Posted in History n Theory

Egypt, Greece and Rome Summary


Egypt established anis’ and used them in the designing of their architecture.  Horizontal axes were the pathways for humans to travel and vertical axes (using circles and columns) brought you closer to the Gods and heaven.
Egyptians used their columns as a way to tell a story and to keep their society alive throughout history.


The Greeks thought they were the center of everything and the center was very important in Greek design.  Since Greece is surrounded on three sides by water, it was very important to their lifestyle and commerce.
In Greece, the Megaron was formed and redesigned over time to create an early temple to put statues in.  Greeks had an organizational theme which included a porch, hearth and court.
The Greeks also had a command for asymmetrical balance and making things appear ideal; where in reality, they weren’t perfect.

    example:  Parthenon had no parallel lines in the structure and the front columns were spaced differently.  It was also placed in a part of the acropolis to show hierarchy, being the largest structure.

Greece was the prototype for Romem and many of the design elements were kept. (ie. Column orders and materials).  The Romans, however, brought in more of a mathematical way of designing and began the grid city patterns.

Posted in History n Theory

[HISTORY & THEORY OF DESIGN II] reading comprehension 2

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[1] Hersey describes a grammar for Greek architectural elements based on the idea of sacrifice. SPECULATE about the validity of his argument based on what you know about Greek design and the evidence (both visual and written) he provides. (5 points)

 The sacrificial process was very important in the Greek culture and was seen as necessary prior to building their temples.  “Greek sacrifice involved the deconstruction and reconstruction of the victim’s body….  It could also involve the construction or reconstruction of the god himself as he presided over his offerings.” (Hershey; Architecture and Sacrifice, p. 16)  In reading the Hershey’s book, I have come to understand the importance of nature and sacrifice in the Greek design.  
•    The Cavetto moldings, (which are common in the bases of columns) were seen as representing the rope, which was tied around the feet of the victim being sacrificed.
•    The sacrificial victim’s feet were bound and tied up like they were game.  This is represented in the statue columns that often had bound feet.
•    The temples were also decorated with the bones of the victims – the head being the most important part – said to contain the most spiritual essence. All bones were considered sacred and were obtained during the rapid cremation process and placed on the altars. 
•    According to Hershey’s reading (Architecture and Sacrifice, p. 14), Vitruvius said that trees were the first columns and they were often decorated with material and gear from the sacrifice victims.  In looking at the picture provided above, The columns are massive and although made of stone, are the shape and size.

[2] Meant in jest, Macaulay shapes a world of the future in which the main character claims meanings for archeological evidence uncovered at the Motel of the Mysteries. EXTRACT what you believe to be the lesson of mis-interpreting evidence and link that lesson to the real world phenomenon of the internet. In other words, EXPLAIN how you might avoid such a blunder as mis-reading evidence when you use the web as your major information source. (5 points)

In reading Macaulay’s excerpt, I am reminded about a phrase that one of my teacher said in my first semester in this program.  “Always keep a beginners mind”.    When I first heard this expression, I did not understand what it meant, but upon further thought, it has become a powerful part of my way of thinking about the things I do, and especially design.
  A beginners mind keeps you in the mindset, when experiencing new things, of being childlike.  Explore, search, ask questions and play to find out if what you are seeing or being told is true.  With the way of the internet now, so many things are available for us to explore and question.  Some people may feel that too much information available is just that – too much.. .But I think having that information available, helps us “keep that beginners mind” and to have the availability to question what we are being told by finding an alternative way.  Researching things we would normally not be exposed to is a key advantage to the internet and one of the ways you could avoid mis-reading evidence.

[3] The funerary temple design of Queen Hatshepsut speaks a very different design language than the pyramidal forms for other pharaohs. From your readings and the ideas addressed in class, RECOUNT possible reasons why Queen Hatshepsut used this building form. (5 points)
It was a life’s mission of a Pharaoh to build the largest burial site for them, being the pyramid. Pyramids are considered to be one of the most basic structures (class notes 9/8/10) but it was designed to be a type of maze so that the Pharaoh’s belongings couldn’t be stolen. The largest pyramid would represent status and power and it was covered in colorful limestone and at the very top, was a gold topper.  These Pharaohs believed they were the center of the universe and that the lines of the four corners of their pyramid would reach the four corners of the earth.  Pharaohs were involved in their design and build process and placed their pyramids in a way to stand out in their surroundings. Since they were built while the Pharaoh was still living, as soon as he died, he was placed with his belongings in the underground chamber to then pass on to his next life in the ‘afterlife’.

