Tuesday, September 7, 2010

IAR 222. point : theories

The object of unit one is to introduce various theories about architecture and design in general. Initially, we were introduced to several ideas, including architecture as an inhabitable art form, architecture and design as symbolic, etc. We also learned some basic elements of architecture to consider throughout the class: inside/outside, third dimension, fourth dimension, light, color, materials, and furnishings. The study of architecture can teach us about different values, cultures, successes and failures, and ideas. Through architecture, we can better understand nature, humanity, and the ways in which they interact.
According to Vitruvius, a good environmental designer must not be limited in the scope of his understanding, but must be familiar with “geometry, history, philosophy, music, and medicine.” Good design must address “economy, propriety, eurhythmy, and order.” Vitruvius also theorized that architecture should have three things: commodity, firmness, and delight. That is, it must be useful, structurally sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing. This applies to other designed objects as well. Christian Norberg-Schultz proposed a four-part criterion for good architecture: physical control, functional frame (basically the same as “firmness”), social milieu context, and cultural symbolization. We also learned certain aspects of vernacular architecture, including its dependence on tradition. Over the years, tradition has grown less and less important in architecture. Western culture now includes a greater number of building types and fewer shared values than in the past, as well as an admiration for “originality.”
The various “ways of looking” reflect Richard Buchanan and Victor Margolin’s idea that there is no “right” way of looking at design. An “aedicule” is described as the most basic form of architecture, consisting of four columns and a roof. When examining architecture, one can identify distinct aedicules within spaces. “The power of three” describes the way objects and ideas are often arranged in groups of three to convey information. Jules David Prown wrote that an artifact can be assessed by a three-step process: description, deduction, and speculation. Dick Hebdige theorizes that objects can contain double meanings, maps of meaning, and subcultures. Roland Barthes believes that group-specific meanings become universal due to a normally hidden set of rules, codes, and conventions. Edward T Hall’s The Hidden Dimension discusses the area of human proxemics, which profoundly effects architectural design. In the excerpt from The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton evaluates architecture in terms of how it affects human emotions and speculates about its ability to produce real happiness. The design cycle theory says that creativity starts in childhood, peaks by middle age, and declines in old age.
Interior architecture lies somewhere between architecture and interior design; it can be described as “the holistic creation, development, and completion of space for human use.” It was interesting to hear a definition of the term, especially after some ponderings about which direction this program is taking me. I suppose we have a foot on either side of the line.
Learning the history and theories of design is important for various reasons. Most "new" designs build in some way off of past ones, and learning various theories can help shape our designs by prompting us to examine why we make certain decisions. Practicing different ways of looking means that we examine designs in ways we've never considered before; we have the chance to become more attentive and more receptive. We consider architecture only a part of a larger design context so that we may study the many ways in which human beings shape the space and matter around them. Through our study, we become more seasoned in our understanding, more thoughtful in our decisions, and more inspired in our endeavors.

After much internal debate, I chose this image to represent the "theories" unit because each proponent of a theory tends to believe that he or she has the "truth."


  1. Your essay flowed very well- not only was the structure of your essay well pieced together, you broadened your topic headliners with sourced material and various examples. Also, it's apparently clear you have an understanding of the theories unit, discussing the effects of original design on precedented styles and defining the nature of Vitruvius's principles.
    Your word count is amazing, as is your image. I love how the sign, which negates truth in essence, has truth behind it- extremely relative to the changes in architecture and what's considered appropriate.

  2. Your essay was a very smooth read. I love how you pulled all those quotes from literature... that is one of my favorite things to do in academic writing it really helps to bring yourself into your work. Your image was very clever and true to what was discussed in your essay. It made me smile :) see. Your work was very insightful, it helped to answer some questions I had about being a design student as well. Good work!

  3. This is a very thoughtful and well-written essay. You clearly linked what you've learned in the theories unit to it's applicability in the world. The fact that you went well over the 500 word limit shows that you cared about what you were writing. While I understand the use of your image, I would have liked an image that showed the truth in architecture/design. Nice work!

  4. You wrote tradition has grown less and less important in architecture. i agree with your thought, today not only western but also eastern architecture follows trendy. The structures do not have their identity which represents ethnic or region. We are losing our originality. You reminded me about originality again!

  5. I appreciate how you linked what we learned in class to what going on now in society. I also believe the ways of looking is an important step stool in design. Your essay was easy to follow with smooth transitions. You definitely covered everything in class from the lectures to the reading to a 'T'. Cleary you have surpassed the 500 word count limit and nothing seemed repetitive. Your reasoning behind the image is nice but it would have been cool to see an image that reflected an architecture piece that coincided with the ideas you wrote.