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16 image version: May 9 2011

Studying the application of the metaphor the primary objective of this
seminar is to enhance AIA member’s practical day-to-day work to the
more ideal aspects of architecture and architectural design. This
seminar will provide members the opportunity to discuss architectural
ideas and their meanings.

“Architecture: the making of metaphors” have four learning objectives:

Review the background and applicability of metaphors and
building design
Review the interactive process of the common metaphor to the
sovereign and non-publically interactive metaphor
Understand how the architectural metaphor works in building
design and use.
Learn how metaphor of planes, scale, form, and building
components improves design, reading, using and enjoying
architectural design.

Barie Fez-Barringten is both an architectural practitioner,theorist,
researcher, environmentalist, urbanist, artist, educator, inventor; author
practiced archttecture in the USA, Saudi Arabia; Qatar; Puerto Rico; and
Belize. As Associate Professor he has taught at Texas A&M University,
King Faisal and Global Universities, University of Petroleum and Minerals,
University of Houston, and Pratt Institute “An architectural history of
metaphors” has recently been published by Springer.


“Architecture: the making of metaphors”
Barie Fez-Barringten
Seminar outline
It is well known that role playing, game theory, pretending, creative
perception, invention and discovery are ways to not only solve problems but
by thinking outside of the box and expanding limits one can better ones
design skills. But how can we apply this to our work. To simply claim that
architecture is an art because it too makes metaphors is not enough it must
translate into application.
1.) Background:
How did this all start?
1.1 During the series of lectures on art at Yale University,
Irving Kriesberg had spoken about the characteristics of
painting as a metaphor. Because I had already been interested in
metaphors and so many claimed that architecture was an art it
seemed at once that this observation was applicable to
architecture and to the design of occupiable forms.
Vincente Scully introduced me to the metaphysical philosopher
Paul Weiss who suggested that we turn to English language and
literature in order to develop a comprehensive, specific, and
therefore usable definition of metaphor.
1.2 The first lectures "Architecture: the Making of Metaphors" were
organized and conducted near the Art and Architecture
building at the Museum of Fine Arts Yale University in
November and December of 1967. The guest speakers were:
Paul Weiss, William J. Gordon (Synectics; The metaphorical
Way of knowing)) , Christopher Tunnard, Vincent Scully,
Turan Onat, Kent Bloomer, Peter Millard, Robert Venturi
(learning from Las Vegas previewed) , Charles Moore, Forrest
Wilson, and John Cage. Since then my forty four years of
research has been published in many national and international
learned journals. In addition to applying it to my architectural
practice I have also applied the results of my research in the
classroom at Pratt, Texas A&M, King Faisal University, Ohio
University, University of Houston, University of Petroleum and
Minerals and Global University.


It brings together what seems to be radically different in nature. articulating a characteristic common to both. there is no metaphor. wherein each element with the work explains the existence and meaning of the others. 2. This is the heart and secret of great art. experiences 3 . and of great architecture. telling us that they both have an intrinsic nature. telling us that they both have an intrinsic nature: such as “Richard the Lion-hearted” 2. 2. times and places which otherwise would not have been related.Metagram: 1971 NYC 2. 2.5 If there is not initial separation between the two elements.4 The metaphor points beyond each of its members to the reality then diversity express.6 It is an organic whole. The metaphor involves the intrusion not of neighbors but of aliens.2 It associates meanings. 2. 2.3 It is a two-way process where the metaphor points beyond each of its members to the reality they diversely express. things.1 Metaphor is a literary term which means "carrying-over" and synonym is the word “transfer”.7 Metaphor is a catalyst which fuses memories. articulating a power common to both.0 So what is a metaphor? 2. emotions.

specific or localized use in one context are explicitly employed in another. making more evident something in the second domain which otherwise remains obscure.and other modes of existence. times and places known to have a preferential. One familiar and one strange term are usually composed into a single form where one term normally used in one context is brought over into another with the object of illuminating.8 Metaphorically things. Mertaphor diagram from “Gibe” Questions/comments? 4 . it embodies within its own distinctiveness certain universal symbols and concepts common to mankind. 2.

yet there may be similarities at one level to an element at another level. apparent differences and apparent similarities may in.0 Let us continue with some examples. 5 . In other words.1 In the case of certain building types the original prototype or model may illuminate the proposed and the proposed the original model. Venice 3. Levels may interact.2 What may be true at one level may not be true at another. Each work talks about one thing in terms of another with parts that are both opposite and equal. For any one work we can seek the work’s similarities and differences and find the characteristics common to both. Turkish fort in Tarout Island in Arabain Gulf 3.Piaza San Marco.fact transfer but on different levels. 3.

