Literary Architecture

Film and acting have always interested me.  Through time, I've often thought of myself in different lights, much like an actor who must portray different characters, atop that I've always thought it would be rather relaxing to slip away into somebody else's being for a short while. These different mindsets are spurred by life events, weather and even thoughts, all leading me to seeing myself from a different lens at all different points throughout the day.  I've often approached space and spatial composition in much of the same way.  Space is quite cinematic and has several facets, both to a single individual as well as the masses.  Space can be as dynamic as an actor yet as monumental as a great film, and so can its very own creator.

A Methodology

Since I started thinking about buildings like a designer, I've always pieced them together much like a story or narrative of sorts.  People engage a building much like they engage books or movies, there's a beginning middle and end as well as an overarching theme which ties everything together.  Literature (which I will closely liken to film) is much of the same, utilizing symbolism and abstraction to convey stories and theories.  A book is directly engaged by a human who then infers from its abstracted text what is being said, piecing together imagery and emotion throughout the course of the dialogue.  A building can be thought of in many of the same ways, it usually is initialized with a preliminary concept which then ties the entire thing together through the process of its creation and perception.  In this, we manifest the abstractions from the pages of a book and bring to life the emotions that are usually only read allowing users to actually feel what they perceive.


No matter what book or movie you read or see, there is always a theme that ties it all together. Even if that theme is literally nothing, it still creates the canvas that the structure can be built up from.  The theme is often stated early and often and used as a way to maintain cohesiveness between all of the different parts that are coming together.  Sounds familiar, right?  Architecture and space are much of the same way.  An initial concept starts everything, this can be as simple as a word to an actual thesis statement.  This concept then takes into account every little thing that will happen from how components are joined to how people perceive and use the space. This is just as important as having a theme in a movie or book because it ensures a cohesiveness exists as well as a certain level of visual poetry that can only be achieved through increased thought and elevated implementation. This beginning concept will literally be there until the end of the project and encourages its creators to be cognizant of both large and small "moves".  Architecture that is created with a lack of an overall concept usually falls flat in the realm of experiential qualities and emotional repertoire.    


Both film and architecture have a beginning, a very well-defined and understood beginning. While they each may be somewhat obscure where they actually start (stories can begin in the middle of an event, a building's boundaries can be blurred), they have an official place where it all begins.  For architecture, this is the first physical  engagement an individual has, it is where the journey begins that will carry them through the extents of its spaces.  Whether this initial space is overwhelming, calm, busy, unattractive, beautiful or immersive, emotions are touched upon in ways only space could allow.  This initial interaction is important to maintain interest and a continued divergence into the depths, without this creation of some sort of interest, what's the point of carrying on through?

Middle (Body) 

After passing through initial engagements, the middle or body is what makes up the bulk of this experience.  From main programmatic pieces to supportive elements, the bulk of all that exists lives here.  This body is a significant portion of the purpose for the initial engagement and helps support both the theme and the overall journey.  While this part of the movement through may still be culminating to the climax of the experience, it ultimately sets the scene for what will happen at the end of the path.

End (Climax/Termination)

Always my favorite part in both literature and a piece of architecture is the 'climax' which usually is shortly followed by the end of the road.  Buildings are interesting entities because while they do have a defined beginning (which is also most times the 'end'), you may never know the exact way a user will engage it.  A piece of literature or a movie have much more control over how a person experiences the climax of the tale and the final scenes or sentences.  I've often thought having a person entering a space and leaving from the same portal was a bit off.  To give a full experience and set of emotions would be better felt if the beginning and end were separated, in that the building and the maneuvering through would feel much more like a journey.  This climax in a building can be any number of things ranging from a very special space, a large stair or change in movement (i.e. changing to a horizontal movement versus a vertical, etc), these simple alterations create a space that one feels like they have 'journied' through to reach.  After this magnificent display of space - or spaces - the user then usually begins to see the end.  Whether that is returning upon the same path that initially carried from the beginning or through a different space is completely up to circulation and what dictates it within the building's form and interior spaces.

I've connected the dots between literature (film) and architecture for a long time now.  I've always seen both as running along very similar lines, the architecture just had the ability to actually manifest physical creations whereas a piece of literature or film only created a depiction of such concrete elements.  To be better designers, it really would not hurt to liken ourselves to an author or director and understand the multiplicity that exists within spaces, much like between the lines of text in your next favorite book.