary to the level of expressiveness one associates with art.
The Need for Order: Existential Foothold
There are a number of ordering principles discussed in this thesis. But before explaining their nature and use, it is important to discuss the rationale behind their use. An architectural theorist, Christian Norberg-Schulz, and a psychologist, Rudolf Arnheim, have each written on the role of architecture as a symbol system which helps man to understand his world. This understanding, or put another way, orientation in the world is a necessary condition for man's survival. Beyond survival though, architecture has the power of teaching and reinforcing man's beliefs and knowledge.
Norberg-Schulz's most fundamental belief is that the purpose of art is to
3Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1971), p. 20.
give man an existential foothold.4 He quotes Kevin Lynch: "The terror of being lost comes from the necessity that a mobile organism be oriented in its surroundings."5 While no one wall dispute the importance to an organism of orientation we all know from common experience that virtually every environment provides enough clues for orientation. In fact, it requires a concerted effort to build a disorienting architecture because of the inherent orienting clues that typical construction systems provide. There are works of architecture that are intentionally disorienting such as the "fun houses" at a carnival or the recent works by the Deconstructivists, but fortunately this kind of work is rare. One could argue that the need for an architecture of orientation is an extreme view, that architects get carried away with the importance of the environment for one's social and physical well being. Judith Blau writes that the commonly held belief that spatial relationships can influence and even determine people's social well being is absolutely false. People restructure or ignore their spaces.6 However, Amheim echoes Norberg-Schulz's thought. He repeats the necessity of being oriented in the world. While it is possible to orient ourselves in virtually any environment, good architecture reveals the general order that we know to exist in the world, establishes a hierarchy among the parts of the building, and, pragmatically, keeps us from becoming lost. Young children, Arnheim writes, reduce the perceived world to abstracted essentials in their drawings. Drawing for children is a way of analyzing and understanding the world. Art provides children with a tool for better understanding the world. Art can provide the same kind of understanding to anyone. Arnheim concludes that art is not a luxury or hedonistic pursuit of visual pleasure but a fundamental way of knowing the world, in fact a "biologically essen-
4Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci (New York: Rizzoli, 1980), p. 5.
5Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci, p. 20.
6Blau, Architects and Firms (Cambridge, Mass: M. I. T. Press, 1984), p. 79.
To organize and understand is to see the underlying order that constitutes any system. Arnheim has some words for us on order:
Order may be defined as the degree and kind of lawfulness governing the relations among the parts of an entity. Such lawfulness, or obedience to controlling principles, derives from the over-all theme or structure, to which the behavior of all parts must conform; it also applies to the make-up of each part within itself. Without order, the organs of the body would work at loggerheads with each other, and the various functions and strivings of the mind would fight each other chaotically. Without order, our senses could not function: the visible shape of an object must be clearly organized if we are to recognize, remember, and compare it with others. Furthermore, if there were no order in nature, we could not profit from experience since what we have learned serves us only so long as like things look alike and similar consequences follow from similar causes. If the world were not orderly, and the mind unable to perceive and create order, man could not survive. Therefore, man strives for order.8
It is because order is a biological necessity that man searches for it in every thought, deed, and mark. There are innumerable instances when order is not needed for survival. However, throughout history man has striven for order because it is his inborn drive to search for it. This is a key point in this thesis. It is important to understand that because order is necessary for survival, human beings have an innate desire to search for it. It is the inborn desire for order that architecture must fulfill, not any biological need. Additionally, it is order that allows man to comprehend and make sense of the world as he experiences it. It is order that makes possible all human, social, and intellectual activity.
7Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art (Los Angeles: University of California Press,
1966), p. 42.
8Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 123.
The Need for Multiple Readings: The Purpose of Art
To have meaningful architecture, it is not only necessary for it to convey the order of our experiencing. It is also necessary for it to convey multiple aspects of order. The characteristic of a work to speak on many levels simultaneously is one of the symptoms of art.
Architecture is many things: building, shelter, etc. But it is the inclusion of such concepts as expression and meaning which elevate architecture to art. Art is a difficult concept to define. In fact, it seems impossible to define art in specific terms. Anyone familiar with art history knows that it is full of innovations that are constantly extending the realm of what is considered art. Ellen Winner, a psychologist of the arts, has defined art as an "open concept lacking any necessary or sufficient properties."9 She states: "The boundaries of art must be infinitely expandable in order to encompass new and previously undreamed of forms of art."10 The definition of art she gives is therefore open. It is based on symptoms. She lists two such symptoms.
The first is relative syntactic repleteness. This can be defined as an object's functioning along multiple dimensions. That is, an object which is functioning as a work of art has relatively more of its physical properties coming into play. Winner uses the example of the electrocardiogram and the mountain to illustrate relative syntactic repleteness. It would not be hard to imagine an electrocardiogram printout and a line drawing of a ridge of mountains having a similar contour. That is, in terms of the shape of the line on each drawing, there is little difference. However, when one looks at an electrocardiogram, the only aspect which is important is the shape, the relative peaks and valleys. The width of the line, the density of
9Ellen Winner, Invented Worlds: the Psychology of the Arts (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 5.
10Winner, cites Weitz, 1956 for this passage, p. 6.
the line, and how the width and density vary along the contour become extremely important when the drawing is considered aesthetically, as in the case of the mountain drawing.
The second symptom is metaphorical exemplification. This can be defined as the expressive quality of an art work: such qualities as sad, cold, cheerful, etc. Metaphors work by comparing one thing, event, or idea to another. They thereby link what we know about one thing to something else. In this linking, we learn about the other through the one known.
Alberto Perez-Gomez writes about the traditional function of the arts:
The traditional mission of the arts has been to make explicit the ideal and eternal through an interpretation of the given in the specificity of perception, providing man with a sense of belonging to a meaningful collective realm, transcending his limitations as a finite and corruptible individual. In this most profound sense, regardless of the secondary functional utility (or uselessness) of artifacts, art has always been a primary form of knowledge.
Man is thus allowed to orient himself in the world, to perceive the meaning of his existence, otherwise confused in the continuously mutable reality of everyday life.11
We want architecture on the level of art because we want an environment, rich in meaning, which speaks to us and helps us to understand the world. Science is a means of knowing and the structures we build can be as well if we imbue them with those characteristics that make what we call art: metaphor and relative syntactic repleteness.
Order in Experience: The Existential Nature of Space
Christian Norberg-Schulz's longtime fascination has been applying existentialism to architecture, in particular the philosophy of Martin
tiAlberto Perez-Gomez, "Abstraction in Modem Architecture: Some Reflections in Parallel to Gnosticism and Hermeneutics," VIA: Re-Presentation (The Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, No. 9, 1988), p. 73.
Heidegger. Norberg-Schulz begins with the assumption, discussed above, that man needs to orient himself in a complex world. Man has developed symbol systems to help him achieve this orientation. Science is such a system that describes. Art is another system that expresses. To put it in Norberg-Schulz's own words: "... art concretizes phenomenal complexes or life situations."12 In order to understand how one would "concretize life situations", that is, reveal the nature of our experience of the world, certain understandings which may be contrary to contemporary man's concepts must be pointed out. Our conceptions are not always the same as our perceptions. It is necessary to understand that our life situation, that is our experience of space-time, is fundamentally different from the scientist's conception of space-time. Our experience of the world is intimately tied up with our physiology, the functioning of our sense organs, and our basic situation of living "between the earth and the sky". Unlike mathematical space, in phenomenal space there is a profound difference between the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Things that stand vertically on the earth must resist gravity: they are active and exerting energy. Whereas, the horizontal dimension of our existence is an entirely different phenomenon: chiefly one of repose or passivity. Rudolf Amheim describes the asymmetry of phenomenal space:
Man experiences the space he lives in as asymmetrical. Among the infinitely many directions of three-dimensional space along which he theoretically can move, one direction is distinguished by the pull of gravity: the vertical. The vertical acts as the axis and frame of reference for all other directions .... Geometrically there is no difference between going up and going down, but physically and perceptually the difference is fundamental. Anybody climbing a tree, a ladder, a staircase, feels he is striving to overcome a counterforce, which he locates in his own body as weight. Thus the gratification in climbing consists in the conquering of one's own inert heaviness for the purpose of attaining a high goal .... Climbing is a heroic liberating act.... To rise in an elevator, balloon, or airplane is to experience being liberated from weight, sublimated, invested with
12Christian Norberg-Schulz, Architecture: Meaning and Place (New York: Rizzoli, 1988),
superhuman abilities. In addition to rise from the earth is to approach the realm of light and overview. Therefore the negative overcoming of weight is at the same time the positive achievement of enlightenment and an unobstructed outlook. Digging below the surface, on the otherhand, means becoming involved with matter rather than relinquishing it; it means proceeding from the everyday surface existence at "zero level," where matter abounds but leaves open spaces in between, to the compactness of the earth, through which openings must be bored .... Digging creates an entrance to the realm of darkness, and therefore it stands symbolically for deepening, i. e., for exploring beyond the superficial.13
One sees these physical and perceptual differences in the environment everyday. Throughout history, power has been symbolized by the tower: the power of the Church in the spires of cathedrals, the power of families in the towers of medieval hill towns, and the power of corporations in contemporary city skylines.
