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Architectural Scale Always Leaves an Impression

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © MissTurner | Flickr

Architecture resonates at many scales — the human scale, the building scale, the urban scale, the global scale and the cultural scale. Each building creates a ripple effect beginning with one occupant to ultimately reach its even wider audience which experiences it. Thus, architectural scale is something which you, as an architect, should use instinctively and consciously.

Often, critics might say that a building captures a perfect “sense of scale”, and so often, many architects have trouble pinpointing exactly what they mean and what they did to achieve this. Conversely, when a building does not capture an appropriate sense of scale, what went wrong can be glaringly obvious. Either way, a building always makes (and leaves) an impression.

It seems that, even upon approach, an occupant immediately scans a building looking for ways that they can relate to it. They may find something beautiful, novel or even just plain useful. One thing is for sure though; occupants form opinions about what they like (and what they don’t like), for better or for worse.

Can the Key Be Translation?

Designing a “language” can take you a long way toward achieving a good “sense of scale” in your designs. Take narrative, for instance. Just as a story is made up by chapters, each sentence is made up by words and each letter is made up by a set of geometries which make them readable. One key here can be seen as “translation” — which authors use to capture the best of what scaling can do. Well, architects can do the same.

So, translate from the micro (nano-scale, for instance) to the macro (urban-scale, for instance) and remember that each scale jump may require translation — because what you solve for one occupant’s experience may have an entirely different effect as it compounds its impression upon a larger community.

Design your “sense of scale” as a fabric that links from a human to an entire culture.




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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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