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Making Art: Exploring the Tools We Use as Architects and Designers

When we think of tools, a few things probably come to mind. We think of a carpenter and his hammer or a surgeon and his scalpel. We think of computers, screwdrivers, and other physical implements used to achieve tasks.

But when we think of architects, what comes to mind? Beyond physical equipment, like pencils and sheets of paper, architects use a variety of intangible tools– to design and create art in the form of architecture.

As architects, we use a variety of elements to create associations between the buildings we design and the humans that interact with them.

Here is the first in a series of overviews of a few of those tools.

Mass and Proportion

Mass and proportion can give an object its feeling of scale and weight. A building can “feel” heavy or light based on its mass and proportion in relation to a person interacting with it.

Another factor that plays into the sentiment of an object or structure “feeling massive” is materials. If a building or object is built out of stone for example, it is perceived to be more massive than something built out of a lighter material like wood. If a material is monolithic in appearance instead of being broken up into smaller elements, an object can be perceived as more massive. Due to these factors, mass needs to be in correct proportion in order to create the desired feelings and associations.

Proportion is creating elements in a way in which they relate to other elements or their environment in a visually harmonious means. The subtleties of proportion may not be perceived by every viewer, but it gives

a space or objects a sense of order that would otherwise be nonexistent.

Achieving correct proportions for an object or a building can be a very challenging and difficult task. This challenge is often compounded because the way a designer would view the work while creating it is often completely different than the way a user may view the finished work.

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