Miramare Castle, Trieste Italy

Austrian architect Carl Junker designed an estate for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian at the Gulf of Trieste in northern Italy. The Archduke had chosen the rocky outcropping after taking shelter there from a storm. The castle was designed in 1856 under close supervision of the archduke and built under the craftsman Franz Hofman in 1860.

As an engineer of aqueducts and canals, Carl Junker was perhaps less familiar with architecture. The style blends Gothic and Medieval residential architecture frequently seen in his home country. Miramare resembles any of the castles that dot the Rhein river. But some features distinguish it as Mediterranean. Collonades and landscaping features on the 54 acre gardened grounds offer views of the water. Intimacy with nature is emphasized, as was the style of the time.

The Archiduke never got to live in his completed castle. He was killed in 1867 after being appointed emperor of Mexico. His wife, Charlotte of Belgium, had a nervous breakdown and stayed at the Castelletto, a smaller version of the castle that Maximilian had built nearby.

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Park Güell, Barcelona Spain

Antoni Gaudí designed the Park Güell on El Carmel in Barcelona, completed in 1914. The site was originally a Garden City planned by Count Eusebi Güell. It was chosen for its view of the city and distance from smoky factories. Gaudi bought a home in the failed Garden City and transformed the site to a surreal architectural complex.

A formal arrangement begins with two buildings on either side of the entrance. A grand staircase weaves around a mosaic of a salamander. A sea serpent winds around to form sitting areas. Natural-looking and classical columns hold up intrusions into the earth.

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A Model To Fix What Is Wong With The American City: Speyer, Germany

American cities are empty gatherings, devoid of culture and community. By considering the model of a city that is functional but also comfortable, we can explore what our cities are missing and how we can fix them.

The American city often lacks heritage, location, planning, connection, and innovation with cultural distinction. Some of these things can be more easily achieved than others, and we can look to current examples of successes to learn how to encourage these traits. Speyer stands out because it contains these characteristics. The people there are happy because of their community involvement and sustainable lifestyle.


Founded in 10 B.C., Speyer it is one of the oldest still-existing cities in Europe. Speyer was thrust into the spiritual center of Germania with the rise of Konrad II. The Speyer cathedral was built in 1061. Yet despite the large religious presence in Speyer, “the bishopric of Speyer never became an imposing principality.” 1

Emperor Charles V had sought reconciliation between the Catholic majority and the Lutherans at the Second Diet of Speyer. When he later overturned this, Speyer became its own country Reichstadt Speyer. Although it only lasted for a little over a month, the small country changed the world’s religious landscape as the Protestant religion was officially founded there. Jews also found unusual acceptance in Speyer, and built a large synagogue.

For these religious reasons and its proximity between Germany and France, Speyer was the center of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and Hitler’s Gleichschaltung.

As is often seen in ancient places, Speyer's long history of brutal attacks and ravages have left it characteristically humble. This history remains with the few descendants of families that have remained in Speyer for centuries. Much of Speyer’s significant architecture also remains to monumentalize its past.

Which American city can boast such a heritage? Only Philadelphia and Washington D.C. have been places of real historical significance. No American city is more than a few hundred years old. The most important part of the American city is missing is heritage.

Yet, John D. Kasarda claims that new cities have the advantage. New cities can more easily adapt and exploit changes to the larger economic community. Unencumbered by aging infrastructure, declining industry, and demographic borders, they can be more economically vibrant and territorially expansive. Old cities can compete economically and culturally only if population dispersal is treated carefully and shrinkage is planned. 2


Speyer lies on a strong upper-bank of the Rhine, between Bavaria and France. The proximity to various resources affords considerable economic and cultural benefits. As well as having a beautiful natural surrounding, Speyer's nearness to such rich and diverse cities and countries allows great "spontaneity of free human exchange." 3

The United States was founded because of its opportune location between Europe and Asia. It is defendable and also a vital trading point. But Speyer isn’t the center of attention. Nearby Heidelberg and Mannheim have greatly grown in population while Speyer hasn't.

This fortunate circumstance is the result of unfortunate events: frequent displacement of the city dwellers. The residents of Speyer had been displaced several times and the Jews had been completely killed off.

