Posts Tagged ‘Architectural Design’

AD1 Queenstown: Towards a Southern Alpine Architecture

September 5, 2015 Leave a comment

Lucy Lee

Virtual Realities of Theatrical Architecture

Exterior perspective by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Exterior perspective by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Within the context of alpine tourism, specifically film tourism, the project acknowledges Queenstown as a film set, whereby New Zealand is perceived as Middle Earth.

The notion of virtual realities is derived from the initial conceptual-spatial exploration of hard and soft, here, understood as a hard and soft reality. This explored the notions of deception, paradoxes and spatial illusions, displacing what one sees and what one thinks, such as the Penrose Steps in Inception and the cinematographic technique of foreshortening used in The Lord of the Rings to deceive size and spatial relationships.

Hence, the project is fundamentally about film, a theatrical architecture for a theatrical or virtual site. The programme is a new museum of cinematography and scenography. In effect, it is two buildings in one. The museum in principle is an interweaving of two narrative labyrinthine sequences, which constitutes an important paradoxical or illusory concept of the design – inaccessible space. One route is for the film makers (the crew and actors forming the spectacle) and the other route is for the tourists (the spectators). The two routes cross, but they do not touch, they appear to be accessible to each other, but one cannot gain access to the other, appropriately providing for a functional and programmatic separation of activities. There is, however, an exception, the theatre or auditorium (which scenographically overlooks the landscape beyond as in a Greek theatrical backdrop), which appropriately permits the meeting of the two groups of people using the building, as a climax to their narratives – a meeting of the virtual and the real in theatre.

Axonometric diagram of the dual paths by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Axonometric diagram of the dual paths by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Interior perspective by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Interior perspective by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Level 1 Plan by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Level 1 Plan by Lucy Lee, 2012.

Advanced Design 1, MArch(Prof) Semester 1, 2012

Tutors: Dr. Ross Jenner & Adrian Lo

Lucy Lee in conjunction with ALO

Transparency II: Layering of Planes/Layering of Spaces

February 24, 2011 5 comments

Literal Transparency vs Phenomenal Transparency, Real Transparency vs Seeming Transparency, Substantial Transparency vs Organizational Transparency, Actual Transparency vs Implied Transparency, Perceptual Transparency vs Conceptual Transparency,   Transparency of Seeing/Looking vs Transparency of Reading, Transparency of Visibility vs Transparency of Understanding, Transparency of Observation vs Transparency of Interpretation.

Two Modes of Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal

The key aspect to Rowe and Slutzky’s seminal essay on Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal, is the distinction of the two types of transparency, a literal transparency, which will be later described as perceptual transparency, is a quality inherent to substance or matter, such as in mesh screens, translucent walls, etc, and a phenomenal transparency, that is, a conceptual transparency, a quality inherent in the spatial or volumetric organization (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

Rowe and Slutzky, quotes Gyorgy Kepes for defining transparency as a result of transparent figures interpenetrating each other without optical destruction, but transparency also implies something broader than optical effects, as it also includes spatial effects. “Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity” (Kepes quoted in Rowe & Slutzky, 1982). This overlapping and interpenetrating of figures conjures an ambiguity or contradiction of spatial dimensions.

The concepts and conditions of transparency parallel movements of Relativity theories and their implications; where space-time relativistic thinking allows for two objects to co-exist simultaneously in the same space and time, as such transparency is a space-time condition of betweeness, a simultaneous perception of space.


Perceptual vs Conceptual Transparency: Eye vs Mind, Looking vs Reading 

To introduce new terms into the dialectic of transparency, one can appropriate the terms of Sol Le Witt, and the Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s, in order to reinterpret Transparency as being perceptual or conceptual. Le Witt contrasts the two as follows, “Art that is meant for the sensation of the eye primarily would be called perceptual rather than conceptual” (Le Witt, 1967). Le Witt adds that, “Conceptual art is made to engage the mind of the viewer rather than his eye or emotions” (Le Witt, 1967). Juxtaposing the terms and definitions, Literal transparency can now be seen as a kind of Perceptual transparency as it engages the eye, whereas Phenomenal transparency can be understood as a Conceptual transparency which engages the mind of the viewer, in one’s interpretation or reading of spatial organization.

Here one can differentiate between the operations of ‘reading’ and ‘looking,’ “’Reading’ opposes itself to ‘looking’…as a different kind of visual attention” (Osborne, 2002). Perceptual transparency is a transparency of looking, as the transparent conditions arise due to an overlapping of material or substance, whereas Conceptual transparency is a transparency of reading, thus engaging the mind of the viewer or reader, in order to interpret and understand successive layered spaces as modes of transparent phenomena.

To reiterate the dialectical overlapping and multiple readings of conditions of transparency, literal transparency is a perceptual and actual transparency of seeing or of substance, whereas phenomenal transparency is a conceptual and implied transparency of reading or of organization.


