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Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture

Lance La Vine
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture
    Book Description:

    In Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture, Lance LaVine shows that in architecture, as practiced and taught today, the technological aspect of the profession-how weight is distributed, how heat flow is regulated, and how light is permitted to enter-has been ceded to engineers and other technical specialists. With this book, Lance LaVine encourages architects to understand what makes their use of technology unique and essential, and to reclaim the natural world for meaningful interpretation in their design of buildings.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9098-5
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: The General Problem
    (pp. xv-xx)

    When an architect sits down at a drawing board to begin work on a building design, his or her first thoughts are recorded in tentative sketches of plans and sections that will eventually develop into a design proposal. In these sketches are vague references to columns and walls that will support the weight of the building long before structural calculations define their exact position and size, to exterior walls as notions of enclosure long before their thermal properties are analyzed, and to openings for sunlight long before required foot candles of illumination have been established. These sketches are nascent architectural...

  5. Part I The Reconciliation of Mechanics and Meaning in Architectural Thought

    • 1. A Technology of Habitation
      (pp. 3-16)

      Architectural technology is unique in that it contains us. We reside within these technologies rather than understanding them as separate and autonomous machines. The problem of what these technologies have come to mean as mechanisms of habitation has given them a particularly complex and intimate character. Because we live within them, these technologies are always charged with the responsibility of mediating between the physical characteristics of natural force and our thought about the significance of our own existence within these forces.

      Our sense of our existence in nature is presented to us by even the most mundance of architectural technologies....

    • 2. Architecture’ Loss of a Distinct Technological Voice
      (pp. 17-39)

      If architecture is to give explicit voice to a technology of habitation that includes both metaphoric meaning and measured mechanics, then it will need to understand the origins of this voice as consistent with its disciplinary constructs and values. This voice, rarely clearly enunciated, has been confused and suppressed by the emergence of engineering as a powerful building profession. In response to engineering’s increasing authority over matters of the use of technology in buildings, architects have attempted to appropriate that discipline’s constructs as their own. The outcome is a confusion of technological responsibility. The architectural problem inherent in this confusion...

    • 3. Mending the Rift: Twentieth-Century Attempts to Reconcile Mechanics and Meaning
      (pp. 40-62)

      Many twentieth-century commentators have attempted to understand the rift between an architectural and an engineering definition of technological thought as mechanics and as meaning. The four authors discussed in this chapter describe positions that are most familiar to architecture in this regard. Each commentator comes from a different background and thus defines the relationship of the mechanical utility of objects to their meaning as form from a different intellectual perspective. The importance of the positions that each puts forth is that they both by commission and by omission begin to outline the conditions necessary for developing an architectural stand on...

    • 4. The Map and the Territory
      (pp. 63-86)

      Have we as a people forgotten how to inhabit nature? Has this knowledge succumbed, as in Birkerts’s fear for the private intellectual space of reading, to the virtual world of technologies that distance us from the meaning of palpable experience? Is it any more possible to forget our experience of the natural world than it is to forget what we have read, as Birkerts suggests? Do our descriptions of nature “dissolve together inside,” as he contends that they do, to become a composite that unconsciously emerges in all our acts and thoughts?

      These are strange questions to ask of a...

  6. Part II Mechanics and Meaning in Four Houses

    • 5. Finnish Log Farmhouse
      (pp. 89-113)

      The Finnish farmhouse examined in this chapter was originally constructed in Konginkangas, central Finland, in 1860. A very similar building constructed in 1844 in the same area was brought to the Seurasaari Open Air Museum in Helsinki in 1909. With the exception of the shake rather than sod roof, the chimney, which was introduced in Finland in the eighteenth century, and the glass windows, which are a nineteenth-century addition to the form of this house, it has changed little over the course of nine hundred years. Its predecessors were initiated around the time of Christ when the Finnish peoples first...

    • 6. Charles Moore House at Orinda
      (pp. 114-134)

      Charles Moore was a young teacher at Berkeley when he and a group of students built this small house in 1962 in the relatively wealthy Bay Area community of Orinda, California. The house is part of a series of early Moore works in which he was feeling his way toward an architecture that was to take issue with the orthodox modern design sensibilities that prevailed at the time. This departure is given evidence by the fact that although the design won a Citation in Residential Design in theProgressive ArchitectureNinth Annual Awards (1962), the jury showed their hesitance to...

    • 7. Wall House
      (pp. 135-154)

      The Wall House is one of the early works of Tadao Ando. Like so many of his contemporaries, Ando sought to find his initial architectural voice first in the design of private houses. Houses are often relatively small projects that lack the kind of programmatic complexities and constraints that characterize larger projects and hence tend to promote the enunciation of ideas that are of interest to the architect as a designer. The Wall House is a case in point.

      Botond Bognar calls Ando an “architect of resistance.” The resistance that Bognar refers to is to the material values that accompanied...

    • 8. Villa Savoye
      (pp. 155-177)

      Villa Savoye was designed by Le Corbusier from 1929 to 1931 and was constructed in Poissy, France, as a vacation house in 1933. It is among the best-known houses of the modern movement because it completed a series of structures that Le Corbusier designed in the 1920s that manifest his famous Five Points of Architecture.

      Villa Savoye was conceived of in an era of great confidence in human intellectual prowess. Major scientific discoveries in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first portion of the twentieth century had the appearance of unveiling the underlying structure of the natural...

    • Conclusion: Metaphorical Technology
      (pp. 178-196)

      This book has grown from the suspicion that there is more to architectural technology than might be literally measured. The analysis of the technological qualities of the houses in the previous four chapters begins to specify what this “more” might be. These interpretations assume that technology in architecture can be seen in a different light: that nature can be understood as felt force manifest in architectural form. The kinds of ideas that emerge from this analysis are directed primarily toward designers and their need for operative design thought. They couch the interpretation of the responses of these houses to gravity,...

  7. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 197-200)
  8. Index
    (pp. 201-208)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)