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Primary Elements

"All pictorial form begins with the point that sets itself in motion

The point moves ... and the line comes into being-the first dimension. If the line shifts to form a plane, we obtain a two-dimensional element. In the movement from plane to spaces, the clash of planes gives rise to body (three-dimensional) ... A summary of the kinetic energies

which move the point into a line, the line into a plane,

and the plane into a spatial dimension."

Paul Klee

The Thinking Eye: The Notebooks of Paul Klee (English translation)

1961

MARY ElEMENTS

Thisopeningchapterpresentstheprimaryelementsofformintheorderof their growth from the polnt toa one-dmeneonal line, from the line to a two' dimensional plane, ana from the plane to a thredimensional volume. Each element is first considered as a conceptual element, then as a visual element in the vOG;:l~ularyof architectural design.

As conceptual elements. the point, line, plane. and volume are no tvisible excepttothe minde eye. While they do not actually exist, weneverthel eS5feel their presence. We can sense a point at the meeting of two lines, a line marking thecontourofa plane, a planeenclosingavolume,andthevolumeofa nobject that occupies space,

When madevisibletotheeyeon paper or in three-dimensional space .theee elements become form with characteristics of substance, shape. size. col or. and texture. As we experience these forms in our environment. we should ve ablew perceive intheirstructuretl1eexistenceoftheprimarjlelemen taof pOint. line. plane, and volume .

\s the prime generator of form, the

Point indicat8sa position in space .•

A point extended becomes a
Une withpropertie5of:
'length I
• direction
• position
A line extended becomes a
Plane with properties of: ---------'-----1
' length and width
',hape
• surface ___j
. orientation
• position
~~,~~
A plane extended becomes a
Volume with properties of: cJ:~,~
, iength,width,anddepth
, form and space
'surface
'orientation
'position ,,~J9 PRIMARY ELEMENTS

Point

Une

Plane

Volume

POINT

.. _-+----

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Apointmark~ilpositjoninspace.Conct:ptually,ithasno length, wiclth.oraepth,and is therefore static, centralize anddirectionles5.

As the prirne element in thevocabularyofform,a pOintca serve to mark:

· tnetwoendsofaline

· the intersection of two lines

· themeetingoflinesatthecornerofaplaneorvolume

· tftecenterofafield

Although a point theoretiWllly has neithushapenorform,

at rest, organizing surroundir.g elements about itself and dominating its field.

WhenthePOinti5mOvedoff-center,how~er.it5field"eco/ moreag9re~5j~e and begins tocompete for visualsupremac Visual tension 15 created between the point and its field.

A point has no dimension. To visibly mark a position in space or on the ground plane, a point must be projected vertically into a linearf erm.as a column, obelisk, or tower. Any such columnar element is seen in plan as a pointandthereforeretainsthevisualcharacteristicsofapoint.Other pOint-generatedformsthatsharethesesamevisualattributesarethe:

• circle

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Tholos ofPolyc!eitos, Epidauros, Greece, c. 350 B.C.

• cylinder

Baptistery at Plea, Italy. 1153-1265, Dietl Salvi

• sphere

Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton, Project,17B4,Etienne-LouisBoulee

Mont 5. Michel, France. 13th century and later Thepyramidalcompositlonculminatesinaspirethatservestoestablish this fortified monastery as a specific place in the landscape

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Piazza del Campidoglio, ROMle, c.1544, Michelangelo Buonarroti. Theequestrian5tatu~oflvlarcusAureliu5marksthecenterofthi5 urban space.

PRIMARY ElEME,m/5

·~-------------~.

TWO POINTS

Two points describe a Iinethatwnnectsthem,Althoughthe pointsg ivethis line finite len!jth. tne line can also be considered a segmentofan in finitely lon!jerpath,

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Twopointsfur"...hersuggestanaxisperpendiculartothelinetheydeSCribe anda~utwhich;;heyare5ymmetrical.Becausethisaxismaybeinfinrtein length.itcanbeattimcsmoredominantthanthedescribedline.

