Thursday, December 29, 2005

form doesn't follow function-- in architecture.

In biology, the fact that form and function are closely related is proved over and over, especially with respect to protein shape and behavior. As a newbie to architecture, I wasn't surprised to hear that architects also believe in the mantra that form follows function. Building shape should reflect and reinforce what it's for, more or less.

Except, experimentally it doesn't seem to be true most of the time. This is an entertaining article reporting an experiment testing whether people can recognize the type of building from the exterior design. In short, they can't. I'll leave you to read the details of their experiment (and what it suggests about the sad state of American architecture) and just report the ending:

Other studies have shown that people already "read" buildings to judge the status of people who live or work inside, and to determine if the buildings are in a safe neighborhood, among other things, Nasar said.

"Buildings convey meaning, whether they are meant to or not," Nasar said. "So it makes sense that buildings be designed to indicate their use. But our results suggest it doesn't often happen."

1 comment :

Erik said...

Not to dispute the study's findings, but maybe to diminish them a bit, it occurs to me that a building's form is more than just its facade. The interior architecture of a library is vastly different from that of a concert hall, to serve different functions. Maybe the point of "form follows function" is not so much that you can recognize the building from its front door, as that the building is designed to support what people do inside it.

(I'm assuming, because it sounded that way from the article, that it's the outside of the building that was photographed and shown to study participants.)