6 Strictly speaking. but in which all parts closely affect one another.3. 6 . systems and structures that can be fitted together. Each is apparently unrelated. grouped with other parts. 3. fit and contribute. 3. dissonant and incompatible until each is adapted to harmonies.3 It always has commonplace where elements have non-apparent commonality. Beleize House drainage culvert forms 3.5 An architectural work is an organic unity in which each part is not merely in juxtaposition.4 There are choices and selections of materials. a metaphor involves the carrying over of material ordinarily employed in a rather well-defined context into a wholly different situation.

and ideal characteristics of the user’s system. 3.7 The metaphor is a bridge and bridges.8 Architecture combines technologies with one another and with common sense. through the resulting work. goals. and because the thought which organically scales the facility can make clear. while accommodating the peculiarities of its users. Sludge to metphane gas for power on Ruhr 3.9 The architectural work is a synthesis of space and the description of that space. 7 . the operations. the work organically sustains itself as a whole as well as in it parts.Simpson Street Elevated train station Bronx 3.

political and soverign metaphors What do they all have in common? 4.3. Questions/comments? 4.11 It mediates change of occupancy.1 Consider a process which is to the mutual benefit of both creator and user. social. it achieves interaction between interior and environmental space in ways that yield new meaning and experience. social. it brings together components which heretofore have characterized other uses. Music is a good place to start.0 There are cultural.10 It connects the present with the past and the future. operations and goals. it expresses the physical. intellectual and spiritual requirements of human beings. Dammam concert 8 . 3. use and outside pressures.

4. volumetric. discipline. They participate in a kind of reproduction (mimesis) which reveals the original composition. Architectural works which use space.1 It is the user who will ultimately perceive and experience the personalized ideas of the designer. musicians and audiences do not imitate the composer's specific action but rather his creative process. conditioning. The designer has experienced the metamorphosis of the elements. 5. Users. As the musicians written composition the design for a work of architecture may be fixed in time but is only part of the conception. like music are composed. 9 .0 To clarify how this works let us ask how the same metaphor is differently experienced by both designer and user.1 Musicians and an audience to a performance share common operations. materials to elicit users feelings. decisions.2 Both the strange and the familiar can be read.1. skill. structural. and conjured. confidence. assembled. But the designer is part of the metaphor. planes. useable metaphors.2 The designer has "seen" the commonalities. the differences and the essence common to both.4. commitment and language skills will the designer participate. direct and provide resources. Metaphors are reified and created by technique from experiences with the elements of the metaphor. 5. In any case the building is a variable in the experience of the metaphor and depending on the designer’s choices. 5. Habitable.1.

Excluding the context (later we will look at the Sovereign Metaphor) may allow the warrant to look deeper into the inner workings of the metaphor’s intrinsic commonalities and differences and the way they transfer into a form. 7. etc. There is the overall building. etc. Contexts may be at several levels in scope as social. buyers. users.1 Architecture is not only the making of metaphors and is a metaphor but architecture is a symphony of dominant. owners. creators. lot.0 Potentially how many different metaphors are there in any given work of architecture? 7.0 What role does the context play? 6.Sheba Land a faled city on the Euphrates 6. immediate. Questions/Comments? 10 . Each differently conceived and perceived by different players. subdominant and tertiary metaphors. location. cultural.1 While actual works is always in a context a study may or may not include that context. landscape. its different systems and subsystems and its various elements. neighborhood.

and culminate in the end product – the building.2 These relationships inform the manner in which the parts support. The sovereign metaphor exists on another level of designed and integrated elements. scale. or understood by a third party.1 The sovereign metaphor is distinct from its creator. which are read in physics.2 Often the metaphor of the sovereign metaphor deals with commonplaces pertinent to its social. mathematics and science. flex and bend to accommodate one another. bond. metaphors. symbolism plus distant and near-source contexts). So in essence they form a synthesis.3 After assembly. but seemingly telepathic dialogue . attach. It is composed of supportive. migrate. 9. unseen elements. the essence of the creative process and its product is that it encapsulates not only its own inherent qualities but those which have their origins elsewhere (other uses. but even without being perceived it is still a metaphor. contexts. the process of which . this particular metaphor ignores this relationship and is only concerned with how selected elements work with others where such orphans or isolates are in the mix of the extant (existing) metaphor.1 Since each constructed element has a metaphor between it and its referent (object). programs. It can be. texture .its parts undergo a sort of physical and biological osmosis. color. 10. 0 What are these elements? 10. These relationships. not perceived and often unknown to users.0 So how does the sovereign metaphor work? 9. the whole or parts of a building may never be perceived. Yet. historical and cultural context but is not the qualities of the sovereign metaphor. underpin the properties and strength of materials plus the engineering and aesthetics of any given project. creation and manufacture.1They are narcissistic and introverted because they center on an internal unspoken. That is why it is sovereign Questions/comments? 11 .8. 8. lives. 10. which begins with the practicalities and the aesthetics of proportion.0 What are the unseen sovereign and non-publically interactive metaphors? 8. process and exists as something in its own right. 10. subordinate.