The temple of Queen Hatshepsut was built after she had passed and once completed years later, she was then laid to rest.  According to our class notes and lecture on 9/8/10, it is believed that she may have had a say in how her temple was designed, but one cannot be sure. 

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In the picture to the left You will notice the central stairway leading up to the colonnade, which gives a more inviting feel.  This burial temple took advantage of the natural landscape, and although covered in hieroglyphics like the pyramids, there is nothing overly extravagant about this feminine structure.  According to Roth, pg. 202-203, “building a temple-tomb at the base of a cliff – and, even more, the raising of a huge artificial stone mountain over one’s tomb – simply advertised where the treasure was stored.”  Eventually most of the royal tombs after this were buried dug into the cliffs to give it more security. 

[4] Although some evidence suggests links between the Egyptian and Greek civilizations, and some building forms and details provide support for that linkage, the two societies produced design responses in great contrast to one another. Select a building type (house, tomb, or temple) from each culture and ELUCIDATE similarities and differences in the two forms over time. Provide an annotated illustration for each selected type. (5 points)

Temples in the Egyptian and Grecian society were an important public structure.  In Egypt, temples were the center of government administration, scientific and medical study and agricultural administration. Large temples included schools, universities, libraries and archives and were the center of government administration, scientific and medical study and agricultural administration. (roth pp205-206)  Egyptians also used their temples for very theatrical religious festivals.  Urban planning also began with the Egyptians and they used different axes to plan out the placement of their temples.

Greek temples also held an important public function but were not your typical public building.  Only priests and certain selected individuals were able to enter it.  The public often celebrated rituals at the altar, in front of the temple.  The exterior was also paid much attention to the artistic nature of it and said to be a monumental structure set within the landscape.
The Greeks made no effort to have any of the buildings aligned along an axis.  They adjusted the topography to the site, and occasionally aligned the temples on an axes leading out to the mountain peaks in the landscape.  (roth page 230)

[5] Harwood shows examples of Egyptian furniture on pp. 60-61. HYPOTHESIZE about the lightweight nature of Egyptian furniture when compared to tomb architecture, as at the Pyramids of Giza, which many characterize as massive and heavy. (5 points)
The Egyptian furniture shown on pages 60-61 show simple pieces, many from King Tut’s tomb, made out of wood as well as more ornate wood pieces overlaid with gold and silver foil with some inlay.  One quality these items all share, are that they are a fairly minimally sized pieces.  Once he died and was placed in the tomb, his belongings were also included with him. The Egyptians believed that you needed your things when you passed over to your next life. (Being the afterlife)  Because of the status of King Tut, much of his furniture had carved detail, such as his throne and small chest.
The tomb design, or pyramid, was meant to show status and power on a different scale.  A Pharaohs’ life’s goal was to build the grandest burial tomb.  Because of the size, the stone used to build this tomb needed to be large, and they needed to be stacked on top of the other to reach the height desired for the appropriate status. Size matters here, resulting in a powerful, strong and imposing pyramid. 

[6] Based on a careful reading of the visual evidence in these two images, DRAW OUT an explanation of design and gender roles as you see both depicted. As this language of urns represents essentially one of the main ways we know about Grecian culture, COMMENT on the validity of such a practice of reading evidence. (5 points)

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Grecian culture portrayed more equality in their male and female gods, although the Grecian women lived a life of seritude.  This is portrayed in both of these urns, as women serving their leaders, being men.  These men are both seated on their “throne” and surrounded by a number of different natural objects.  You will notice the depiction of the animals and leaves.  The lion’s skin on the black and white urn, as well as the bird on the staf.  Hunting was also depicted here by the use of the swords and the animals – these items represented power and wealth.
Nature is very sacred to their society – they saw trees as being most sacred (sometimes even more so then the temples they stood for) and the use of the leaf material around the tops of both urns represent that sacred aspect.  Urns are also used to help in offerings.  The offering up to the gods was a ritual that was very important to their society.