Columns are great examples of the perceptual force of gravity. Short squat columns appear to be carrying heavy loads while long slender columns express light loading or the heroic overcoming of gravitational force. The entasis of a Classical column suggests deformation under loading.
Our perception itself has evolved to be more receptive to the asymmetry of the world. Because of gravity, matter tends to be grouped symmetrically about the vertical axis in any thing which rises above the ground. It is only when there is some other intervening force that this symmetry is broken. Trees are excellent examples of this phenomenon, with their radiating branches and concentric rings.14 Our sense of vision has evolved to respond to the overwhelming emphasis of vertical symmetry in the world. Objects which are symmetrical are more easily recognized for that characteristic if the axis of symmetry is displayed in the vertical rather than the horizontal.
13Rudolf Amheim, The Dynamics of Architectural Form (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1977), pp.32-34.
14Arnheim, The Dynamics of Architectural Form, p. 36.
Thus, buildings with symmetrical facades create their own vertical axis. And, one could point out that facades rarely display symmetry about a horizontal axis.
There are many other specific examples of how our existential reality affects our perception. One example is balance. Balance in a composition is related to our experience. Things which seem to us off-balance appear so because they are structurally similar to life-situations we know to be in transition. Unbalanced compositions seem to be in transition: they are yet to arrive at their final state. This unresolvedness is apparent to the observer and is manifest in his perception of the work as transitory or even accidental and, therefore, invalid.15 As seen in the examples, balance in Classical work and also in Kahn is often based in symmetry. While for Corbusier, symmetry, except for the inherent symmetry of certain forms such as squares or circles, is replaced by asymmetrical balance. Nevertheless, balance is always sought.
Another example is the way we perceive a diagonal. Any object which we perceive as oblique we perceive as expressing movement. This is because our experience tells us that objects at rest lie horizontally on the ground or stand vertically resisting the force of gravity. The things in our experience which assume a diagonal are moving things: the path of a bird in flight, the wake of a boat, a falling post. Thus, diagonals are dynamic whether or not they are actually moving objects.16 One can see in the diagrams that Corbusier uses the diagonal to call out circulation both in his ramps and even the supports for the ramps. While the stair has always been a symbol of movement as a diagonal in section, Corbusier makes his ramps diagonal in plan as well as in section.
15Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p.76.
16Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, pp. 75-76.
There are two sheets of diagrams for this section of the text. The first has to do with the two fundamental types of space as recognized by Norberg-Schulz and Arnheim. According to Norberg-Schulz, existential space is characterized by three elements: a cross in plan that simultaneously marks a location and describes a path that is in front, behind, and to either side of one; a circle in plan that represents the horizon or edge of the immediate experiential domain; and a vertical axis that pierces both the cross and circle at their center, representing the force of gravity. The infinite extension and repetition of the cross and vertical axis for any conceivable point in space creates Cartesian space (the x-, y-, and z-axes). However, while this is possible for us to do conceptually, the day to day reality of experience creates nodes of Central space which are localized worlds with a vertical axis, an in-front, a behind, two sides, and a horizon: a definite center from which all distances are measured. Central space is egocentric space. The diagrams show the occurrence of both types of space in the work of all three architects as it affects both the plan and the section. The final three diagrams on the bottom of the first sheet show how in Palladios building the central space also marks the center of the building while in the two Modem buildings there is no one strong center. Although Kahn's building has a more defined center than Corbusier's, it still lacks the absolute clarity of the Palladian villa. This Modern spatial structure can, of course, be linked to the loss of center in the Post-Copemican world.
However, the argument of this thesis is that the phenomenal world is the important thing to express not the world as understood by physics.
The second sheet illustrates how the compositional concepts of balance and the diagonal can appear in Classical and Modem architecture. As was explained in the text, things which appear balanced seem to us to be in a state of equilibrium and in no danger of transition to some new and different state. For this reason, balanced compositions aid in orientation. The diagonal represents dynamism and movement because of cognitive and historical associations we have with forms on a diagonal. The differences in the examples occur with respect to Classicism and Modernism. The Classical composition achieves rock-solid balance through relentless symmetry, even the occasional diagonal is always balanced by a symmetrically placed diagonal that counteracts any horizontal thrust. The Modern examples show a tendency, especially Corbusier's building, towards a dynamic balance lacking the absolute certainty of the Classical arrangement. Again, this is
probably a reflection of the Post-Copcrnican world.
Order in Language: Grammar and Redundancy
The ordering principles that make linguistic communication possible are important for any system of communication. In language, the ordering principles are called grammar. Grammar is a set of rules, or principles, that describe operations for combining elements of vocabulary to convey information. Because architecture should be communicating clues that wall provide the observer with a means for orienting himself in the world as well as communicating the functioning of a building, the study of general principles of information science is pertinent.
According to many linguists, all human beings share an innate grammar. Chomsky calls this the universal grammar because he found that all languages are structured on the same fundamental principles.17 This is why children can learn to speak a language, the most complex information system known, by the age of two. The structures necessary for language mastery are "hard-wired" into the brain. Gestalt psychology has shown that there are similar structures in the brain governing perception.
Though some dispute the innateness of the Gestalt principles of proximity, similarity, closure, continuity, symmetry, and Praegnanz, most psychologists accept the universal validity that those are the operating principles at an early age. This fact suggests some universal perceptual principles upon which the Gestalt principles are based.
Now, it is the nature of language that even though it is highly predictable it is not one hundred percent predictable. Language is a symbol system that obeys the same law that all complex symbol systems must obey: Goedel's law. Goedel proved that in any system above a certain level of complexity there will always be true statements that cannot be shown to be true or false.
17Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), p. 165.
This is the famous Incompleteness Theorem of Kurt Goedel. Goedel's Theorem concerns mathematics but it has been generalized to many other systems. What the theorem says is that any system above a certain level of complexity has statements in it that cannot be proven true or false. In order to determine the validity of the statement one must go outside the system to a metasystem. Such a metasystem invariably has statements of its own which can neither be proven true or false and so on ad infinitum. The Incompleteness Theorem applies to complex systems, but even the relatively simple mathematical system of arithmetic is complex enough to qualify. Goedel proved that there are an infinite number of true statements in arithmetic that cannot be deduced from a given set of axioms. This recognition in mathematics by Goedel laid the groundwork for Noam Chomsky's theories in linguistics.
According to Chomsky, language is a complex symbol system and therefore it can never be fully described. That is, there is always the possibility to make a new and creative expression.18 The rules of language are open and this is what makes creativity possible. Contrast the rules of language with those of etiquette: there is no creativity in etiquette.19 If one follows the axioms of etiquette then all one's actions that lie in the domain of etiquette are predictable. This is not true of language. One can certainly predict that a man of etiquette will use the knife in his right hand and the fork in his left. And, though one may be able to predict the general tone of a conversation, one cannot predict the exact sentences which will be used. Language operates in a way similar to a recursive function in mathematics; that is, it allows for an infinite number of arrangements from a finite set of parts.20 It is this unpredictability that allows information to be carried by language. Obviously, if it were totally predictable there would be no point in sending a
18Campbell, p. 109.
