Design as Formulation: From Application to Reflection

Disegnare/ idee immagini, n. 45/2012: 76-88, 2012


Designing involves the application of knowledge in a certain building. Creative architectural design, however, contributes a critical reflection upon such knowledge, versus the direct application of such knowledge in a design situation, even when it does not result in innovation with respect to form or function. Through the discussion of the concept of design formulation, this paper addresses the architectural design process as an interaction between architectural design, as a reflexive activity, and the application of knowledge about buildings where critical reflection upon a design problem, frames it in a different way that goes beyond its immediate conditions and leads to new understanding of the design context and a higher level of creativity. This discussion is supplemented by a case study the augments the argument for design as formulation.

Douglas House: the formation of a language

Ninth International Space Syntax Symposium, 2013

Richard Meier, over a five decade career, has been associated with a recognizable design language that consistently evolved across a wide range of building types. This language, with a clear set of formal characteristics and design themes, includes among others: geometrical order exemplified in the use of modules and proportions; and visual layering that organizes space in his buildings through the arrangement of successive planes across the visual field. Taking the Douglas house as a case study, the aim of the paper is not only to clarify the design themes and motifs of Meier’s language, but also to show how these themes and motifs are employed in a particular building. This will be pursued with a particular emphasis upon the geometrical ordering of building plans and elevations, and the modular and proportional systems entailed in this ordering. This choice of emphasis is not coincidental: while other aspects of Meier’s language may be equally important from the point of view of the perceptual qualities or the aesthetic judgment of his buildings, geometrical ordering most closely regulates and interacts with the overall arrangement of formal elements of the building. The paper concludes that the final form of the house depends on the interaction between a design program and a formal language but is not determined solely by any. Abstract spatial themes such as reversal and twin phenomena also materialize in the physical form of the building through the artful manipulation of design elements.


4F_C: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Architectural Works

Scientific Research and Essays 9 (8), 269-279, 2014

This paper presents a conceptual framework for understanding architectural works. This framework provides an understanding of an architectural building through qualitatively discerning the complexity of issues involved in its design and enabling their systematic integration into a theoretical construct. The premise behind this framework is that in design a better understanding of ‘what’ to design leads to a more informed base to ‘how’ to design, consequently resulting in a more structured and innovative architectural design. Using a grounded theory method, the paper postulates an ontological framework that recasts the Vitruvian triad of utilitas, venustas, and firmitas into spatial form, intellectual form, and structural form respectively, and more importantly expands the triad to include context, and architectural thinking manifested as formative concept, as an integral component in any architectural work, thus closing a gap that existed in many frameworks dealing with architecture. The paper concluded that this framework offers a level of robust understanding of architecture that can become a foundation for a more effective and rational architectural design practice. This foundation can be used as a base in structuring the generation of architectural form as well as the description and analysis of existing works of architecture. Its value exceeds theory framing and extends towards architectural pedagogy as a theoretical framework in teaching design studio.


Intellectual Form: Understanding Architecture as a Logical Construct

International Journal of Applied Engineering Research 9 (9), 2014

This paper addresses viewing an architectural work as a logical construct by understanding the logic of how a building is designed. The aim is to read the intellectual form within its material form through morphological analysis in 2-D and 3-D drawings, both relational and constructive, of the Douglas House (1971-1973).This reading builds on previous research that uncovered the geometry of the house and proceeds through a set of 3-D constructive diagrams to exemplify the logic of a formative progression from a platonic form to a specific form. This progression organizes the material construction, gives rise to the building’s formal properties, and subdivides internal space. The paper concludes that through the post facto (posteriori) rationalization of how the house was designed, an implicit a priori rationalization of spatial motifs and design tactics and operations can be uncovered, leading to a more logical understanding of the design as a logical process and a deeper aesthetic appreciation of the building. Furthermore, the morphological approach used in this paper can be applied to other buildings and also be used as a didactic method for instructing design studios.

The Aesthetics symptoms of architectural form: the case of Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art by Richard Meier


This paper investigates the aesthetics of architectural form by addressing ‘when’ this form becomes aesthetically distinctive. The theoretical foundation of this paper is based on Nelson Goodman’s exemplification, density and repleteness as necessary symptoms for any form to function as a work of art. The aim is to introduce this philosophical view to architecture in order to understand how the aesthetics of architectural forms can be inferred from these three symptoms. To pursue this aim, this paper looks at Richard Meier’s Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art where besides its architectural function, the design of the museum with its formal language is considered a work of art in itself. Through morphological analysis and analytical drawings the three symptoms of aesthetics are investigated within the form of the building and identified. The paper concluded that architectural work is aesthetically pleasing when formal design language is syntactically dense, its content is semantically dense, and the design process is replete. The findings of this research encourage a rational understanding of the aesthetic judgment in architecture and provide a major asset in architectural pedagogy. Therefore, when students and instructors go through it, students’ right to develop their own aesthetics is preserved.


The Aesthetics of Logical Form: the case of the Smith House by Richard Meier


This paper addresses the aesthetics of ’how’ a building is designed. Through the morphological analysis in 2-D and 3-D drawings, both relational and constructive, of the Smith House (1965-1967), the paper aims to read the intellectual form of the house within its projected form. This reading proceeds by reconstructing the logic of organization of the material construction, accordingly subdividing the space of the building into a pattern and generating its formal properties. As such, the paper argues that the aesthetics of architectural form can be read as an interaction between formal elements and abstract spatial motifs directed by design strategies and tactics, in the distinctive final form. The Smith House is chosen because it represents the beginnings of the formal vocabulary and formal logic of Richard Meier, a logic that endures throughout his later career. The paper concludes that through the tracing of ‘how’ the house was designed, a deeper aesthetic appreciation of the work emerges and furthermore, the development of a terminology and understanding of logical form not only serves as basis for communication, whether between teacher and pupil, architect and client, or critic and public, but can also be used as a didactic method for instructing design studios.


Between The Abstract And Analytic: The Formation Of A Language In The Case Of The Douglas House By Richard Meier

Scroope: Cambridge Architectural Journal 22, 102-109, 2013


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