F:ASSOCIATE is the sixteenth and final aesthetic effect. There are no more. F:ASSOCIATE is like E:DESIGNATE in encapsulating all three types of aesthetic idea, but differs by evoking them by a tangible similarity instead of a tangible difference. At its core is UNITE instead of SEPARATE.

With ASSOCIATE, the framework is complete.

Both DESIGNATE and ASSOCIATE are equally unstable as they require all three types of aesthetic idea to be evoked by a single tangible reality. Their existence is short-lived if the Idea of Separate is some transient notion such as novelty, cutting-edge or ahead-of-its-time. When, for example, a notion of novelty can no longer be sustained, F:ASSOCIATE decays into the different effect A:INTEGRATE. Should some disruptive manifestation of this effect no longer make us question if we are indeed looking at a building, then it will further decay into D:CONFLATE which is different again. Finally, should the Idea of Unite fade, possibly due to some change in the context, then the effect F:ASSOCIATE will decay to 9:ASSIMILATE whereby the object doesn’t belong despite looking like it does – at least as far as that particular characteristic is concerned.

In the following descriptions for each effect, you’ll notice that some of the buildings illustrating each effect were also used to illustrate CONFLATE. This is because everything that is an example of ASSOCIATE encapsulates and is also an example of CONFLATE (as well as ASSIMILATE and all other effects having UNITE at their core).


Colour to F: ASSOCIATE

Jean Nouvel’s 2004 Torre Agbar in Barcelona is a blue building set against a blue ocean (UNITE), the colour of something not a building (Idea of Negate) and the colour of something associated with Barcelona (Idea of Unite). The shimmering effect of that colour (Idea of Separate) is produced by an equally novel system of glass cladding.

The colour of this next building is that of the clouds in the sky – UNITE, and a colour not that of a building. This in itself isn’t novel but, again, the process by which that colour is produced is in that it’s essentially the same process at work in clouds. It evokes an Idea of Unite and and an Idea of Separate at the same time. The three ideas necessary to convey to establish Colour to ASSOCIATE are evoked by mimicking the materials and processes responsible for creating the object of their association. In passing, these same processes also made this building an example of Pattern to ASSOCIATE and Shape to ASSOCIATE.

Pattern to F: ASSOCIATE

Paul Andreu’s 2007 National Grand Theatre of China does the reflection thing (UNITE) and, as is the nature of all reflections, building and reflection form a conceptual pair (Idea of Unite). This situation is novel (Idea of Separate) in the refection creating a stronger pattern evocative of something not a building (Idea of Negate).

This pattern of this next building is characteristic of ASSCOCIATE in that building and trees have branching structures in common – UNITE. At the time, contriving the building’s structure to evoke such a similarity was novel – Idea of Separate. The unifying idea of ‘organic’ is clear – Idea of Unite, as is the idea that a building is somehow like a tree in having a ‘growing’ structure – Idea of Negate.


This building has a shape that fits the shape of the mouth of the cave (UNITE) and, while this is unusual for buildings (Idea of Separate) it would not be for animals (Idea of Negate) that live in caves (Idea of Unite). Unusually, this building creates an association of shape not by mimicking a shape but by complementing an existing one.

Position to F: ASSOCIATE

The midpoint is a special position of any rectangle (Idea of Separate) and this building is at the centre of one (UNITE), like a lock on some important door or gate (Idea of Negate) through which to access what’s inside (Idea of Unite).

Position is placement in whatever context we choose to consider it. At times we may focus on the land on which a building stands and, at other times, the relationship with neighbouring structures and landscape as is usually understood by the word ‘siting’. At still other times, we may regard Position in the broader sense of geographic location. For example, if we want to visit a certain building, we first have to visit the country and city where it is.

Dubai circa 2003?

Burj Al Arab might well have been an extraordinary building wherever it was located but much of its effect and, through that, its renown comes from it having appeared in Dubai in 1999. It’s often been said Burj Al Arab ‘put Dubai on the map’ for, even without visiting Dubai, we know we’ll see it there if we do.

This connection is reinforced by Burj Al Arab’s position akin to that of a cruise liner –Idea of Negate – which reinforces the notion of a place as a destination. Onshore and offshore are physically united by the liner and pier – UNITE but, because of the association with destinations, there’s also an Idea of Unite present in why they are. We also know that cruise liners aren’t tied to any one particular place and this is a characteristic we don’t normally associate with buildings – Idea of Separate.

Alignment to F: ASSOCIATE

When compared with the other five attributes, Alignment often seems the least interesting. Rarely does it have the impact of Colour or Pattern, the flamboyance of Shape, the authority of Position or the immediacy of Size. It’s often neglected in favour of the other attributes, the effects of which may be showier or easier to achieve. It’s rare for a building to highlight the Alignment attribute for any behaviour but when a building has Alignment to Designate, it usually means it is pointing at something, as with Eduardo Marvao’s Lisbon Maritime Control Centre (below) we saw last time.

I also included Snøhetta’s Alexandria Library as an example of Alignment to DESIGNATE as its main surface doesn’t really face the Sun – it only appears to. However, if at some time it actually does face the Sun, then it would be an example of Alignment to ASSOCIATE but the same three establishing ideas would still be evoked.

Many buildings are aligned with the sun for practical reasons of sunlight control, but here and in addition to that, alignment with the building with the Sun recalls sun worship and the ancient architecture of the country where this building is. These are ideas of Alignment to Unite. The building is circular, implying it can rotate and, by being raised out of the ground at the ‘rear’ and sunk into the ground at the ‘front’, it is implied that the inclination of the building adjusts so the top surface can face The Sun. We’re led to think the building tracks The Sun like a solar collector, photovoltaic array or sunflower might. These are not buildings and so we have ideas of Alignment to Negate.


