Repetition: A Study of the Structural Bay

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Virginia Tech

Every architect strives to make architecture, without its occurrence being a guaranteed result. Although often mistakenly used synonymously, a differentiation exists between building and architecture. Architecture offers more than a protective device that shields its occupants from the elements. Architecture defines a place, engages the senses with intention and awareness. It could be a shadow cast across a wall, a tiny beam of light that makes a dark room sparkle, or a sense of quiet stillness.

Theories abound describing the process of architecture. The paths to architecture differ according to the questions posed, permitting explorations from many directions such as the viewpoints of the plastic art of sculpture, the performance art of dance, or the study of material properties. Precedent studies provide a guide in the direction of an investigation, but they must be carefully used. Too often, a building is described by its style. In consequence, our study of architectural history becomes a trap, limiting our investigation to the appearance. Architectural elements such as a Doric column become mere signs applied to a building; their structural function is negated.

The classification of architecture by style encourages the inherent temptation to copy the fashionable outward trappings of a building without understanding the ideas that produced the original architecture. In lieu of visiting and sketching new buildings, in contemporary practice, we experience architecture through glossy magazine photographs. The images are visually exciting, yet the tactile depth is lost, consequentially reducing our perception to the visual qualities of the building. This perceptual limitation allows the possibility of designing buildings that specify the qualities of heat, light, air, durability, and changeability within the buildings and then applying materials as if they were texture maps. We, especially young architects, must thoroughly study the images presented to us whilst questioning the resulting architecture. With understanding of what makes architecture comes the ability to take a position. Otherwise, we drift, following the tides of fashion, and risk never achieving architecture.

Through studies of architectural history, one gains an intuition about structure. This developing knowledge guides the decisions of material and scale, leading me to the opinion that tectonic expression is a fundamental part of architecture.

How the structural interrelationship of materials germinates architecture is the topic of this thesis; with a secondary exploration in the methods of employing construction to relate a building to the site. Through the design of a concert hall for symphonic music, these paths towards architecture are investigated.

Architecture, structure