Analysing Architecture

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					Architecture 155                                                          Analyzing Architecture

Helpful methods of analysis for critiquing and understanding architecture:

Structural Analysis

What is the building’s physical structure (steel, concrete, brick, etc)? How is it related to the
overall form of the building? How does the appearance of the building reflect its structural
composition? What is the historical significance of the structural framing system?

Formal Analysis

“Formal” meaning related to form

What are the physical forms that compose the building? Is it a solid geometric shape or is it
fragmented or broken apart in its appearance? How do the forms relate to one another?

Technological Analysis

What are the technological achievements that made the building possible? Structural systems,
sanitation systems, vertical circulation devices, metal working techniques, casting techniques,
computational methods and computer systems for design are all key points to explore.

Site Analysis

Where does the building sit? Is it in a rural or urban environment? How does the shape of the
building change related to the site it is on? What are the limitations of the site, including property
lines, views, circulation paths, etc? How are drainage, water collection, wind and sun taken into
account in the form of the building?

Ecological Analysis

How do the building materials relate to the natural environment? Is the building responsive in its
use of heating and cooling? Is the building an efficient building in terms of its energy
consumption? Does the building reflect a state of permanence in the landscape or is it
temporary? Does the building promote the use of the automobile or is it pedestrian oriented?

Analysis of Ornamentation

What are the kinds of ornament used? How do they reflect the political economic and social
ideas of the time? How is the ornament made? Is it pleasing to look at?

Analysis of Urban Planning

How does the building relate to the larger scale of the city? How does it relate to the immediate
scale of the street? Is it a nodal point in the urban landscape of is it a background structure?
Does it reinforce a street edge? Is it isolated or part of a continuous urban fabric?

Analysis of Levels of Scale

What are the levels of scale of the building? How many levels of scale can it be broken down
into? Is it deficient in some levels of scalar articulation (for example is it missing fine grain
ornamentation, or is it missing intermediate structure)? How does the scale of the building relate
to the neighboring scales of the urban and natural environment?
Architecture 155                                                       Analyzing Architecture

Discussion of Architect’s History and Background

Who was the architect that designed the project? Who worked with the architect? What were the
architect’s philosophies about design? Who and what were early influences in their design
careers? What school of thought does the architect fall into? What is the architect’s nationality
and how does that influence his or her work?

Historical and Theoretical Analysis

What architectural movement can the building be categorized under (modernism, postmodernism,
etc)? What are the ideas that were circulating at the time in the design field related to design
theory? What are the ideas that characterize the approach towards design under the given
architectural style? Are there social theories behind the structure, if so what are they?

Social & Political Analysis

What did people think of the building at the time of its construction? What do they think today?
Was the building promoted or discouraged by the local government? Was the building a focal
point of political activity?

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