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SEPARATE is one of the two fundamental architectural effects that form the core of the other fourteen. From a very early age we are taught to judge whether two things are the same or different. SEPARATE is when an attribute of a building is different from that of its surroundings. In this next image, the building is red and everything that can be seen around it is not red. This next image is an example of SEPARATE for the attribute of Colour.

What’s important about SEPARATE is that there’s no concern for why the building is a different colour. There’s not even the awareness that there might being a reason for it being different. This isn’t a bad thing for in that simplicity is a charm. If you were to ask a child if the colour of the above building is the same or different they would say “Different – the building is red and the sky and water are blue!”


Saying whether something is the same or not the same isn’t as simple as you might think. Consider the colour of the building above. Is it the same or different? “Compared to what?” you might ask, and venture that it’s not the same as the other buildings and so would be an example of Colour to SEPARATE. However, a child might say it’s blue like the sky (and so it would be an example of something else). And somebody else might say it’s blue but not the same blue as the sky. This brings us to the first emotion, DISQUIET – which could also be called Uncertainty, or Tension.

Remember the fuss about I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid? Was it transparent? (i.e. the same pattern as what was on the other side) Or was it not? (i.e. a pattern of mullions acting to Separate the building from its surroundings)? This is how DISQUIET is generated.

So forget about Beauty. We can’t even begin to talk about aesthetics if people can’t even agree on what it is they’re seeing. Even the same person might find it difficult to decide one way or the other. DISQUIET also happens when a person tries to hold conflicting opinions at the same time, or swings from one to the other without resolution. Yet, at a different time of day or under different meteorological conditions, the same person might have no trouble deciding.

For now, let’s just say that if you want to induce a sense of disquiet, uneasiness, uncertainty or tension in a viewer, then all you have to do is make it difficult for them to decide if one or more of the six building attributes is acting to Separate, or not. SEPARATE is only the first of sixteen aesthetic effects and already we know how to generate (or not generate) the emotion of DISQUIET.

SEPARATE is the obvious and simple act of perceiving difference without the intervention of contradicting or reinforcing influences of knowledge, education and culture. For this reason, a building attribute acting to Separate is not seen to be attempting or appearing to be anything other than what it is, at least as far as that attribute is concerned. Again, as far as that attribute is concerned, they are simple buildings having neither aesthetic pretension nor ambition and, as such, they are rare and refreshing when one encounters them. Herein lies the charm of many a vernacular or industrial building. These buildings are genuinely naive and should not be confused with the pretentiously industrial, simple or vernacular, which aren’t. 

Architecture has conventionally been divided into ‘vernacular’ and ‘polite’ architecture, the latter being those buildings having  pretensions to architecture. This is the same distinction contained in “Welles Cathedral is architecture, whereas a bicycle shed is a building.” This doesn’t always mean that vernacular architecture lacks ‘depth’ in the form of intangible notions linking it to its surroundings. It may only mean that those notions are now lost to us, or we were never attuned to them in the first place. 

It is a simple thing to identify a building from its surroundings if it is in virgin countryside for buildings are not products of Nature. Immediately we have a problem with intangible notions since if all buildings are artificial by their nature it would logically impossible for the behaviour Separate to exist. A distinction has to be drawn between a building such as, say, a farmhouse in a grassy setting and a Modernist building in a grassy setting. The former has been built with no regard for notions of juxtapositions of artificial and natural, and notions of machines and such, whereas the latter has. The former isn’t burdened with ideas. It isn’t trying to tell us anything, prove to us anything or be anything other than what it is and we appreciate it for that. Importantly, we all can because appreciation of that building as a visual object is independent of knowledge or education. 

For some, the same could be true for our Modernist building in its grassy clearing but it wouldn’t be for anyone with a knowledge or awareness of the building’s place in last century’s architectural history, its stance on Modernity, new concepts regarding space, light, modernity, construction, the configuration of buildings and their relationship with Nature. These are all notional separations that will be described by other, more complex, behaviours. 

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  • SEPARATE is when a characteristic of a building looks different from what’s around it.
  • SEPARATE is one of two core effects. 
  • SEPARATE doesn’t evoke any aesthetic ideas or thoughts.
  • SEPARATE is present in the stark and simple beauty of industrial or vernacular buildings. 
  • SEPARATE is strong, direct and has a refreshing clarity. We don’t question it, it doesn’t challenge us.
  • SEPARATE is visual difference.

0: Colour to SEPARATE

The building has a colour not seen in its surroundings. The second building is a different colour because it is the strongest source of light. The first building is a different colour because that’s how buildings of this type have always been built in that part of the world, and the second building is a different colour because snow has fallen. In each case, the building was not designed to be these colours.

0: Pattern to SEPARATE

The building has a pattern not seen in its surroundings. Again, this is the default behaviour for isolated buildings because buildings have patterns that result from the particular materials and/or construction methods used.

0: Shape to SEPARATE

The building has a shape not seen in its surroundings. It is necessary to recognise a shape from its background in order to perceive a building in the first place. Once a building has been identified, the question is whether that shape is the same as, or different to, its surroundings. In this example, the building is the only thing we can see that has this shape.

0: Position to SEPARATE

The building is not positioned with respect to anything else we can see. The building could easily be in one of many other positions with no great difference in the effect produced. All buildings have some reason for being where they are but with Position to Separate there is no visual information supporting this. A building is simply where it is. Vernacular buildings are very likely to exhibit this effect but it may just be that the reason a building is where it is, is not or no longer obvious.

0: Alignment to SEPARATE

The building is not aligned with respect to anything else we can see. Just was with snowfall was not designed to make the colour of a building look different, the vertical alignment of this building was not intended to be different from that of the other buildings.

0: Size to SEPARATE

The size of the building is unlike that of anything else we can see. This is when a building is visually distinct from its surroundings whatever they may be. Perception of Size to Separate is relative to what a building is seen with respect to, and the distance it is observed from. From outer space, the size of all buildings is inconsequential. The size of buildings that have SEPARATE for the Size attribute are merely the size they have to be. Their size is not intended to make a statement or to not to make one. Buildings having Size to SEPARATE are likely to be isolated industrial or vernacular buildings. 

000 00 0: The Beauty of SEPARATE

The Beauty of SEPARATE occurs when these six tangible conditions are satisfied.


A building’s colour is not seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s pattern is not seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s shape is not seen (to be) in that building’s context.

A building’s position is not seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.
A building’s alignment is not seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.


A building’s size is not seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.

This means that the three Surface attributes of Colour, Pattern and Shape, the two Placement attributes of Position and Alighnment, and the Size attribute are all doing the same thing. The Beauty of Separate is the first of sixteen discrete types of architectural beauty. All are strong architectures but The Beauty of SEPARATE is bold, direct and unpretentious.

The International Space Station is designed to keep people alive in a “hostile” environment so they can do what they are there do. How this structure appears is determined by criteria that are critically functional rather than arbitrarily whimsical. This complete absence of pretensions to architecture is The Beauty of SEPARATE.

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The Architecture of Architectures
The 2007 Draft: Preface
The 2007 Draft: Introduction
The 2007 Draft: Derivation
The Architecture of Architectures (2007 ~ )