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The Language of Architecture by Val Warke, Andrea Simitch

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Size is how big something is—its actual dimension.
However scale is relative, it can be defined only in
relation to something. That something can be the
whole—in other words, a door has a scale in relation
to the surface in which it is located—or the perceived,
as in the position of the observer, from where (what
Scale can be fleeting or even imaginary, relational or perceptual.
12
scale
entry door abnormally
enlarged, at a scale
appropriate to the ritual of
procession. Once inside, a
long, low horizontal window
at the eye level of seated
parishioners returns the
structure to human scale,
emphasizing the expanse of
the horizon and the valley
beyond.
The profile of Alvar Aalto’s
ceramic-clad volume of
the1968 Nordic House in
Reykjavík, Iceland, is shaped
simultaneously by the
acoustical necessities of the
auditorium that it encloses
and the mountainous
silhouette of the distant
Mt. Esja beyond.
Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del
Mondo, constructed for the
Venice Biennale in 1979,
endlessly manipulates our
perception of the existing
context. As this temporary
structure literally floats into
proximity with the city’s
great churches, their scale is
suddenly transformed from
monumental and massive to
pavilionesque and fleeting.
Álvaro Siza’s Santa Maria
Church in Marco de
Canavezes, Portugal (1996),
manipulates scale in relation
to multiple contexts. From
the square below, it appears
to be a modest church atop a
hill, with a traditional window
indicating its nave (although
this window is, paradoxically,
unseen from the interior).
Upon the hill, one finds the
distance, what orientation) he or she is
located. Scale is dependent on context, a
context that can range from the smallest
nanoparticle to a vast landscape. Scale is
fleeting, as a building for example can
simultaneously belong to multiple scales.
And, finally, there is the imagined scale—
where the mythology of the object has
established a scale greater or smaller than
the actual. How many times have we come
upon something that we have always read
about or seen in images and think, “Oh, how
much smaller (or larger) it actually is!” where
its “reality,” once contextualized, is vastly
distinct from its imagined scale?
BODY
The body is a powerful determinant of scale.
It has the ability to generate measure through
either its necessity to physically engage an
environment at multiple scales and at multiple
speeds (be it a handle, a car, a parade) or
through locating its eye in relationship to that
environment (a window, a vista) so that it can
be perceptually experienced.
Physical
The height of a stair riser, the height and
profile of a handrail, the proportions of a
chair are all scaled to interact with the
dimensions of the human body. The body’s
(continued on page 112)
THE LANGUAGE OF ARCHITECTURE

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