20Campbell, p. 169.
complete message as the receiver would know the outcome before the message was completed. He could use the axioms to deduce the eventual outcome of any and all conceivable messages. While grammatical rules are fairly stable in a language, living languages are constantly changing and sometimes grammatical rules are dropped or new ones are introduced. However, it seems that a certain level of redundancy is always maintained, and if a rule is dropped, it is usually replaced. There seems to be a certain minimum level of structure necessary for people to communicate.
Now, it is often argued that the new materials have set the architect free. The restrictions of building are no longer dampening the creative ability of individual geniuses in architecture. Because the engineers can build anything designed, the Modern architect is free to create whatever expressive forms he sees fit. This self-conscious search for a personal and unique style is what Geoffrey Scott named the "Romantic Fallacy".21 The problem with this technology induced delirium is that for form to be expressive it must speak through convention and grammar. For, if everyone chooses to speak in their own tongue, we wall be forced into a situation similar to those victimized by God's wrath at Babel. That is, we will be left wdth form stripped of its semantic dimension: an architecture syntactically unreplete.
Classical architecture provides a good example of a grammar based architectural vocabulary. This is why Classical architecture succeeded in communicating the character, use, and importance of a building in a way that few' Modern buildings can. The rigor of Classical grammar in no way inhibited creative expression by its users. In fact, it could easily be argued that the Classical language of architecture is the most expressive architectural vocabulary ever conceived. The grammar did not inhibit creative expression. It provided the means for creative expression of real depth.
21Geoffery Scott, The Architecture of Humanism (New York: W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1974), forward.
Lest this seem to be an argument in favor of Post-Modernism, let me correct such a false idea. Unlike language vocabulary, architectural vocabulary is more than a collection of abstract signifiers. Architectural elements indeed have semantic associations but are also built objects of utility. Viewing architecture in such a limited way as the Post-Modems do is recognizing only one of architecture's many dimensions and is thereby limiting syntactic repleteness.
Classical architecture had a tremendously expressive vocabulary. Not only was this vocabulary rooted in the nature of wood and masonry construction but it carried great social and religious meaning to the people of the time. For religious man, as Mircea Eliade so eloquently describes: "It follows that every construction or fabrication has cosmogony as paradigmatic model.
The creation of the world becomes the archetype of every creative human gesture, whatever its plane of reference be."22 Imagine this power in architecture. Architecture embodied the religious meaning of the world. This was equally true of the Greeks as for other religious peoples. No one has better researched the meanings that the classical orders had to the ancient Greeks than George Hersey. In the following passage he describes the meanings of one small piece of the Doric order, the triglyph:
In the Doric order the entablature is divided into triglyphs and metopes. If the head was by all odds the most important part of the body, the thighbone or femur, and hair were also sacred. Their life-giving fluids were of the greatest importance. The victim's thighbones were displayed to certify that a god had actually descended upon an altar. Homer habitually refers to sacrifices as the offering of gnpot, thighs; and so let us note that the three uprights in a triglyph are called by this name. The same is true in Latin: femores. (In Greek, furthermore, the word is close to the word for share or offering, which would thus trope the body part received in communion.) Since "glyph" means something carved or chopped off, a tri-glyph is or can be a thighbone chopped into three. (tpiyk\xpo^ means thrice-
22Mircea Eliade,The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1959. p. 45.
cloven.) We saw, too, that the thighbones were wrapped in a layer of fat. In the same way the p.7toi of the triglyph are wrapped in their upper and lower 5taÂ£o>jiorrcx, a word that means girdles, bindings, and layers as well as the friezes in Ionic and Corinthian architecture. Another word that may have been used is xotucou, which means rod or bar. These correspond to the Latin regulae, rules or rulers, which is the word for the lower horizontal bar in a Doric triglyph. We can even see the aTaycoue^, guttae, drops, beneath as drops draining from the thighbones. These drops represent the sacred fluids that were carefully drained into the altar, or they can be read as memorials of the different aspergings done by the priests in sacrifice. 23
Hersey describes in equal detail every piece of the Classical orders. Every bit of the architecture was rich with meaning, and it was deep religious meaning. No part of the architecture was merely decorative or ornamental. Hersey states in the conclusion of his book on Classical architecture: "This [the Greek] sense of architectural ornament is very different from the urge to beauty. But indeed the word ornament, in origin, has little to do with beauty. It means something or someone that has been equipped or prepared, like a hunter, soldier, or priest."24 Unfortunately for us, wTe do not have an architecture that is as expressive. Those who try to recall the past can only fail. Aldo Rossi's architecture is like haunted ruins; it is an architecture that only recalls a past in an empty, despairing way with little to say for our time. And the work of the Post-Moderns, such as Michael Graves, is based on a vocabulary that is devalued and lacking in meaning for us in our time. Even in the nineteenth century, Pugin realized the absurdity of using a vocabulary whose form had been developed by the long outmoded religious practices of the ancient Greeks. He posed the question
23George Hersey, The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture: Speculations on Ornament
from Vitruvius to Venturi (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M. I. T. Press, 1988), pp. 30-31.
^Hersey, p. 149.
rhetorically: "Do we worship the blood of bulls and goats?"25
Le Corbusier's Five Points are an expression of his belief in the significance of grammar in architecture. In the Five Points, Corbusier sought to establish principles by which one would compose architecture, just as there are principles for composing sentences. Corbusier was aware of the great danger in overthrowing the Classical tradition. His Five Points are his answer, his replacement, for the Five Orders. They are an attempt to ameliorate the effect of the Modern revolution.
Architecture has a linguistic dimension. It's ability to carry linguistic-type information can be shown to be subject to the same principles as spoken language. For this reason, architectural vocabulary should be founded in a grammatical system. However, not any grammatical system will do. The chosen system needs to be one which is based on the structures controlling visual perception in the brain. Chomsky has pointed out that: "One cannot learn an artificial language that violates universal grammar as readily as one learns a natural language, simply by being immersed in it."26 To find this grammar we need to look at the findings of Gestalt psychology. For, it is necessary to the expression of the semantic dimension of architectural language to be clearly understood. This understanding can only come when the architectural object forms an organized and ordered whole, in otherwords, when the architectural object becomes beautiful.
One might suppose that the restrictions of grammar limit the creativity of expression. Yet, this is false. Because grammar is an open system, it is inherently creative. One can use a finite number of rules to create an infinite number of sentences. There are three reasons for this. First, it is
25Hersey, p. 2 quoting A. W. N. Pugin, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (London: 1841), p. 54.
26Campbell quoting Chomsky, p. 261.
only because of the ordered backdrop of the principles, of convention, of tradition that creativity is possible. Second, convention and tradition are dependent on principles to exist. Third, only through some form of shared understanding is communication possible at all. The diagrams in Appendix 2 on historical continuity illustrate the importance of "grammar type principles to creative and original architecture. For instance, at Fort Worth, Kahn used vaults as horizontal structural members and columns as vertical members. This differentiation between the vertical and horizontal is grammatical, in that the context of the member governs its type. This grammatical distinction between the horizontal and the vertical exists because of the asymmetrical nature of existential space. Because this grammar of vaults being horizontal members and columns being vertical members has been in use for the past five thousand years, Kahn's unique solution of the cycloid vault can be appreciated. While grammatical rules restrict certain possible combinations of vocabulary elements, it is these restrictions that make meaning possible.
What grammatical rules do is build redundancy into a message. The term redundancy comes out of information theory. Redundancy is the result of any grammatical system. We are not discussing two different phenomena. We are merely labeling grammar as the cause and redundancy the effect of the same phenomenon. The significance of redundancy is that it assures the accurate transmission of a message over any background noise. Now, as the complexity of the message being sent increases so does the amount of redundancy necessary to ensure its accurate transmission. As Campbell states: "... redundancy makes complexity possible."27 Thus, redundancy, or grammar, is necessary to articulate and meaningful expression.
To ensure the accurate transmission of messages, languages, DNA codes, and communication systems all have a high level of redundancy built in.
