Chapter 1: Primary Elements
There are four prime generators of form, point, line, plane, and volume. A point indicates a position in space. A point extended becomes a line that defines length, direction, and position. A line extended becomes a plane that defines length and width, shape, surface, orientation, and position. Finally, a plane extended becomes a volume that defines length, width, and depth, form and space, surface, orientation, and position.
A point marks a position in space. A point has no length, width, or depth. Therefore, it is stationary, directionless, and centralized. As a primary element, a point can mark the two ends of a line, the intersection of two lines, the meeting of lines at a corner plane or volume, or the center of a field.
Although a point has no shape or form, it can make its presence felt when placed in a visual field. When at the center of its environment, a point is stable and at rest. The surrounding elements are organized about and around the centralized point. However, when the point is moved off center, it becomes more aggressive and competes for visual supremacy. This creates visual tension between the point and its field.
A point also has no dimension. To visibly mark a position in space or on a grounded plane, a point must be projected vertically into a linear form, such as a column, obelisk, or tower. Any type of columnar element is seen in a plan as a point and therefore retains the visual characteristics of a point. Other point generated forms that share these visual attributes are the circle, cylinder, and sphere. A point on a circle can be seen on the Tholos of Polycleitos (Epidauros, Greece, c.350 BCE). Point can be seen on a cylinder on the Baptistery at Pisa, Italy (1153-1265 CE). Point can be seen on a sphere on the Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton (1784)
Two points describe a line that connects them. Although points give this line a finite length, the segment can also be considered a part of an infinitely longer line. Two points further suggest an axis perpendicular and symmetrical to the line they describe. Due to the axis possibly being infinite in length, it can appear, at times, to be more dominant than the described line. Two points established in a space by columnar elements or centralized form can also define an axis. An axis has been used throughout history to organize building forms and spaces. Additionally, in plan, two points can designate a gateways to signify passage from one place to the next. When extended on a vertical plane, the two points define the plane of entry and a perpendicular approach.
A point extended becomes a line. By definition, a line has length, but has no width or depth. By nature, a point is static, whereas a line describes the path of a point in motion, and is visually capable of expressing direction, movement, and growth. A line can join, link, surround, or intersect other visual edges, as well as describe the edges of planes, as well as shaping the edges of planes and articulating the surface of planes.
Despite a line only having one dimension, a line must have some degree of thickness to become visible. A line is only seen because its length dominates its width. The character of a line, thick or thin, bold or weak, graceful or jagged, is determined by our perception of its length to width ratio, its surface contour, and its continuity. The repetition of similar elements can be perceived as a line. The orientation of a line affects its role in a visual construction. A vertical line can express an overall state of equilibrium against the force of gravity, symbolize the human condition, or mark a position, a horizontal line can represent stability, the ground plane, the horizon line, or a body at rest. An oblique (diagonal) line can be seen as a falling vertical line, or a rising horizontal line.
Vertical linear elements, such as columns, obelisks, and towers have been used historically to establish definite points in space. Examples include Menhir, Obelisk of Luxor, and the Column of Marcus Aurelius. Linear elements with the necessary strength can perform structural functions, such as providing support for an overhead plane. Lines can also express edges and surfaces of planes on a smaller scale. Buildings can also be in linear form. Linear elements can define a plane as well, as seen in colonnade entablatures and basilica plans.
A line extended in a direction other than its inherent direction is considered to be a plane. A plane has length, width, but no depth. Shape is the defining characteristic of a plane. It is determined by the contour of the lines forming the edges of a plane. We can only see the true shape of a plane when faced frontally due to our perception of shape being shortened due to foreshortening. Surface color, pattern, and texture are supplementary properties of a plane. These properties affect a planes visual weight and stability. In architecture, planes define three-dimensional volumes of space and mass. The properties of each plane, its shape, color, and texture, and spatial relationship determine visually, the attributes of the form they define and the spatial quality they enclose.
Architects generally manipulate three types of planes when designing, overhead plane, wall plane, and base plane. The overhead plane serves as a roof plane that encapsulates and shelters the interior spaces of a building from climatic elements, or a ceiling plan that closes off the interior of a room. A wall plane is the vertical aspect of room and is always active in our field of vision. . It is vital to the shaping and enclosure of a room space. A base plane serves as the ground plane or the physical foundation and visual base for a building. It can also serve as a floor plane that forms the lower enclosing surface of a room.
The ground plane supports all of a structures architectural construction. As well as with climate related issues and environmental conditions of a construction location, the topographical character of the ground plane influences the form of the structure that is built upon it. The ground plane is often manipulated in order to establish a podium for a building form. It can be elevated, buffered, carved, terraced, constructed and demolished in order to provide the needed platform. It can also be stepped or ramped in order to provide a walkway or passage. Examples of this architecture can be seen in the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, where three terraces are ramped towards the base of the cliff the temple is carved out of. Another example would be Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan City that straddles the Andes Mountain range in south central Peru.
The floor plain is the horizontal element that sustains the force of gravity as we move about and place objects for our use on it. It may be a durable cover over the ground plain or an artificial elevation above the ground plane. Regardless, the density, texture, and composition of the floor plane directly influences the acoustic quality of the room, as well as the physical contact with the floor. Similar to the ground plane, the form and shape of the floor plane can be manipulated, stepped, or terraced to create spaces and areas for sitting, viewing, preforming, and lounging. It can also be elevated or depressed, constructed and destroyed.
Exterior wall planes can be used to isolate a fragment of space to create a controlled interior environment. The construction provides privacy and protection from environmental and climatic elements for the interior of the building. Openings in these planes, such as windows, provide a connection to the outside environment as well. While these planes shape and mold interior spaces and sections, they simultaneously shape and mold exterior space and define the form, massing, and overall image of the building. When serving as a design element, the plane of an exterior wall can be articulated as the front or primary façade or face of a building. In an urban climate, the facades serve as walls that define courtyards, streets, and various public gathering spaces such as squares, parks, and marketplaces. This architecture can be seen in the Uffizi Palace in Italy, which is defined by the winged street that links the Piazza della Signoria with the River Arno. Another example would be the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, and its continuous façade that form the walls of a public, urban space.
An interesting usage of the vertical wall plane is as a supporting element in a bearing-wall structural system. When properly arranges in a parallel series to support an overhead roof or floor plane, bearing walls define linear slots of space with strong directional qualities. These spaces can be related to one another only by interrupting the bearing walls to create perpendicular zones of space.
Interior wall spaces