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Architecture, as a science must be associated with mathematical logic and reasoning

Essay Topic:

‘Architecture, as a science must be associated with mathematical logic and reasoning, lest it is identified as a non-exact science like the visual arts’ (Allen, 2000, p 7).Just like the exact sciences, biology and physics, wherein formulated hypotheses can be tested over and over again through experiments in generally controlled environments; architecture is tested through a very different method.In architecture, hypotheses, in the form of design ideas and concepts are reflected in drawings and representations which are in turn, balanced by mathematical equations.

However, the process can only be repeated once.

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The reasons, which are quite obvious, pertain to the unavailability of a vast range of resources. The ultimate outcome can be a structure, encompassing and infinite, in the form of a design space or built-environment. Drawings are a very important aspect of architecture. An architect’s or artist’s ideas and concepts are translated in such using the principles of perspective, vanishing point, viewpoint, tracing, orthographic and isometric projections, and the likes.

To start with, there is already difficulty transcribing an idea into a physical drawing. From the drawing in pen and paper into a live, standing and habitable building or structure poses the biggest challenge of all for the proponents. Architects must be very careful in minimizing the deviation of each component from the other. ‘Thus, there is always an attempt to relate the abstract realm of geometry with the material stuff of the building’ (as cited in Petrescu, 2007, p 93). What might have been conceived may not be drawn accordingly and consequently, may not totally materialize into reality.

‘Strict observance of the principles in perspective is fostered in that non-linear lines are edited out’ (Petrescu, 2007, p 102). Tracing, as one method of drawing, showcasing a beautiful conglomeration of artists’ and architects’ works, is a kind of copying from something that is already there. It is primarily based on outlines, thus the term, “outline loving”. Orthographic drawings on the other hand are comprised by some of the basic architectural drawings namely elevations, plans, sections, and the likes. Perspective drawing enables the viewer or audience to experience both fore- and back- grounds.

It was even believed that perspective portrays a narrative history through which the past and present are crossed. ‘In this reference, perspective serves as a time check: ordering, surveying, and recreating the past from the viewpoint of the present’ (Allen, 2000, p 7). Some principles govern perspective drawing namely the convergence of parallel lines into the centric point and the apparent decrease in distance between equidistant transverse lines could be determined by geometric method. Interference is introduced, with changes in scale, sampling and decontextualising, distortion and overlays.

On the other hand, vanishing points and viewpoints, which are interrelated, affirm an ideal viewing distance between the observer and the building, in spite of the offer of different angles and perception. ‘Enfilade, an architectural spatial connection technique, is defined as the alignment of the centrelines of doorways or openings to a series of spaces’ (Goldschimdt, 2004, p 17). It has been widely used in photography, and associated with one-point perspective; however, the result of a visible depth even in the presence of compressed physical distances is commendable.

A plan provides a description of a whole, if only in two dimensions – a series of equidistant spaces or openings will be translated into a compressed image by an experienced architect who has a trained eye. The drawings are non-predictive for the conditions and the end results are case-sensitive. An architectural drawing may or may not be authored by only one person. ‘In a false-etymology, to “de-sign” becomes the collaborative efforts of a team of architects and artists’ (Petrescum 2007, p 100).

But when the orthographic drawing had been made, this appears to be created by a single hand although amendments and comments by the team may be indicated by the hasty notes and markings on the drawing. Evans (1997) suggests that the modality of conventional architectural drawing is an expression of the perceived equivalence of wall and paper, with the drawing acting as both surface and veil for authored intentions in a manner readily transferrable into a building (as cited in Callicott, 2001).

This explicit advantage poses as a disadvantage as well, in that drawings can possibly mask the realization of a great building through inherent constraints. As cited in Petrescu (2007), Evans noted that the architectural drawing is not simply a reductive and failed representation (or “pre-presentation” since the drawing is usually prior to its object) of a building-to-be but is also an operator. (p. 93). The transaction between the two components is vital as both can be considered communication tools. ‘The underside of drawings reveals its materiality but they are unlooked or unread’ (Petrescu, 2007, p 102).