Nevertheless, Speyer now acts as a self-effacing circuit city. Intentional strategies such as growth-belts can be used for controlling land and population growth, but Kasarda points out that a city's life-cycle will naturally flush out and introduce populations. The city should take a sensitive role in displacing populations from the city. 2

A city needs something it is well known for. Speyer is a tourist attraction due to its cathedral, clock tower, Technik Museum, and Brezelfest (pretzel festival.) The local geographic surroundings are naturally the most common staple of a city, but weather also cements a city's character.

San Francisco has chipper ocean fog, Seattle has rain, Miami has sunshine, Chicago has wind, etc. People must experience the city's distinct surroundings to appreciate a distinct character of the city. In Speyer, the only real mitigation of moist summer heat in Speyer comes from courtyards and thermal mass in the dense urban center. Also, materials in Speyer are natural and often locally made. Perhaps the only fake material is found at the ugly modernist Bahnhof (train station), which is unfortunately the first thing most visitors see. Sustainable, natural, locally made materials connect the people to the natural environment, connect buildings to the natural landscape and to each other, are generally healthier, and are healthier for the environment.

City Planning

The city must fit into the international, national, and regional contexts. The great humanist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe declared “Gothic” to be the style of good German residential buildings. He took exception to the idea that four columns like four tree trunks form the primeval hut. “Our houses are not made up of four columns in four corners,” he said, “they emerge from four walls on four corners... and where you find [columns] applied, they become burdensome.” 4

The societal rules inflicted by column orders, as opposed to mere separation of space, shape forms in Speyer. Speyer's Catholic Cathedral is a light Romanesque building rather than Gothic, perhaps the greatest Romanesque architecture in Germany. The nearby Protestant Cathedral, however, is a great dark Gothic structure. This contradiction highlights the great religious strife, and compromise, that has engrossed the region. The other structures hold themselves to no such order, freedom from societal control.

There still needs to be comprehensive formal planning. Formal and individual planning creates layers. The city is organic and efficient. Frequent ravages and destruction afforded opportunities for hierarchal and axial city planning. The medieval city center has been largely preserved, a dense cultural, economic, and religious center (see image.) This is surrounded by neighborhoods of various residential densities, ethnicities, and age.

Roger Trancik is very explicit about how zoning needs to work in a city. Historic precedence needs to be respected, in the form of squares or large churches and the buildings around that should leave pockets of negative space for gathering and socializing. In Speyer this is achieved by formal planning surrounding large historically significant landmarks. Trancik's answer for good residential building is "consistency in materials... deference to human scale... and by sequence of spaces defined by buildings, walls, gateways, and spires." 5

In the 1960's, the main street was closed to automobile traffic and became a great Fussgängerzon (pedestrian zone.) Yet residential space pervades the city core, tightly restrained and conforming. Even in the outlaying neighborhoods, land-owners simply can't get selfish with their designs. Overall, the density is 3,000 people per square mile- not a lot by any means, but impressive for such a tiny city. Vast parks and squares combined with thin streets further prevent "lost space."

American cities can achieve this by mixed zoning, reducing automobile traffic, emphasizing historical and humanistic landmarks as points of linkage, and by the creation of a human-scale city center. More than once, average Germans remarked to me that the greatest problem with American cities is the lack of a pedestrian zone in the city center. “A city needs a center!” I often heard. The residential neighborhoods need something to link to. The American suburbs don't really link to anything but themselves.

The city needs pockets for gathering, parks and playgrounds,along these linkages. Speyer's pedestrian zone between the clock-tower and Cathedral points to a massive park tucked behind the cathedral along the Rhein river, next to the Technik museum. Historic excavations are showcased in this lush green park. One proceeds along the path and the active topography and large trees give way to an impressive view of the river. Because this park is right next to the city center, next to the museum, close to the main high school (gymnasium), and is used as a pedestrian thoroughfare, it is a popular place for tourism, transportation, or just relaxing.

In addition, Speyer has an array of other parks close to important places and along important linkages. Another popular park across the railroad tracks hosts the city's main youth center. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco hosts important places such as the De Young Museum, but isn't very successful because there is little residential around it these days, and because it isn't by a necessary pedestrian thoroughfare.

