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In the previous post of this series, 0: SEPARATE, it was necessary to talk about an attribute of a building (i.e. Colour, Pattern, Shape, Position, Alignment or Size) as being either different from its surroundings, or not being different. Things will be easier now there will be 1: UNITE to contrast it with. UNITE is generally regarded as a good thing, but this part of the aesthetic framework is about visual realities not ideas any more than is about value judgments resulting from them.

UNITE is not difficult to understand. We’re all taught to tell at a very early age to identify whether two things are the same or different. It’s not a difficult concept because it’s not a concept. Two things (or attributes) either look the same or they don’t. Or, in terms of the terminology of this framework, an attribute of a building can act to either to SEPARATE a building from its surroundings or to UNITE it with them (without forgetting the exception of DISQUIET when it’s not possible to identify one or the other.)

Many a vernacular building was made from materials from the ground on which it stood. As far as colour, pattern and shape are concerned, the vernacular use of local timber or stone in rural areas was never intended to be quaint, rustic or glorify the aesthetic qualities of natural materials. It was merely the expedient use of available resources. We look at such buildings today and appreciate them in terms of climate, landscape, resources and human needs but the fact that economics dictated those is veiled. Available resources were those that had little or no value in terms of sustaining a living. All a stone cottage in a rocky landscape indicates is that livestock did not eat rocks. Many a building has been described as ‘organic’ or ‘as if growing out of the land’ and implying virtue because of that.

As far as Position and Alignment attributes are concerned, it’s also easily forgotten that vernacular buildings once had a necessary relationship with the land on which they stood. We may look today at a crofter’s cottage and see it only as picturesque weekend retreat but it once enabled tenants to go about their business of crofting. Mediterranean hill towns of the type that so impressed Le Corbusier did not exist to enable idle gazing at the ocean. From those windows, a fisherman could gauge the sea, the weather and his course for the day, and his family his return. This isn’t to say a necessary relationship no longer exists. As far as the value of that property is concerned it’s just as important today for a holiday house to have a view of the ocean as it was the fisherman then. The only difference is that the nature of that necessary relationship has changed. Whereas the crofter was farming sheep and the fisherman fish, today’s owner is farming weekend tenants or prospective buyers.  

Colour to 1: UNITE

Colour to UNITE has the Colour attribute acting tangibly to Unite. The colour of the building or buildings is the same as the colour of its surroundings. Most likely, this will be because the building is made from some substance that is a part of it. More often than not it is the local soil but the third example shows it need not necessarily be as the unity of colour is entirely coincidental. Nobody designed any of these buildings to have these colours or to have this relationship with their surroundings.

This next building has the same colour as its surroundings. Again, nobody designed this to happen.

Snowfall is a third way a building can be made to assume the same colour as its surroundings. This is not a permanent change, and this may be part of its appeal.

Pattern to 2: UNITE

Pattern to UNITE has the Pattern attribute acting tangibly to unite a building with its surroundings. Reflections do this. The pattern of the building is seen in its surroundings. One way this can happen is when a building is glimpsed in a puddle after a rainstorm. The thing doing the reflecting can be natural or artificial, permanent or temporary. It does not have to be water.

Shape to 1: UNITE

Shape to UNITE has the Shape attribute acting tangibly to Unite. Buildings accidentally mimic some feature of the surroundings. The building above was designed to have the shape it has, but it was not designed to make an aesthetic statement with respect to its surroundings.

Buildings that have been contrived to mimic some shape that can be seen in the surroundings (such as those in this next image) are examples of a more complex behaviour that will be described later.

Position to 1: UNITE

Position to UNITE has the Position attribute acting tangibly to Unite. Most buildings are where they are for a reason. Position to UNITE is when a building is positioned with respect to some landscape feature, whether it be a natural one such as a hilltop or an artificial one such as a clearing or the end of a boulevard. However, a cathedral on a hilltop or a palace at the end of a boulevard are complex examples involving notions of heavenly or secular authority. To a young child unaware of those notions, this next building would look like a big pointy building on the top of a hill.

Alignment to 1: UNITE

Alignment to UNITE has the Alignment attribute acting tangibly to unite. With this, a building is aligned with respect to something in its context, be it adjacent buildings or some feature of the landscape. Alignment with site boundaries is a common condition but it is more apparent when buildings on the other sides do the same. These next buildings are have the same alignment. We might guess it has something to do with solar orientation but this is our education speaking. A child would say these buildings are all pointing the same way and leave it at that. For now, we will too.

Size to 1: UNITE

Size to UNITE has the Size attribute acting only tangibly and to Unite. The size of each of the buildings is like something else in the surroundings, namely, the other buildings. This is not so much because they were designed to be the same but because nobody thought to make them any different. For this reason, attributes having Size to UNITE are likely to be multiple vernacular or industrial buildings. Here’s an example. In both this example and the one above for Alignment, “the surroundings” includes other buildings.

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Sooner or later we will have to consider buildings that have other buildings as all or part of their surroundings. Buildings that have a one-to-one relationship with Nature are exceptions, despite them being over illustrated in architectural media and having a disproportionate importance in architectural history. We’re going to have to consider what is happening with buildings such as this next one where the surroundings are other buildings and not the roadside trees. This one has Colour to UNITE, Pattern to SEPARATE, Shape to SEPARATE, Position to UNITE, Alignment to UNITE, and Size to SEPARATE. I say has because there’s more to it than that. It is not a naïve, vernacular or industrial building.

If other buildings can be part of the surroundings as far as Position and Alignment to UNITE are concerned, then these next two examples have UNITE for all attributes. These are also not naïve examples, even though the one on the left many be considered picturesque. It is still too early to discuss examples such as these.

111 11 1: The Beauty of UNITE

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

A building’s colour is seen (to be) in that building’s context.

A building’s pattern is seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s shape is seen (to be) in that building’s context.

A building’s position is seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.
A building’s alignment is seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.

A building’s size is seen (to be) with respect to that building’s context.

The buildings in this next image have UNITE for all six attributes and each building forms part of the context for the others. It is no accident that these buildings were not designed by architects – it has to be that way. It’s not that any one person decided to make them all the same. It’s that nobody decided to make them any different. This is the purest example I can find of The Beauty of 1: UNITE. It is as opposite of The Beauty of 0: SEPARATE as can be.

We now have two types of architectural beauty and neither of them involves architects. Aesthetic effects 2~F will successively describe what happens when three distinct types of architectural ideas are added, at first separately and then in combination, to these two distinct and tangible visual realities.

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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 ~ )



  • Can a building unite symbolically? (united by cultural/historical reference, not analogy)

    Also, how can you claim Beauty through formal categorisation? (is your example beautiful only because it works with all strategies of unite?)

    • Thank you Alexander, that’s a really important question. Yes, a building can relate/correspond/relfect/resonate with all sorts of cultural and historical references. These come later.
      These (the space shuttle and the Masai village) are only two examples of what we think are beautiful. There are more than these two types. So yes, my Unite example is beautiful because it works with all my conditions for UNITE, but the International Space Station was beautiful because it works with all the conditions for SEPARATE. The following fourteen types of beauty will hopefully show that Beauty can be formally categorised, Beauty is not some weird thing that cannot be comprehended – you’re already 2/16 of the way towards understanding it (or at least how I’ve understood it). Im sorry to have to spin this out over the next two years. I took a lot of time to arrive at this and didn’t want to reveal it all at once and be forgotten in a week. Please stay with it, and continue asking questions. This whole thing has been developed in isolation and that’s either it’s strength or its weakness. Either way, I need to know. Thanks again,