Transparency: Simultaneity & Interpenetration

French Cubism & Italian Futurism – Figure 2 (left): Picasso’s The Clarinet Player, 1911 – literal transparency in Cubism, a figure in deep space, Figure 3 (middle): Braque’s The Portuguese, 1911 – phenomenal transparency in Cubism, a shallow flattened extended space, & Figure 4 (right): Boccioni’s Futurist painting – States of Mind II: The Farewalls, 1911.

Rowe and Slutzky states that any Cubist canvas of 1911-1912 could serve to illustrate the presence of the two orders or levels of transparency, that is, literal and phenomenal, involving the fusion of temporal and spatial factors, and mentions that Cubism was a premonition of relativity invoking the fourth dimension (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982). The typical Cubist motif is described as consisting of “figures…intersecting, overlapping, interlocking…building up into larger and fluctuating configurations” (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

In the various manifestos of the Italian Futurist art movement of the early 20th century, key notions of simultaneity, intersection, and compenetration of planes marks the movement’s interest in the expression of dynamism and movement in visual art. The Futurist artist, Umberto Boccioni, in his representation of movement, studied and employed the simultaneity and consequent interpenetration or compenetration of planes, force-lines, and the decomposition of objects, in order to produce dynamism in both painting and sculpture (Coen, 1988).

Petrie in his article on Boccioni and Bergson attempts to draw the possible linkages between Boccioni’s ideas of simultaneity and interpenetration with Bergson’s notions of intuition and duration. Intuition acknowledges movement as being indivisible; and Bergson refers to the time sensed by our intuition as la durée, duration (Petrie, 1974). Petrie mentions that time, duration, and movement were central for both Boccioni and Bergson, as “It was only through movement that the ‘living experience of the object in its very becoming’ could be conveyed” (Petrie, 1974).

“Absolute motion is then, for Boccioni, ‘the motion that the object has within itself, whether at rest or in movement’. The artist must therefore intuit this motion in terms of lines which will reveal ‘how the object would disintegrate following the tendency of its innate forces’. And the interaction of these lines, these forces, will denote…‘interpenetration’ (Petrie, 1974).”

Hence duration, transparency, and simultaneity, executed in the intersection and interpenetration of lines and forms in the image’s movement, for Boccioni and the Italian Futurists, expressed the exaltation of speed as the affirmation of modernity.

“Place, time, form, and color coexist in a single composition conceived to bring out the object’s dynamic reality through a simultaneity not limited to the simple unfurling of an action in time but embracing all the elements that could convey the sensation of speed visually.” (Coen, 1988)

Figure 5 (left): Le Corbusier’s La Roche House; interpenetrating spaces, & Figure 6 (right): Le Corbusier’s Cook House, 1926/27; interpenetrating, interlocking, & blending of interior & exterior, between the roof & interior spaces.

Sigfried Giedion describes in his book, Building in France, building in iron, building in ferroconcrete, “By their design, all buildings today are as open as possible. They blur their arbitrary boundaries. Seek connection and interpenetration” (Giedion, 1995). Giedion relates the notion of intepenetration to both Le Corbusier’s paintings and buildings, with reference to Jeanneret 1924, he writes, “Just as transparent objects interpenetrate in the painting, so Corbusier with every means also lightens the traditional gravity of the house” (Giedion, 1995). Air flows through Le Corbusier’s houses; there is only one indivisible space where the shell falls away between interior and exterior – spatial interpenetration (Giedion, 1995). Transparent simultaneity exists in Le Corbusier’s Cook House, where the exterior roof terrace space and the adjacent interior spaces blend and merge together by means of an interlocking gesture (Giedion, 1995).


Layering & Stratification of Frontal Planes: Layering in Le Corbusier’s Work

Figure 7 (left): Axonometric of Le Corbusier’s Still Life, 1920; layering of frontal planes, & Figure 8 (right) Le Corbusier’s Still Life, 1920.

Figure 9 (left): Axonometric of Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches 1927/28; layering of frontal planes, & Figure 10 (right): Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches 1927/28.

Rowe and Slutzky mentions that, “[Stratifications], devices by means of which space becomes constructed, substantial, and articulate, are the essence of…phenomenal transparency” (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

The layering and stratification of frontal planes is evident in both Le Corbusier’s paintings as well as his built works. Articulated layered compositions, through the device of stratification, typifying phenomenal transparency are seen in Le Corbusier’s Still Life of 1920, which is then applied to the design of his Villa Stein in Garches of 1927/28. The axonometrics demonstrate the layered configurations of both works; they appear to stretch out and expand the various constituent layers of their flattened conditions as painting or elevation.

Eisenman describes the flattened layered elevations of Le Corbusier’s painting and his Villa Stein as being plans tipped to an upright position, allowing one to simultaneously perceive the whole from a singular viewpoint (Eisenman, 2007).


