Understanding How Buildings Work: Speaking the Language of Architecture

Edward Allen’s book “How Buildings Work The Natural Order of Architecture” provided a basis for my course “How Homes Work”.  In this abridged excerpt from his conclusion he talks about windows:
 “A standard residential window of the most common type allows for the simultaneous and independent control of:

Natural illumination
Natural ventilation
View out
View in
Passage of insects
Passage of water
Passage of heat-radiant, conducted, convected

Considering this multiplicity of functions, a window is a surprisingly simple mechanism.  To a designer, the possibilities of a window are limitless.   Consider some of the following choices in designing a single window for a building:

Orientation of window
Location of window in the wall
Size of window
Proportion of window
External shading devices
Mode of window operation (fixed, sliding, etc.)
Material and color of frame
Type of glass
Type of shade or shutter
Type of curtain, material, color
Type of insect screen

Speaking of other components in a home…..Each must serve a multiplicity of functions.  Each must be made of a combination of materials of complementary capabilities.  Each offers to a designer its unique set of aesthetic possibilities to be exploited….(or)…to be ignored.  these components are the building blocks of architecture,  the only stuff with which a designer can work the unique magic that results in a satisfying building.

The only solid basis for architectural creativity is an ordered and accessible knowledge of how buildings work.  There is a natural order to architecture, and true design freedom springs from an everyday, easy familiarity with this order.

Here the message is simply that the scientific fundamentals of buildings are always the same.”


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