Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's the principle of the thing.

I wrap up the terminology blog posts with this: ordering principles. These principles guide designs and make sense out of chaos, like a roadmap: you could design anything you like any way that you like, but it won't turn out well if there isn't a guiding concept to rally behind.

An axis, for example, is a line (visible or implied) that divides symmetrically or in a balanced fashion. Put another way, it's the central point or line around which everything collects, gathers, organizes or rotates.

Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons.
Above, we can see an axis going through the middle of the Capitol Building, and all other elements arranged around it very symmetrically.

Symmetry then, to follow up, is a balanced arrangement around a central point or axis. This definition tends to go hand-in-hand with an axis, but a building or space could have more than one axis and with no symmetry, whereas symmetry demands an axis to revolve around.

Images Copyrighted by & found at Egyptian Picture Gallery.
A pyramid is one of the most basic symmetrical forms; if cut down the middle, each side would mirror the other.

But perhaps your arrangement will have asymmetrical balance, instead. One way to achieve this is through hierarchy, heightening the importance or distinguishment of a form or space through increased scale, articulation, shape, or other design principle.

Taken from Wikimedia Commons.
London's Parliament building shows hierarchy through two larger-scaled buildings attached to or associated with it, like Big Ben, while the majority of the structure follows the same pattern and shape.

Rhythm is a recurring pattern or motif - it repeats or alternates in some manner, such as through color, shape, or positioning.

Image credit: Architectural Digest.
In the room above designed by Dorothy Draper, we can see that not only do the floor tiles show rhythm, but the repetition of colors or placement of chairs do as well.

Often we see datum organizing our designs, a line, plane or volume to which other elements relate. An axis line would be a pertinent example.

Taken from Wikimedia Commons.
The layers of the Colosseum serve as the datum under which the arches gather, organizing them so that they appear in this orderly fashion.

Lastly, the practice of transformation can be a very helpful design too. Transformation takes a design and makes changes such that it still retains its original identity afterward. We can see this when comparing Bramante's and Raphael's plans for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Notice the elongation of the basic basilica plan in Raphael's version versus Bramante's more centralized and compact composition below.
Taken from Wikimedia Commons.

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