Adolf Loos: The Diagonal View – The Journey of the Gaze

Figure 11 (left): Section (top) and Plan (bottom) of Loo’s Moller House (Vienna, 1927-8); diagonal arrow denotes the Journey of the Gaze passing though the successive planes/frames. Figure 12 (right): Axonometric of Loo’s Muller House (Prague, 1929-30), illustrating the multiple planes/frames within the interior; a theatre within the house.

Adolf Loos states that his architecture is not conceived in plan, but rather in terms of spaces or cubes, hence the Raum – or Space – plan, which achieves a merging of storeys and spaces into a contiguous and continuous space.

Spatial continuity between rooms was created not by omitting walls but by piercing them with wide openings so that views were always framed…Often the connection between rooms was only visual, as through a proscenium. At their interface, these spaces had a theatrical quality” (Colquhoun, 2002).

As such, the viewer is allowed to ‘journey’ through the space creating a spatial continuum of the layered planes-spaces. This reiterates the notion of transparency as a seeing- or passing-through, that is, a journey, a penetration, or a passing through of the gaze.

Both the plan and section of the Muller House depict a diagonal arrow; this denotes the perspectival view in/out. The diagonality is important, as the arrows in both the plan and section refer to the same view, that is, both arrows are in effect the same, as they both denote the same sequence of framed vistas. The subject in the building engages in a theatrical voyeuristic gaze passing through the framed spaces. The Raumplan demonstrates a framing of frames, a seeing or penetrating through the successive frames of view. Hence, phenomenal or conceptual transparency is achieved, following what Rowe and Slutzky mentioned with regards to the notion of stratification, that is, the sequential layering of frontal planes and spaces.


Doubling of Transparency: Simultaneity of Transparent Dialectics

Rowe & Slutzky mentions in their article on Transparency, that in the transparent overlapping, interpenetrating, superimposing of planes and figures, there exists more than a single mode of transparency, that is, not only is there a physical or literal transparency, that is, an actual or real transparency, but also a conceptual or phenomenal transparency, that is, an implied or seeming mode of transparency (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982). As such, in architecture, not only is transparency a condition of material or substance, permitting the “passing through” of light, air, and sight, but also a condition of organization or ordering. Hence, there exists two modes of transparency, two modes of layering, the Layering of Planes and the Layering of Spaces.

The two modes of transparency can be combined, fused and integrated to achieve a doubling of transparency, a simultaneity of modes of transparent operations. Hence, both the Layering of Space and the Layering of Surface, both the Layering of Volume and the Layering of Façade, resulting in a spatial-surface ambiguity, an ambiguous fluctuation and oscillation of depth of space and surface.

Literal Transparency occurs through the layering and stacking of the physical material of the walls and surfaces, whereas Phenomenal transparency occurs through the layering, overlapping, and superimposition of axes and gridded spatial orders, thus producing an ambiguity of spatial organizations, resulting from a sequential ordering or a successive stratification and layering of space.

A doubling of transparency, both literal and phenomenal, perceived and interpreted. One sees through, sees pass the overlapping glazed or meshed facades, exterior and interior, and one reads and interprets the layered spatial arrangement. An act of inter-modal transparency, literal and phenomenal, actual and implied, seen and read, perceptual and conceptual, co-existing together; a multi-penetration of transparencies, multi-transparent, multi-interpenetrative and interpretive, multi-moded transparency.



  • Coen, E., et al., Umberto Boccioni (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art: Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1988) 
  • Colomina, B., The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism, Sexuality & Space (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992) 
  • Colquhoun, A., Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 
  • Eisenman, P., “Terragni and the Idea of a Critical Text,” in Written into the Void: Selected Writings, 1990-2004 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) 
  • Giedion, S., Building in France, building in iron, building in ferroconcrete, introduction by Sokratis Georgiadis; translation by J. Duncan Berry (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995)
  • Le Witt, S., “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.” Artforum (June, 1967) [online]. [cited 3 August 2010] Available from: <>
  • Osborne, P., Conceptual Art (London; New York: Phaidon, 2002)
  • Petrie, B. Boccioni and Bergson, The Burlington Magazine Vol. 116, No. 852, Modern Art (1908-25) (Mar., 1974), 142 [online], [cited 13 October 2010] Available from: <>
  • Rowe, C. & R. Slutzky, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1982)
  • Raumplan [online]. [cited 14 October 2010] Available from: <>