Architectural drawings supposedly communicate the architect’s idea to the builder, but historically this actually caused separation. ‘Any type of drawing, orthographic or isometric, which is constructed of real proportional dimensions and relative coordinates cannot provide the designer any insight into the qualities of appearance to the subjective viewer’ (Goldschimdt, 2004, p 16). Even when designers are endowed with exceptional experience in the matter, the physical manifestation of an abstract representation is still questionable. Indeed, there is a great disjunction between drawings and buildings.

The drawing (almost an accumulated partial representations), from which all else emanates, disappears with the onset of construction. Allen (2000) states ‘that the capacities and logics of drawing are necessarily distinct from the potentials of construction; practice disrupts the easy characterization of drawing as the realm of absence and building as the realm of presence’ (p 6). The abstract realm of representation and geometry, the initial phases of any architectural process, should be perfected as well as the physical aspect – that is the building phase. Architecture is not the only science justified through geometry.

It is likewise useful to pin down music properly to its visual harmonics. ‘Cosmological, religious and philosophical consonances were played out on the basis of geometry of space and its relation to an idealized body’ (Allen, 2000, p 7).

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An important example showcasing the sensitivity of the relationship between drawings and buildings is the Pavilion of 1929 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. ‘It is an architectural icon, not only because it is seductive and much copied, but also because it has most often been perceived in conditions similar to that of the artwork’ (Hill, 2001 p 66).

Unlike most of Mies’ works, the Pavilion, now popularly called Barcelona Pavilion, recognised as to have a horizontal symmetry, does not focus on landscape. The imagined symmetry no longer exists because the horizontal bypasses and cuts the vertical planes in the form of a physical plane. The Pavilion was widely known even through photographs from 1930 to 1986 until its reconstruction as an exhibit, gallery, and historical monument – the reason for the discontinuance of its display to the public.

Whether the building was taken in black and white or coloured photographs, there is no great difference because as was conceived by the designer, it reflected vision, and not any or all of the senses. ‘Smaller buildings with emphasis on the horizontal plane, wherein the top and bottom are symmetrical with respect to the horizon, is also commendable such that the “floating” ceiling planes above and the grid of the floor pavers below are distanced equally from the eye level of the average viewer’ (Goldschmidt, 2004, p 16).

As cited in Hill (2001), ‘Mies’ architecture is formulated by representations rather than by plastic realities and the goal of projection as an empty space was successfully transcribed into the Pavilion’ (p 66). Water lilies abound in the reconstructed building, although as studies suggest, their presence was unintentional. As an embodiment of the ideals and principles of a locality, the Pavilion is more just than an attribution to Germany. It is the relationship with the general surroundings and Barcelona as well as the association with international modernism that makes the Pavilion a big hit.

Another characteristic of great architecture is the will to triumph over the tricky unbalancing relationship between rationality and aesthetic. Mies, one of the great modernists, had won over this battle in his design of the Pavilion, imploring the use of skinny little I-beams suspended in mid-air. Evans (1997) noted ‘that some of the finest detailing of the modern movement was displayed by the immaculate lines and cruciform columns of the German Pavilion – columns that are notorious for their structural sleight of the hand’. He also noted that the perception of light and depth as exhibited by the Pavilion is admirable.

The Hubbe House in Magdeburg designed in 1935 by Mies is also of special interest because of the treatment of the outdoor and indoor areas as illusory; nature could be easily replaced by a photomontage. Over the time, the types and techniques of drawing have changed. Increasing exponentially, drawings used by architects are not only confined to the “footprint” of a building or its elevations. A discourse on whether perspective is truly an equivalent of the “sight” or merely a conventional representation based on the West had been raised. Computer-aided machines (CAM) can do lots of things with just a click of a finger.

This compensates for the difficulty of traditional drawing and traditional palette to translate the proposed and desired outcome. Traditional palette may not be realistically portrayed in the building from the drawing (or even from the imagination). Evans related that unlike the visual arts, to which architecture is closely associated with, the former is product-directed while the latter needs to utilize a medium – drawings. The technology of building materials is always and never a step ahead or behind drawing techniques.