Central Park in New York is a better American example. It is surrounded by dense residential as well as important places such as the Metropolitan Art Museum, and it is often used as a pedestrian thoroughfare. It is necessary for American cities to have a variety of parks and squares that follow this fashion.

Because the medieval streets are so thin, mass transit is most convenient in Speyer. By train, Manheim is only 20 minutes away, and Heidelberg is only 45 minutes away. Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Strasburg, and Luxembourg are all within 2 hours by train. The frequency of trains, and Speyer’s large bus system, is quite impressive. In addition to the train, heavily used pedestrian paths link to all the cities surrounding Speyer. America desperately needs this emphasis on sustainable and mass transportation to relieve traffic congestion and to clean our air.

Frequent city-wide events foster human culture in the community. In addition to national holidays like Faschings and Weihnachts (Christmas), the entire city gets together in the city center for festivals every few weeks in the summertime. The pedestrian zone is lined with booths offering food and events for these festivals. After dark, the fun continues at the park with concerts and dancing. The emphasis on community in all types of city planning is evident when one first moves in: A few days after I officially moved into Speyer I received a friendly letter of welcome from the mayor which detailed yearly community events.

This amiable culture is a rebound from the difficult past. Speyer had long been a beacon to the abject, the Jews and Protestants. But isn’t that what America is supposed to be? “Bring us your oppressed!” Perhaps simple humanistic city planning can link our society to that heritage we should have, a truly liberal and inclusive people.

Mixing the new and the old, the rich and the poor, as Jane Jacobs suggests would help a lot. If we had a variety of residential structures, with residential present everywhere in the city, those necessary connections would be built. Architectural orders should not be used to distinguish class rank in homes or to pretty up store façades. They should be a used as a monument to our history. We need mass transportation, pedestrian linkages, and pedestrian zones to get people together. The city needs autonomous community events and holidays that people actually celebrate as a community.

Innovation & Cultural Distinction

“A great city is always tolerant, even permissive, and provides outlets for a wide range of human pleasures and vices.” 3

Ian Fleming listed hot girls and food as elements of a “thrilling city.”6 Food and hot girls always help. The City of Sin is not necessarily successful because these things are so readily available. But perhaps one of the reasons drug-use in middle-class suburbs is high is not because our communities are so morally sterile, but because they are simply ambivalent as a community. Tracy Certo claims that a city that welcomes young talent, is connective within itself and with other communities, fosters innovation, and yet holds on to its distinctive qualities will be reinvigorated. 7

Community connection is at the core of this issue, says the group “CEOs for Cities.” An emphasis on formal institutions of learning, families and neighborhoods, and wider tools of learning will encourage success as “people mix and mingle, sharing and combining ideas from different vantage points and traditions.” It isn’t dealing with “clockwork” of systems as many treat it, but “clouds” of people-- innumerable particles that easily disperse. Broad gestures and the little things make the difference in cultural distinction. 8 A smaller community more easily establishes a culture all its own, but state-of-the-art newness also needs to occur.

Speyer shows Jane Jacobs was correct that new architecture needs to mingle with the new. A dazzling new bridge spans the Rhein.

It is education, however, that really invigorates Speyer. There are no less than 28 schools of various types and sizes crammed within Speyer. There is a top university in nearby Gernsheim. The global market for knowledge and ability is greater than the supply, greater than ever before. The world-class Technik Museum in Speyer compares classic achievements in aviation to new opportunities afforded by technology.

Healthcare is another point of emphasis. A large part of Speyer’s population is elderly, and there are many homes dedicated to care of the elderly. The old or sick can attend the nearby “health-wall,” a large wooden structure of seaweed and plants with water pouring down it as air passes through and is cleansed. Youth centers and parks further promote interactive learning and health treatment.

The most naturally diverse cities in America bring us the most innovation. Silicon Valley in California has a diverse ethnic population and world-class education facilities. Chicago and New York City likewise. But smaller cities can also have a unique culture and technological innovation by implementing community linkages and fostering individual responsibility in education and health.