These two buildings are the same size (UNITE) but for different reasons (Idea of Separate) but are equally famous symbols (Idea of Negate) of Barcelona (Idea of Unite).

These next buildings are the size of mountains – UNITE, and this is something very few buildings attempt – Idea of Separate. Knowing that the building was designed to cover the mountain carved away by quarrying makes the 1:1 scale of the building relative to the mountain more understandable – Idea of Unite. A more poetic unifying idea is that of replicating the toplogy of terraced fields. Whatever the unifying idea, development similar to this occurs in hilly regions of many cities in the world although not often as a single proposal. Scaled to the mountain as it is, it’s difficult to call this building a building – Idea of Negate. [c.f. The Terrace]


  • ASSOCIATE is when a characteristic looks similar to its surroundings and at the same time makes us think of it as similar, as different, and doesn’t belong to either a building or the building it actually does.
  • ASSOCIATE is the composite of all effects having UNITE as the core visual reality, and has all their properties. Again, a single idea encapsulates the three types of idea. As with COMBINE, INTEGRATE, and CONFLATE, the Idea of Unite reinforces the visual reality and suppresses the covertness of ASSIMILATE. The Idea of Separate avoids the obviousness of INTEGRATE, and the Idea of Negate means that building and context remain distinct unlike with CONFLATE.
  • ASSOCIATE has an effortless fittingness. It is about being part of something greater.
  • ASSOCIATE is conceptually strengthened and weakened hyper-real unity.


The Beauty of ASSOCIATE occurs when the following six tangible conditions for UNITE are satisfied, and each attribute also evokes an idea that is both an Idea of Unite and an Idea of Separate. The visual unity evokes both a conceptual difference and a conceptual unity.


A building’s colour is seen 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’ 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 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’ 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 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’ 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 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’ 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 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’ 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 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’ to be with respect to that building’s context’.

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

I’ll choose Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s 2006 Fifth Avenue Apple Store to illustrate The Beauty of ASSOCIATE which is not demonstrative like The Beauty of DESIGNATE. With ASSOCIATE, each characteristic has a tangible unity with its surroundings and evokes the three ideas of Separate, Unite and Negate.

  • This building is the same colour as what’s behind it (UNITE) because we can see through it (Idea of Negate, Idea of Unite) and it has no contents (Idea of Separate).
  • The building has the same pattern as what’s behind it (UNITE) because we can see through it (Idea of Negate, Idea of Unite) as it has no contents (Idea of Separate).
  • The shape of this building is similar to what’s around it in that it’s a parallelepiped (UNITE) but one defined more (Idea of Separate, Idea of Negate) by edges than surfaces (Idea of Unite).
  • The building is at the centre of the forecourt (UNITE) and is its focus (Idea of Unite) whilst not having a presence in any conventional sense Idea of Separate, Idea of Negate).
  • The building is aligned with the sides of the forecourt (UNITE) and is its focus (Idea of Unite) whilst not having a presence in any conventional sense Idea of Separate, Idea of Negate).
  • The building is the same size as the podium of the building behind (UNITE) as if a conscious design decision has been made (Idea of Unite) yet is unlike all of the surrounding ones in having no conventional indicators of scale (Idea of Separate, Idea of Negate).

I knowI not everyone will admit some particular design move as a valid Idea of Unite and this is fair enough. However, all it means is that for those people, this building is not an example of The Beauty of ASSOCIATE as only five out of six characteristics satisfy the conditions as far as they are concerned. If no Idea of Unite is evoked, then the conditions for Size to ASSIMILATE would still be satisfied and this is another and equally valid way of understanding what the Size of this building is doing. For all its strangeness, the building does look as if it is trying to fit in as regards its size.

The two Placement attributes are clearer. Many a building has been positioned like a monument in the centre of a courtyard and aligned with its sides, not least of all I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid. As for Surface characteristics, The Pyramid was an example of Shape to DESIGNATE with clear and gratifying associations with antiquity. It was the claims made for its transparency of Colour and Pattern that were contentious. The issue was whether the Colour and Pattern of this building were actually transparent, or whether the glass was only representing transparency. There was no clear answer to this, as the actual transparency depended on the angle of view and time of day.

This dispute is incapable of resolution. The point of this installation is to make the observer aware of what the pyramid obscures – or at least its Pattern if not Colour. Rather than negate the presence of the intervenging building, this difference of Colour only serves to draw attention to its Shape, as is the way of Art.

For now, I will keep Apple Fifth Avenue Store as an example of The Beauty of Associate but, if I find a stronger example or, if I no longer regard any of the evoked ideas as holding or true, then this example will slip to some less complex place in the framework but this new understanding will still have a place in the framework.

Now all the groundwork has been covered, this series of posts will continue with examples of what it can be used to explain. I’d intended all along for the first of these applied framework posts to be about Consistency, followed by Importance, Strength, Emphasis and, finally, Beauty, even though this will just be a listing of the sixteen types identified.

When we finally get around to talking about it, Beauty will seem almost an anticlimax because it’s now no longer a mystery. It is however, still the exception and there’s a reason for that.

If all buildings that have ever been built or ever will be, each have the six mutually independent attributes and,

If each of these attributes can take one of sixteen values (that I call effects),

Then this means there is a total of 16^6 = 16,777,216 possible combinations of attributes and aesthetic effects – “aesthetic signatures” if you like.

Only 16 of these 16,777,216 possible combinations have all six attributes evoking the same number and types of idea. At first thought, “one in a million” seems about right but this is only the number of possibilities for Beauty. The number of buildings that actually satisfy the conditions for one of those sixteen types of Beauty is far less.

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