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Underrated Architectural Styles

There are a lot of architectural styles that we remember when we think about architecture and its history, like the Ancient Greek, Gothic, Renaissance, Modernist and Post-modern style. However, there are a lot of other styles that are not only important to the history of architecture, but also can be an important inspiration to contemporary architects.

Here we present you six of these styles. They appear based only on chronological order.

ACHAEMENIAN IMPERIAL STYLE
The Achaemenian Imperial Style was the current style of the Persian Empire when it was ruled by the Achaemenian kings (from Cyrus the Great and Xerxes I to Darius III). There are only a few traces of what was built during this period of the Persian history, basically few columns and some bas-relief. However, this style still influences the contemporary Iranian architecture, like the Dariush Grand Hotel, in Kish Island, made by Hossein Sabet. The most famous structure of that style is the Apadana, in Persepolis. It was built between the 6th and 5th century B.C.

ANCIENT ISLAM
The Ancient Islam style started when Muhammad founded the Al-Haram Mosque or The Great Mosque of Mecca (630 A.C.) and ended when the Mongols destroyed the capital of Baghdad (1258 A.C.). This style heavily influenced Portuguese, Spanish and the Latin American colonial architecture, since the Muslin occupied Portugal and Spain during part of the medieval period. One of the most beautiful buildings of this style is the Prophet Mosque, in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

SACRED INDIAN STYLE
The first centuries of the second millennium saw a burst of Indian Sacred Architecture. From about 1000 A.C. to 1260, India became a strong country that wanted to establish itself as a superpower. To do this, part of its kings started to built temples to Hindu Gods. These temples follow the conceptual design of a combination of edicts, making it look like a series of fractal. The actual Indian Sacred Style is composed by the Valabhi, Phamsana, Latina, Sekhari and Bhumija styles. One of the greatest examples of the Indian Sacred Architecture is the Udayeshvara Temple, a temple made in the Bhumija style.

NEOGREEK
The Neogreek style was a revival style that appeared in Europe in the middle of the 18th century, after the Ottoman Empire lost the control of Greece and the works of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett about the ancient Greek art and architecture was released. It was one of the first revival style, but it didn’t earn enough recognition due to an “anti-greek” opposition made by some important architects of the period and due to the rise of the Neoclassical and the Gothic Revival style. However, it was still a strong style in Scotland until the late 1870’s, mainly because of the works of Alexander “Greek” Thomson in Glasgow, and in Germany, with the works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. One of the most important work in this style is the Bank of England in London, made by Sir John Soane.

MEIJI STYLE
The Meiji Style is the style adopted by Japan during the period it started to modernize its country. In 1868, the Meiji Emperor started a program to modernize and industrialize its country. To make this, he encouraged the study of European architecture and engineering. On the first few years of this renovation, the Emperor hired a lot of European architects to work in Japan. However, In the early 1890’s, a lot of Japanese architects started to come from university, replacing the foreigners. This style is remembered because of its cultural hybridity and to be the first ones to use reinforced concrete in a Japanese architecture. One of the greatest examples of this architecture style is the Tokyo National Museum, made by Jin Watanabe.

PETITE ARCHITECTURE
The Petite Architecture is a style of contemporary architecture that first appeared in the early 1930’s in France. The idea was to build little, petite, houses that could be taken on trips. The first house that was done thinking in these concepts was the Bivouac Shelter, by Charlotte Perriand. After 50 years, the Petite Architecture Style gained a new breath, being adopted by architects in Japan, were it earned a more technological approach. The Japanese architects abandoned the mobile approach and used the Petite approach to build houses on small lands on Japanese metropolis. From the Japanese branch, one example is the Small House in Tokyo, made by Kazuyo Sejima.

Golden and Silver Ratio in Architecture

Among history, artist, designers and architects used some mathematical ratios and equations to help them with their work. Between those ratios one got famous in western tradition and other got famous in the East.

The one that got famous in the West is called golden ratio. This mathematical ratio is believed to be some kind of divine proportion (as called by Paciolli and Da Vinci in their “De Divina Proportione”[1]) that regulate the form of natural things and the human body. We can see the use of the golden ratio in the Euclid’s Elements[2], in the Renaissance art and architecture and even in modern architecture. The other that got renowned in East is called silver ratio or Japanese ratio (“Yamato-hi” for Japanese). They used the silver ratio in Buddha statues, in architecture and in anime characters, like Doraemon.

