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Architectural Design I - ARC255

Prof. Joseph A. Betz, Architect

Course Outline


Conceptual Architectural Design I & II Course Material Outline

  • ARC 255 - Architectural Design I is concept driven
  • ARC 257 - Architectural Design II is process and method driven 


Concepts (as outlined in the Course text book, Architecture: Form Space and Order)

  • Form: Additive/Subtractive, Mass/Void, interactive strategies 
  • Space/Volume definition, patterns, systems and associations 
  • Spatial Relationships: abutting, overlapping, space within a space
  • Path Space Relationships: outside, along the edge, terminate in a space
  • Circulation Patterns: linear, radial, grid, network, spiral, composite
  • Spatial Ordering Principles: axis, symmetry, hierarchy, rhythm, datum, transformation 



  • Convergent and Divergent thinking
  • Idea Formation => 2-D Diagram => 3-D Architecture
  • Idea formation strategies
  • Contextual analysis of existing systems and patterns (3-D Arch. => 2-D Diagrams)
  • Associations of new systems and patterns
  • Research, precedents and prototype possibilities
  • Reductive strategies and variable elimination
  • Pattern synthesis and conceptual path/space diagram
  • Three dimensional possibilities and fit
  • Model testing (sketch models, 3-D CAD, form models)
  • Development, Refinement and Constraint Strategies
  • Constraining unconstrained problems, elimination strategies


Tools/Techniques (parts learned in Introduction to Graphics)

  • Hand drawing and doodling
  • Diagrams: space, path, structure, enclosure, use/function, etc.
  • Sketch Model: scale, light, texture, color
  • Plan/Section/Elevation Relationships
  • AutoCAD 2-D and 3-D Constructions
  • AutoCAD simulations and videos
  • Presentations: Graphic, Interactive, 3-D Models, Written/Oral 


Heuristic Approaches (as modeled/outlined in Peter Rowe’s JAE article 36:1, pp18-23, 1982)

Means Ends relationship and speculative starting points to design (one or more)

  • Anthropometric Analogies (physical construction of space)
  • Literal Analogies (spatial/formal/abstract patterns that hold meanings or metaphors)
  • Contextual Relations (natural and built relationships and surrounding influences)
  • Typologies (use of successful existing design solutions)
  • Stylistic Languages (i.e., classical, gothic, modern, signature rules that define styles)


Types of Function

  • Particular function is based on individual preferences (subjective measurement).  
  • Universal function is based on formulaic criteria and standards such as cost, utility (objective measurement).
  • Providing space for function (Box) vs. Expression of function in form (Stadium) vs. Metaphor of function in form (Duck)  
  • Functions change and evolve over time... if not the building does not survive!  
  • Functional requirements are best guesses allowing modification by the user. 
  • Functions that require more space than the physical space designed will not work (zero sum test).
  • Form follows function: activity (i.e., shape) vs. technical (i.e., innovative skin) vs. expressive (i.e., metaphor) 


Rules for Function

  • Think of a function as a area with the proportions 1:1 to 1:1.5.  Rarely do functions exceed proportions of 1:2.
  • Never walk through the middle of a function in a space to get to another space; terminate in a function or walk around.
  • A space should include the function, circulation that does not interfere with the function and any spatial interaction.
  • Circulation is considered a type of function, keep it as short and simple as possible for cost and code constraints.


Idea Formation

  • Narrative of client story, values and ideas
  • Ranking of functions and values
  • Sorting / Segregating /categorize of functions and ideas
  • Contextual analysis of patterns and systems
  • Pattern recognition, integration and manipulation
  • Research of existing prototypes, concepts and ideas
  • Conceptual combinations of analogies to form new ideas
  • Three dimensional sketch models
  • Null hypothesis for fit (what doesn't work) 



  • Architectural Design I & II typically applies concepts in an unconstrained environment/platform for clarity.  Conceptual constraints include:
    • Structure (columns, girders and slabs)
    • Efficiency (circulation, function to space ratio, definition of space - can be equated to codes and cost conceptually)
    • Contextual patterns and systems (forms, circulation, space, etc.) 
  • Architectural Design III & IV typically applies the following constraints: building, zoning and energy codes, cost, construction, etc. 
  • Architectural Design V typically applies concepts and constraints from many courses in the program.


Types of Learning Activities in the course

  • Readings
  • Classroom Lectures
  • Literature Search/Research
  • Hands-on designing and testing
  • Development/Refinement/Improvement Process
  • Oral & Graphic Presentations
  • Group Analysis
  • Peer Review
  • Private Journals and Ranking 


Types of Peer Comparative Analysis of Concepts

(based on 4-5 projects identifying extreme ends/tails; i.e.,  most/least or best/worst projects to construct working definitions of concepts)

  • Qualitative descriptions of concepts applied (the differences in how this happens)
  • Quantitative counting of occurrences (how many times does this happen)
  • Survey of peer attitudes/preferences (what does the group see to confirm this happening)
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