Ten Books on Architecture (De architectura)

Ten books on Architecture (De architectura) are still relevant today even though they are couple of millennium old. It is widely held that the books were written at the time of Augustus (height of Roman power). This is a very sustainable building design handbook, remember all heating and cooling was achieved by passive techniques. The book had a huge impact on the Renaissance period (invention of printing press helped spread the book throughout Europe) and served as a direction for lot of Renaissance architects like Brunelleschi.

Book One – The education of the Architect
Vitruvius makes the case that Architects have to be trained in multiple field through practice and theory and if they do not train in those aspects for a long period of time, then they will never be worth much.
– History to understand culture and tradition and design accordingly
– Philosophy to be high minded and honest.
– Music to understand rhythms and harmonies
– Theatre to understand acoustics
– Medicine to understand climate, air, site and water effects on human comfort.

Vitruvius talks about Order, Arrangement, Eurythmy (Beauty), Symmetry, Propriety and Economy in Architecture. Placement of the rooms should be based on wind direction and daylight.

Selection of the site for a city, public building and homes is discussed as is discussed the layout of the city to break cold winds.

Book Two – Building Materials
Vitruvius talks about different construction materials on how to make them, where to procure raw materials and how to use them.
– Brick
– Sand
– Lime
– Pozzolana
– Stone
– Timber
– Highland and Lowland Fir

Book Three – Symmetry, Proportions and Columns
Vitruvius talks about the human body, its proportions and the different temples. Roman empire was heavily influenced by the Greek civilization and it shows in the writings. Vitruvius talks about the different parts of the column and there proportions.
– Base
– Capitals
– Entablature
– Entasis (Curvature)
– Podium

Book Four – Three Orders and their application in Temples
Vitruvius talks about the three different orders their origins and their proportions, ornamentation and their use in temples. He talks about the different temples and their design with the use of the different orders.
– Ionic
– Corinthian
– Doric

Book Five – Design of the Public Buildings
Vitruvius talks about the design of different Public buildings, including how the Greeks used to design their buildings.
– Forums
– Basilica
– Treasury
– Prison
– Senate House
– Theatre
– Baths
– Palaestra (school)
– Harbors
– Shipyards

Book Six – House Design
Vitruvius talks about designing the house to meet the cultural, climate and site differences. He goes on to discuss the different rooms, their sizes and proportions.

Book Seven – Plastering/Stucco
Vitruvius talks about the materials required for plastering the techniques and application of stucco on floor and walls. He talks about the different plastering and decorating techniques for different applications including damp locations and vaults.

In the last part of the chapter Vitruvius talks about the using marble and different materials to get colors in plastering.

Book Eight – Water
Vitruvius talks about water, how to locate it. Verify if the water is good, store it using cisterns and transport it using Aqueducts.

Book Nine – Astronomy
Vitruvius talks about the sun, the path of the sun through the different zodiac signs and planets. Vitruvius moves away from Architecture and more towards being the scientist.

Book Ten – War machines
Vitruvius is writing for Augustus and talks about the different war machines including hoisting machines and other utilitarian machines like the water wheels, water mills and water screws.

To learn more about Vitruvius visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvius
Further thoughts on Ten Books on Architecture (though not from an Engineering perspective) can be read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Architectura
The book can be downloaded for free from the following location in many different formats http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20239

Five Classical Architectural Books

The following five books are the classical Architectural books that in my opinion had a significant impact on the practise and direction of Architecture. They are a must read for anyone who is involved in Architectural field.

  1. The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius
  2. Space Time and Architecture by Siegfried Giedion
  3. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi
  4. Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi
  5. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

Scale in Architecture

What has caught your attention lately? With information overload from journals, books, blogs and social media, it can get challenging to filter objects of our interest. It gets easier when something catches your eye, jumps out at you. Personal preferences and subjectivity of design cause the variation in what one might find to be ‘successful’ architecture. The question of purpose of architecture and how the buildings serve the people and communities eventually drive the success as we delve deeper into the varied approaches to design and construction. But there is something to be said of that one moment when something jumps at you as an outstanding project, a force that begs your attention following that love at first sight.

I fall in love almost every day. I am sure a lot of us do without always realizing it. Our “type” may be different, but we are all lovers of architecture for sticking to the profession through thick and thin. What defines your type? Do you have a type? Does size really matter?

