Architectural Concepts

Architectural concepts are ideas that are foundational to designing great buildings and great homes. An understanding of these concepts should be useful to anyone who is either designing a new house, or wishing to evaluate the designs of others. But be forewarned. Good architecture is not based on solid science. There are no laws governing design. At best we have a lot of smart people looking at what pleases them and trying to create architectural design principles for others to follow.

This is a big topic, and it is going to take many pages to communicate these concepts. To organize this work I am dividing it into sections.

The first section I will call architectural philosophy. These concepts are what forms an architects core values and are the subject of violent debate within the architectural community. In this section I will deal with the main schools of architectural thought as it exists today.

In the second section I will offer up practical principles of design. These are common to all design, but I have pulled just those that have an application to architecture.

In the third section I will dip my toe into the world of pattern language. Pattern language is a new alternative to the traditional design methods, but it is perhaps the most conservative of all systems of design. It offers up historical examples of design solutions to common problems and in doing so seeks to reinforce or reintroduce patterns that have already found acceptance. Here is the layout for “Architectural Concepts”:

Architectural Philosophy

  1. Vitruvius’ Philosophy
  2. Ruskin's Philosophy
  3. Modernist Architecture
  4. Postmodern Architecture
  5. Traditionalist Response, the New Urbanists and A Pattern Language

Principles of Design

  1. Line
  2. Mass / Shape
  3. Light / Shadow
  4. Color Theory
  5. Texture
  6. Balance
  7. Scale
  8. Proportion
  9. Gestalt Laws
  10. Gestalt Principles
  11. Pattern/Rhythm
  12. Unity
  13. Theme/Variation
  14. Harmony
  15. Emphasis / Focal Point
  16. Order
  17. Propriety
  18. Economy

Design Inspirations

  1. Biophilic Design
  2. Biomimcry

Pattern Language

  1. Pattern #37, House Cluster (with #38, Row Houses and #61, A Small Public Square)

Architectural concepts are also a little like poetry. Poetry relies on meter and rhyming patterns to create a rhythm. Throw in the appropriate theme and well-chosen words to create a mental picture and you can have something sublime. Mess up one of these and you have a jingle, or a jumble, but you don’t have great poetry.

At the same time, the great poets regularly violate the basic rules of poetry. They can do this because they have mastered the basics and they can see beyond the rules. Great architecture is sometimes like this. Something might be out of place, but it adds value rather than diminishing its worth.

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