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Basic principles of space design every architecture student should know

Function: Purpose as a Design Guide


Space design is a fundamental aspect of architecture. It involves creating spaces that are functional, aesthetic, and meet the needs of users. To achieve successful designs, it’s essential to always consider the basic principles of space design.

1 Proportion and Scale: Harmony in dimensions

    Proportion refers to the relationship between different parts of a space, while scale is defined as the size of a space in relation to the human body. Achieving appropriate proportion and scale is crucial for creating pleasant and comfortable spaces.

    A perfect example of proportion is found in the Parthenon in Athens, where the relationship between the dimensions of the base and the height of the building generates a sense of harmony and balance. Regarding scale, it is important to consider the dimensions of the space based on the activities that will take place in it. A space intended for large gatherings will require more height and width than a space designed for individual study.

    2 Form and Volume: Defining the character of space

      Form refers to the three-dimensional configuration of a space, while volume is the space occupied by an object. These elements are essential for defining the character and atmosphere of a space.

      An example of how form influences the perception of space is found in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where the concave shape of the central dome generates a sense of spaciousness and grandeur. Volume, on the other hand, can create different environments. A space with high and wide ceilings can convey a sense of freedom and openness, while a space with low ceilings and closed walls can create a feeling of intimacy and coziness.

      3 Light and Color: Illuminating and bringing life to space

        Light and color are powerful tools that allow for the creation of different effects and atmospheres in a space. Natural and artificial light can be used to illuminate and accentuate specific areas, while color can add visual interest, convey emotions, and define the identity of a space.

        A masterful example of the use of light is found in Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light in Ibaraki, Japan, where natural light entering through a concrete cross creates an ethereal and spiritual effect. Color plays a fundamental role in the work of Piet Mondrian, who uses primary colors and black lines to create dynamic and vibrant compositions.

        4 Circulation: Harmonious flow and movement

          Circulation refers to the movement of people through a space. A successful design must consider circulation as an essential element to ensure a smooth and safe flow of users.

          An example of well-planned circulation is found in Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, where the layout of spaces and clear signage allow passengers to move efficiently and without confusion.

          5 Function: Purpose as a design guide

            Function refers to the purpose for which a space is designed. It is essential that the design responds to the needs and activities that will take place in the space, creating an appropriate environment for each function.

            An example of functional design is found in Le Corbusier’s housing, where his concept of “open plan” proposes open and flexible spaces that adapt to the needs of the inhabitants.

            6 Materiality: Selecting construction elements

              Materiality refers to the materials used to construct a space. The choice of materials should consider aspects such as aesthetics, durability, sustainability, and cost.

              An iconic example of the use of materiality is found in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, where the integration of natural stone with the natural surroundings creates a sense of harmony and connection with the landscape.

              7 Sustainability: Designing for a responsible future

                Sustainability refers to the design of spaces that are environmentally friendly. It is important to consider the environmental impact of materials, construction systems, and energy consumption of the space throughout its lifecycle.

                An example of sustainable architecture is found in the Bioclimatic Building of the University of Seville, Spain, where passive design strategies are used to reduce energy consumption and take advantage of natural resources.


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