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POINT: Theory

‘Commodity, Firmness and Delight.’  Three words used to describe good architecture by Vitruvius and then later Sir Henry Wotton, which are the main focus of the first section readings. Through time, these three words took on different meanings for different cultures and time periods, but one thing has remained constant.  “Architecture is the art form we inhabit.”(1)  It is solid, seemingly fluid, and able to take on different shapes while using different materials.  It is interjected into our lives and something we are forced to see.
When one things of commodity, we think of how design functions in a good way.  Is the space multi-functional or not.  An excellent example of this is the Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.(2)  This was designed by Mies van der Rohe and consists of a large open space surrounded by windows. This space is multi-functional and can be used as needed.
Firmness refers to the structural qualities of the building.  Is it structurally sound?   Does the buildings withstand certain environmental issues of a particular area at a particular time?  I am reminded of the twin World Trade Center towers that were structurally sound for the early 1970’s taking into account the codes and requirements of that time.  Noone ever expected large planes to intentionally crash into the building, but the fact that they withstood the impact and remained standing for as long as they did was remarkable.  To find out that the buildings were designed to withstand strong hurricane winds as well as a possible collision of a Boeing 707 jet (the largest jet at that time period) is quite ironic.  
Delight and beauty.  This is influenced by culture, language and age to name a few.  Although it is subjective, there are a few areas that Delight covers.  The way light effects the individual in the space.  Color, ornamentation and textures effect the way one experiences the beauty or lack their of in a space.

The Dakota – NYC (photo credit – Audra Volpi)  

One saying really stuck out for me in our Roth book.  “Architecture is arguably the most accurate, the most truly revealing, human cultural artifact.”(3)  I found this quote quite intriguing as I began to digest what it means.  From Architecture, you can tell the story of a culture no longer in existence.  It speaks volumes about the particular time period, the needs of the people, as well as the material availability.   

When I think of ‘Good Architecture’, I immediately think of a few examples in New York.  There is one building that sticks out to me – The Dakota.  This is my favorite building and I feel it perfectly portrays good architecture.  
Built in 1880-1884, this apartment building is square shaped with a center open courtyard.  There are no two apartments alike, but one thing they do share, are large parlor spaces and tall ceilings.  The stone façade with the use of iron and the patina roof give it a very solid feel.  Although an apartment building, it also has the open community spaces that can be used for large events, children playing or for gardening.  It is an excellent functional space.  I find this building exceedingly beautiful with the leveled dormers, carvings and small details of gaslights.  The situation in the city, across from Central Park near museums and subways also make this beautiful to me.


[1] Class notes and lecture dated 8/23/10

[2] Roth, Leland M. “”Commoditie” How Does the Building Function?” Understanding Architecture Its Elements, History and Meaning. 2nd ed. Westview, 2007. 14. Print

[3] Roth, Leland M. “”Commoditie” How Does the Building Function?” Understanding Architecture Its Elements, History and Meaning. 2nd ed. Westview, 2007. 12. Print

Posted in History n Theory

Reading Comprehension IAR 222-01

Select an object or a building from any time period that you believe meets Wotton’s definition (as cribbed from Vitruvius) of commodity, firmness, and delight. With an annotated image, take care to EXPLAIN the ways in which you see the definition realized through the object or building. Use design language and concepts discussed in class for dealing with precedents (5 points).


“ In Architecture, as in all operative arts, the end must direct the operation. The enbd is to build well.  Well building hath three conditions… Commodity, Firmness and Delight.”  – Sir Henry Wotton – The Elements of Architecture.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II in Milan, Italy was completed in 1877.  This is a Neo-classical covered shopping mall with masonry buildings and iron and glass arcades.  As mentioned in our Harwood book on page 10, Due to new transportation options during the Industrial Revolution, there were many new materials available for construction and the use of steel was used beautifully in this structure.
 When I read the quote from Wotton above, I immediately thought of Galleria Vittorio and how his words can relate to this building and I can break it down this way…
Commodity – the function of the space.  It refers to design that is functional in a good way.  Galleria Vittorio is a covered mall with many shops and restaurants in this urban setting.  What I appreciate about the design of this space is that it is conducive to shopping in all seasons and all types of weather.  One can stroll down the street sipping a cappuccino in the rain without getting wet.  The arcades form a crucifix pattern with a central gathering area that promotes community.  There are concerts that are performed, social events and other community functions in addition to the shopping and dining., This space is divided up into ‘indoor streets’ that can be multifunctional simultaneously, offering more options for activities for people.
Firmness – is the building structurally sound.  As I previously mentioned, this structure is made of masonry, iron and glass.  The multi-story masonry buildings tower over the streets and create a definition of space that is so strong, it gives the sense of security.  The fact that you can see the iron frame structural ceiling also creates the sense of being protected by heavy materials, all the while having the glass create this more open feel.  All of these materials together are an excellent example of creating a building of firmness.
Delight, also thought of as Beauty.  Beauty is influenced by many things, such as culture, language and age.  It is obviously different for everyone since we are not all a cookie cutter of eachother with our likes and dislikes, but I feel that this space is extremely beautiful.  I am very sunlight driven and love the sense of openness this space creates. The iron exposed ceiling frame is an exciting addition that merges the old (masonry) and the new (iron).