Figure References

  • Figure 1: B. Colomina, The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism, Sexuality & Space (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992). 75. Photoshopped by Author.
  • Figure 2: Picasso’s The Clarinet Player, 1911 [online]. [cited 25 November 2010] Available from: <>
  • Figure 3: Braque’s The Portuguese, 1911 [online]. [cited 25 November 2010] Available from: <>
  • Figure 4: Boccioni’s States of Mind II: The Farewalls, 1911 [online]. [cited 25 November 2010] Available from: <>
  • Figure 5 (left): Le Corbusier’s La Roche House, S. Giedion, Building in France, building in iron, building in ferroconcrete (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995), 178.
  • Figure 6 (right): Le Corbusier’s Cook House 1926/27, S. Giedion, Building in France, building in iron, building in ferroconcrete (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995), 179.
  • Figure 7 (left): Axonometric of Le Corbusier’s Still Life, 1920; R. Krauss, Death of a Hermeneutic Phantom: Materialization of the Sign in the Work of Peter Eisenman, Architecture and Urbanism. (1112), 1980: 196.
  • Figure 8 (right) Le Corbusier’s Still Life, 1920 online]. [cited 25 November 2010] Available from: < >
  • Figure 9 (left): Axonometric of Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches 1927/28; R. Krauss, Death of a Hermeneutic Phantom: Materialization of the Sign in the Work of Peter Eisenman, Architecture and Urbanism. (1112), 1980: 197.
  • Figure 10 (right): Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches 1927/28 S. Giedion, Building in France, building in iron, building in ferroconcrete (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995), 182.
  • Figure 11: A. Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 82.
  • Figure 12: A. Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 80.

AD1: Dark Light – Model Photographs

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Advanced Design 1, MArch(Prof) Semester 1, 2010

Transparency: Layering & Passing Through

Photos of AD1 Conceptual Light Study Models by Tash Bell, 2010

Photos of AD1 Sectional Model by Liz Tjahjana, 2010

Transparency is a condition of passing or seeing through. Transparency is connection and continuity; it is a dialectic between revealing and concealing, as well as between seeing and reading. A transparent medium, substance, or matter allows, permits, and invites light, air, and sight to penetrate through. Transparency relates to diaphaneity, translucency, and layering. Translucency can be defined as the condition existing within the continuum between opacity and transparency, between the two polarities of obscurity and clarity, between solid and void. Translucency is where light sifts, filters and penetrates through the successive additive effects of layered, stacked, overlapped or superimposed planes, glazed surfaces, films, or veils. The filtering and penetrating effect of light through translucency achieves a layered glow, where natural light passes through, slows down, softens, bleeds and diffuses from one space to the next, from exterior to the interior, and through different layers of the interior, creating a superimposed overlapping penetrative effect, bringing daylight further and deeper into the space.

Rowe and Slutzky makes a distinction between two types, modes, or conditions of transparency in their seminal essay on Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal. A literal transparency,  that is, an actual or real transparency that is seen, is a quality inherent to substance or matter, such as in mesh screens, translucent walls, and a phenomenal transparency, that is, an implied or seeming mode of transparency that is read, is a quality inherent in the spatial or volumetric organization (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

Two or more transparent figures overlapping each other produces a contradiction or ambiguity of spatial dimensions; simultaneously seeming to advance or recede, appearing closer or further, where space continuously fluctuates and oscillates. These transparent planes, objects, or surfaces interpenetrate each other. Transparency permits a simultaneous perception or conception of various spatial locations (Gyorgy Kepes in Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

Transparency is the layering of planes and/or the layering of spaces, the layering of surfaces and/or the layering of volumes, producing spatial contiguity and continuity between successive or sequential advancing-receding series of strata or spaces.


Perforous Screens: Filtering & Dematerialization

Photos of AD1 Physical Model by Moe Kheir, 2010

Filtering and diffusing light through perforous patterned screens or facades, creating a myriad of patterned shadow effects as the sun changes its position during the course of a day. Henry Plummer describes Atomization as the sifting or filtering of light through a porous screen (Plummer, 2009). Dematerialization is the dissolution of matter through or by light, where thick, heavy, and massive, construction or cladding appears to be dissolved, eaten, or consumed by light itself.

Mesh screens or other finely patterned porous facades have the capability to disintegrate objects into light and air. Screens could be more porous or less porous according to the desired or necessary amount of solar exposure. The control of certain parameters, such as the proportion of solid to void, the relationship between the opaque surface and the porous openings or holes can achieve a seemingly gauzy and mysterious, yet luminous and brilliant, experience of the screen.  Atomized illumination through the fine screens of wood lattice, metal mesh, or other porous surface makes the view outside less clear, less solid, and instead more disintegrative, more vaporous. One only gets a glimpse of the outside through the perforated mesh of fine dots.

The filtered light gets splintered and scattered across the surface of a moiré patterned screen of holes. Light corrodes and dissolves the solidity of mass. Physical mass seems to be pulverized in an intricate interplay of perforation size, surface finish and lighting levels to achieve a condition of lightness and ambiguity in the balance between light and shadow, transparency and opacity of the façade, as well as materiality and ethereality.

The perforous screen like the diaphanous veil or the layered transparent planes simultaneously reveals and conceals, connects and divides in a mode of contiguous discontinuity. Plummer in his description of pulverized light mentions,

“Light becomes caught in screens, sometimes fleetingly…the screens seem to intermittently turn solid, translucent, or transparent, and the next moment dematerialize into nothing. The real wall and building mass appear to fade away, leaving behind a mesmerizing sensation of energy that seems to vibrate….boundaries slip out of focus, at one moment coming into shape and the next moment empty yet loaded with energy” (Plummer, 2009).