To ensure an accurate expression, it is necessary for art to be redundant as
27Campbell, p. 73.
well. There are two types of redundancy: context-free and context-sensitive. These concepts of redundancy were developed by the biophysicist Dr. Lila L. Gatlin in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Context-free redundancy expresses the frequency of any symbol's appearance in a coded sequence. For instance, the letter "e" appears more often in English than any other letter. Context-sensitive redundancy expresses the relation of the appearance of a given symbol to its environment. For instance, in the English language the letter "q is almost always followed by the letter "u". Thus, if one is asked to predict the next letter in an English word and know's that the preceding letter wTas "q", it would be fairly easy, because of the principle of context-sensitive redundancy, to predict that "u" is the next letter.28 Context-sensitive redundancy is more efficient than context-free redundancy because it provides more structure while being less restrictive.29 Therefore, it is the more desirable form to use in the creation of a code.
Great examples of context sensitive redundancy can be found in the work of Corbusier. The Five Points can be viewed as grammatical rules governing the arrangement of vocabulary elements. The piloti and the toit-jarain combine to create a tripartite facade. The piloti are alwrays on the bottom while the toit-jardin is always on the top of the composition. The fenetre en longeur arranges the facade in horizontal bands of alternating wall and wdndow\ Thus differentiating between the allowed combinations of glass and wall in the vertical as opposed to the horizontal direction. In the horizontal direction, glass is allowed to be a continuous ribbon while in the vertical direction the glass must be separated by wall between floors.
An excellent use of redundancy in architecture is ornament. Ornament can repeat the theme of the building on a smaller scale thereby reinforcing meaning. An example is the use of multiple moldings in a cornice to repeat
^Campbell, p. 118
29Campbell, p. 95.
emphatically the connection of wall to roof. Ornament and decoration did not originally mean superfluous detail. It may be the devaluation of architectural ornament that led to the change of meaning of the word ornament. It originally referred to the necessary equipment of a person or office. Decoration comes from decorum and referred to what was required for a person or thing to properly function. We need to get back to a use of ornament that has more significance than visual pleasure.
There are three sheets of diagrams that are related to the linguistic dimension of order in architecture. The first deals with context-free redundancy. The diagrams illustrate three types of context-free redundancy which occurs in all three architect's work. It should be obvious to the reader that many Modem buildings fail to obey these context-free principles and thus contribute to the breakdown of a possibility for a widely understood Modern grammar.
The second and third deal with context-sensitive redundancy as it is applied to architectural vocabulary. The second sheet shows grammatical relationships between architectural elements as used by the three masters. The second sheet shows multiple examples of the failures of mainstream Modernism to establish the grammatical rules listed on the first sheet. The syntactical principles diagramed are more than formal rules. They all contribute to the orientation of the observer by expressing the asymmetry of existential space. Also, all of the principles derive their raison d'etre from the requirements of building and are therefore revealing of the order in construction. It should be noted that Corbusier fails to provide an orientation to his window openings (as a matter of fact none of his fenestration systems provide orientation: the fenetre en longeur, brise-soliel, or ondulatoire).
Order in Perception; Gestalt Principles
Any code that transmits semantic information needs a syntax. Linguistic grammar is based on the principles of universal grammar. Similar to the
universal principles of grammar, it is believed that there are universal principles of perception, as explained in the work of Gestalt psychology.
Gestalt research has been successful in establishing principles of perception that are equivalent to Chomsky's rules of universal grammar. That is, the human brain, all human brains, have structural characteristics which govern the understanding of perceived information. Though some psychologists argue that the Gestalt principles are not innate all agree that they are virtually universal in humans more than a few years old.30
Both anthropological and psychological research have indicated that the fundamental modes of perception are very nearly similar in different cultures, periods, and individuals. The best explanation for these similarities is that the brain perceives the world in accordance with principles that are related to the structure of the brain. There are organizing structures that are hard-wired into the brain. This is wrhy attempts to explain similarities in perceptual organization as based on migration or social contact have failed.31 To repeat, the only reasonable explanation for the commonality of patterns of perceptual organization is some sort of universal grammar of perception.
The Gestalt principles of proximity, similarity, closure, continuity, symmetry, and Praegnanz are diagrammed in relation to architecture. For those unfamiliar with these ideas, the principles characterize the way a human mind organizes perceptual stimuli into recognizable patterns or groups. The principle of proximity says that objects closest to one another are grouped together. The principle of similarity states that objects which share similar characteristics are grouped together. The principle of
30John M. Darley, Sam Glucksberg, Leon J. Ramin, and Ronald A. Kinchla, Psychology,
2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1984), p. 106.
31Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 222.
continuity explains why similar objects in linear arrays are seen as constituting one figure and not more than one. The principle of closure explains why partially complete figures are seen as whole. The principle of symmetry states that objects arranged symmetrically are grouped together. Finally, the principle of Praegnanz, or the rule of "good form," states that it is the most regular, ordered, stable, and balanced arrangement of form that will be perceived as a whole. It should be mentioned that the above listed rules are the ones most commonly given, and that different authors give slight variations on the list. For instance, the rule of symmetry is often left off because it is believed that symmetrical groupings are the result of other principles, such as the combination of proximity and closure.
Arnheim says that"... expression seems to be the primary content of perception."32 To use one of Arnheim's examples, we do not see, when we look at a fire, patches of yellow and red light curving and rising upward as the burning gasses rise up the chimney. When we look at a fire we see a fire unless wTe have made it a point to see only color and movement.
Everyone knows from experience that people, when they describe objects or events, relate the expressive characteristics and not the formal ones. When was the last time the reader heard a fire described as in the above example. It is far more probable that a fire would be described as warm or giving off a warm yellow flickering light than that it would be described by its formal properties.
There are many examples of how these rules of perception affect our experience of architecture. Norberg-Schulz maintains that the Gestalt principles of perception translate into center, path, and domain in architecture.33 "The circle (or sphere), the only figure that does not single out any particular direction, is used spontaneously everywhere to depict objects 33
32Amheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 63.
33Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci, p. 61.
whose shape is uncertain or irrelevant, or to depict something that either has no shape at all, any shape, or all shapes."34 35 The half round implies centrality as well as an axis.33 And, concave walls gather space. The idea of regulating lines, used by Corbusier as w'ell as Classical architects, is a fine example of the principles of closure and continuity in the perception of facades. When one views a facade composed of elements arranged according to regulating lines, the mind completes these lines suggested only as fragments. This visual connection between various elements increases the sense of grouping among the elements and the general sense of completeness of the facade.
Another effect of the Gestalt principles is that buildings, or any other object, that rests on the ground will often appear incomplete because the principle of closure suggests to our perception that the perceived shape completes itself underground. One experiences this phenomenon when looking at a geodesic dome or any building with strong verticals that does not have a base or plinth to separate it from the ground. Gothic cathedrals, like trees, appear as if they are growing out of the earth. If the building looks like a complete shape, then it will appear to sit on the ground. In the Classical orders, the columns are given both a base and a top. Contrast the Classical vocabulary with Corbusier's where the columns, w7hich lack a base or top, appear to pierce the floor slabs.
Inflection is another devise which depends for its effect on the way we perceive objects. By inflection is meant the way one element of a building gestures towards another. The gesture is gained by the one object's failure to be read as a complete group. If it is completed by another element in the composition, then w>e say that it is inflected to that other.
34Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 234.
35Rudolf Arnheim, "The Symbolism of Centric and Linear Composition, Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal, Volume 20, p. 146.
Another interesting and related point is that forms which have the greatest power are the ones which are based directly on the fundamental principles of perception. Many forms are based on a tradition of forms or on one's personal experience, but these forms are really second generation and lack the power of primary forms.
As a last note to this section on perception, the fact that there are differences between thought and perception should be pointed out. Scientists have found that there are situations in which perceptual and intellectual results are different for identical stimuli. This would lead one to believe that the rules of thinking and perceiving are in some ways different. Gaetano Kanizsa suggests that this is the case. His suggestion is based on his own research.36 He gives several examples. Symmetry, he believes, comes from thought not perception.37 Also, perceptually incomplete things are mentally completed while perceptually complete things may be mentally incomplete.38 Finally, he demonstrates examples of things which can be seen but not thought and, reciprocally, things which can be thought but not seen.39 All of the examples support his statement that there are differences between the way we think about the world and the way we see it. It is important for architects to be aware of these differences because what is in his mind may not be the same as what the user perceives.