radiate. It also involves leaving one mode for another. etc. Transfer works in the metaphor by acting on other referents passing a property such as power from one to the other. the process of the act and the act itself. It’s a matter of positioning.1 A train ticket takes you on a journey. In a similar way. the positioning of words and phrases matters in that their transferability and importance are dependent on one or another referent.11. both in a physical and metaphorical sense. It involves both the idea of the act itself.0 How does the transfer work? 12. characteristics and functions.0 How does the sovereign metaphor work? 11. An attribute is conveyed from one to another. yet that same attribute still remains part of the original despite being shared. The element may not be structural but an accommodation of an operation or performance of a goal. force and juxtaposition. 12 . illuminate. As in a literary metaphor. where the commonplace draws the referents into affecting one another. The process is one of being transferred but not transformed. properties. one can say that the architectural metaphor does not transform its elements but places them in a system of relationships where they carry over their own unique qualities. Now both weigh. The quality is conveyed without necessarily losing the originators or composure. The process of travel is not merely a physical thing.1 Direct transfer is also the way weight is conveyed from one object to another by gravity. Soverign detail SUNY in Albany 12. Side by side the weight of one will not exert on the other until it is attached or placed above the other.

13. discouraged and prevented. etc. Richard is the first referent and the lion the second.0 What are examples of transfers? 13. 13. Richard and the lion still remain “lionhearted” although by sharing the same context. masonry. transfers may be desirable or harmful.2 The horizontal flange of the WF (wide flange) beam and the horizontal surface of the slab.13. Metaphors may. They are presumed to have a commonplace and this presumption is the very inertia that defines their commonality.3 There is osmosis as the literary metaphor Richard the Lionhearted. 14.1 Manufacturing and construction all rely on the ability of unlike. In the structure. stucco. they interact.0 What is the purpose of commonality in a building metaphor? 14. but they are always present in the elements of a work. In a habitable metaphor transfers are encouraged. the slab is the first and the beam is second. transfer their loads so that the slab bears on the flange while the beam supports the slab. disparate and different elements to transfer and work together. Questions/Comments? 13 . prevented as in the case of moisture protection and the application of paint. Similarly. These characteristics are usually unseen but known in either of the elements but not in both and when juxtaposed the elements highlight the commonality. be positive or negative.1 Commonplace or commonality is the characteristic property shared by elements. of course.

Each maintains its own property of plane and space just as Richard (Richard the lion-hearted) maintains his humanity and the lion its nature.1 They are planes.0 What are the dominant elements of the three dimensional metaphor? Planes in Space: Falling Waters:FLW 15. The metaphor of the plane is that were a plane habitable it would be a space and were space limiting it would a plane. Each points to a property beyond its own inherent characteristics. space and scale have peculiar relationships.1 When constructed planes. 14 .15. forms. Planes limit and bound space. space and scale 15. volumes. forms.1. a volume in any scale or proportion. They are both the properties that make a volume. volumes. By their juxtaposition they manifest characteristics they both have in common and some that are different.

15 . As such. its faces may be differently colored. There is a domino effect among the circle of dancers and likewise in construction. The space is the reality all planes have in common.1. As this element becomes a sub-metaphor. Each links to an adjacent or related element and in so doing makes a metaphor. so it is with each other plane.3 The commonplace of planes in space is their tensional asymmetrical or symmetrical relationships which give them equipoise.2 The property that is common to all the planes is the space or sub-spaces which the planes themselves limit. beams and slabs. 15.2 The planes that define the construction may differ from one another as each must be the commonality or difference between its adjacent space. plaza or atrium define the void and make it what it is – ergo. weights and composition. Hence they need some structure in the form of tensional wires. Similarly. constructed or supported thus forming a bridge for its referents (inhabitants and volumes). 15. or skeletal gravity supports such as columns. Yet equipoise is the commonplace beyond their own sizes. space and sub-space. then return to their original positions where one partner is exchanged for another. where each element bridges and affects the other. part of the whole. which composes their form and allows them to transfer their properties. It may also be affected by the inhabitant’s use of volume and space and itself be the characteristic common to both. the facades or colonnades that surround a square. sub-space and context. It’s like the do-se-do movement in square dancing in which two dancers approach each other and circle back to back. volume. The planes define. float and/or define space. Planes that limit and planes within the space modulate and form relationships.15. The volume of the spaces varies by the way the planes are arranged. equipoise that could fix them in space was it not for gravity or the laws of physics.

