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The Language of Architecture by Val Warke, Andrea Simitch

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Whether because of an innate need or an intel-lectual
desire, much of mankind’s inventiveness—artistic and
scientific—has involved a search for order, and for new
systems of order when older systems seem insufficient.
We look for order in nature and, if we suspect that it
is not there, we find ways to formulate the disorder, to
A reason that the orders of architecture have occupied much of architectural is that they
inevitably brought order to programs that were becoming increasingly complex.
21
order
THE LANGUAGE OF ARCHITECTURE
program randomness, to find complex layers
of order in chaos.
In architecture, the concepts of order that
are evident in a design can affect our
understandings of a design’s intended uses,
of its potential alternate use patterns, of its
sociocultural milieu, and of its designer’s
attitudes and priorities. This is as true for the
design of a doorknob as of a city.
Repetition
A basic design tenet has always been that
“like elements should be treated alike, and
different elements should be treated
differently.” This is especially helpful in large
complexes when there is a field comprising
many similar units (such as housing) against
which one can identify a number of unique
objects (community facilities).
Also, whereas some projects might be
designed to suggest to observers something
mysterious or ineffable, it is much more
common that a work communicates a sense
of engagement—such as probable entries
and possible destinations—and, at times,
even a sense of program. An observer’s
recognition and identification of such
components (the first stage of a discursive
engagement) can occur at the level of the
system, of the unit, or of the increment.
To this end, similar elements are most often
placed together in a row, in a stack, or in a
mat. The degree of similarity (as with two
versus one bedroom apartments) or the
irregularity of secondary attributes (terraces
appearing off living versus dining rooms)
may suggest an overlaid system, a counter-
point rhythm.
The apparently endless repetition of objects
is undoubtedly dramatic in certain circum-
stances, rousing the sense of awe that can be
inspired by magnitude. However, when the
designer is required to accommodate a large
number of similar elements for inhabitation—
twelve iconic single-family
houses has been repeatedly
stacked, with each “house”
focusing on a remote
landscape. The intersecting
volumes introduce an interior
spatial complexity that cuts
diagonally up and across the
domestic shells.
nonhierarchical space without
orientation or reference, a
city of the dead that is
subsequently appropriated
and brought back to life only
by an engaged public. Peter
Eisenman: Berlin, Germany,
completed 2004.
The iconic form of the single
family house has been
abstracted, repeated, and
aggregated to form
Vitrahaus—a showroom for
domestic furniture designed
by Herzog & de Meuron in
2006–09 in Weil am Rhein,
Germany. A suburban field of
An undulating landscape of
2,711 concrete blocks of
varying heights memorializes
the approximately 6 million
Jews who were killed during
the Holocaust. The seemingly
infinite pattern of blocks
creates an intentionally
Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67,
(constructed 1964–67) in
Montreal, Canada, arranges
354 externally similar,
prefabricated concrete units
stacked in three pyramids to
produce a dense urban
structure. The suburban
prototypical characteristics
of individual identity,
exterior gardens, and
multiple levels are combined
with the urban prototype of
communal dwelling, building
density, and collective
amenities. Up to eight
concrete boxes are linked in a
variety of combinations to
provide a range of dwelling
sizes, each with multiple
views and exterior terraces.
(continued on page 177)

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