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We know enough now to be able to predict what an effect will do by just looking at its components.

  • The core tangible reality is UNITE and so ASSIMILATE will look as if it fits in.
  • There is an Idea of Separate. This means that, despite appearances, there’ll be a sense of being different. Building characteristics that exhibit the effect ASSIMILATE look as if they belong but that’s all. It doesn’t mean they can’t entertain or thrill (if that’s what’s required) if the idea of Separate is the notion of “novel”.
  • There’s also an Idea of Negate and so buildings exhibiting the characteristic ASSIMILATE will make us ask if we’re really looking at a building. There’s a possibility the building may even make us question what a building is. It most likely won’t but, if it were to, it would be because of this idea of Negate. Questioning if something really is a building and reevaluating what a building is or can be, doesn’t happen unless this idea of Negate is present.
  • As with ALIENATE, the combination of an idea of Separate and an idea of Negate engages us intellectually. We feel there’s more to the thing than what we see and may even think the object deep or profound even though it’s merely the object being fitted to provoke certain responses in us. [“Beauty is no quality in things themselves – it exists merely in the mind that contemplates them.” David Hume]
  • ASSIMILATE has no idea of Unite and so there’s an absence of any concept of belongingness beyond appearance. For all it’s novelty and weirdness, this absence of an Idea of Unite means we won’t be surprised if ASSIMILATE is unconvincing and unsatisfying. Because the visual similarity is not reinforced by such idea, ASSIMILATE can looks as if it’s trying too hard to fit in.


Colour to 9: ASSIMILATE

Here we have a building purporting to be the colour of a cloud and not only that but the substance and shape of one as well. It is a strong example of ASSIMILATE. For now, we’ll just consider Colour which looks the same, especially in this photograph. Clouds are not buildings, so an idea of Negate “This is not the colour of a building!” – is present. Buildings that achieve the colour of clouds without tricks involving mirrors are something we haven’t seen before so we can say the idea of Separate at work here, is “novel”.

This next image of Dallas has a building the colour of the sky. Some posts ago, I mentioned that mirror glass generates feelings of disquiet because we can’t really tell if it’s the same colour or different. In such casesit’s best to ask a child and a child would probably say “It’s blue, like the sky.” Sky is not a building and so a notion of Negate is established, making this a example of Colour to MERGE. If one wanted to say “Aha, but the colour of the sky is never the same as the colour of the sky reflected!” then that would be a notion of Separate arising from that knowledge. The building remains more blue than any other building in this image. It’s characteristic of ASSIMILATE to seem superficial. We feel the absence of a notion of Unite.

On the left below is Colour to ALIENATE and on the right is Colour to ASSIMILATE.

Pattern to 9: ASSIMILATE

This next building called the Leonardo Glass Cube I seem to remember, is obviously a case of Pattern to UNITE. The weirdness (though some may say “naturalness”) of that pattern is a notion of Separate and together with the tangible similarity, is sufficient to establish Pattern to ATTACH. At the same time, the pattern of the building is mimicking that of the ground – something that is not a building – and this establishes Pattern to MERGE. The three conditions for ASSIMILATE are met.

Or rather, the three conditions for ASSIMILATE are met for the view from this position and angle. An aerial view shows how both building and surroundings have been contrived to mimic each other and little else. In the greater landscape both building and surroundings are intrusions. “Looks as if it is growing out of the ground” is all too often achieved by selective contriving the ground and the viewpoint to create that appearance..

Any building that uses mirror glass to cause its surface to have a pattern of clouds will exhibit Pattern to ASSIMILATE in addition to Colour to ASSIMILATE. This next tower, one of Paris’ Les Tours Aillaud mimics the Pattern of clouds (as opposed to Colour). Clouds are of course things that are not buildings, but the notion of difference comes from this pattern being created using mosaic tiles. It is thus a fixed pattern, unlike the forever changing patterns of clouds and mirror glass.

Shape to 9: ASSIMILATE

A usual example of Shape to ASSIMILATE is the boat-shaped building adjacent to water and possibly a boat-rich environment. This is Amsterdam’s Nemo Science Museum. There’s a similarity of shape coupled with a notion of a shape of something not a building. Whether or not ASSIMILATE is established for Shape depends on how novel you regard this shape to be. If you don’t admit some idea of difference (novelty? immovability?) then the effect is Shape to MERGE.

The built reality of this building wasn’t as poetic as this early visualization that showed, amongst other things, a billowy building against a billowy sky.

Position to 9: ASSIMILATE

This next building once made the rounds. A somewhat unusual prefabricated building is positioned in the middle of that landscape feature known as the grassy clearing, but something’s amiss. The building looks like it’ll be hauled away as soon as the photoshoot is over. In this case, the notion of Negate is quite literal in that the building may soon be gone (elsewhere). The tangible unity of Position comes from the building being in the middle of the clearing. The implied impermanence of its elevation and the transportability suggested by the concrete pads make us think that the identity of this as a building in this position, won’t be for long.

