The connection between proportion & architecture

“Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an entire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as standard. From this result the principles of symmetry. Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members as in the case of those of a well shaped man. —Vitruvius,[1] The Ten Books of Architecture (III, Ch. 1)

A: Frank Lloyd Wright


Architecture is that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances as they change. That is architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright, 1937


Frank Lloyd Wright (born Frank Lincoln Wright) lived from 1867 to 1959. During most of these years, from 1885 to 1959, he was a prolific architect, with close to 500 of his designs built (and hundreds more remaining unbuilt) – a career lasting three quarters of a century, and unequaled in output. Do you have a living room in your house? or a carport? Does your house have an “open” floor plan? If so, then the way you live is being directly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovations in residential architecture. “Drawing inspiration from his native midwestern prairie, he coaxed Americans out of their boxlike houses and into wide-open living spaces that suited the American lifestyle” He contributed the Prairie and Usonian houses to the vernacular of American residential design, and elements of his designs can be found (at least to some small degree) in a large proportion of homes today. While most of his designs were single-family homes (ranging from small homes for families of modest incomes, to mansions like his unbuilt design for Henry Ford), his varied output also includes houses of worship, skyscrapers, resorts, museums, government offices, gas stations, bridges, and other masterpieces showing the diversity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s talent.


First Unitarian Meeting House, Wisconsin.



B: Erik Gunnar Asplund


 Lister County Courthouse Design






The Swede Erik Gunnar Asplund (1885-1940), was a native of Stockholm. His work progresses through a variety of styles. From 1911 until 1930 his language, in opposition to the prevailing National Romanticism, was a “modern classicism” based on a free integration of classic and vernacular themes, and influenced by his travels in the USA and Greece. 1930, the year of the Stockholm Exposition, saw a transition to a personal interpretation of the modern movement, with a strongly functionalist perspective. The work of his last years retains a commitment to modernism, while returning to a mode that learns from tradition and from classicism. For example, his Woodland Crematorium (1935) makes use of columns which while modern in design, convey classical dignity. The Lister County Courthouse (illustrated), built between 1917 and 1921, has a theatrical feel. Each façade has a different character, with none specifically relating to the others, nor offering much clue to the interior within. However, the Courthouse shares with the later Stockholm Public Library a form focused on a circular central space wrapped around by stairs. Classicism underpins form, but classicism admired because it represents a rational approach to form. Whether as the leader of Scandinavian classicism, or as a modernist, Asplund is a leading figure in the history of 20th-century design, influencing fellow Scandinavians such as Aalto alongside European and American masters. 

By the end of the 1920’s, Asplund had become a committed Modernist. In his architecture, he sought to point the way “to a new architecture and a new life”. Keeping with this ideal, he became a signatory to the Acceptera manifesto of 1931. His layout for the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 clearly indicates his modernist ideals.

During the period from 1931 until his death, Asplund moved away from Modernism and began showing a sympathy towards a stripped Nordic classicism. Asplund continued to design until his death in Stockholm in 1940.

C: Robert Venturi

Although Venturi has designed many buildings, his theories have created more impact. Based on the philosophy of ‘complexity and contradiction’, he has re-assessed architecture to stress the importance of multiple meanings in appreciating design.

In contrast to many modernists, Venturi uses a form of symbolically decorated architecture based on precedents. He believes that structure and decoration should remain separate entities and that decoration should reflect the culture in which it exists. In contradiction, Venturi also considers symbolism unnecessary since modern technology and historical symbolism rarely harmonize.

Although Venturi considers himself a architect of Western classical tradition, he claims that architectural rules have changed. He rejects a populist label, but in Learning from Las Vegas he shifted from an intellectual critique of Modernism in terms of complexity to an ironic acceptance of the “kitsch of high capitalism” as a form of vernacular. His theories have generated the populist aesthetic of the recent Post-Modernism. Below is a photograph of the inside of the Seattle Art Museum (left) as well as the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London (right).








D: Joshua Prince-Ramus


Complemented by incredible visuals, Prince-Ramus advocates a hyper-rational process without signature or authorship that challenges the high modernist notion of flexibility throughout a building, which he believes results in generic spaces. He argues that to control operational costs, which have outstripped capital costs, projects should instead focus on “compartmentalized flexibility,” where some spaces have fixed uses, and others can evolve based on future unanticipated needs.






The library cost 165 million dollars, is 363,000 square feet, has 400 computers, and 1.4 million books. It is based on Joshua Ramus (and Rem Koolhass) design idea that some of the interior spaces are for fixed purposes and others spaces are flexible to meet the changing demands of it’s users and future function.