In both cases, however, the described Iineal1d the perpendicular axiS are opticallymoredominantWntheiM:inrtenun;beroflinesth.atmaypass through each of the individual points_

6/ U(KITE(1URE: FORM, SPA.n, & OROER

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PRIMARY EL!:M£HTS /1

LINE

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8/ ARCHITECTURE: FGRM, SPACE, & olo£i

A point extended bewme~a line. Conur..tJafly, a

line bas length, butnowitrJlordepih.Wr.ereasa point is tIy nature stJtic, a line, in descriVing the ~a-d1 ofa point in motion,iscapableofvisuallyexpresslr'9 direction, movement, and growth.

A lineis a critical element in the formation of any visual construction.

ItcanSIlrveto:

'describetheedgesofandgiveshapetoplanes

'articulatethesurfauSofplanes

LIN!

AIt;houg~alinetheoreticallyha50nlyonedimension. itmusthavesorneaegreeofthicknessklbecome visible. Itis seenas a line simply because its lengthdominatesitswidth.Thecnaracterofaline, whether taut or limp. bold or tentative. graceful orragge.:1,isdetermined l1y our perception ofits lengtn-widtn ratio. its contour, and its aegree of continuity.

Eventhesimplerepetitionoflikeorsimilar elements,ifcontinuousenough,canberegarded as a line. This type of line has significant textural qualities

The orientation of a line affects its roleina visual construction,Whileaverticallinecanexpress

a state of equilibrium with theforceofgravity. symbolize thenuman condition,ormarka position inspace,ahorizont.<lliinecanrepresentst.'lbiiity, thegrouna plane, the horizon, or a oodyatrest.

An oblique line is a deviation from the vertical or Ilorizontal.

It maybe seen as a

vertical line falling ora

placeinthesky,itisdynamicandvisually active in its unbalanced state.

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IIII PRIMARY £l[MENTS / 9

LINEAR ELEMENTS

verticallinear elements, such as columns, o~eli5k5, and to\'l~rs. have been used throughout history to commemorate 5ignific~nt events !ind e5ta~li5h pan;icular points in space.

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Menhir Column of Marcus Aureliu5.

Bell Tower, Church at vuckeennleka. Finland.1956,AlvarAaIto

Obelisk of Luxor,

aprehlstcric mcnument conesting ofan Piaw Colonna. Rome, A.D. 174

upright megalith. usually stilnding alone This c)~indrical shaft; commemorates

but sometimes aligned with others the emperor's victory ol'erGermanic

tribes north of the Danube

10/ U{HiTWURE: FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

Place de la Concorde, Paris, The obelisk,which marked the entrance tothe Amon temple at luer. w3sgiven by the viceroy of Egypt, Mohamed Aii,to louisPhillipeand installed in 1836.

Vertical linear elements can also define a transparentvolullleof space.lnthee)(ilmpleillustrateatotheleft.fourminarettowers outlin.e a spatial field from which the dome of the Selim Mo ue

rlseslnsplenaor. sq

Sellm Mosque. Edirne.Turkey. A.D. 1569-75

LINEAR !L!MENTS

linearmembersthatpossessthenecessarymateriai strength can perform structural functions. In these three examples.llnear elementa

fcr architecturalepace

. expressmovementacros5space

Caryatid Porch. The Erechthelen. Athens. 421-405 B.C .. Mnesicles. Thesculpturedfemalefi@uresstandascolumnarsupportsforthe entablature.

Salginatobel Bridge, Switzerland, 1929-30. Robert Maillart Beans and giraers have the bending strength to span the space between their supports ana carry transverse loads

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Kateura Imperial Villa, Kyoto, Japan. 17th century _, Linear columns and beams together form a threc"aimensional framework for architectural space. --:::-,'<=.:_ ;:_.;:\

LINEAR ELEMENTS

A line can bean imagined element rather than a visible one in architecture. An exampleistheaxi5,a rt:9ulating IineesuUlished ry two distant points in space and about which elements are symmetrically arranged

Villa A!dobrandini, Italy. 1598-1603, Giacomo Della Porta

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V House 10, 1966, John HejlM

Althougnarchitectural space exists in three dimensions, it can be linear in form tcaccornmodau the path of movement through a building and link its spaces 'to one another.