The community should pull together and care about politics, actually take control over their politicians. Each person, each "particle in the cloud" carries responsibility for each educative unit. The children must be educated in formal institutions, but also by families and neighborhoods. And finally, the community should care for the sick, disabled, and elderly. Citizens of Speyer interact with other people on their community daily, yet welcome innovative economics and new and different people to their town. They frequently visit nearby towns for shopping and business, and most take vacations out of the country at least once a year.

Many cities rely on a town hall. Some have "community centers" complexes. But a community center isn't enough. Formal planning fosters pedestrian traffic and human interaction. Hierarchal city planning with linkages to monuments and sustainable elements will help care for education and promote the mixing and interaction that bring a community together. A city can be small and tight-knit, yet inclusive and innovative.

Greater Role Of The Resident

It is up to the city planners, the politicians, but also each and every resident to make humanistic decisions that will make a city a much better place to live in America.

We have a significant heritage in America that needs to be imprinted into our cities, our monumental buildings and architectural language. Each city needs to emphasize its distinctive qualities by sustainable material use, linkages to historical places, omnipresent unassuming residential zones, and collaborative events that bring the community together. As our cities age, we can establish heritage and community by promoting pedestrian use, mass transit, carefully designed parks and squares, and a pedestrian-only city center.

Excitement and innovativeness in these communities isn't clockwork or found on a moral compass. It isn't about what is most "comfortable," but emphasizes the educative and health needs of each person. Our irresponsibility diminishes our liberal and inclusive heritage. But it can be encouraged by implementing these simple qualities into our cities. Many issues dogging our cities- drugs, crime, low test scores, pollution, illness, depression, rudeness, etc.- can then, perhaps, just take care of themselves.

© Benjamin Blankenbehler
Originally written for the University of Idaho, 2007


^Lawrence G. Duggan "Bishop and Chapter: The Governance of the Bishopric of Speyer to 1552" October, 1979 from Speculum, Vol. 54, No. 4. pp. 799-800

^R.D. Norton "City Life-cycles and American Urban Policy" March, 1983 from The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 88, No. 5. pp. 1065-1067

^"What makes a City Great" 14 November, 1969 Time Magazine

^Johann Wolfgang von Geothe "Von deutscher Baukunst" 1772, BA Bd. 19, S. 29 ff.

^Roger Trancik "Finding Lost Space: Theories of Urban Design" 1986, pp.97-107, 108

^See: Ian Fleming "Thrilling Cities" 1963

^Tracy Certo "What makes a City Smart?" 1 November , 2006, from Pop City

^Joseph Cortright "Remixing Cities: Strategy for the City 2.0" October 2007 from CEOs for Cities

^Joseph Cortright "Remixing Cities: Strategy for the City 2.0" October 2007 from CEOs for Cities

Jahangir Mahal, Agra Fort India

Jahangir Palace is the largest part of Agra Fort in Uttar Pradesh, India. Emperor Akbar built the palace in the 16th century after he made the site on the bend of the Yamuna river his capital. He launched a massive rebuilding campaign of the fort, completing it in 1573.

Akbar built the Orcha palace for his son Jahangir. Jahangir's wife Nur Jahan resided in the palace. Instead of using the same red sandstone that is found at Agra, Jahangir's son Shah Jahan chose white marble when he built the Taj Mahal for his wife next door.

The Jahangir palace is one of the top examples of Mughal Architecture, with intricate Hindu and Islamic motifs. Only 30 of the original 500 buildings at the site survive. Much of the fort was destroyed by Shah Jahan and later by the British invaders.

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Munchkin Symbolism In Wizard Of Oz

Dorothy literally died in the Wizard Of Oz. Like Dorothy said in the film, "But it wasn't a dream, it was a place... this was a real, truly live place." 1

Symbol of Munchkin Garden
Symbol of the Tornado
Symbol of Dorothy's Cottage

The struggles and wonders in the land of Oz represented her journey toward rebirth. Author L. Frank Baum was a Theosophist who believed in rebirth. His book contains hidden references to his mystic beliefs about death and the afterlife.

Small-Folk Of The Afterlife Garden

The land of the Munckins represents the post-death Garden of Eden. The ancient garden of paradise was found after death. It was one step in the dead's journey, and took place at the temple.

