U5- The experience of architecture

To analyse architecture we must know some previous and basic concepts


Place is definitely a huge influence when creating a space. This way, the relationship between the space and its surroundings can be of different types:

  • Contrast: when a space is in contrast with its environment, it seems that it doesn’t seem right or it doesn’t fit in. Architecture either dominates the space or is alienated by it.
  • Camouflage: perfect integration of the space with the environment.
  • Organicism: there is a bond between tha space and the environment. It is adapted to it by the reinterpratation of elements. There is harmony.
  • Contextualism: the relationship between the space and the surroundings is explained by its meaning.


“Architecture is the studied construction of spaces. The continuous renovation of the architecture comes from the evolution of the concepts of space”

Louis Kahn, American architect (1901-1974)

Architecture is the creation of spaces, but also of their limits. Due to this, progress in architecture comes with a change of the concept of space. This way, throughout history, there have been different models of space:

  • Classic space: a closed and compact space with usually massive walls. In the Renaissance period this space also becomes centralized and with one simmetry axis. In the Baroque period, they experiment with tension in the centralized space adding at least two axis of simmetry.
  • Uniform space: abstract, rational and without a centre. The modern Movement (20th century) first broke with the concept of classic space. Uniform movement breaks with “compactness” and allows horzontal and vertical connections. Besides, it is very much linked with functionality: a space only exists if used.
  • Contemporary space: the goal is uniqueness and confussion of public space and space of relation. Horizontal planes are twisted, deformed… creating the concept of free section.


As the Utilitas of Vitruvius shows, the concept of functionality has always existed. Despite this, it has evolved throughout history of architecture:

  • Mechanical functionalism: born in the Industrial Revolution and it is based in the conception of beauty as perfect mechanical efficiency.
  • Organic functionalism: based in the adaptance of the form of the space to the activities developed in it. Functionalism determines the form. Also, since this functionalism is inspired by organicism, the space must be integrated in its surroundings.
  • Moralistic functionalism: beauty is utility. In other words, a space will only be an expression of beauty when it is useful, when it serves a purpose or goal. This way, utility obtains a capital recognition and so it becomes a moral issue.


To analyse the form of a space we must study all the elements that conform the whole composition. These elements are the following:

RhythmRepetition of shapes
AxisLinear elements that mark a direction and distribute the space or elements around it
SimmetryArrangement of elements around an axis, centre or plan
HierarchyRelationship of supremacy of an element among others or its environment. It can be of size, shape or orientation
ModuleUnitary element that serves as a proportional element that is repeated on the same or different scales
GridComposition based in a grid of axes
MovementIrregularity of forms and order to express movement
UnitAll elements of the composition seem a whole, nothing lacks or is excessive
CentralityOrganisation around a centre, not necessarily the geometric one
BalancingHarmony, equilibrium. It can be static (if the elements are equal and symmetrical) or dynamic (if there is difference in colour, geometry…)
LimitThe edge of the elements of the composition, where there is a change
Light“Architecture is the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.”, Le Corbusier
ContrastOpposition or difference of the elements of the composition
ColourChromatic of the representation
TextureSurface of the building
ProportionHarmonic relationship of dimensions according to mathematical rules
ScaleRelationship between the building size and the human’s

Materiality and structure

Throughout history, there has been constant changes in materials and technology, resulting in progress and innovation. Although the materials are changing, they remain having the same concept as the first ones. In other words, new technological realities but reminiscent of the first ones.

Regarding to technology of construction, during the Roman period arches and vaults were the main covering elements and walls, the supporting ones. The main materials were lime concrete with formworks or as a filling between bricks, masonry or carved stones. This way the supports are solid enough for the vaults and other elements

During the Romanesque period barrel vaults reinforced by arches were used for the roof. Meanwhile, the walls had exterior buttresses to support them. Later, barrel vaults were substituted by groin vaults. Lastly, the final construction had clear loadbearing elements (arches, pillars and buttresses).

In Gothic architecture, we had lighter and brighter spaces with more openings and less massive walls. This is thanks to some elements developed during the period: pointed arches, rib vaults, buttresses, flying buttresses and pinnacles. This way, they balanced forces instead of following the inert stability principle. They opposed compression forces to traction forces.

Nowadays, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) have revolutionated architecture. CAD allows new shapes and forms while BIM adds collaborative management to the project. Also, prefabriction has been a significant turning point in terms of construction. However, in my opinion it hasn’t allowed a revolution of architectural forms (yet, at least).

Bibliography and image sources