This writer believes that the library features a very striking and unique design. The size and functionality of the Seattle Library provides convenience and accessibility to city dwellers.


Architect #1


Eisenman’s focus on “liberating” architectural form was notable from an

academic and theoretical standpoint but resulted in structures that were both badly built and hostile to users. The Wexner Center, hotly anticipated as the first major public deconstructivist building, has required extensive and expensive retrofitting because of elementary design flaws (such as incompetent material specifications, and fine art exhibition space exposed to direct sunlight). It was frequently repeated that the Wexner’s colliding planes tended to make its users disoriented to the point of physical nausea; in 1997 researcher Michael Pollan tracked the source of this rumor back to Eisenman himself. In the words of Andrew Ballantyne, “By some scale of values he was actually enhancing the reputation of his building by letting it be known that it was hostile to humanity.”


Eisenman currently teaches architecture at Yale University and has also embarked on a larger series of building projects than ever before in his career, including the recently completed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin and the new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona



See full-size image.…/9schools/ full/princeton3.jpg

800 x 514 – 83k

Image may be scaled down and subject to copyright.



Architect #2

Richard Meier & Partners buildings have received critical praise for their technical and architectural innovation as well as their subtle and sympathetic relationship to their contexts and the natural environment. An especially notable hallmark of a Richard Meier & Partners building is the innovative use of natural light. Important in Mr. Meier’s earliest work, the effective use of natural daylight has remained a constant preoccupation and is even more compelling in much of the firm’s recent work.


Architect #3

The Farnsworth House

Mies Van der Rohe, 1946 – 1951


 Farnsworth House Today (1994)

Designed and built from 1946 to 1951, Farnsworth House is considered a paradigm of international style architecture in America. The house’s structure consists of precast concrete floor and roof slabs supported by a carefully crafted steel skeleton frame of beams, girders and columns. The facade is made of single panes of glass spanning from floor to ceiling, fastened to the structural system by steel mullions. The building is heated by radiant coils set in the concrete floor; natural cross ventilation and the shade of nearby trees provide minimal cooling. Though it proved difficult to live in, the Farnsworth House’s elegant simplicity is still regarded as an important accomplishment of the international style.


Architect #4


Gerrit Rietveld was born in Utrecht, Netherlands and lived and worked there all his life. Gerrit learned first cabinet making from his father. After leaving the family workshop in 1911, he trained as an architectural draftsman, before he became finally an architect in 1919. Rietveld’s most important architectural work, the Schroder House in Utrecht (1924), correlates closely with his furniture designs. Its rigorous geometries and open-plan layout, articulated with screens and panels of color, form a new, so called modernist, aesthetic.




The famous Red & Blue chair was designed in 1917. Nothing has existed like that before. It marked the transition between the organic, curving Art Noveau Style and the crisp, chic Art Deco. The Red & Blue chair is composed out of a dramatic interplay of straight lines to form patterns. The lines produce form by enclosing space, the structure has very simple components and the striking colors are a reminder of paintings by the artist Mondrian. Although there is no upholstery, the chair is amazingly comfortable.

Red & Blue Chair


G. Rietveld joined in Dutch Modernist Design Movement, De Stijl, around the time he created the Red & Blue Chair. The Chair summarizes kind of the radical proposals of this influential art and design movement. It promoted simple forms and primary colors and tried to reduce objects to their essential form.


Like the Red & Blue Chair, the ZigZag was created in 1934 as a way of articulating space. Rietveld wanted to design a chair from a single piece of material. Although it could not be realized with wood, the chair gives at least the impression as of. The ZigZag is made of four rectangular sections of natural hardwood, intricately dovetailed, glued and bolted together that reveals Gerrits expertise in cabinet making. The chair is a pure statement of modernist seating and expresses the cantilever principle in a clear form. It is spare, austere and reveals a simplicity in abstraction.



Architect #5


Tadao Ando’s body of work is known for the creative use of natural light and for architectures that follow the natural forms of the landscape (rather than disturbing the landscape by making it conform to the constructed space of a building). The architect’s buildings are often characterized by complex three-dimensional circulation paths. These paths interweave between interior and exterior spaces formed both inside large-scale geometric shapes and in the spaces between them


Question for Tadao Ando –

Q:  “Who would you like to design something for, Ando?”

A: I believe that the way people live can be directed a little by architecture.

I would like my architecture to inspire people to use their own resources,

to move into the future.

although now we are more and more governed by the american way

of thinking, money, the economy…

I hope that now people will shift to a more european way (of thinking),

culture, individuality, and that people move towards new goals.

so for me to be able to contribute to this would be great. .



1 Comment

  1. ironsenue said,

    February 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thankz for the info!

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