Indirect Daylighting: Canalization & Formlessness

Photos of AD1 Sectional Model by Cat Doo, 2010

Indirect daylighting explores the articulation of the formlessness of light. There is no clear boundary between what is lit and not lit; the distinction between light and non-light is undecidable, indeterminate, and ambiguous. The boundary is blurred. Light can be explored to enhance form, make form more pronounced, or alternatively, light can be manipulated to dematerialize form, eat away at the geometry, and make form less distinct. Light is captured by the indirect lighting mechanisms, whether they are carved voids, fingers of light, or channeled networks, and is transported yet transformed as the illumination gets redelivered into the interior space.

Plummer refers to the Canalization of light as being the channeling of light through hollow mass, where artificial routes, labyrinths, and tunnels are carved out for natural forces to penetrate the inner depths of a building. Formless light is given a memorable character whereby the radiation and energy from the sky is collected and sculpted. The flow of light is conducted through daylit voids, cavities, and porous masses, while distributing yet moulding the illumination as it hits the surface (Plummer, 2009).

Washes of natural light arrives from the ‘spaces between,’ from the interstitial spaces formed between the detached wall and the wall proper, in the case of indirect side lighting, or the detached ceiling panel and its adjoining ceiling, in the case of indirect top or zenithal lighting. The inner linings of these detached screens or baffles can be made reflective or coloured, which in turn will have an effect on the redirected light. In the various modes of indirect lighting, such as slots, tubes, conduits, light shafts, light funnels and scoops or some other labyrinthine configuration, the incident light arrives mysteriously as it is reflected or redirected from the inner surfaces of the light baffle, concealing the window or opening. Hence, a ‘sourceless’ light, a light of no apparent or clear origin. (Plummer, 2009).

The opening of light is concealed and hidden away from view, the channel or shaft forces the light to bend, to reflect, and to become more diffused while entering the space. These concealed light sources and hidden apertures can help choreograph or direct a journey, a promenade architecturale, whereby the indirect sources of light are points of command leading one further and deeper into a building.



  • Meyers, V., Designing with light, 1st ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006) 
  • Plummer, H., The Architecture of Natural Light (London: Thames & Hudson, 2009) 
  • Rowe, C. & R. Slutzky, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1982)

Transparency I: Layering of Planes/Layering of Spaces

October 20, 2010 1 comment

Literal Transparency vs Phenomenal Transparency, Real Transparency vs Seeming Transparency, Substantial Transparency vs Organizational Transparency, Actual Transparency vs Implied Transparency, Transparency of Seeing/Looking vs Transparency of Reading, Transparency of Observation vs Transparency of Interpretation.

Figure 1: Still Life, 1919, Jeanneret/Le Corbusier: overlapping of planes, Figure 2: Müller House, 1929-30, Prague, Adolf Loos: Raumplan as a succession of layered spaces

Transparent (adjective)

Having the property of transmitting light without scattering to that the objects lying beyond and behind are seen clearly; allowing passage of a specified form of radiation; fine or sheet enough to be seen through-diaphanous

Middle English, from Medieval Latin transparent-, transparens, present participle of transparēre to show through, from Latin trans- + parēre to show oneself

Synonyms include: clear, crystalline, liquid, lucent, pellucid, and see-through

Antonyms include: cloudy or opaque

Related terms include: colorless, diaphanous, translucent, semi-translucent or –transparent, glass


Two types of Transparency: the distinction

As can be seen from the dictionary definitions, the term transparency implies the optical or observational notions of showing or seeing through. Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky in their essay ‘Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal’ refers to a passage by Gyorgy Kepes,

“If one sees two or more figures overlapping one another, and each of them claims for itself the common overlapped part, then one is confronted with a contradiction of spatial dimensions. To resolve this contradiction one must assume the presence of a new optical quality. The figures are endowed with transparency: that is, they are able to interpenetrate without an optical destruction of each other. Transparency however implies more than an optical characteristic, it implies a broader spatial order. Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. The position of the transparent figures has equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer, now as the further one.” (Gyorgy Kepes, Language of Vision, quoted in C. Rowe & R. Slutzky, 1982, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays)

Rowe and Slutzy continue to add that, “‘Simultaneity,’ ‘interpenetration,’ ‘superimposition,’ ‘ambivalence,’ ‘space-time,’ ‘transparency’: in the literature of contemporary architecture these words, and others like them, are often used as synonyms.” (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982)

However, despite the dictionary definition implying transparency to be a material state or condition of allowing passage, transmission, diaphaneity, amongst others, the notion of transparent planes overlapping each other can suggest further interpretations, such that there is something else at play other than just a physical transparency (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982). This other type of seeming or implied transparency, that is an interpretive transparency, or an interpretive mode of seeing-through, can be distinguished,

“at the beginning of any inquiry into transparency, a basic distinction must perhaps be established. Transparency may be an inherent quality of substance-as in a wire mesh or glass curtain wall, or it may be an inherent quality of organization-as both Kepes and, to a lesser degree, Moholy suggest it to be; and one might, for this reason, distinguish between a real or literal and a phenomenal or seeming transparency.” (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982)

Hence the dual phenomena of transparencyliteral and phenomenal, real or seeming, substantial or organizational, actual or implied transparency.


