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Here’s Farnsworth House again but this time the surroundings aren’t green but white. What’s going on? Snow fell, obviously, but the building is no longer some white thing in contrast with its surroundings. It’s still white but it’s a very distinct and different aesthetic effect.

Colour to 2: ATTACH

farnswoth house with snow

It’s still an example of Colour to UNITE, but the white of the house can still be thought of as the colour of metal or, if you like, the colour of an artificial thing unlike the colour of the surroundings that are the colour of natural things. The visual reality of Colour to UNITE is thus contradicted by a idea of Colour to Separate. This is the fourth aesthetic effect, ATTACH. If no separating notion such as “artificial” is recognized, then the situation will be seen as simple Colour to UNITE, as with this next house.

ATTACH has UNITE at its core but the notional contradictory idea that works against what is seen, gives it an “edge”, a “spice”, a level of “depth” if you like. The other five attributes can also display this combination of tangible unity contradicted by a notional separation.

Here’s another example. The thing is green which is Colour to UNITE but this particular shade of green appears synthetic and in contrast to the natural greens of the surroundings. Perhaps such a green could exist for tropical fish or birds but again, it does not look like as if this structure is in the tropics.

Pattern to 3: ATTACH

Here’s two similar examples of Pattern to ATTACH. There’s a lot of rock happening in both of them image, most of it organised into blocky patterns of different sizes. The notion of separation here is the common one of artificial.

Still with rocks, here’s a non-military example to which accusations of camouflage [which takes us somewhere different] can’t be levelled.

At this point, it’s worth stating that the unifying notion of organic can and has been used to describe buildings using rock in exactly the same way. This results in a different aesthetic effect that we will get to it in precisely two months’ time.

Pattern isn’t just about rocks. Consider this next building that was quite famous once. The building has a unity with the landscape because the immediate landscape has been contrived to match the building. It’s a bit like a snow machine creating snow around the Farnsworth House. A first question then is whether we will admit this as a tangible instance of UNITE. After all, the building is very unlike anything we can see farther away. Here, we have an example of DISQUIET. Whether this is SEPARATE or UNITE depends on how you look at it, or who is doing the looking. Another question relates to the building itself. If we focus on the structure we might say UNITE but if we focus on the surfaces we might say SEPARATE. But let’s suppose we see UNITE. What then is the idea of Separate? The notion of novel holds for within the experience of the observer and the relatively long media exposure this building enjoyed suggests it was a sufficient idea – until it was was no longer novel, that is. The notion of artificial still holds for, after all, the building volume is a glass box, something unknown in Nature yet something that the world of architecture is no stranger to. Interestingly, [and this is just my interpretation on the basis of the notions that this building evokes for me] the building is not so much something that seems to grow out of the ground but something that is in conflict with it, trying to resist being assimilated back into it. This notional separation of artificial holds, and is also novel. When the reality of UNITE occurs with a notion of Separate then we have ATTACH and in this example it is strongest for the Pattern attribute.

Buildings that appear to grow out of the ground are generally less amazing when the ground is contrived to make the building appear as a “natural” consequence. This device has been exploited most notably by Zaha Hadid Architects. It falls within the scope of the effect we will get to in two months.

Shape to 3: ATTACH

Here’s two polygonal towers but we understand one to be old and the other not.

Or how about this? Shape does the rolling landscape thing, but too evenly and predictably compared with Nature.

Position to 3: ATTACH

In this next image, the glass pyramid is in the centre of the courtyard, as part of a unifying arrangement. However, a square (or a circle or any regular polygon) has only one centre. It is a unique position.

Alignment to 3: ATTACH

This next building also occupies a special position, being at the tip of the headland and forming a unifying composition with it. For its alignment however, the building is concentric with the curve of the headland, which is at odds with circular buildings being inherently unalignable (in plan).

This second example,

Size to 3: ATTACH

The new tower is the same size as the old tower, but it has a different scale. Alternatively, I could have written The two towers have the same size but different scales. Here, and in the rest of this series of posts, I will use the word size to refer to the physical reality of how big something is compared to something else, and I will use the word scale to refer to an idea about the size of something. This means that scale is never absolute. We talk about human scale but this implies knowledge of how large humans are, and usually comes with the subjective notion that buildings should look as if they are made for humans.

Here’s another example. Again, the size of the building is the same as those around it, but it has a different scale.


  • ATTACH is when a visual attribute of a building looks similar to what’s around it and at the same time makes us think of it as different.
  • It occurs when the visual reality of UNITE evokes an idea of difference.
  • The visual unity now seems ever so slightly questionable because what we see is now contradicted by and weakened by something we think.
  • If no ideas of Separate are evoked, then all a person will see is UNITE.
  • Irony enters the framework here if the contradicting idea is absurd.
  • Ideas of Separate can be seen as irritants thwarting some simple perception or as spices adding depth to something perhaps otherwise unremarkable.
  • ATTACH is vaguely edgy.
  • ATTACH is conceptually weakened similarity.

333 33 3: The Beauty of ATTACH

The Beauty of ATTACH occurs when the following six tangible conditions for UNITE are satisfied, with each attribute also evoking a notional [i.e. conceptual, intangible] separation.


A building’s colour is seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s colour can be ‘seen’ not to be in that building’s ‘context’.
A building’s pattern is seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s pattern can be ‘seen’ not to be in that building’s ‘context’.
A building’s shape is seen (to be) in that building’s context.
A building’s shape can be ‘seen’ not 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 position can be ‘seen’ not 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 alignment can be ‘seen’ not to be with respect to that building’s context’.


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

This building, known as Montezuma Castle, is an example of The Beauty of ATTACH.


The colours of the building are like those around it.
Those colours are unnaturally uniform.
The building is horizontal and linear.
Those lines are not those of nature.
The building curves follow the cave opening.
The curve is not the approximate curve of the cliff face.

The building occupies the shallow cave.
The position is important for some reason, possibly for defense or protection.
The building faces the same direction as the cave.
The alignment is important for some reason, possibly for defense or protection.


The building fills the cave opening.
The size is important for some reason, possibly for defense or protection.

For comparison, this is Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro. It is similar to Montezuma Castle in that it would have to have meant something special to someone to build a building in a place such as this, to make it face the direction it does, and to make it as large as one can. However, there the similarities end for the three Surface attributes all differ from what the building is seen with respect to, even though the Colour, Pattern and Shape of the building very strongly (and because of that contrast) evoke the notion of artificial. In other words, Colour, Pattern and Shape act to DETACH while Position, Alignment and Size act to ATTACH. The aesthetic signature of this building would be 222 33 3.

With Montezuma Castle, each attribute evokes one of two types of notional separation. Surface attributes (that describe The What of the building) all evoke the notion of artificial , while the Placement attributes (The Where and The How, respectively, of the building) andthe Size attribute (The How Much, of the building) each evoke the notion of protection. Consistent architectures result when the three Surface attributes all evoke the same notion. We saw this with DETACH and Modernism where the three Surface attributes all evoke the notion of artificial. Here, with ATTACH they do also, but a different aesthetic effect results from their combining with the different visual reality of UNITE.

  • In the case of DETACH and ATTACH, it was necessary for there to be something separating idea that respectively works with or against the visual reality of a given attribute.
  • Notions of artificial and novel are common and, together, they may explain why so much “new” architecture aspires to be both artificial and novel.
  • However, there is an infinite number of other ways an attribute of a building can be made to be thought of as different if one decides that is appropriate for a given situation and we are limited only by our imaginations.

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


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