Equipped with the knowledge of how we perceive the characteristics of spaces, we can begin to try to understand the organization or ordering of these spaces. On our building tour we mentioned that the marble used in the Library was organized or arranged in a grid pattern. In discussing the Woolsey/Commons complex we used the word radiating. These are two systems of arranging forms in a regular way. Other examples are: linear, centralized, and clustered. These systems are available to the architect as he approaches the problem of locating rooms within buildings and buildings on the site.
Each of these systems can be understood as evoking the possibility of greater meaning as we move toward, around, and through space. Linear organizations give us a feeling of continuity and progression. In a grid pattern we experience regularity, repetition, and ease of location. Centralized arrangements suggest enclosure and security. Expansiveness is the primary sensation derived from radial organizations, while clustering provides a sense of spontaneity and peculiarity to buildings, rooms, and spaces.
To illustrate and utilize these methods of organization, students will construct two compositions of construction paper cutouts on posterboard that is 22 X 28 inches large. The cut outs will be in the shape of regular polygons and are to be arranged according to two separate systems of organization selected from the ones listed above. They , may overlap the shapes as long as the identity of the polygon is maintained. The polygons should vary in shapes and sizes and the paper can be of a single contrasting color or they may be of many colors.
This project can then be expanded by tracing the compositions and overlapping them. Each drawing should be on a separate page. When they are completed possible ways of connecting the two can be explored. They can be united at the intersection of similar shapes vat spaces that are of similar size. The drawings should be done in pencil.
Architects utilize three types of drawings to illustrate their organization of spaces within a building. They suggest the location of spaces for different activities that will take place inside the space. These drawings are the plan, the elevation, and the section. The plan exposes the arrangement of rooms within the enclosed structure and is created by “cutting through” the floors of a building horizontally, thereby exposing the rooms below. The section reveals the vertical projection of the spaces within a building and often reveals much about the building’s supporting structure. The elevation is also a vertical projection, but it is used primarily in displaying the building’s exterior.
After familiarizing students with the three different types of drawings, the following activities can be utilized to expand upon the students formative knowledge of organization.
The Most Outrageous House
This is a group activity that requires four people. Fold a piece of 14 X 18 inch paper into four panels (the fold can be made along either of the dimensions, depending upon the desire for vertical or horizontal accenting). The first student will be instructed to draw his idea of a fantastic house on any one of the panels, using any one of the types of drawings explained above. When he has completed his drawing on one of the panels he should extend short lines from the sketch into one of the adjoining panels. This drawing is to be folded so that his panel is not visible to the person who he will pass it on to. (The paper used should be opaque.) The next person is to be given the same instructions as the previous student and then pass it on to the other members of the group until all four panels have been completed.
The results will be incongruous and funny for sure, but discussion can take place about whether the house is functional (Are all the necessary activities for human inhabitation provided a space within the drawing? Are stairways and other means of passage and movement logical?).
When showing students the different types of architectural drawings from texts, one should be sure to find drawings that combine the different types. Examples can be found in most books especially those on imaginary or futurist architecture. It will make these drawings of outrageous houses seem normal.*
This activity cannot avoid the discussion of function within a building. The following project can be used to expand upon the results of these functional discussions.
Using the compositions from the activity listed under organization students can create a collage from pictures cut out of magazines that will correspond to activities that will take place in certain spaces or rooms that will be assigned to areas within the previously organized spaces. Each of the compositions should be considered as a floor plan and assigned certain functions or room designations. These should include areas for cooking, eating, sleeping, study, entertaining, storage, and washing. A brainstorming session can be held to discover other activities that can go on in the place. The pictures to be placed in this “floor plan” should indicate something about the activities that take place in the room or they can simply be of furnishings or equipment that would be found in such a space. Do not forget to include passageways, entrances, and staircases. Pictures may also be selected to give a feel of the room or show the location or view outside a window or the ambient feeling of light in each of the spaces.
After all the materials have been collected’ the students will then construct a three-dimensional model of their individual floor plans, extending the shapes to create regular solids and interior volumes.
After these models have been completed the pictures that were collected can be pasted to the “walls” on the interior of these “Outrageous Houses”. The “floor” plans should be executed as two separate pieces so that visibility is maintained into all “rooms”. The model can later be sectioned to reveal a vertical view into the “house”.
Having completed the interior, students can now precede to collect pictures that will finish the exterior of these models. Students can draw them, take original photographs of buildings in New Haven, or simply collect them from magazines. Remember too that not all surfaces of the exterior must be covered. Areas may be kept free of “decoration” to appreciate the interactions of shape and volume. The project has endless possibilities for thematic creations. So, let your imagination wander.