Transparency in Painting

Rowe and Slutzky comments of the Cubist canvas of the early 1910s as illustrative of these two orders or phenomena of transparency (concepts alluding to space-time relativity), and they compare and illustrate the difference between literal and phenomenal transparency in Picasso’s The Clarinet Player, 1911 (being literal, a figure in deep space) and Braque’s The Portuguese, 1911 (being phenomenal, a shallow flattened extended space).

Le Corbusier’s Still Lifes’ speak of both literal and phenomenal transparency; of both overlapping transparent figures (wine glass and bottle) and overlapping – yet flattening – planes (objects) in space. The painting depicts spatial ambiguities; a property of transparency, due to an illusion of deep yet shallow space; a fluctuation of back and forth movement of objects and planes advancing and receding simultaneously.


Transparency in Architecture

The notion of spatial interpenetration, of which Sigfried Giedeon has mentioned in his texts on Le Corbusier’s buildings, is concurrent with the industrial, art and architectural movements of the era, that is, the fascination with the space-time continuum, relativity and the fourth dimension.

Rowe and Slutzky describes the workshop wing of the Bauhaus as a case of literal transparency whereas Le Corbusier’s villa at Garches as an example of phenomenal transparency.

The vertical layer-like stratification of Le Corbusier’s villa at Garches produces a layering of the interior space of the house and creates a succession or sequence of laterally extended spaces travelling one behind the other (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).

“throughout this house, there is that contradiction of spatial dimensions which Kepes recognizes as characteristic of transparency….The five layers of space which, vertically, divide the building’s volume and the four layers which cut it horizontally will all, from time to time, claim attention; and this gridding of space will then result in continuous fluctuations of interpretation.” (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982)

This continuous fluctuation of interpretative readings reaffirms the notion of seeming, or what will be later referred to as an implied transparency, as opposed to a real or actual transparency. The fluctuation or oscillating planes or layers produces an ambiguity of spatial depth in its simultaneity of vision or perception of multiple or overlapping planes and readings.

Thus, in architecture, the principles of frontality and stratification, that is, the layering of frontal planes is a device to construct and articulate space in order to achieve phenomenal transparency (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982).


Loos: Raumplan, the Layering of Space

“My architecture is not conceived in plans, but in spaces (cubes). I do not design floor plans, facades, sections. I design spaces. For me, there is no ground floor, first floor etc…. For me, there are only contiguous, continual spaces…Storeys merge and spaces relate to each other.” Adolf Loos

“Loo’s Raumplan…turned the experience of the house into a spatio-temporal labyrinth, making it difficult to form a mental image of the whole” (Colquhoun, 2002). This thus reiterates the notion of space-time interpenetrative spaces of simultaneity. It is such that transparency is a condition of betweeness in these terms of successive and continuous stratification, overlapping, layering, and superimposition of spaces.

The Villa Müller depicts a “[spatial] continuity between rooms…created not by omitting walls but by piercing them with wide openings so that views were always framed and the sensation of the room’s spatial closure was maintained” (Colquhoun, 2002). The viewer ‘journeys’ through the spatial continuum of the phenomenally transparent layered planes-spaces.

As such, Loo’s notion of the Raum – (or Space) – plan is a case of phenomenal transparency, that is, a transparency produced by the organization and articulation of sequential and continuous spaces, divided by planes or frames ordered in a layered or stratified manner.


Eisenman: Actual Transparency vs Implied Transparency

Figure 3: Eisenman’ axonometric analysis diagram of Terragni’s Casa del Fascio: layering of frontal planes, Figure 4: Eisenman’s House II: a layered reading or interpretation; actual vs implied

In Peter Eisenman’s formal-geometrical analysis of the Casa del Fascio by Giuseppe Terragni, he describes the frontal plane of the southwest façade as a series of successive layered planes from front to back (Eisenman, 2003). This interpretive study can be seen as a forerunner to his own investigative projects of layering planes and spaces, seen especially in his early house projects.

In Eisenman’s article on Cardboard Architecture: House II, “the implied planes formed by the columns and beams cut through the volumes in such a way as to create a condition in space where the actual space can be read as layered. The layering produces an opposition between the actual geometry and an implied geometry; between real space which is negative or void and implied volume which is positive or solid” (Eisenman, 1975).

Eisenman then describes a “dialectic or an opposition between an actual relationship and an implied relationship in the environment using the column and the wall, and the wall and the volume” (Eisenman, 1975). Here the actual and the implied relationships of transparent modes or operations are seen in opposition to each other, creating ambiguous dialectic or double overlapping readings of planes and spaces.