Egypt was an oasis surrounded by desert or water, like the land of Oz. The garden temple of Philae, located on an island in the Nile, was use as an example of Egypt's version of Adam and Eve. The water had to be crossed for Adam to unite with his love, Eve. He “arrived on the bank of the river and beheld the walls of the castle, but was unable to reach the island, for the water all around it was alive with crocodiles. As he stood lamenting his fate one of the dangerous monsters offered to convey him to the island… The lover was thus able to reach the prison of his mistress, and the guards suffered him to remain on the island…” 2

Celtic legends are similar. They believed in an “island of the amorous queen” which was “encompassed by ‘a great white rampart,’” like Egypt’s temple. It had a sacred fiery cat, a serpent-monster, and “a single apple tree… the tree of life.” The earliest inhabitants of this garden were “tiny... dwarfs or dwarfish people... The wee folk of the legends... From no other land or literature than the Egyptian can we explain the wee folk in the fairy mound or Sid.” 3

This is where we get Munchkins. They are part of the ritual that represents the journey to rebirth:

“Various episodes of the passage through the nether earth and over the waters to the upper paradise that were represented in the drama of the mysterious and detailed in the mythos have been reduced to mere allusions in the Ritual…” 3

Represent Childlike State

The Munchkins were small and childlike because Adam and Eve were in a childlike state in the garden. They were innocent like a child. But Dorothy's innocence was lost when Dorothy became a killer. She killed the Wicked Witch:

“You are welcome, most noble Sorceress, to the land of the Munchkins. We are grateful to you for having killed the wicked Witch of the East, and for setting our people free from bondage.’

Dorothy listened to this speech with wonder. What could the little woman possibly mean by calling her a sorceress, and saying she had killed the wicked Witch of the East?....

‘She has held all the Munchkins in bondage for many years, making them slave for her night and day. Now they are all set free, and are grateful to you for the favor.’” 4 (21-23)

Dorothy’s defeat of the Wicked Witch is similar to the woman Eve's defeat of the evil serpent. The name Dorothy is of Greek origin, meaning “gift from God.” Like the Egyptian version of Eve, Dorothy destroyed the adversary of mankind.

The three Munchkin leaders who ritualistically bow to Dorothy are all male. She arrives dressed in red like the morning sun. Dorothy was the light-bringer to the Munchkins like the ancient goddess Isis:

“I have arrived at your hole while traversing the mysteries of the Duat [underworld] in order to bring the light of my disk in to the mysterious place to enlighten those who sit in darkness.” 5

The book of The Nutcracker uses similar symbolism in a tale of a girl who saves a small man from enemies.
“Now Nutcracker, closely surrounded by enemies, was in great distress. He wished to spring over the ledge of the cupboard; but his legs were too short

At that instant two sharpshooters seized him by his wooden cloak. “Oh, my poor Nutcracker!” cried Marie, and her shoe with great force into the thickest mass of the mice, right upon their king. In an instant all were scattered, and fled…" 6

© Benjamin Blankenbehler 2012

Get "Hidden Symbols In The Wizard Of Oz" Now!

See also:
Symbolism of the Munchkin Garden
Symbolism of the Tornado
Symbolism of Dorothy's Kansas cottage


^All references to and quotes from the film: The Wizard of Oz dir. Victor Fleming, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939

^Karl Baedeker, Egypt and the Sudân: handbook for travellers,  (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1908), 358

^Massey, Ancient Egypt - The Light of the World…, 372

^All references to and images from the book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum, William Morrow and Company, 1900

^A. Piankoff, Livre des Quererts, BIFAO 42:5 (1944)

^Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, Carl Reinecke, Nutcracker and Mouseking a legend, (Lockwood, Brooks, 1876), 22, emphasis added


How To Develop A Design Method For Architecture

Every designer needs to understand the steps toward creation. There is no perfect design method. Some architects design by solving problems while others rely on intuition. Each project presents different needs and each designer is different.

But there is always one good design that is optimal for the unique circumstances of your project.

Theory Of Form

Sight, sound, and other sensory information from architecture influence people's perception of the material world. This is the first reason architecture is important.