Our search for order is so ingrained that we cannot help ourselves from organizing the world while we are perceiving it. Patients viewing 36 37
36Gaestano Kanizsa, Organization in Vision: Essays in Gestalt Perception (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1979), p. 15.
37Kanizsa, pp. 19-20.
^Kanizsa, pp. 18-19.
39Kanizsa, p. 21.
Rorsachs test cards invariably find order and sometimes namcablc objects in the totally chaotic ink blots. By knowing the principles of visual organization that an observer will use to construct a mental image of a piece of architecture, the architect can be sure that his work will be interpreted the way he desires.
The three sheets of diagrams associated with this section may seem to illustrate principles of composition that are self-evident. However, the value of this section can not be overemphasized It is essential to understand that the principles of perceptual grouping uncovered by Gestalt psychologists forms the basis for visual grammar. To elaborate, the way we see things as being related is governed by the Gestalt principles of perception and the relationships among elements of vocabulary is the very definition of grammar. Thus, it is through the principles of proximity, similarity, closure, etc. that grammatical relationships are even possible. All of the principles are illustrated through plan diagrams which show first the individual perceived elements and second the whole as perceived due to the principle of grouping in effect. While it is obvious that buildings such as the Villa Rotunda are universally perceived as constituting one whole by all observers, the important lesson of the diagrams is how this realization is achieved.
Order in Use: The Role of Function in an Applied Art
Architecture is, of course, more than expression. It is also a useful product. The useful aspect of architecture we may call building and generally this term is used when one talks of structures which are not meant to be expressive along any artistic dimension. Because architecture necessarily deals with the demands of building and because the expression of the order of a building program provides us with clues for orientation and understanding the world, it is important to discuss how these forms of expression are achieved architecturally. We will see that the principles of grammar as well as the Gestalt principles of perception come into play in the creation of expression.
Rudolf Arnheim has been inarguably successful in laying the ground work for a psychology of the arts. In an extremely lucid and penetrating essay entitled "From Function to Expression," he analyses the expressive role of function in the applied arts. To discuss his ideas, Arnheim defines three terms, fitness, beauty, and expression, which are all aspects of the aesthetic experience of a functional art work.
Arnheim defines his terms very specifically. Expression is
... an inherent aspect of eveiy perceptual quality whatever, of size, space, movement, illumination, etc. It is found in the percept of every object or activity, human or nonhuman, animate or inanimate, useless or useful, man-made or natural, in fine art or applied art. Expression can be weakened or disturbed by inarticulate, disorganized patterns, but it can never be absent. As an aspect of perception, expression is cerebral rather than retinal, that is, it arises in the brain rather than in the eye, but it is lawfully dependent on the stimuli recorded by the eyes. Every change of shape, for example, makes for a corresponding change of expression.40
Thus, expression, by his definition, is not limited to the domain of high art. Every object in our experience whether it be paint dripped on the sidewalk or paint on a canvass by Rembrandt has expressive qualities. Etymologically, "expression" means representation or manifestation. Expression, therefore, is the act of describing the character of a thing. Now, it is these expressive qualities that are the "... very foundation of art"4i according to Arnheim.
Fitness, of course, relates to the function of a thing. Usually for a thing to function properly requires that its fitness to perform whatever task it is designed for be visible. Arnheim calls this visibility of fitness utility:
40Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, pp. 201-202.
41Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 198.
Man must rely on his eyes to make use of a building, a teapot, or a machine. Therefore the object should show what it is for, how it goes about serving its function, and how it is to be handled. It is useful to be able to see where a door is and how it opens; the shape of the teapot should distinguish the spout from the handle; and the handles of a machine are quickly found if they are painted yellow while the machine itself is green and its electric switches and plug are red for safety's sake.42 43
Beauty for Amheim is not the traditional notion of that which is pleasing to the eye. For Arnheim "... beauty is a means of clarifying expression."43 It is often said, especially by Modem architects, that objects should show their nature as a matter of integrity. Thus, honesty, an ethical concept, becomes the criterion for an aesthetic decision. The desire for truth, and indeed the idea that truth is beauty, Arnheim believes comes from "... man's desire to be aware of his condition, that is, to understand his existence. In the perceptual realm, it makes for the wash that things look the way they are."44
Now it is neither necessary nor desireable to express each and every function of a thing. In fact, it is the job of the designer to express the fitness of any object in such a way that it is clearly intelligible to the senses. The designed object which is readable by its user is so because there is an order and clarity in the expression of its function. This is the purpose of beauty.
In the above quoted example concerning the teapot, it was pointed out that it is desirable to express the different functions of the spout and the handle. This is desirable because these functional characteristics are extremely important to the way the teapot is used. It is not, however, desireable to express every functional aspect of the teapot. The fact that the spout and
42Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 202.
43Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 207.
44 Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 203.
handle are welded to the pot instead or brazed or that the pot is copper with a nickel finish instead of some other is of little consequence in its use, or utility. Therefore, it is not necessary to express these characteristics, and, in fact, it may be detrimental. I say detrimental because these further expressions may cloud the important issues which need clear expression.
Arnheim uses the example of Pier Luigi Nervi to illustrate a similar point that is architectural in nature. Nervi, an engineer as well as an architect, attempts to express the loading in a structure by spanning the openings in his reinforced concrete structures with members of complex curvature. While these shapes indeed represent load transference more accurately than a post and lintel system, they are not necessarily better because of it. A lintel does not show the bending forces within it, nor does it need to. The simplicity of the post and lintel design expresses clearly the idea of a span being carried by one beam supported against gravity by two columns. It is like the childs drawing of a man which is instantly recognizable as a man even if the head and the body are represented by ovals and the four limbs by lines.45 What the child has done, in his drawing, is reduce the image of man down to the bare essentials in a manner suited to the medium he is using. In fact, the abstractness of the stick figure is important because it unambiguously represents a man. Anything more precise than the stick figure would complicate the issue because it would no longer necessarily represent a general man but could be a certain type of man or an individual. Before we move on from the example of Nervi, it should be pointed out that even in his form's close approximation of static forces, there is some degree of abstraction. Again, like the child's drawing, it is a matter of degree how much abstraction is appropriate. Two posts and a lintel express opening as well as a parabolic arch. In fact, they may express it better from the point of view of common experience. What the posts and lintel fail to give the observer is a lesson in structures, and, of course, this is not usually wanted.
45Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, pp. 205-206.
The need to express the fitness of the architecture, that is, how it stands and reveals the phenomena of the world as experienced, is one reason why architectural vocabulary must be rooted in structure. The nature of structure, it will be shown in the next section of this paper on techne, provides determinants for grammatical relationships.
To sum up, function, in architecture, is not an issue which is separate from beauty. Rather, it is function, when expressed clearly, that is beauty. Arnheim says that function "... plays the same part in the aesthetics of the useful object as subject matter in painting and sculpture .... Function, far from being outside the aesthetic realm, is the very theme, the central subject matter of all applied art."46
There is one sheet of diagrams to illustrate the expression of function through architectural vocabulary. The principles illustrated are widely recognized determinants of architectural form. The idea behind the diagrams is that most buildings incorporate the listed principles. Some clearly express these functional aspects; others do not. For, instance, Palladio clearly expresses the primacy of the main mass of the Villa Rotunda over the four smaller and therefore less important entrance porches. Corbusier's massing, however, fails to clearly express a difference in use through massing. In the Carpenter Center, the core service tower is given the greatest vertical stature even though it is subservient to the gallery and studio space of the building. Also, the lung shaped masses, clearly differentiated from the central cube of the building, do not function differently from the central space. In fact, on the same floor, their function is identical. In the Kimbell, Kahn expresses every function of the building as identical. The theater, the lobby, and the exhibition space are all under the same barrel vaults.
46Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 207.