As we pose the question of what catches one’s attention, the scale of projects may range from cities, urban parks, central business districts, high rises, mixed-use complexes, corporate or commercial buildings, and residential neighborhoods to single family homes. I shuffled through the recent history of my tumblr blog in pursuit of what caught my eye in the year 2011. I was surprised to see a pattern in the scale of the projects that intrigued me. They are little jewels, either set within nature or have a strong tie with landscape whence it is difficult to define whether it is architecture or landscape architecture. My words may not do the justice, so to be concise I will get right into my choicest projects and urge you to check them out. You might find yourself as much in love as me!

Roadside Reststop Akkarvikodden Lofoten, Norway By Manthey Kula Architects (via designboom.com)Roadside Reststop Akkarvikodden Lofoten, Norway By Manthey Kula Architects (via designboom.com)Roadside Reststop Akkarvikodden Lofoten, Norway By Manthey Kula Architects (via designboom.com)ar05.jpg

Waldseilgarten Mountain Resort Pfronten, Bavaria in Germany (via gizmag.com)Waldseilgarten Mountain Resort Pfronten, Bavaria in Germany (via gizmag.com)Waldseilgarten Mountain Resort Pfronten, Bavaria in Germany (via gizmag.com)portaledge-3.jpg

 Ornithological Observatory Logroño, Spain By Manuel Fonseca Gallego (via landezine.com)Ornithological Observatory Logroño, Spain By Manuel Fonseca Gallego (via landezine.com)Ornithological Observatory Logroño, Spain By Manuel Fonseca Gallego (via landezine.com)Ornithological Observatory Logroño, Spain By Manuel Fonseca Gallego (via landezine.com)

Banyan Drive Treehouse Los Angeles, CA By Rockefeller Partners Architects (via architecture4us.com)Banyan Drive Treehouse Los Angeles, CA By Rockefeller Partners Architects (via architecture4us.com)Banyan Drive Treehouse Los Angeles, CA By Rockefeller Partners Architects (via architecture4us.com)

 Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel Portland, OR By EVA Architecture (via evapdx.com)Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel Portland, OR By EVA Architecture (via evapdx.com)Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel Portland, OR By EVA Architecture (via evapdx.com)Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel Portland, OR By EVA Architecture (via evapdx.com)

Sunken Pedestrian Bridge Netherlands By RO & AD ArchitectsSunken Pedestrian Bridge Netherlands By RO & AD Architects

Seljord Lookout Points Bjørgeøyan, Seljord, Norway By Rintala Eggertsson Architects (via architizer.com)Seljord Lookout Points Bjørgeøyan, Seljord, Norway By Rintala Eggertsson Architects (via architizer.com)Seljord Lookout Points Bjørgeøyan, Seljord, Norway By Rintala Eggertsson Architects (via architizer.com)Seljord Lookout Points Bjørgeøyan, Seljord, Norway By Rintala Eggertsson Architects (via architizer.com)

Rollercoaster Beijing, China By Interval Architects (via architizer.com)Rollercoaster Beijing, China By Interval Architects (via architizer.com)Rollercoaster Beijing, China By Interval Architects (via architizer.com)

National Museum of the Marine Corps Quantico, Virginia By Fentress Architects (via archdaily.com)National Museum of the Marine Corps Quantico, Virginia By Fentress Architects (via archdaily.com)National Museum of the Marine Corps Quantico, Virginia By Fentress Architects (via archdaily.com)National Museum of the Marine Corps Quantico, Virginia By Fentress Architects (via archdaily.com)

mark dorf: environmental occupations (via designboom.com)mark dorf: environmental occupations (via designboom.com)mark dorf: environmental occupations (via designboom.com)mark dorf: environmental occupations (via designboom.com)

Digital World of Architecture

I spend four hours a day on average on the web outside my professional life. I have a web identity and partly live in that virtual world. I socialize through Facebook, communicate via six different email addresses, follow through Twitter, network through LinkedIn, survive through design competitions, and project through my blog on Tumblr. I am working on my website so I may begin to share and express. There are many people like me who live part of their lives in the digital world. I prefer my laptop to smoky casinos or crowded nightclubs and bars. When I need a break, I travel to explore unknown destinations.

I recently came across the subject of digital deaths. People are now creating “memorialized profiles” to leave their messages behind when they die. It creates a platform of communication among friends and strangers that share memories of the deceased. No, I will not invest into creating a digital legacy; it’s just interesting how we are moving away from live interactions in this Skype world. Forget the idea of research on our fingertips through World Wide Web, that’s old news. But it has transformed the society globally with one of the biggest impacts on the communication modes.