Eisenman thus achieves an overlapping-multiple reading or interpretation of transparent yet ambiguous conditions by means of working between two modes or readings of transparency, actual transparency vs implied transparency, or similarly, literal vs phenomenal transparency, or real/substantial vs seeming/organizational transparency, that is, the two modal operations of layering, the layering of Planes vs the layering of Spaces.




  • Definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  • Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • P. Eisenman, House II 1969 – Cardboard Architecture: House II, Five architects: Eisenman, Graves, Gwathmey, Hejduk, Meier (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975)
  • P. Eisenman, G. Terragni, et al, Giuseppe Terragni: transformations, decompositions, critiques (New York: Monacelli Press, 2003)
  • Rowe & R. Slutzky, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1982)
  • Raumplan [online]. [cited 14 October 2010] Available from: <>


Figure References:

  • Figure 1: Alan Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 141.
  • Figure 2: Alan Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 84.
  • Figure 3: P. Eisenman, G. Terragni, et al, Giuseppe Terragni: transformations, decompositions, critiques (New York: Monacelli Press, 2003), 96.
  • Figure 4: S. Cassarà & P. Eisenman, Peter Eisenman: Feints (Milan: Skira, 2006), 84.

Internal Elevations II

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

An interrogation of the Interior

AD1 Longitudinal Section by Moe Kheir, 2010

AD1 Longitudinal Section by Liz Tjahjana, 2010

AD1 Longitudinal Section by Cat Doo, 2010

A Section is never just what has been cut, but is also what is behind the cut, namely, the Section’s Internal Elevation.

To interrogate, investigate, elucidate, explain, elaborate, and explicate the implications of the building’s interior through the sectional internal elevation.

To interrogate is to ask questions, to examine, to cross-examine, if not also to threaten and torture. To inquire about the interior of the building. What is it like being inside? What can be seen and felt? As noted in the first article on Internal Elevations, the space behind the section is equally if not more important than the sectional cut itself. To investigate, consider, and explore the activities, the configuration of furniture, the material relationships of the various interior surfaces, the areas and modes of lighting; these very aspects which contribute to the interior experience needs to be elucidated, explained, elaborated and explicated. The section exposes a building and provides detailed information about what is happening inside.

A longitudinal section not only highlights the building in relationship to the ground but can also – making use of the length – elucidate a narrative or journey along the length of the building, taking one through a series of circulation spaces, programmatic activities, views out (panoramic backdrops can be used as the background or sky of the drawing), and overall spatial-geometric arrangement. The longitudinal section, supplemented with the internal elevations, a narrative through the building, a sequence (highlighted in a series of cross sections), or a story, could be unraveled or be revealed within its workings.

Ambiguity of Spatial Depth vs Light & Dark

What is bright comes to the front, and what is dark goes to the distance.

Hence what is cut, that is, the structure, is normally the brightest as it occupies the most frontal of planes, and what is receding gets progressively darker into the distance. This way of drawing and perceiving however may conflict with the brightened and darkened patches of particular walls illuminated by natural and artificial light sources. To allow for this contradiction in what is light and what is dark, the walls, that is, what has been cut can be made brighter than the patches of light on the walls, so as to distinguish the ambiguity of lightness and darkness. The key is contrast and gradation, introduce and articulate shade and tone while keeping the distinction between front vs back and light vs dark.

Such a drawing of internal elevation hence brings about the dichotomies of Reality vs Projection and Realism vs Illusionism. A drawing of reality vs a real depiction of a drawn space, that is, a projection. An illusion of light, dark, and depth of space vs the actual lit conditions of a building.

Such an illusion introduces ambiguities of spatial depth, between foreground, midground and background. A space in the distance may be brightly lit, and could be deceptively pushed forwards towards the frontal picture plane. Likewise a darkened space in the foreground may be pushed backwards from the picture plane creating an ambiguity of spatial depth. These seemingly contradictory moves however can still be remedied through the control and articulation of brightnesses and darknesses, as mentioned previously regarding the use of contrast and gradation to keep things distinct.

It is this notion of the frontality of the picture plane which the illusion of spatial depth and its ambiguities come into play, through the advancing and receding of multiple planar surfaces in relation to the datum.

To further explicate the complications of spatial ambiguity, one can decisively and purposely edit, omit or merge the ground “mass” and/or the structural cut. This omission causes the blurring or dissolution of the “structure” and the “mass” of the ground to give the illusion or impression of the space being pushed back from the page – frontal surface or picture plane. As if the space beyond was three-dimensionally yet illusory receding from the page itself.