The Greek philosopher Plato (427 BC) described a theory of how forms influence people. Bodily sensations reveal the material world, and the material world suggests a higher truth. The material world evokes feelings and beliefs that give people a non-material conception of reality. Architecture is a powerful force if the designer has an understanding of how truth is manifest from sensations and the material world.

Constant Change

The material world is always changing. There is a part of architecture that is constantly in flux because it reflects the natural environment. But the higher immaterial truths don't change. The material world is confusing and contradictory, but immaterial truths are enlightening and don't conflict with each other. Architecture therefore is confusing and contradictory because of the environment it is part of, but the profound truths that it reveals are permanent and unified.

Plato categorized four truths from which people discern their environment. The first two categories of truth rely on observations and predictions of the physical environment. Their sensory data gives them an idea of the material environment. The second two categories lead toward higher immaterial truths.

Images - Architecture works with images and observations from the environment, and makes it easier to figure out the material world. For example, the NCMA museum takes the form of common metal barns on an agricultural landscape. The museum visitor may not be well acquainted with agricultural barns and farming, but the form touches upon their basic understanding of what farmland is.
Observations - People have beliefs based on repeated observations of their environment. Architecture manipulates these beliefs. For example, the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles startles people with a sculptured metal form that is totally different from anything they have seen. The metal texture and building shapes of the city are rearranged and sculpted. People attempt to make sense of this new form.
Hypothesis - Science and mathematical reasoning in architecture helps people develop fundamental conclusions about their world. The Pantheon in Rome uses simple proportions, the same proportions used in religious architecture across the world, to relate the cosmic universe to people's immediate surroundings, and to break everything down to basic mathematical terms. The Pantheon brings together the urban grid, cosmic cycles, human history, religious belief, and daily routine. Mathematic proportions are the universal language of humanity.
Understanding - Complete knowledge is achieved through dialectic. Repeated images and observations of an ever-changing environment along with mathematical reasoning of repeated cycles provide an opportunity for people to consider the opposites of life. Light and darkness, happiness and sadness, good and evil, are all concepts that are understood from dialectic. A complete understanding of cycles and unity in the environment is the highest philosophical knowledge. All truth comes together in unity.

Strategies In Design

Peter Rowe describes several heuristics that help designers. Each of these strategies should be used to solve the "program" of the project:

Experiential imagining - The architect imagines what it will be like to use or occupy the space.

Literal comparison - For example, the form of a building might be derived from a map of cultural populations in the city.

Environmental considerations - Resources available, surrounding conditions, climate, social influences, etc.

Formal Languages - Established languages of design (Classical, Post-Modern, etc.) that would be appropriate for the project program.

Typology - A precedent type of architecture that already exists is used as inspiration. This applies to the building type (house, skyscraper, mall, etc.), the building arrangement (facade, store-front, etc.), and building elements (window, door, etc.).

A building is one piece of a puzzle that makes up people's beliefs. The first glimpse of a building relates it to what they have observed before. The new Reichstag in Berlin uses the classic dome form to portray a very specific meaning, a new democratic era of government. It takes what people understand about domes and changes it to say something new.

How do all the buildings relate to each other in a city? How do elements relate in a building? Typology helps solve problems in design by answering these questions in several ways.

Spatial closure - The human mind fills in the missing piece of an object. It uses memory to assume what the whole object is, like block of cheese with a wedge removed. The mind looks for closure and whatever is missing from the whole object says something about the design intent. For example, the Therme Vals Spa has geometric patches punched out of a large black box. This is a mathematical imposition on natural black stone and suggests a timeless, peaceful logic behind the wonder of nature.

Spacial continuation - The human eye fills in the gaps between objects, like a line of dots. The similarity and proximity of objects leads the human brain to connect them in a morphic line. Repeated object thus make up a bigger object or groups of objects. A group of objects relate over time as well. For example, the modern Capitol Building relates to the Pantheon in Paris and the Capitoline Hill before that.

Figure & Ground - The mind uses geometry to figure out the arrangement of objects in space. The golden mean and certain composition techniques help the viewer understand how distance relate everything.

Reference - Most architecture relates to some previous design, whether vaguely or specifically. This also applies to elements within a design. The mind is constantly referencing the space it is experiencing to other spaces. The program of a kitchen in a house relates more closely to the dining room than it does to the garage.