12/ U(HIHCTUR{: fORM, SPACE, & ORDER

Town Hall, Saynatsalo, Finland. 1950-52. Alvar Aalto

Atilsmaller5cale.linesilrticuliltetheed~e5and5urface50fplanesand volumes. These lines can be expressed by joints within or between b uilding materlale.by frames around window or door cpennqs, or by a structural ~rid of columns and beams. How these linear elements affect the texture of a surface will depend on theirvi5u,:;lwei~ht.spacin~.anddirection.

Crown Hall. School of Architecture and Urban De5ign.lllinoislnstitute of T echnolo~y. Chicago. 1956. Mie5 'Ian der Rohe

Seagram Building. New York City. 1956-_53. Miesvan deRahe andPhilipJohnson

PRIMARY HEMEM1S / 13

fROM LINE TO PLANE

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TwoparaliellineshavetheabilitytovisuallydesGribeaplane.Atransparent spatial membrane can be stretched between them to acknowledge t~eir visual relationship. The closer these lines are to each other,thestronge rWllibethe sense of plane they convey.

Aseriesofparaliellines,throughtheirrepetitiveneS5,reinforce50ur perception of the plane they describe, As tbese lines extend themse ivesalong theplanetheydescribe,theimpliedplanebecomesrealandtheoriginalvoids between the lines revert to being mere interruptions of the planar 5 urface.

The diagrams illustrate the transformation of a row of round columns, initially supporting a portion ofa wall,then evolving into square pierswhichar e an integral part of the wall plane, and finally becoming pilasters-remnants of the original columns occurring as a relief along the surfaGeofthe wa II.

"The column is a certain strengthened part of a wall, carried up perpendicular fromthefoundationtothetop .. A rowofcolumns is indeed nothing but a wall. open and discontinued in several places." leon13attistaAlbcrti

LINEAR ElEMENTS DEFINING PLANES

Altes Museum. Berlin, 1M3-30, Karl Friedrich von Schinkel

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The B3si!ica,Vicenza, Italy.

Andrea Palladioaesigned this two-story loggia in 1545 to wrap aroundanexistingmwievalstructure.ThisadditionMtonly buttressetltheexi5tingstructurebutalso3ctedasascreenthat di59uiSw the irregularity of the original we ana pressnteda uniform butelegantfacewU1e Piazza del Signori.

Stoa of At talus fronting the Agora inAtnen5

rRIMAR~ ft[MEHTS /15

LINEAR ELEMENTS DEFINING PLANES

Cloister of Mciesac Abbey, Prance.c. 1100

spaces

Tnesetwoexamplesillu5tratehowwlumnscan definetheed1esofanexteriorspacedefined withinthemassofa ~uildinga5wellasarticulJte the edgesofa building mass in space

16/ AR(HITECTURE: FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

St,Philibert,Tournu5,France.950_1120

This view of the nave shows how rows of columns can provide a rhythmic measure of space.

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TempJeofAthenaPolias friene,c.334B,C"Pythiu5

Cary House. Mill Valley. California. 1963. Joseph Esnerick

ihe linear memsere of trellises and pergolas can provide a moderatedegre eof definitionandenciosureforouUloorsp~ceswhilealiowingfilteredsunlight and breezes topenetrate.

Vertical and herlzontal linearelerr.entstogethercanddineavolumeof space such as the solarium illustrated to the right. Note tnat the form ofthev olume is determined solely by the configuration of the linear elements

Solarium of Condominium Unit l, Sea Ranch. (aliforni a. 1966. MLTW

LINEAR ELEMENTS DEfiNING PLANES

T relllesd Courtyard. Georgia O'Keefe Residence. Abiquiu. northl'le5tofSante Fe, New Mexico

PRIMARY [lfMENTS /17

PLANE

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lB/A.R(HITECTUR£: FORM, SPACE, & OROH

---- ... '

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=ass-

A line ro:ended in a dirtGtion otherwr,

its intrinsic direction ptwmtsa pline Conuptually,aplanen..5Ienqtl1;;r.dwittl"~M noaepth.