Order in Construction: Techne
"Art is truth setting itself to work." Martin Heidegger47
"Painting is about re-presentation, about the illusory, absent presence. It is quintessentially un-real. Architecture is about the presentation and transformation of reality." Kenneth Frampton4
Arnheim summed it up: "...when I think of art I think of what makes the nature of things visible."49 It has always been in the nature of architecture to exhibit how it was made. As Kostoff wrote: "... a standard privilege of architecture, the exaltation of necessary relationships."50 *
Now, if the function of art is, as Norberg-Schulz claims, to concretize the life-world, then it is correct for architecture to express the phenomenal reality of human experience. That is, architecture should be a metaphor for what it is to be in the world. Architecture should reveal and express how it stands upon the earth. The Greek word techne, related to our word "architecture," means to make something appear as what it is.5*
Heidegger wrote about the etymology of the word techne which meant "revealing" (Entbergen) of truth, and belonged to poiesis, that means
47Heidegger, p. 39.
4SNew York Architects, Giuseppe Guerrera ed.(Cefalu, Italy: Mediterranea Editrice In Architettura, 1987), p. 26.
49Arnheim, Toward a Psychology of Art, p. 355.
50Spiro KostofT, A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1985), p. 32.
51Norberg-Schulz, Architecture, p. 195.
"making."52 Norberg-Schulz, wrote: "When a work of architecture reveals the spaciality of the life-world, it becomes a work of art."53 I would add that in addition to orienting man, the expression of what a thing is comes naturally when one does not try to disguise. Furthermore, this expression of the nature of the thing adds a layer to the reading of any work. That is, it adds to the relative syntactic repleteness of the work.
Any building program is a task. Each task has its own order. There are necessary relationships between different parts. These relationships can be made and not expressed. However, expressing the relationships expresses the thing and becomes a metaphor for the thing. The thing then begins to talk about itself, to say how it was made, how it functions. When a thing does this it is achieving the Greek goal of techne. It thus rises to the level of expression. It becomes a thing that speaks: a work of art.
Corbusier's Five Points have already been used as an example of grammar and will be described below in regard to the idea of evolutional transformation and historical continuity. I would like to use them here to illustrate the idea of metaphor of construction or techne. The pilotis are load bearing columns which express the nature of a skeletal structural system. Their typical slenderness in Corbusier's early work reflects a disposition towards an honest expression of the strength of the new materials: steel and concrete. The plan libre and the facade libre demonstrate the independence of the structural skeleton form the partitions. The fenetre en longeur demonstrates the constructional nature of the curtain wall by breaking the load path necessary if the walls were load-bearing. Finally, the toit-jardin expresses the ability of new materials to resist water leakage and snow loading. 52
52Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci, p. 15.
53Norberg-Schulz, Architecture, p. 197.
Kahn, though, is really the example of choice when the subject is expression of building. The examples are numerous. He used stack bonded masonry in partition walls to express their non-load-bearing nature. He nearly always used arched openings in brick walls to show how the opening was spanned, instead of burying a steel lintel in the masonry. At the Kimbell, the porches flanking the entry way reveal how the building is constructed. Kahn explains:
Because of the open porches, how the building is made is completely clear before you go into it. It is the same realization behind some Renaissance buildings, which gave the arcade to the street, though the buildings themselves did not need the arcade for their own purposes.
So the porch sits there, made as the interior is made, without any obligation of paintings on its walls, a realization of what is architecture. When you look at the building and porch, it is an offering. You know it wasn't programmed; it is something that emerged.54
The concept of scale is a good example of techne. Scale explains the size of the building to an observer. In this way it is expressing the nature of the building in the total perceived environment. Another example is the revelation of spatial structure in the ceiling system. Because floors are necessarily horizontal and walls and columns vertical, the only surface which can be shaped in such a way as to articulate, mold, and emphasize space is the ceiling. There are two primary types of spatial structure. Norberg-Schulz refers to them as central and longitudinal while Arnheim labels them central and cartesian. Regardless of the labels, one expresses a local center, a specific place, while the other expresses expansion or path.
Certainly, none of the above discussion is meant to repress the intentional use of ambiguity for poetic aims. As Venturi has pointed out, there are many cases where expressive significance is increased through contradiction. One should also be wary of believing that every part of a building must
54Kahn quoted in "The Mind of Louis I. Kahn," Architectural Forum, Vol. 137, No. 1, July/August 1972, p. 46.
be clearly expressed in as straightforward a manner as possible. Many great works, not only in architecture but in art and literature, downplay their main theme so that there is a heightened elation when the true nature of the work is revealed.
There are two sheets of diagrams for this section. Interestingly, these diagrams can be used equally well for the next section on historical continuity. In some way, expressing the ordering principles of construction provides an automatic link to the history of architecture and all the meaning that derives from that association. This link probably exists because of the gTeat importance of techne throughout the history of architecture. Corbusier's Five Points are diagramed on the first sheet. As mentioned in the text, each of the Five Points expresses the construction system of the Dom-ino frame. Of course, the expression of building is really Kahn's forte and that comes out in the diagrams.
Order in History: Continuity and Tradition
In the search for a symbolic vocabulary of architecture, one cannot forget the symbolic dimension which architectural elements acquire over time regardless of their symbolic value when analyzed along any of the other dimensions discussed in this paper. Architectural form builds up meaning and associations over time and through repetitive use. Here is another argument against the notion of the creative genius form giver that is so prevalent in this century.
The recent history of architecture, dealing with the emergence of the Modern movement and the ensuing consequences, explains why and how the order of architectural form has to a large extent been lost. Modem architecture was an attempt to break with convention. To a large extent this was justified because most conventions were based on religious, societal, philosophical, or construction ideas which had been outmoded by science. However, in many instances the Modem avant-garde made breaks with
tradition as a matter of principle. (This trend is still happening as the recent work of the Deconstructivists testifies.) Unfortunately, many conventions that are applicable in the Modern world were swept away in the revolutionary spirit of the avant-garde. This cleansing effort has partially destroyed the possibility for meaningful creative expression, for creativity requires tradition. As the art historian Janson has written, tradition is the platform from which the artist can make his creative leap. There is no originality without tradition.55
Now, Alan Colquhoun has said: "Architecture at present is involved in a difficult attempt to go beyond the self-imposed limits of modernism and recover the deeper layers of the architectural tradition which can still be architecturally related to our modern conditions."56 He goes on to say that any meaning form has is due more to semiotic value than any innate expressive power.5? But he wisely points out that this parallel with language cannot be taken too far. In language, the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary; while in art, the properties of the signifier affect the message.58 It is for this reason that Gestalt principles of perception as well as the idea of techne are so important.
Like language, the reading of architecture is based in convention. Through the agent of shared social convention, all speakers of English generally understand what is meant when a given word is used in conversation. Similarly, in architecture meaning is attached to form over time by association. As Colquhoun has said: "...architectural meaning is
55H. W. Janson, History of Art, 2nd. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1983), p. 16.
67Colquhoun, p. 80.
68Colquhoun, pp. 129-130.
historically founded and this meaning cannot be detached from those meanings which architectural forms have acquired from history."59
The work of Le Corbusier is particularly relevant to this discussion because Corbusier saw himself as continuing the Classical tradition. Colquhoun has said of Corbusier's relationship wdth the Classical tradition that: "The modification or contradiction of traditional works is the constant leitmotif in his work."60 He goes on to describe specifically how the Five Points are inversions of the Classical language. The pilotis are a contradiction of the Classical podium. The traditional massive and often rusticated base is replaced by open space. However, the Classical idea of a separation between the earth and the living space of the piano nobile is maintained. The plan litre is a contradiction of vertically continuous load bearing walls. The facade libre is a contradiction of the regular arrangement of windows. The fenetre en longeur, a device implied by the facade libre, is a contradiction of the Classical window aedicule. The toit-jardin, or roof terrace, is a contradiction of the pitched roof, but it is important to realize that the attic story is not lost but merely replaced with the new open air room. The idea of the toit-jardin and the pilotis combine to maintain the Classical idea of a tripartite division of the facade. As mentioned earlier, the Five Points are also expressive of the method of construction, and, thus, they are double functioning and syntactically replete. Corbusier realized what Colquhoun has pointed out. Namely, that "pure form" contains little meaning except by associations with known forms of the past.6i Here, we have illuminated an extremely important strategy: associations with Classical vocabulary can be maintained if the Modem vocabulary is developed as a transformation, an evolution, of that Classical vocabulary. It should be kept in mind that today the Classical language lacks the coherence and wide spread 59 61
59Colquhoun, p. 19.