Digital Architecture has risen out of the norm as a specialty, as a style, as an architectural statement. Digital architecture is the destination commencing with the academia and passing through the competition world. It may or may not materialize, but it exists in time. Signature work of Zaha Hadid and UNStudio are examples of well established firms that specialize in digital architecture, much of which doesn’t get built. From art installations to spatial construction, digital architecture allows idea sharing at the conceptual level of our creative minds that the practical world may never accept. It is an extremely important arena of our profession that seldom is respected in lieu of the built work. There are few who have figured out a way to make a living through digital architecture. Many bring it out through retail or hospitality projects, while the starchitects use it at a grander scale. People are coming up with grand ideas everyday for energy independence through virtual modes of expression. We are able to see beyond current possibilities leading to innovations of the future.

FattyShell

Digital architecture allows you to play with the materials. While in a real project you might be bound by how large a certain rainscreen panel may be, in the virtual world you may challenge the boundaries of material possibilities. Three University of Michigan students invented the “FattyShell” couple months ago, which is “a project rooted in materials research and applications for new methods of elastic formwork casting derived from minimal surface algorithmic geometries.” By pouring concrete between two layers of rubber sewn together, a free-flowing result is created. At the same time, some students of Architectural Association Design Research Laboratory at London invented a similar product, called Grompies. They used plaster and Lycra instead of concrete and rubber. Who thought of it first, I have no clue!

Grompies

The Digital Life has its benefits. It allows innovation and interaction. The e-social networking is not a sign of a shy person or a nerd. To me it’s a sign of a person who lives and breathes what one enjoys. It brings like-minded people closer than ever. If it is used as a right tool, it can work marvels for you. I believe that it is important to know many people and know them well, not just in your hometown but worldwide. It is imperative to grow your creativity long after you have graduated through means such as digital architecture. It will keep you young and connected with the inventions worldwide.

Architects’ Responsibility in Disasters

Is it just me or has there been too much about natural calamities in the news lately? Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires, and now a volcanic eruption! All superstitions aside, what’s going on? Scientists and religious people have various opinions and are projecting increasing number of incidents in future. Although we can’t do anything to prevent these disasters, there are steps we can take to help the people that are struck by them. What is the responsibility of our profession towards such disasters?

Google ‘refugee housing’ and you’ll find numerous results for architectural solutions proposed or implemented, ranging from sand bag walls to shipping container houses. There are also enormous complaints about such solutions. We can either sit back and laugh at the debates, or take action. The question is –‘timing’. WHEN we take action may be more important than WHAT action we take. Scientists have created a long list of all the possible places that these disasters may occur in future. Unfortunately they can’t predict exactly when the disasters will take place. We can narrow down the WHERE; we don’t know the WHEN. Why should we wait for the WHEN? Let’s figure out the WHAT first! What do we do as architects? We need to plan for disasters beforehand instead of being reactive each time.

Last year the number of people living in urban areas crossed the line of rural area world population for the first time. The highest degree of life loss will occur in major cities when nature strikes. Most of these cities will be along the coast. Our own region sits on a fault line and when the earthquake hits, loss of life may be enormous. The competitive business life may lead us towards the rush for clients. But we play a major role in the survival and deaths of those hit by disasters. The highest life loss is a result of bad architecture and construction. When we think of refugee camps, think of the separated families, of a person who lost a limb, a lady who is pregnant, a blind person, a crying child… They are people just like us lost in the hustle and bustle. Other than food and water, they need immediate SHELTER.

The architectural solution should be quick to install, easy to transport, durable, flexible, humane, and adaptable to the region. The layout should create a livable community with shared facilities as well as individual privacy. Needless to say, the structures should be environment friendly and regenerative with net zero energy and water use. Aesthetics should not be negated just because these are temporary structures. Think of the structures that are built for the Olympics. How much thought goes in those! If we can respect the recreation needs, we certainly need to respect the shelter needs. Many of us have more time at hand than before. Why not put our heads together and design for the next disaster now, before we scramble to find another shipping container!

I took the liberty of sharing my opinion. Now it’s your turn to share your creative solutions. If you didn’t participate in the COD Ideas competition, make sure to check the winning solutions in June!