Shape is the primary identifying characteristic ofa plane. It is deurmined by the contour of thelineformingtheedgesofa plane Because Qurperception of shape can be distorted by perspectiveforcshortening, we see the true shapeofaplaneonlywhenweviewitfrontally.

Thesupplementarypropertiesofaplane-its surface color. pattern, and texture-affeGiit5 vi5ualweigntarit:lstability.

In the composition ota visual construction, a plane serves to define the limits or boundaries ofa volume. Ifarchitectureasa visual art deal55pecincallywiththeformationofthree dimensional volumesofma5sand space, then theplaneshould~eregardedasakeyelementin thevoca~ularyofarchitectuialdesign,

PLANE

~ne5inarchittcturedefinethree·dimen5ional volumesofmassandspace.Thepropertiesofeach plane-5jze.5hape.color,~re-a5Wella5 tl:eirspatialrelationshiptooneanotherultimately aeterrninethevisualattliMesoftheforrnthey df.ineandtl1equalitiesofthespautl1eyenclose

In architectural design, we manipulate three generic typcsofplanes:

Wall Plane

The wall plane, because of its vertical orientation, iSl!ctive in our normal field of vision and '/ital to the shapinganaenc!osureofarchitecturalspace.

Base Plane

~uildjngform5.0rthefloorplanethatform5thelower enclosin~surfaceofaroomuponwhichwewalk

PRIMARY flEMENTS /19

PLANAR ElEMENTS

The ground plane ultim,;Ul~ 5Upport;S all archr.eCMlral CIln5truction.Alongwithclimate a r.dothtrenvirorJT"~..a1 coluHtionsoia slte, the topoqrapnical charac--Loerafthegrour.d planeinflucm;estheformofthe !1uilding that rrsee from it. The buildingcanmergcwiththegrounaplar.e.restfirmlyO!lit,6r oeelevateda~oveit.

Thegroundplaneit5elfcan bemanjpulatedas~.~lItoestabIi5h a podium fora building form. Itcanbeelevat&l whonora sacrellorsignificantplau:;berrnedtodefineoutaoorsp3U5 orbufferagainstundesirabieconditions;carvedorterraGet'l

to provide a suitable platform on which to build; or stepped to allow changes in elevation to be easily traversed.

MortuaryTempleofQueenHatshepsut.

Dilrer-Bahari, Thebes. 1511-1480 B,G .. Senmut Threeterracesapproached by ramps rise toward the base of thecliffswherethechiefsanctuaryi5cutdeepintotnerock

Machu Picchu, an ancient lncan city established c.l500 in the Ande5 MDuntain50n a salldlebet.ween two peats. l.1OOO ft. above the UrubambaRivurn,50uth-celltralFeru.

20/ A.RCHIHCTUR[: FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

S;W"A".,uw",,,H,,,,, <. SeaRanch,Califomia,1966.MLTWI ]_ ~

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nefloorplilfieisthehorizontillelementthatsustainstheforuofgravityas we move around and placeobjectsforourusBon it. It may be a durabl Beovering Cifthegioundplaneoramoreartiftcial.elevatedplancspanningthespace betwecn it55UPPOrtS, In eithercasB,thetextureandden5ityofthefloorin 9 rr.~terialjnfluer.ce5boththeacou5ticalqualjtyofa5paceandhowwefeela51\'e walkacr05Sit5surface

I'Ihifethepragmatic,5upportivenawreofthefloorp!anelimitstheextent w'IIhichitcanbemanipulated,itisnonethelessanimportantelementof archjtecturalde5ign,lt55h~pe,color.andpatterndeterminetolVhatd~ree itdefinC5spatiall1oundariesorscrvesilSJlunifyingelemelitforthedifferent parts eta space

space are seen as figures.