Archetype - In going through the experiential imagining of design, there are archetypes for people's experiences. There are certain expectations attached with going to a gas station, for example. You drive up to a pump, pay, pump gas, and leave. This expected experience can be used in designs for similar projects, or can be manipulated for a new kind of gas station. The literal comparisons of a design strategy also might come from formal archetypes.

Rules - A well-defined schedule of rules might help in typology. Building codes place many demands on a design so that it must fit certain guidelines.

The struggle to get around these rules also plays a part in the form of a building. The WoZoCo Housing in Amsterdam, for example, uses long cantilevers to achieve a large volume even though local ordinances require a small footprint.


A designer considers these strategies to achieve a form that serves their needs. The needs of a project are not always quantifiable. For example, the need for a "comfortable space" can be solved in any number of ways and it all comes down to people's individual opinions of what is comfortable. Everyone's experience in life is different.

Yet according to Plato there is an ideal form for everything. Many designers make the mistake of trying to start with an ideal form. By definition, ideal truth is immaterial. Ancient architecture considers architecture as an expansion of the ideal form. But you reach an ideal form by perfecting your design, from the bottom up.

First, try to understand the needs for your design. Then, instead of trying to make a perfect form right away, consider how nature derives its forms from trial and error. The flower was perfected over countless iterations of growth and death through the history of the earth. The designer likewise goes through many iterations with many various considerations and solutions. Information unfolds, layer upon layer, as judgments in design become more realistic to build, agreed upon, and appropriate for everybody.

Go through each category of truth as you make your way toward the ideal form: images, observations, reason, and understanding. Only through iteration in design can the imperfect human reach a great ideal form. As the architect runs through all these design strategies, he might want to consider certain aspects of the form in separate iterations. These aspects are called "domains."

A list of domains might include: Figure, scale, organization, repetition, enclosure, orientation, material, gradation, hierarchy, complexity, balance, proportion, contrast, alignment, anthropomorphism, sustainability, convergence, color.

In using these domains to achieve strategies of design, carefully consider how much to distinguish each solution.

For example, if a building is going to use both concrete and wood for building materials, how will you relate those materials to each other? For example, the Barclays Center integrates natural green roofs and rusty steel textures in a way that allows each texture to stand out and yet all relate to each other.

Use Of Artistic Mediums

Form and function of unfolds through iterations in different domains, but also through different mediums and different perspectives. The designer traces on floor plans, sites plans, section cuts, elevations, perspective views, detail views, etc. But information is also garnered from physical models and diagrams. Even music, video, collage, poems, and other unconventional artistic mediums give vital opportunity for creative discovery.

The builders of the cathedrals used construction drawings very little. Most of the design came from physical models, trial and error, and widespread collaboration. Research in religious texts, contemplation of philosophy, lengthy trips to the Holy Land, and playful experimentation with building materials all were vital to the creation of the cathedrals. We assume a designer sits in an architect office and draws on a table or computer, but such a method would be extremely limiting.

Computer programs such as CAD are insufficient. Sure, they make it easier to switch between floor plans and other construction drawings. But they still do not adequately switch to other artistic mediums like 3D physical models. As 3D printing progresses, architects will need to use this technology to aid their design processes. CAD programs will need to be able to quickly print models that can be easily manipulated into different shapes and mimic the final building materials.

A wide range of considerations in the design program, such as lighting and security, involve complex calculations that computers can greatly help with.

Evolution & Induction

As technology progresses, tools become increasingly more helpful in the design process. Construction plans in a computer can quickly calculate structural loads and integrate building systems. Design iterations become quicker as computer programs run through a lengthy list of possibilities and throws out the ones that won't work. Design becomes more automated.

Design becomes more like an evolutionary process. The computer can analyze the design criteria and environmental conditions to find patterns for typology. The computer can unravel the grammar and vocabulary in precedent design. A computer can even analyze the psychological and emotional needs and impacts of certain design possibilities.

But in the end only humans have imagination. Only humans can take the leap toward an invention that has never been done before. This final reminder of the importance of the imaginative designer will help us keep the design human. Don't get caught up in machine-generated solutions. Keep it human.