The Site Plan

October 11, 2010 2 comments

Establishing the Context

Design 9: Site Plan 1:500 at A1, drawn by Author, 2008 & Design 10: Site Plan 1:500 at A1, drawn by Author, 2008


The Aim of the Site Plan

The intention of the Site Plan is to show the building or project with its immediate context. This can be drawn at 1:500 but can vary according to what to how much immediate context needs to be shown. The Site Plan attempts to address the following questions and issues:

How does the building relate to the site and context? What are the landscaping and/or urban design decisions being made? How is the building connected to the wider fabric of the context, its environment, sun and wind? How have the features of the site and immediate context been addressed, in terms of, axes, views, main roads, driveways, carparks, trees, lakes and streams, and other landmarks?


The Location Plan

The Location Plan is done at a different scale to the Site Plan and attempts to show the project’s location with a wider context, in its relationship to a nearby city, or within a country or territory. The Location Plan can be done at 1:1000, 1:5000, or even 1:15000, depending on the scope and necessity of showing certain site features, such as roads, bridges, significant buildings or landmarks, or lakes, streams, and/or other artificial or natural elements.

The Contents of the Site Plan

A typical site plan should include:

  • North-Point
  • Scale
  • Street & Road Names
  • Roof Plan of the building/s, ie, the Top View, to be made distinct from the rest of the drawing, eg. through colour. Should be positioned more or less in the centre of the composition.
  • Labels of existing natural and/or artificial site features, such as parks, significant buildings, etc.
  • Labels, whether directly on the drawing as referred to by a numbered key, of the various aspects of the project, eg. carpark, the different wings or complexes, especially in the case of masterplans
  • Carparks should be drawn with the parking lines indicated to convey decisions relating to the total amount of cars to be accommodated and the circulation-traffic of the carpark
  • Cars, buses, and other vehicles as scale indicators at 1:500
  • Aerial Photograph to convey the surrounding built typology and grain as well as trees, parks and other natural/artificial features picked up by the aerial photograph
  • Topography, ie, Contour Lines, to show the relief of the land, sloping up or down, labeled with indicative contour heights, every 5m or 10m, etc.
  • Landscaping, new roads, access/drive-ways, pedestrian footpaths/paving


The Site-Masterplan

Design 7: Master Plan over Site Plan 1:500 at A1, drawn by Author, 2007

The Masterplan overlaid or juxtaposed/composited with the Site Plan attempts to show the scheme and its scope in relationship to its immediate context. The key to communicating this clearly is to distinguish what is existing with what is new, through colour or other graphic device.

The Masterplan figure should attempt to clearly show the various aspects pertaining to the entire scheme, the circulation, the entries, the carparks, the various built typologies, public spaces, courtyards, green spaces, and other landscaping features, trees, streams, lakes, gardens, etc. Existing buildings and other existing features should be included. Labels on/to significant features of the scheme.

Analytical devices can be included such as: circulation, access, pedestrian/vehicular movement, sun and wind, etc. But should not confuse the reading of the site-masterplan itself.




Redirect to Design 7 – Passive Housing Scheme,


Redirect to Design 9 – Investigations into the Interstitial: Drawings,


Redirect to Design 10 – Metaphysics of Light: Drawings,


AD1: Dark Light – Perforous Screens & Dematerialization

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Moe Kheir

Advanced Design 1, MArch(Prof) Semester 1, 2010

Tutors: Dr. Ross Jenner & Adrian Lo

AD1 Night-time Exterior Perspective by Moe Kheir, 2010

Perforous Dematerialization

Filtering & Equilibrium: Establishing a Continuum between Polarities; The Experience of the Topological Unbroken Line

The building, a geophysics institute, rises out in a cantilevered bridge-like structure from the site; where the private wing is submerged, and the public wing is extended out. The space between is a Moebius-like mode of interlocking geometry, strongly elucidating the principle of the topological continuum or the unbroken line. This middle zone is also the entry.

Perforous: perforations, filtering and diffusing light through perforous screens, moiré effects, unbroken brokenness of the view beyond. Seen in the facades, refer to sections, renders and model.

Dematerialization: dissolve matter through or by light, the thick and heavy concrete (with limestone mix) cladding appears to be dissolved, eaten, or consumed by light itself. The natural light is filtered again through the timber slits, a double filtering. This dematerialization is reversed at night, emitting pores of artificial lights.

Equilibrium: the act of balancing, of equalizing, equivalences, finding the middle point or medius/mediation, the act of making equal, connecting while separating, made explicit through the buildings formal configuration on site, in the earth and out of the earth, through the interlocking gesture between private and public sectors, and through the perforous façade linking exterior and interior.

Polarities: equalising the binary opposites or dualities, such as light and heavy, thick and thin, light and dark, under and over, inside and outside, private and public, etc

Continuum: to continue, to extend, to continue and extend without disruption or break, ie unbrokeness, unbroken continuity, an unbroken movement and dynamism.

Experience: spatial experience, architecture as giving shape to experience, through form, material and light/shadow.

Topology: the unbroken line, the loop, seen in the volumetric configuration, balustrades and circulation.

ALO in conjunction with Moe Kheir