Emperor's Seat. Imperial Palace, Kyoto. Japan. 17th century

BacardiOfficeBuilding. 5antiagod~Cu~a.195e. Mies'landerRohe

PRIMARYfLEIoHm/21

PLANAR ELEMENTS

S. Maria Novella, Florence. 1456-70. The-RenJI5sancefacadebyAll1ert!priisentsapublicfacetoasquare.

Erleriorwallplanesiwlauaportionafspacewcreattacontrolledinterior environment.Theirconstructionprovidesoothprivacyandprotectionfromthe climaticelementsfortheinteriorspacesofalnJilding,whileopenings within or between their boundaries reestablish a connection wlththe exterior ensim n ment. As exterior walls mold interior space, theyeimultaneouely shape exterior space and describe the form, maSSing, and imageofa building in spa ce

Uffizi Palace, 1560-65, GiorgiO vasart ThisFlorentinestreetdefinetlbythetwowingsoftheUffizi Palace lin~5 the Piazza della Signoria \\~th the River Arno.

i:lsl'lallsthatdefinecoultyards,streets.andsuchpublicgatheringplacesJs 5quaresanclmarketplaces.

?iazzaofSanMarco.Venice.

The continuous facatlts of builtlings form the-waIl5"ofthe urban Space.

22/ A.RCHITECTURE: fORM, SPACE, & ORDER

PLANAR ElEMENTS

Peyrissac Residence, eherehcH, North Africa. 1942. ls Cor~u5ier

COllntryHolIsein Brick,Project. 1923. MitsvanduRohe

ln the project to the right. freestanding bric~bearin9walls. to\letherwithL-shapedandT-shapwconfigurationsof ~lane5,createaninterlockirl9serie50f5paces.

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Awnpelling way to use the vertical wall plane is as a supporting element i n the bea~ing·waIl5trlJcturaI5y5tem. When arranged in a parallel series to supporC anclerhe;;rlHoororroofplane,~earingwan5defineljnear5Iot50f5pacewith 5trcn9direction~lqualip.e5. These spacts can ~e related tooneanotheronIyl1-j interruptin9thebearingwallstocreateperpendicularzoncsofspace

PRIMARY fLHWITS/23

PLANAR ELEMENTS

Concert Hall,Project.1942, MiesvanderRohe

the size and distrioution of openinBs within their boundaries dete rmlnebotb thequalityofthespacestheydefineandtheaegreetowhicnadjoiningspaces relate to one another

As a design element. a wall plane can merge with the floor or ceiling plane, or be artiGulatedasanelementi50latedfromadjacentpiancs.ltcanbetrcatedas,; passive or receding backdrop for other elements lnthe space.oritc anassert itselfasavisuallyactiveelementwithina room byvirtueofitsform, color. tercre.ormaterlal

WhilclI'illisprovideprivilcyforinteriorspacesandservei1soarriersthat limit our movement, doorways and windows reestablish continuity with neighboring spacesandaliowthepassageoflight,heat,anasouna.Astheyincrease in size, the~openin~sbe~intoerodethenaturalsenseofenclosurewallsprovide. Views seen throu~h the openings become partof the spatial experience.

Finnish Pavilion, New Yor~ World's Fair, 1939, AII'ilr Aalto

PLANAR ElEMENTS

Theiameilastructureexprcs5esthewayforcesareresolvedanachanneled downtotneroofsupports

Brick House, New Canaan. Connecticut. 1949. Philip Johnsoll.fneaetachedvaulteduilingplaneappearstofloat above the bed

While we walk on a floor and have physical contact with walls, the ceiling plane

Asa detached lining. theceilingplanecansym~olizethe5kyvaultorbethe primary sheltering clement that unifies the different psrte ota sp ace.lr.csn seve as a reposiCory for frescoes and other meansofartisticexpress ionorbe treated simply as a passiveorrecedingsurface,ltcan be raised or lowered to alterthe scaleeta space or to define spatial zones within a room. Itsf em can bemanipulatedtocontrolthequalityoflightorsounawithinaspace.

form of its structure as it spans tile space ~etween its supports, or it may ~e suspendedastheupperenclosingsurfaceofaroomornall.

PRIMARY ElEMENTS / 15

Church at vuokeennteka. Finland. 1956.AlvarAalto. Theformoftlleu:ilingplanedennesaprQ9ressionorspacesarulenhanusti1eirilwusticalquality.