They all point to a reality beyond their individual and common nature to their external context and potential occupant(s).4 A corridor enclosed by walls implies adjacent rooms. The relationship between occupants and context is explored in the properties afforded by scale. 15.connecting stairs and elevators serve as ambulatories (transfers and connections). volume and plane.5 Scale is the proportion of the planes. space and volume of one sub-space to the whole construction. Scale.15. a beginning and end to the corridor . The scale and elements of St. volume and size are the commonplace demanding references to something beyond any single space or detail. The planes. Bound and limited spaces characterized by a matrix of connected spaces of varying or equal volumes collectively form a beehive-like metaphor or interrelated and connected “cells”. occupants whose culture and behavior may vary. Multiple horizontal planes forming building floors when stacked become a “high-rise” whereas adjacent vertical planes separated by volumes can become a shopping center. Peters. subspace(s). Questions/Comments 16 . spaces. volume and scale have commonalities and differences between them.and in the case of a multi story building . Rome. The space limited by horizontal and vertical planes in the context of a school carries over into adjacent spaces. drafts its structure and decorative elements to a scale beyond any single inhabitant and always suggests accommodating much larger sized inhabitants or crowds.

In this is the art of making metaphors for the architect of public works. ideals and complex goals. 17 . An excellent example of this the Paul Rudolph’s Art & Architecture building at Yale University. His metaphor must “read” the cultural. social and rightness of the metaphor’s proposed context. The asymmetric tensional relationships of planes and solids are shifted from their primary positions to allow for clearances and access.0 How do designers collaborate to form metaphors? 16.Shapes and forms 16. it soon becomes conditioned by building codes.1 No construction is devoid of the human decision-making process. operations. This way the user metaphorizes the using process and the user and work empathize. Both art and architecture Peculiarize personalize and authenticate for their metaphor to live. though initially an architectonic of planes and shapes.

site and local statutes. numbers of people and quality class will transfer and seek a commonality. class. volumes and scale carry-over. 17. Disregarding conditions of regulation. structure. and building materials. utilities. transfer and refer to preceding conditions. Architecture is not made in a void and is impacted by history. Metaphor is conditioned also by operations such as identified functions. traffic. circulation.0 How are metaphors conditioned? 17.1 Planes. ideals and goals. structural systems. site and site conditions. quality level. areas. FEMA regulations. circulation. sizes. A Habitable metaphor is conditioned by building codes.Tent in the desert Can you think of others? 17. for how many people in what context and what period of time. operations. spaces. and adjacencies. human and vehicular access. 18 . zoning ordinances. usually of building type in or outside of its context. heating ventilation and cooling systems. relationship to context and like uses and final metaphor is established by its goal to accommodate what purpose. contexts.2 Metaphor is also symbolized by standards.

watch a dance or see a painting we perceive the whole – the synthesis of the creative its linguistic/cognitive associate – is a process and what we see is the issue of that process and not the manifest metaphor. As metaphor is the main mechanism through which we comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract reasoning. the context. What we don’t see quite so readily is the component parts.1 Both art and architecture metaphor-building clarify our place. the aesthetics and the story etc. the structure.2 What is built is first thought and conceived separately from building.3 Architectural metaphor .0 So what is the purpose of the architectural metaphor? 18.) 18. psychological and political condition 18. as thinking and conceiving are separate from outward expression. status and value. (As we think before we speak.Architectonic geometry scale illusion 18. so works of architecture inform our social. 19 . poem. we design before we build. when we hear a symphony. For example.

Look at them knowing they too have a life of their own . everywhere and demanding our is incumbent on us to find a way to relate. 19.0 Conclusion: As users and designers we should strive to enjoy the metaphor.1 Metaphor is a very practical and pragmatic matter. understand and enjoy their presence. Habitable transfer mechanisms are in our midst.Doha under construction 19. Questions/Comments 20 .