There is always a discrepancy which may be caused by the changes in the shape of the materials, i.e. deformation or phase change. This is where the ultimate problem arises. ‘The most intense activity is the construction and manipulation of the final artefact, the purpose of preliminary studies to give sufficient definition for final work to begin, not to provide a complete determination in advance, as in architectural drawing’ (as cited in Cunningham, 1998, p 9). According to Allen (2000), ‘to pay close attention to the transactions between the culture of drawing and the discipline of building, the architect must simultaneously inhabit both worlds’ (p.6).

Computers are deemed useful in almost any undertaking of a project in line with almost any profession; architecture is not a stranger to this. The most complicated structure and built environments that are seen standing today have not denied the vital role that had been performed by computers. However, engineers confirm an avenue for a “low technology” in the building and engineering world for sketching will always be a big part of communicating the design language to the participants of the process.

‘It is crucial in accessing the body of tacit knowledge on which the profession depends’ (Callicott, 2001, p 61). It is therefore confirmed that in the practice of architecture and engineering, the need for employing high technology is very much just the same as that of low technology. One moral imperative for an architect besides evoking that architecture is a symbol of its time, buildings and structures should reflect the spirit of the age. In the time of modernism, architecture has been described as less in design and material and more in functionality and efficiency.

Rampant and popular issues governing a current time period may be well reflected into architecture not only through its design but also in its building techniques and materials. The growing concern for the conservation of the environment and its natural resources may be a responsible consideration addressed in design. The common trends in urban and modern architecture are summarized in its tag line “folds and bends”. Traditional drawing techniques like perspective and orthographic projections may no longer be enough for such aspirations exhibiting utmost complexity.

Technology is architecture’s gauge, guiding or misguiding it to the future, to either progress or regress. “Landscape urbanism” was a term coined by Charles Waldheim that describes the practices of designers who replaced architecture as the primary medium in city-making. ‘It is like interstitial discipline that operates in the spaces between buildings, infrastructural systems, natural ecologies which advocates worthy attention for the marginal spaces’ (Waldheim, p 59).

It bridges the gaps between structures by preparing the ground and extending the functionality and efficiency of the buildings and its surrounding spaces like the strategic open parks and walkways aesthetically arranged with landscape components. Contemporary urban landscapes maximize the functionality of the open spaces to compensate for the commercial value of land in the city; unlike before, formal themes of landscape designs in the urban were spacious and lack immediate purpose. The development of urban forms is explained by Conzen through the use of concepts such as fringe belt and burgage cycle.

The former is characterized by a land initially occupied by large sites having low access to commercial space, which finally, transforms it (land) into a full-fledge built-up area. ‘The progressive filling-in of plots with buildings, leading to a climax phase of maximum coverage and, ultimately, the clearance of plots preparatory to redevelopment describes the latter’ (Whitehand & Larkham, 1992, p 6). There is a certain hierarchy in which the urban forms namely town plan, building forms, and land use is arranged within the plots or land-use units and consequently, converged to form the general framework of the town.

Urban landscape cells, the smallest conglomeration of the morphologically homogenous areas that are composed of the site and the above mentioned forms, complex to form urban landscape units. Several features of urban landscape i. e. high-tech corridors, festival settings and pedestrian shopping malls are associated with post-modernism. The latter is noted to be undergoing widespread economic restructuring, including architectural manifestations.

The study of urban forms that comprise the urban landscapes is essential not only in shaping these landscapes but also for future urban planning and architecture. The design and layout of former towns, evident in the existing buildings and structures, provide information on how future ones will be established and managed. Continuity in function and elements is revealed specifically on same sites even of different time periods. Whitehand and Larkham (1992) used Worcester, a cathedral town with a complex multi-phase plan as an example to demonstrate this point.

The central sites, which are prone to redevelopment, allow for road construction and widening. To analyze the evolution of a certain town, a combination of the surviving elements of a not-so-distant urban landscape as well as cartographic, documentary and archaeological evidences are important. Although the towns and plan units are not permanent and vary through a towns and periods, a certain parallelism can indeed be derived. As was concluded, this is essential in making future planning and designing of towns.

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