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Pierre von Meiss


Modernity has opened the way to a greater pluralism of forms. But even if architecture is a cultural phenomenon, that does not mean it is a product of fashion.Its principles are enduring and its foundations less tangible than the novice who tried to shake them would realize. To start that stretch towards the foundations one must first acquire the basics: to know the permanence of the architectural field and appreciate the certainties tested by time. This book will act as a guide for the reaching hand. The first part explores the mediums of compositional architecture and the relationships between space, light, and place. Four or five thousand years of history demonstrate the persistence of certain fundamental principles intrinsic to a discipline that organizes, in three dimensions, the vital space of man. In the second part, the author provides certain keys to manage the relationship between shape, materials, and construction – recalling that the need to build, by itself, has never been enough to design the form of the house or the city. Neither encyclopedia nor dictionary, this book seeks to fill a gap in light of our time: it serves as a contemporary introduction to architectural design and criticism. Following the praise of critics, the first edition has been adopted as a reference text in numerous schools and translated into several languages. This new translation from the 3rd French edition offers revised and reworked content with an additional three chapters dedicated to tectonics.


  • Foreword – Kenneth Frampton
  • Introduction to the new edition
  • First part – Elements of Architecture: From Form to Place
  • 1 Phenomena of perception – The pleasure of looking at, listening to, feeling, touching and moving through architecture
  • 2 Order and disorder – Inevitable order – Factors of coherence – From order to chaos – Interaction of factors – Regularity and irregularity – Order in disorder and vice versa
  • 3 Measure and balance – Spaces on a human scale – The notion of scale – Anthropomorphism and architecture – The fascination of number and proportions – Balance
  • 4 Fabric and object – City and monuments – Composition of the object: articulation and continuity – The object: faces, corners, relationship to ground and sky
  • First Interlude: From object to space – Spatiality of objects – Relationships between objects
  • 5 Space – Elements of spatial definition – Depth of space – Density of space – Opening of space – Spatial juxtaposition and interpenetration – Spatial characteristics of elementary shapes – Composing: Wright and the Froebel blocks – Composing: Le Corbusier and the 4 Compositions (1929) – Composing verticality – Three strategies for spatial composition – Floor, wall and ceiling
  • 6 Light and shade – Light comes to us from things
  • Second Interlude: From space to place
  • 7 Places – The landscape, a great challenge – Site and place – Limits, thresholds and spaces of transition – Place as an identity-support – Dynamics of path
  • Third Interlude: Cosmic, Territorial and Temporal Orientation
  • Part Two – Tectonics
  • 8 Making materials sing – Form and material
  • 9 Aesthetic of gravity – Obvious solidity – Stability and elegant performance – Imbalance re-balanced – Technology and modernity – Fact or fiction?
  • 10 Body and cladding – The issues – Texture, bonding and modenature – Thicknesses – Face or mask? – The façade as a complex “machine”
  • Epilogue
  • Annex – Annex 1 Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal (Colin Rowe & Robert Slutzky) – Annex 2 Architecture Against the City (Bernard Huet) – Annex 3 The Landscape Alternative (Sébastien Marot)
  • Bibliography
  • Iconographic references


Publisher: EPFL Press English Imprint

Author(s): Pierre von Meiss

Collection: Architecture

Published: 13 november 2013

Edition: 1st edition

Media: Book

Pages count Book: 404

Format (in mm) Book: 170 x 240

Weight (in grammes): 1010

Language(s): English

EAN13 Book: 9782940222698

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