Experiencing Architecture: Basic Things to Understand Architect’s Choices

In 1959, Steen Eiler Rasmussen (visiting professor at MIT) wrote a book called “Experiencing Architecture” to teach many students about experimentation of architectural products starting with a photograph of a king riding bicycle. The book is quite straight-forward to explain basic things about architecture especially for architecture students. What I realized as an interesting fact is that same book can be guide for non-architect people to understand architect’s choices about their designs. I will mention some of the points that are placed in the book. In that way, it may help to reduce the sense of “crazy architect”.

Textures are one of the main topics for architects. Textural quality of the materials can be determining factor. For Rasmussen, material that has weak textural quality can be developed by placing them in an ambient that has depth because of the design of the space. In contrast with that, materials that have rich textural quality should be placed on the surfaces which are without ornamentation and sense of depth.

Light is another tool for architects to create or manipulate the sense of space. The way Rasmussen thinks about light is that light basically creates an aura till where it reaches. A light that is dense and one-sourced, forms a close aura in just the same way as campfire does. On the other hand, vice versa is also valid to provide the feel of open endless space.

Color is the element that is easiest to change but hardest to decide. For instance, for Rasmussen, a small room can be seen bigger when it is painted with pale colors. Even it is a method to manipulate a space, it gives a fake feeling as painting a room that is north facing, with warm colors to provide daylight effect. Instead of this fake effects, what architects do is basically improving the effect that space give us. For instance, a small room may be painted with more darker and denser colors to make the room smaller.

Even though texture, light and color are not the only tools that are used by architects to manipulate the experience of the space, they are easily noticeable by people that experience the space, in my opinion. Of course, there are many to talk about making the space and elements of space, however this two minute reading can be an introduction to understand architects in guidance of Rasmussen’s “Experiencing Architecture”.