chapter  7
16 Pages

Architectural Expression: Form, Quality, and Purpose

When we rst observe a building we begin by considering whether it coheres as a distinct and identiable whole. We subsequently examine its composition,1 the ways in which its volumes, its elements, and materials are arranged. We also note how the elements of the composition are tectonically joined. Composition and tectonics display to us how the building is made. Next, we observe how the building meets a street alignment, how it turns a corner, how it inects, how it helps to enclose a square, and the hierarchical relationship it has with adjacent buildings. Scrutinizing the façades we can imagine the building’s plans and sections, the disposition of rooms, and the sequence in which they may be arranged. We can imagine the utility that the building fullls. We observe the openings, the moldings, the cornice, the roof, and their proportional relationships. Afterwards, we make mental comparisons to other similar buildings, noting their commonalities, their dierences, and their propriety to their context. But this is half of the observation. The other half pertains to how all these elements and their qualities convey to our understanding the building’s chief property: its character, and whether this character suits our assumption and expectation of what the building’s purpose may be. Architectural expression invites judgment. We judge whether the purpose of a library, a market, a school, or a house has been properly expressed by the architect because we expect each building to have its own identity and because we understand identity to mean, at once, something unique and something commonly shared by buildings of the same kind. This, in brief, is one possible sequence of observations that relates our conceptual understanding of architecture in general, with the empirical experience of examining one particular building.