Elements Doing More Than One Thing

In architecture elements often work to identify place in more than one way at a time.

A gable wall of a house, for example, which plays its

Analysing Architecture

And the side surface of a wall can be a place for display, as in a cinema, or an art gallery; or in the way that any building presents a 'face' to the world.

The top surface of a wall can be a pathway, for a cat, or as in a pier or a castle wall.

part in enclosing the interior of the dwelling, can also be a marker identifying a place where someone lives.

part in enclosing the interior of the dwelling, can also be a marker identifying a place where someone lives.

Analysing Architecture

And the side surface of a wall can be a place for display, as in a cinema, or an art gallery; or in the way that any building presents a 'face' to the world.

This ability of an element to identify different places in a variety of ways is an essential feature, and one of the most intriguing aspects, of architectural design. It involves the mental processes of both recognition and creation in an interactive way—creation of one place leads to recognition of others—and comes into operation at all scales.

Occurrences are innumerable. This will be seen to be a theme which recurs over and over again in the examples used in this book.

Part of the reason for the importance of this theme in architectural design is that architecture does not (or should not) operate in its own hermetic world. Its work is (almost) always relating to other things which already exist in the conditions around.

Any wall built in a landscape creates at least two places—one sunny, one shady.


A flat roof is also a plat-

A series of roofs which are also floors creates a multi-storey building.

How Draw Characters Perspective

If it forms an enclosure then it divides an 'inside' from the 'outside'; giving something to and taking something from both.

Walls are often (though not always) structural—they hold up a roof; but their primary architectural role is to define the boundaries of place. Other structural elements can have this role too. A line of columns can also define a pathway. In this apparently simple plan (examples of which can be found in the ancient Roman

The theme also reaches into the work itself. A single 'party' or dividing wall makes two rooms.

The theme also reaches into the work itself. A single 'party' or dividing wall makes two rooms.

agora, the medieval cloister, town squares, and the shop

A series of roofs which are also floors creates a multi-storey building.

In this small apartment by the Swedish architect Sven Markelius, a number of elements do more than one thing at once. For example: the one structural column (near the balcony door) helps to suggest different places within the generally open plan; the bathroom and kitchen are grouped together and form a division between the entrance lobby and the rest of the apartment.

In the Royal Festival Hall, London, the stepped floor of the auditorium also provides a distinctive raked ceiling for the foyer spaces. The building was designed by Robert Matthew, Leslie Martin, andothers, and was completed in 1951.

A flat roof is also a plat-

Alvar Aalto Finland SectionAuditor Plan And Section Examples

In this small summerhouse, (shown here in section and plan), the four columns not only hold up the roof, but also help to define the boundary of the verandah—a place for sitting and looking over the nearby lake which is at Muuratsalo in Finland. It is called the Villa Flora, and was designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto in 1926.

houses of Malaysia) a few basic architectural elements are composed to identify a number of different places: the cells themselves; the street or square outside; and the covered pathway, which also makes a transition space between the outside and the insides. (The concept of 'transition spaces' is discussed in more detail later, under Transition, Hierarchy, Heart.)

One of the indispensable skills of an architect is to be conscious of the consequences of composing elements; being aware that they are likely to do more than one thing. These consequences can be positive: cut a window into a wall, and you create a window cill which is a shelf for books or for a vase of flowers; build two rows of houses and you also create the street between them.

But the consequences can also be negative: build two houses too close together but not joined and you might create an unpleasantunusable space be-

tween; build a wall for display, and you may also create a 'non-place' behind.

This is one of the most important aspects of architectural design. It is a matter in which an architect can achieve great subtlety; but it is also one that can cause problems.

This is the plan of an English house built in the early part of the twentieth century.

The forecourt is a square with cusps taken out of three of the sides. The cusp which bites into the house might help to identify the place of the entrance, but it also causes problems with the internal planning of the house. In the awkward spaces alongside the doorway the architect has placed the butler's pantry (to the left) and the cloakroom and lavatory (to the right). A similar problem occurs in the drawing room where the same device is used to identify the place of the fire; but here it also makes an odd shaped garden room (in the bottom right corner of the house).

Elements can often be found to be doing two things at once (it is actually difficult to find elements in architecture which are only doing one thing at once!), but one sometimes finds elements which are doing many things. (This might be one of the measures of architecture.)

In this section through a hillside house—The Wolfe House—designed by Rudolf Schindler in 1928, you can see that the simple thin horizontal concrete slabs, tied back into the hill, act not only as floors and ceilings, but also as outdoor terraces and sunshades.

Elements Doing More Than One Thing

Their precipitous edges are protected by balustrades which are also planting boxes.

In the Falk Apartments of 1943 (shown in plan, top right), by the same architect, it is not so much the element but the way it is positioned that does more than one thing at once.

The party walls between the apartments have been angled so that the living rooms face a lake. But this device has other effects too. It allows the terraces outside each apartment to be larger; it also gives these terraces more privacy. Deeper into the plan the angled walls open up a place for each staircase, which would otherwise be more cramped. The non-orthogonal geometry also helps the end apartments to be larger and different in plan from the intermediate ones. Schindler has been careful not to let the deviation from right-angles create awkward shaped rooms; it is as if almost all the problems which might have been caused by the shift from rectangular geometry have been reduced down to one tiny triangular cupboard in the left-hand end apartment.

As with the Wolfe House, these apartments were designed for a hillside, though one which is less steep. Their section is stepped, so that a roof can also be a terrace. In the section of an individual apartment you can see that the bedroom is almost like an enclosed gallery in

In the plan of the Falk Apartments, it is the angle of the party walls that does more than one thing.

Reference for the architecture of Rudolf Schindler:

Lionel March and Judith Scheine—R.M.Schindler, 1993.

Elements Doing More Than One Thing

Reference for Swiss villages:

Werner Blaser—The Rock is My Home, WEMA, Zurich, 1976.

This plan is of a village in the Ticino region of Switzerland. It shows cellular houses (hatched), walls, and some platforms adjacent to houses. It is difficult to find an element which is not doing more than one thing at once: mainly, defining private, semiprivate, and public spaces— pathways and small 'nodal' squares.

the living room. This device too does more than one thing. One can see from the bedroom down into the living room, and thus the bedroom is less enclosed than is traditionally the case. But also the position of the bedroom in the section creates two different ceiling heights which relate to the places they cover: a high ceiling over the living room making it more spacious; and a low ceiling over the entrance and kitchen. The line where the low ceiling changes to the high also suggests the division between the living room and the dining area. The dining place is identified by the lower ceiling.

Analysing Architecture

One of the drawbacks with stepped sections is that inside spaces close to the hill can be dark. Notice that in the Falk Apartments Schindler counters this problem by making 'streets' between the layers of apartments. These pathways do at least three things at once: they give access into the apartments; they provide light into the back spaces—the kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms; and they allow cross-ventilation through the apartments.

There are many too many instances of elements doing more than one thing at once in the products of architecture to be able to cover them adequately here. This is a characteristic of architecture at all scales and types, and from all periods of history. When an ancient Greek hung his shield on the roof-post of his megaron, he was using an architectural element to do two things at once; if that post was also a corner of his bed-place, then it was doing three.

The process of introducing one element to do a particular purpose, and then seeing what else it does (and so on), is an essential part of the 'organic' tradition in architecture. This is how settlements have grown into villages, and villages into towns, through history.

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