 Doraemon

Doraemon[3]

 

Each of those ratios are defined by a geometrical relation. The golden ratio is defined by dividing a section of line in two parts, part a and part b, in a way that the total length of the line (a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) is equal to the division between the two new segments (a and b) as we can see in the equation in the side and the image below, resuming: . The value of this ratio is always an irrational number that we round to 1.618. The silver ratio is quite similar, however, instead of being the total length of line (a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) that is equal to the division of the between the two segments (a and b), it’s the double of the greater segment added by the smaller segment (2a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) that is equal to the division of the between the two segments (a and b), resuming: . The value of this ratio is or, rounded, 1.414.

 

gold and silver ratios

Golden and silver ratio line[4]

 

Le Corbusier and the Golden Ratio

The famous architect Le Corbusier was one of the architects that believed and used the golden ratio in his works and advocates for its application in everyday life. To endorse the use of this ratio in any type of architectural work, interior design or product design, and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, he created what he calls “Modulor”.

modulor

Image 3 – Modulor[5]

a le Corbusier sketch

A Le Corbusier’s sketch with relation between heights and the Modulor with distances in cm[6]

 

The Modulor used the golden ratio to calculate relations between parts of the human body. For this, he used, for a base, a six-foot tall man (182 cm) with one of the arms raised. However, preserving the adequate proportions, anyone could transpose it to make it work with people that are taller or smaller than the one Le Corbusier used in the Modulor. Based on this, an architect or a designer could know the best height and angle to put or to better design some furniture, doors, windows and even door handles.

One example of Le Corbusier’s architecture project designed with the help of the golden ratio is the United Nations Secretariat Building. In this building design, Le Corbusier worked with Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer is a famous Brazilian architect that were heavily influenced by Le Corbusier since he came to Brazil in 1935 to help Lúcio Costa (another Brazilian architect and also professor at Rio de Janeiro Federal University) and his students to design a Modernist building to the local government and teach Modernist urbanism to them. Being Niemeyer one of Costas’ student, he also learned a lot from Le Corbusier. After this, Niemeyer developed his own language, but still was influenced by what he learned from Le Corbusier.

On the building they designed together, we can see golden rectangles in the façade. We also can see the golden proportion being used in the window configuration of the building and, according to the website The Golden Number[7], we can also see the use of the golden ratio in the front entrance of the building and in the interior floor plans.

UN Secretariat Building and Golden Rectangles[8]

 

UM Secretariat Window Configuration[9]

 

The silver ratio in japanese architecture

In Japan they don’t believe much in the use of the Golden Ratio on design. To them, the use of the Silver Ratio create a design that is more beautiful and serene than the Divine Proportion. Since the Silver Ratio derives a smaller proportion (1.414), the objects that are done based on it are closer to a square than the ones done based on the western proportion.

One famous example of the use of the silver ratio is the Horyu-ji Temple in Ikagura, Nara Prefecture, Japan. This temple is a Buddhist temple with one of the oldest wooden building of the world. As we can see in the image below, the relation between the ground floor of the left building and its second floor is 1.414, and the relation between the first roof of the right floor and its last roof is also 1.414, the valor of the silver ratio.

 

Horyu-ji

Horyu-ji Temple with Pagoda[10]

 

As happened with our ratio, they were more used in the past, but we can also see contemporary works that used it, like the Tokyo Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is one of the world’s tallest tower, having two observatories and a digital broadcasting antenna at the top. According to the image bellow, we can see a silver ratio relation between the distance of the floor to the second observatory and the distance between the floor and the top of the tower.

 

tokyo sky tree

Tokyo Skytree[11]

 

Today, neither of the two proportions is seen as a divine relation or a design rule, but we can still see projects that used them as a way to create a guidance or a feeling of harmony and serenity.

 

[1] PACIOLLI, Luca; DA VINCI, Leonardo. 2014. De Divina Proportione (On the Divine Proportion): Facsimile in Full Color of the Original Version of 1509. USA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
[2] EUCLID. 2017. Euclid’s Elements. Kindle edition. USA: LRP.
[3] EPIC RAP BATTLES OF CARTOONS WIKI. “Doraemon”. Retrieved June 07, 2018 (http://epic-rap-battles-of-cartoons.wikia.com/wiki/Doraemon).
[4] WIKIPEDIA. 2007. “Golden Ratio”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio).
[5] THE GOLDEN RATIO. “Le Corbusier”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://divinumproportione.weebly.com/le-corbusier-and-modulor.html).
[6] ICON. “Modulor Man by Le Corbusier”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.iconeye.com/opinion/icon-of-the-month/item/3815-modulor-man-by-le-corbusier).
[7] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “The UN Secretariat Building, Le Corbusier and the Golden Ratio”. Retrieved June 07, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/un-secretariat-building-golden-ratio-architecture/).
[8] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “Phi and the Golden Section in Architecture”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/architecture/).
[9] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “Phi and the Golden Section in Architecture”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/architecture/).
[10] FANCLIP. “キティーちゃんの顔バランス。そうだったのか!!「白銀比」「黄金比」の話”. Retrieved June 08, 2018 (https://www.fanclip.jp/blog/archives/614)
[11] FANCLIP. “キティーちゃんの顔バランス。そうだったのか!!「白銀比」「黄金比」の話”. Retrieved June 08, 2018 (https://www.fanclip.jp/blog/archives/614)