PLANAR ElEMENTS

Dolmen. J prehistoric monument consisting of two or more large upright stcses supporting a horizontal,toneslab,foundespeciallyin Brit ainand France3ndusuallyregardeda5a~urialplaceforanimportantperson

Robie House,Chicago.1909,Frank Lloyd Wright

The lowsloping roof planes and broad overharqs arecberactereu c of the Prairie School of Architecture

Theroofplaneisthees~nti;llshe!teringelemenj;th a tpro-zect5 theinteriorofabuildingfromthedirr",ticelements.Theform

and geometry of its structure isestablishw byt:h:: m z nrcU in which itspansacros5spacetc bearon itssupportsands!o~esto shed rain and melting snow. AfJ;J design element the roof plaae issignificantbecauseoftheimpactitcanhaveonthefonnar..d silhouett6ofabuilain9withinits5etting.

Theroofplanecanbehiaaenfromviewbythee~rior\Valisofa building or merge with the walls to emphasize the volume of the buildin9 mass. ltcan beexpressedaS3 single snelterin9 form that encompassCS3 variety of spaces beneath itscanopy,orcomprise anumberofhatsthatalticulateasuiesofspaceswithinasingle building

Aroofplanecanexl:endoutwaratoformoverhangsthatshiela doorandwinaowopeningsfromsunorrain,orcontinuedownward furtherstilitore!ateit~lfmorecioselytothegrounaplane.ln warm climates. itcan be elevated toallowcooling breezes to flow 3crossanathroughtheinteriorspaccsofabui!ding

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26/ UOIIHCIURE: FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

PLANAR ElEMENTS

Faliingwater(KaufmannHousc). nearOhiopyle,fennsylvania,1936-37, Frank Lloycl Wright

Reinforced concrete slabs express

the norizontalityofthefloorand roof planes as theycantilever outwardfrcm a central vertical core.

The overall formota building can be endowed with a distinctly plana r quality !1y carefully introducing openings that expose the etlges of vertical and horizonbl planes,Theseplanescanbefurtherdifferenti ated and accentuated iJycnanges in color, texture, or material

PRIMAn EtEMfNTS / 21

VOLUME

28/ AR(HITECTUR£; FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

A plane extendw in a direction other than its in;rins;c direc'"Jon becomes;; volume. Ctmur..u.olly, a volJ:;;e ~"s three dimensions: lengd1,width,iiM oe1JL

AlivolumeSWlnbeal'lalyzeQandunderStoot:iwccnsi5t of:

~. __ • pointsorvertiuswhereseveralplont5wmetogether

", .linesoretlgeswheretwoplanesmm

""--~ planes Of surfaces that define the limits or boundaries ofavolume

Form is the primary identifying characteristic ofavolume.ltisestablishedbythcsMpesand interrelationships of the planes that describe the boundaries of the volume

A<; the three-dimensional element in the vocabulary of architecturaldesign,avolumecanbeeitherasolid_ space displaced by maSS-or a void-spacecontainea orenciosedbyplanes.

VOLUME

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Plan and 5ection Spacedefined~wall.ftoor,andceilingorroofplane5

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In archltecture. a volu;r,~ can ~e seen to be either a portion of space wntainetl

PRIMARY ElEMENTS /19

VOLUMETRIC ELEMENTS

Bujldi~9form5that5tand 35 objects in the landscape can !Ie resdas ouupyingvolumes in space.

Doric Temple at Segesta, Sicily. c. 424-416 B.c.

Villa Garches, vaucreseon France. 1926-27, LeCorbusier

30 I ARCHITECTURE: FORM, SPACE, & ORDER

VOLUMETRIC ElEMENTS

Piazza Maggiore,Sabvioneta, Italy.

A series of buildings enclose an urban square.

Palazze Ihlens.vicenza.ltaly, 1545,AnareaPallaaio

The interior rooms 5urrouna a cortilethe principal courtyara of an Italian palazzo.

!3udd~15tChaityaHall at Karli, Maharashtfa, India, A.D. \00-125

The sanctuary 15;1 vclcme of space caved out ofthtmassof5D1iLlrocl:

PRIMU~ fl[MfNIS / 31