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Although many a fine building has been less than permanent and many a fine building has been built on concrete pads, there are no transportable buildings in the architectural canon. One of the core conditions for a building to be considered architecture may just well be that it adds value to property, and this building on its borrowed property clearly does not. This suspicion may go some way towards explaining why architecture excludes the transportable buildings, the mobile homes, the trailer parks, tents, SUVs, mobile homes of all description, and also the temporary and other buildings that “touch the ground lightly” only because they don’t claim it.

This next house filling in between some huge boulders is Casa Do Penedol in Portugal. This is Position to ASSIMILATE because it is where it is (UNITE). The idea of Negate is due to it not being where we expect a house to be, and the Idea of Separate is the fact somebody did it at all. It evades our conceptions of architecture and can’t easily be thought of as a building. [For me, its surreal charm comes from a relatively conventional farmhouse being naïvely intersected with the rock arrangement, but this is a matter of Shape. It is blissfully ignorant of the whole being difficult. No attempt has been made to incorporate the rocks into a unifying composition.]

Alignment to 9: ASSIMILATE

An idea of Negate is evoked when Alignment to UNITE ceases to be about parallel edges or planes and becomes more about shared edges and surfaces. A building is absorbed into the surroundings and, in the process, losing part of its identity as a building. This particular example was novel at the time and this was sufficient to evoke a notion of Separate. But the idea of “novel” as a separating notion never lasts long and it is a matter of time before something newly novel comes along. Despite this, the notion of a building such as this having been novel once is still an Idea of Separate and that’s something that, for better or worse, can’t be said about every building.


La Tour Monparnasse is an example of Size to ALIENATE when seen on its own but, when seen in the same frame as the La Tour Eiffel, it is an example of Size to ASSIMILATE.

It’s still possible to think of that size in terms of difference such as new vs. old, crude vs. graceful, ungainly vs. graceful, unwelcome vs. welcome and, by and large, people do. Monparnasse Tower would not be remarkable in many cities around the world but with a building of this size in Paris, the notion that this is not what the size of a building in Paris should be combines the notion of Separate and the notion of Negate into a single notion. Strong feelings are aroused . For any other building in any other city an architect could say something like “The height of Building A responds to the height of Building B” but here the question is not whether it does but whether it should.

One thing we’ve learned is that different things mean different things to different people, and even the same things can mean different things to different people. These notions of Separate and Negate (plus the other one, Unite) can be used to identify points of disagreement and provide a common vocabulary and a consistent set of definitions for talking about them. The content of those notions is infinitely variable but there is a finite number of ways those notions can combine. ASSIMILATE was the tenth of sixteen.


  • ASSIMILATE is when a characteristic of a building looks similar to what’s around it, makes us think of it as different, and makes us think it doesn’t belong to a building or the building it actually does.
  • ASSIMILATE is when the an Idea of Separate and an Idea of Negate are encapsulated in a single idea evoked by the visual reality of UNITE. As it does with ATTACH, the visual reality of UNITE evokes an idea of separation that contradicts the appearance of unity and creates a sense of disquiet. The Idea of Negate denies part of the building’s identity – as is characteristic of assimilation in general.
  • ASSIMILATE has unity but it is a visual similarity that doesn’t engage.
  • ASSIMILATE is present in overly and overtly contextual buildings.
  • ASSIMILATE is conceptually weakened, hyperreal similarity.

999 99 9: The Beauty of ASSUMILATE

The Beauty of ASSMILATE occurs when the following six tangible conditions for UNITE are satisfied, and each attribute also evokes an idea that is both an Idea of Separate and an Idea of Negate. There is no visual unity and there is no conceptual unity.


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 colour can be ‘seen’ not to be the colour of a building.
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 pattern can be ‘seen’ not to be the pattern of a building.
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 shape can be ‘seen’ not to be the shape of a building.


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 position can be ‘seen’ not to be the position of a building.
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 alignment can be ‘seen’ not to be the alignment of a building.


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’.
A building’s size can be ‘seen’ not to be the size of a building.

There are many contenders for The Beauty of ASSIMILATE but Lindisfarne Castle will do. The castle was built in 1550 but artfully altered by Edwin Lutyens in 1901 so that at all six building attributes fit in with the landscape even more. Lutyens believed that the local stone no matter what should be used for any building so here he simply built upon what was already there and, in doing so, making the castle into an element in a picturesque composition – which is something not a building, even if the times demanded it. Rebuilt as a luxury private residence, the building is not what it appears to be.

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