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Willits House and the Traditional Japanese Architecture

The Willits House is a project made by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the important architects of the 20th century. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, “In 1991, the AIA [The American Institute of Architects] named Wright the greatest American architect of all time”[1]. Besides not being his most famous work, the Willits House express Wright’s interest in the traditional Japanese architecture and in the simple way of living.

Wright’s interest in Japanese art started on the late 1880s, when he started to work as an art dealer as a side job, selling Japanese woodprint blocks to his clients. In 1905, when he decided to make his first trip outside of America, he decided to visit Japan, spending two months touring natural and historical landmarks. In January of 1917, Wright took a residence in Tokyo to work on projects in Japan. Apart from being designed in 1901, before his first trip to Japan, the Willits House received a lot of influences from the traditional Japanese house style.

Traditional Japanese Style

The Japanese traditional style was an architectural design that took place before the modernization made in the Meiji era (1868-1912), an era that Japan decided that it should modernize its architecture and engineering to become an industrialized country. This style is characterized by its feeling of simplicity and serenity, the attention to details, the use of wood structure and the use of wood and paper panels as walls and doors.

 

Minka in Kyoto [2]
The traditional Japanese houses are called minka, kominka or ko-minka. These houses are now slowly disappearing[3], partially because they are made of a very flammable material and partially because they aren’t appropriate for the current Japanese lifestyle. Nevertheless, they were very common in the Japan that Wright knew and visited.

Japanese roof frame [4]
To make these houses, the Japanese builders used a carpentry technique that made possible to build a house without the use of nails, with just perfect fits between wood pieces and mooring pieces together. This way of build makes it necessary to have attention to every detail of every piece used in the construction of the house so they attach together strongly.

A minka also utilizes sliding screens that worked as doors and walls. These sliding screens are called fusumashouji or fusuma, for short[5], and they can be used, when open, to turn a space wider or, when closed, to turn a room more private. These fusuma are made of wood and paper. They can be made from a very thin paper, letting light enter the house or the room, or from a very thick paper. Those paper can receiver a pure color or even some artistic painting

Willits house and its relation to Japanese traditional style

The Willits House is a house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1901 for Ward W. Willits. This house received a lot of influence from the Japanese minka that we saw here before. The first characteristic that we see, analyzing the side view of the Willits House, is the white color on the wall and the wood framing the windows, mimicking the serenity found Japanese architecture and the fusuma that works as the door and wall of the minka house. We also can see a large eaves on the top of the building that are common on Japanese traditional architecture.

Floor plan

Dining room [6]
Going inside the house, we see a lot of wood frames working as structural element, as also a way to mimic fusumas, or as way of incorporate glass to make some rooms feels more permeable. Wright also used panels made of wood and glass as doors, using the glass as the Japanese use paper to fill their fusuma. We can also see that the rooms are spacious and very clean, helping to creating the feeling of serenity that are common on traditional Japanese architecture.

Wright was very interested in the Japanese culture and architecture. In this project, he could experiment some ways to incorporate his passion on the american house and in his architecture design. As we saw, this project is inspired in the Japanese minka, but also has adaptations made to work in the american style and way of living, like the use of glass and western wall material, instead of paper. These experiments were futher used on more of Wrights projects, defining part of the Praire House Style and the overall Wright style.

[1] Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. 2007. “About Frank Lloyd Wright”. Retrieved April 04, 2018 (https://www.savewright.org/who-we-are/about-frank-lloyd-wright).
[2] Kyoto-Araki Komuten Sukiya-Japan. “Introducing Ko-Minka”. Retrieved April 05, 2018 (http://sukiya-japan.com/minka/index.html).
[3] Tsunagu Japan. “Simple yet beautiful: Japan's traditional homes, kominka”. Retrieved April 04, 2018 (https://www.tsunagujapan.com/simple-yet-beautiful-japans-traditional-homes-kominka).
[4] Евгений Арсенюк Pinterest Account. “Japanese roof frame”. Retrieved April 05, 2018 (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4a/f6/1e/4af61e02575a4c49430837c947396764.jpg).
[5] Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. “Fusuma”. Retrieved April 05, 2018 (http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus).
[6] Wiki Architecture. “Ward W. Willits House”. Retrieved April 04, 2018 (https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/ward-w-willits-house).

 

Article by HL Architects and Interior Design in Durham