^Colquhoun, p. 51.
61Colquhoun, pp. 48-49.
acceptance that it had when the early Modems made their break with tradition. This means that Corbusier's inversion strategy for holding on to semantic meaning was probably more relevant at that time than it would be today. Certainly there are still many applications for this approach, however. The reason for this difference between our time and the time of the beginnings of Modernism lies in the fact that today there is no widespread use or knowledge of the Classical tradition as there was then. In consequence, and as a result of the ensuing breakdown of architectural grammar, architects today need a return to the basics of our existential condition to create vocabulary and rules for its usage. This was the role of Kahn.
Kahn's return to the Classical past's principles, through the means of Modernism, leads to a vocabulary that is not so much the evolution of Classicism, as Corbusier's work was, as the reinbodiment of relevant Classical principles. In fact, one could say that Kahn went back to the source of Classical principles. Kahn has said: "[the] primitive case is more of an indication of value than the sophisticated case. To accept something at the very, very beginning, without precedent, is an infinitely stronger statement than howr it is extended in later years."62 And, of course, one is always reminded when thinking of Kahn of his saying:
"What will be has always been."
Perhaps because he began his career later than Corbusier, Kahn was more willing to use traditional forms in his buildings. Kahn said: "We still want domes, we still want walls, we still want arches, arcades, and loggias of all kinds. We want all these things and, with that belief, need them. But they are not the same in character because a space today demands different 62
62Louis Kahn quoted in Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal, Volume 20, 1983, p. 84.
things."63 Kahn was walling to use traditional vocabulary in his building without modification. Corbusier, on the other hand, kept to the machine aesthetic and the Five Points throughout his career which virtually forbid the use of many forms of great historical significance. As wre know, the Five Points does not allow any roof form other than flat.
For the Kimbell, Kahn chose vaulted roofs. Due to his knowledge of history, it is certain that he was awrare of the traditional connotations with vaulted structures. In antiquity, vaulted structures were often used for storage or warehouse purposes, and since the Renaissance the barrel vault has been used repeatedly in museum buildings owing to the excellent lighting it can provide as well as the structural logic of spanning galleries enfilade with such a vault. For centuries, barrel vaults have been associated with storage and in particular the storage of art. The choice of such a form inevitably brings wdth it all the acquired associations and thereby achieves a richness and depth of meaning impossible with form that lacks such a history.
To close the ideas on historical continuity, I would like to quote Norris Kelley Smith: "To think, in the post Modern manner, that a building is authenticated by its uniqueness, or by the idiosyncratic eccentricity of its architect is to embrace madness: for it is to deny that a shared faith is either possible or desirable -- and that, in turn, is to deny that the idea of civilization any longer has meaning."64 In Greek mythology, it was Mnemosyne the goddess of memory, daughter of earth and sky, who was mother to the muses. Memory, to the Greeks, was the origin of art.
63Louis Kahn quoted in In Pursuit of Quality: The Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum, 1987), p. 33.
64Norris Kelley Smith, "Architectural Authenticity", Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal, Volume 20, 1983, p. 219.
The two sheets of diagrams representing this section are the same as for the previous section on the order in construction. The first sheet illustrates the principle of inversion that Corbusier used to generate the Five Points. The second sheet shows other inversion principles such as Corbusier's brise-soliel and Kahn's use of overhead lighting. As can be seen in the diagrams, Kahn rarely inverts historical precedent. Instead, he is comfortable following precedent.
Order in Todays Environment: Modernism
If the history of architectural form is important to its meaning, as discussed in the last section, then undoubtedly the recent history of form is important as well. Likewise, the associations with form that is non-architectural but has a history of use and is part of the general knowledge base is also useful because these forms are a storehouse of meaning. It is worth noting that Modernism has been around for more than fifty years at the time of this writing. Two generations have grown up in an environment built on the principles of Modernism in all their variations. However, certain characteristics, vocabulary elements and rules for their composition, are generally accepted in mainstream Modem architecture. However, it is mainly building types that are easily recognizable not specific vocabulary. In the same way in which we respond to and understand words like silicon chip and compact disc, we are all used to and pretty much understand the conventions of Modem architecture. Judith Blau points out that today's skyscrapers symbolize corporate power and wealth and public housing projects label the poor.65 No one is confused when they see a tall building with ribbon windows. They instantly recognize it as an office building. The point is that not all of our references need to be back to our Classical past. We have an authentic Modem vocabulary, though it may be somewhat limited, that is part of the history of architecture and a resource
65Blau, p. 88.
to be drawn from. Even Corbusier as early as the publication of Vers une Architecture in 1923, was aware of our Modem heritage. As Curtis says:
" Le Corbusier, the poet of Esprit Nouveau, sought touchstones in ancient Greek temples as well as silos and cars."66 At the Kimbell, Kahn made reference to the grain silos, visible from the entrance to the parking lot four blocks east of the museum, with his barrel vaults.
The idea that there is an emerging vocabulary of Modernism does not reflect much in the work of Corbusier and Kahn as they both were involved more in the formation of Modernism than in its mainstream application. As was mentioned in the text, they were both influenced by the products of the Industrial Age, seen the monographic value of many of these products. Thus, their vocabulary references silos, steamships, and sluice gates. Idiosyncratic references are not worth diagramming, however. There is a sheet of diagrams titled Modern Grammar which shows the incoherence of mainstream Modem vocabulary in terms of both grammar and the expression of existential space. It is really an argument against a coherent Modem tradition because it represents a plurality of signs for the same signified.
Architecture, like all the arts, is a means of understanding the world. Its purpose is to make comprehensible the experienced life situation. It does so by metaphorically revealing the order inherent in in our experiencing of the world. Not only is the ordering of the perceived world necessary for survival, it is essential to any comprehension of life as we know it. Our institutions, beliefs, language, thought, games, desires, etc. are all systems with a high degree of structure and order which makes their complexity possible. By making the order in these systems visible, we reveal their
66William J. R. Curtis, "Authenticity, Abstraction, and the Ancient Sense: Le Corbusiers and Kahn's Ideas of Parliament," Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal, Volume 20, 1983, p. 182.
nature and make them useful to us. For the ability to use a thing can only come about through the understanding of the thing's functioning. It is the role of architecture to make the ordering systems operating on the built environment visible, to reveal or express the order of things.
There are several dimensions of order to which architecture owes a responsibility of expression. These include the nature of perceived space, the way in which form acquires meaning in relation to other form, the automatic functions of perception, the expression of function, the revelation of construction, the meaning form acquires through historical use, and the meaning form has by association with similar form. It has been the attempt of this thesis to demonstrate that each of these dimensions is important because it makes our connection to the world stronger through understanding.
Classicism was responsive to all of the dimensions of order that are covered in this thesis. Mainstream orthodox Modem architecture, with its overzealousness towards functionalism and objectivity, failed to consider many of the most important dimensions. Most Modem architects fail to acknowledge the order inherent in our experience of space and the order that can come from the meaning associated with forms of the past. It is the near complete dismissal of the past that has spurred the efforts of the Post-Modernists and the Neo-Rationalists.
Many proponents of these movements look at architectural symbolism as a semiotic system which, like spoken language, takes centuries of evolution to a acquire the meaning that it has. Thus, they argue, there is no way for us to possibly invent a new language that would have the power of expression that the Classical language of architecture had. However, Rossi acknowledges that his use of dead signs represents a nihilistic view of the Modem world but feels this stance is only appropriate for the time. It has been shown in this thesis that both Corbusier and Kahn provide excellent
examples of architecture that speaks to the user in a powerful wray. Additionally, the Post-Moderns and the Neo-Rationalists, because of their insistence on using a vocabulary whose form derives from construction in wood or stone, fail to exhibit the true constructional principles that are operating in their buildings. Thus they fail to reveal the necessary order that does exist in any contemporary system of construction and replace it with elements that derive their form from a system that is not operating in their building. This disjunction between the constructional system represented and the constructional system really existing is not an ironic comment but a denial of the importance of the expression of building. This omission becomes more important when one realizes that the expression of building is also the expression of space as we experience it. This is due to the effect of gravity on all structures in the way they are put together and the perception of gravity in physical manifestations that allow for visual orientation.