Working from Harwood et al’s concept of cultural precedents, select one of the contemporary textiles illustrated above and PINPOINT the influences you see from the eastern world on the production of fabric in the west. Concentrate on motifs and patterns provided in Harwood’s text (5 points).

According to Harwood’s 18th century design history book (pg. 17), “Unity, harmony and balance govern Chinese art and Architecture…. The laws of the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water govern relationships in the natural environment.”
The fabric to the right is an eastern influenced textile and some of the five elements listed above are represented, as well as naturalistic motif’s.  With the Peonies representing the earth and the lace patterns giving the feel of water and fluidity, it feels balanced and definitely harmonious.  Design, art and architecture of China and Japan have long influenced the western world as far back as classical Rome. (Harwood 18th c. pg. 15)  One would tend to believe that because of the many different cultures coming to live in the western world,  the need to bring different styles of fabrics that are familiar to the people would be an important, profitable one for manufacturers.


When considering perceptions of personal and social space, Hall and others suggest that different cultures have different space needs and attitudes. Most consider that citizens of the U.S. generally feel a need for more space. How does this play out in the classroom in which we gather for iar222? (5 points)

It is no surprise that in the United States, the trends have shown that “bigger appears to be better” when it comes to not only meal sizes, cars or quantity of “things”, but also architecture.  According to class lecture on 8/23, the average size house in 1970 was approx. 1800 sq. feet.  Today, the average size house in the United States is 3150.  It is not because people are having more children and need more space… People tend to like their “stuff”.  Currently, large open spaces in design seem to be popular and make them multi-functional.  As far as the room in which we gather for class (ferg 100), this room is set up as an auditorium.  There is a stage in the front of the room with a large projection screen and many seats for viewing.  It reminds me of an elementary auditorium.  This room is more space then we need and it puzzles me as to why we gather here for class.  The space is a poor design for what we need.  The walls are curved, which does not help project student’s voices well from one side of the room to the other.  What we have is not enough space, it is too much space and it is not laid out well for what we need.  Chairs are too small and too close together, in addition to their being a lack of legroom.  For a class such as this, the room would work better to remove all of the chairs and either have large couches or long tables and chairs where people could spread out.  I personally would welcome the ability to view some pictures in textbooks while lecture is going on so that I could visually relate more to the spaces being discussed.

SPECULATE about whether or not there can be an architecture of happiness, as de Botton writes in the work by the same title. Provide a juicy quote that helps give evidence to your views from the passage that you read. Include an annotated image of a happy object, space, building, or place and specify WHY and HOW your example exudes happiness (5 points)

“Architecture asks us to imagine that happiness might often have an unostentatious, unheroic character to it, that it might be found in a run of old floorboards or in a wash of morning light over a plaster wall….”
I love this quote from de Botton’s book, “the Architecture of Happiness”, as it goes to show that architecture is not only about the structure itself… it is about what you experience in the space and explains why I passionately feel that there is an architecture of happiness.  I experience it daily when I walk home from school and see varied styles of architecture; walking into my own home which was built in the 1920’s and experiencing the 8” floor moldings and period details that were common at the time and in this area.  The amount of windows in a space to shed light on the little details yet to be found. The more you look, the more you find.  I am fascinated by details, so I am instantly happy when I experience an interesting space.  One the other end of the spectrum, I find that I am swayed by color too.  If a space is a color that is not pleasing to me, then I am not as creative, inspired or happy.
When I read the quote above while reading the excerpt in the book, I immediately thought of a home I saw a few years ago while visiting Rhinebeck, NY.  It is an impeccably restored 1875 second empire home.  I am fascinated by the attention to detail in its restoration and imagine how the tall first floor windows affect the interior space.  What materials they used; is the interior restored and does it stay true to the period?  All of these things give me hours and hours of enjoyment.  Now, I know that what is beautiful for one, is not necessarily beautiful for the other.  I love older historic structures while others enjoy more modern styles.  Architecture as Happiness is subjective. It is influenced by things such as culture, age and time period.