Architectural Basics: the Exterior Appearance

walmrtAh…the exterior appearance of a building! This is what most people immediately think of when reference is made to architecture. Although it is really only part of the equation, as we have been discussing here, it is of course very important—not only for the users of a building, but also for many additional people passing by, looking at it from the outside.

Now the exterior shape or form of a building will be (or at least should be) first determined by a response to what is around it, as described in the previous Thoughts in this series. But after this consideration there are many others: the entry and entry experience, the “fenestration” or window and door sizes, shapes and locations, the proportions of all these elements, the materials, the textures, the colors, the “accessories” such as light fixtures or signage, not to mention the functional requirements of the users. How all these elements are arranged together makes up the architectural character of the building—always a combination of aesthetics and how the building functions for its users.

Evaluation of these things is not always so easy. It involves some study, some reflection, and some understanding of all the different aspects mentioned above.. Additionally, like a work of art, there are also intangibles that are a result of, but transcend all the pieces. The feeling and character of the combination of all requirements and pieces is as important as anything. Architectural design can all work on paper, all make logical sense, but if it lacks a coherent whole, relating all parts of the design, it will be lacking. We are often able to see and experience the exterior of a building and like it or not like it, even if we are not able to articulate why.

The specific selection of and then combination of these many elements determines the look and feel of the building—what can be described as the style of architecture.

Next: Styles of Architecture