The Post-Moderns and Neo-Rationalists claim to see in Classical architecture an amazingly expressive vocabulary that has yet to be equaled by any other architectural system. I agree that this is the case. In terms of expressing the order of space, the importance of formal relationships between vocabulary elements, and the use of meaning-ful forms that are rich with a history of use, Classicism is far more articulate than mainstream Modernism. However, the answer is not to revert to the past but rather to develop a vocabulary based on inarguable principles that is appropriate for our time. As Perez-Gomez has written:
It is fallacious to pretend that archetypal meaning of entry is recovered by placing a classical pediment over a door. It is irrelevant to add neon or wood ornament to an architecture generated by the parameters of technology. What the best modem architects have managed to accomplish on occasion, as in the case of Le Corbusier's convent of La Tourette for example, has been to discover a truly original abstract order, still rooted in the continuity of our cultural situations (institutions), and becoming meaningful through its appeal to primordial shared experiences of human beings as embodied, spatially oriented
It is possible to develop an architectural vocabulary that is symbolic and expressive using form that derives from the needs and techniques of contemporary systems of building. The examples in Appendix 1 illustrate how Corbusier and Kahn dealt with these problems. Their work is evidence of the possibility of a Modern vocabulary that should equal the depth of meaning which existed when the Classical vocabulary was in wide spread use. This paper is an attempt to systematize an architectural vocabulary that achieves the function of art in the Modem world by describing the necessary characteristics of such a vocabulary. The true test of any thing written here will be its realization in the design project described in Appendix 2.
67Perez-Gomez, p. 74.
Cartesian Space in Plan
Cartesian Space in Section
Central Space in Plan
Central Space in Section
Marking of Center with Vertical
Grammar and Redundancy. Context hree
Grammar and Redundancy: Context Sensitive
V/V'^IWM I II
note 01 function
Hierarchy of Use
Server vs. Served
Techne and Historical Continuity
iechne and historical uonttnuity
Plasticity of Elevation
Server vs. Served
Appendix 2: Design Problem
To demonstrate the thesis, an art museum has been chosen. This building type was selected because it is has an important civic function and lends itself to symbolic expression, it has a strong tradition in terms precedent, and it typically has fairly simple programmatic requirements. It has been said that the museum is the most sacred building type of the twentieth century. That is, it is the building type which typically has the most expressive character.
The specific program described below has been selected because it is small enough to keep the program simple yet large enough to allow the building some stature. The building is to house a private collection of Northern European Renaissance painting and sculpture. This is to be a permanent collection which will allow for a minimum of back-of-house functions that are required in abundance for a museum that has constantly changing exhibits. The uniqueness and character of the collection will allow design decisions related to this particular art form. That is, the building will not have to be tremendously flexible and neutral in its attitude towards the art as I believe it would be were its collection to be universal in scope housing anything from, say, decorative porcelains to large abstract expressionist
Exhibition Space: 35,000 sq. ft.
Storage on display: 7,000 sq. ft.
Storage not displayed: 3,000 sq. ft.
Curator and Staff Offices: 3,000 sq. ft.
Conference Room (with kitchenette) 1,000 sq. ft.
Conservation: 3,000 sq. ft.
Receiving: 1,000 sq. ft.
Shop (near Receiving): 1,500 sq. ft.
Sub-Total: 64,500 sq. ft.
Circulation/Lobby/Mechanical (at 35%): 22,500 sq. ft.
78,000 sq. ft.
Denver has been chosen as the site for the project because: it is familiar to me, it will allow for frequent visits to the site, it will be familiar to any juror, and it is a large enough city to support such a project.
I have decided to locate the building in a park setting. The purpose is to isolate the project from a context which could potentially be unsuportive of the architecture. I believe this will allow for the most unrestricted development of the thesis ideas. It could be argued that the real test of the ideas presented here would be to locate the project in an urban setting of strong architectural character. However, I view this possible test as a future option for development of the thesis ideas. The desire in this project is to set up a laboratory for testing the ideas and not to get side-tracked into a multitude of other considerations.
The specific site is to be in Washington Park. The other major parks that are near downtown Denver, City Park and Cheeseman Park, were also considered. City Park, however, is already the site for the Natural History Museum, and Cheeseman is rather small, is located in a dense residential neighborhood complete with high-rise apartment towers overlooking the park, and has fields and paths in constant and heavy use. Washington Park is spacious and neither contains nor is surrounded by any structure that will compete with this project. For, as mentioned above, the purpose of choosing a park setting is to avoid outside architectural influences and urban settings. The maps on the next three pages show the context at different scales. The site is within four miles of the central business district and close to the interstate. The neighborhood is almost entirely residential. Within the park itself, I have chosen the site of the existing Recreation Center. This building is just to the south of Smith Lake. It provides views of the lake to the north and the open playing fields to the south. From the site, one has an unobstructed view down the hill, across the playing fields to Lake Grasmere at the southern end of the park. This particular location within the park places the building on the high ground and allows it to be
seen from most areas of the park, especially the two boulevards which run along the east and west side of the park. This type of setting will help to reinforce the monumental and civic character of the building type.
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Codes and Zoning
The following code information is from the Building Code of the City and County of Denver, as Amended 1982 which is the current code at the time of this writing.
Occupancy: B-2, Assembly building without fixed theater type seating and an occupant load of more than 300 persons.
Occupancy Load: Assume 100 sq. ft. per person for assembly areas of low concentrated use such as exhibit space (Table No. 33-A). With 52000 sq. ft. of occupiable space, one can assume an occupancy load of 520.
Type of Construction: I, B-2 Occupancy with square footage of one floor greater than 30,000 sq. ft. (Fire Zone 3).
Maximum Height and Floor Area: For Type I construction there is no height limit nor any floor area maximum. Mezzanine area cannot cover more than one-third the area of any room. No more than two mezzanine floors can located in one room. Clear heights below mezzanine floors must be at least seven feet.
Egress: There must be at least two exits from every floor. The minimum distance between exit doors is 25 feet. However, the exits must be independent of one another and located in such a way as to minimize the possibilities that both could become blocked by a fire. Exits shall be arranged so that there are always two ways to get out of the building from any room door. The maximum travel distance to the nearest exit door is 150 feet if unsprinkled and 200 feet if sprinkled. Dead end corridors are not to exceed 20 feet, 50 feet if sprinkled. Revolving doors cannot be counted as required exits. Mezzanine floors exceeding 2000 sq. ft. or greater than 60 feet in any dimension are required to have two stairs leading to the adjacent floor below. Exit door leaves must be at least three feet wide but no more than four feet, and the minimum height of doors is 6 -8". Corridors must be
at least 44" wide and seven feet tall. Stairs, like corridors, are required to be at least 44" wide with seven foot clearance above the nosing of every tread. The maximum rise of any step is 7 1/2", the minimum run is 10". The maximum vertical distance of a single flight is 12'-6". Landings must have a minimum depth equal to the width of the stair but are not required to be greater than five feet in depth. Handrails are required on each side between 30" and 34" above the nose of the treads.
Toilet Facilities: Based on an occupant load of 520, one is required to provide plumbing facilities for 260 males and 260 females. The minimum number of fixtures specified by the code for these numbers are two water closets and two urinals for men, three water closets for women, two lavatories for men, two lavatories for women, and one drinking fountain per floor.
Handicapped Access: Ramps or elevators are required to provide access for the handicapped. Ramps shall be no steeper than 1:12 and cannot have a vertical rise exceeding 30" without a landing. Landings must be at least the same depth as the ramp.
Due to the nature of this project being built in a public park, most of the normal zoning requirements are inapplicable. The city owns the land and the building and can set their own specifications. The usual zoning requirements of height, setback, and bulk do not apply. However, it seems reasonable to follow the standard requirements for parking. This parking information is taken from the City and County of Denver Zoning Ordinance of 1982 which is still in effect at the time of this writing.
Parking: Public art museums are designated as class two. This class requires one parking space for every 600 sq. ft. of gross floor area. For this project of 78000 sq. ft., 130 spaces are required.
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