A design appears more appealing if all the principles of design are kept in mind during composition. Let us consider the elements of composition:
Texture- this is not only the range from smooth to rough, but includes decoration and carving. In a large composition, or any design seen at distance, larger elements, even individual dwellings within a group, can produce an effect of texture.
Colour- This can be analysed in detail by a study of such systems as the Munsell. For our present purpose we will refer simply to colour hue, but we must not forget, however, that there are secondary characteristics of colour such as luminance, fullness and transparency which can extend the possible variations in comparison.
Tone- This is usually dealt with as a part of colour theory. It is referred to as greyness in the Munsell system and describes the neutral scale of white to black through a range of greys. In design composition we will find it helpful to consider tone separately. It plays a very important part in architecture as well as in the drawings we use to represent buildings. If you half close your eyes and look about you or look at any drawing so as to heighten the distinction between different tones, it becomes quite evident how much we rely on tonal variation both for the identification of what we see and as an element of composition.
Direction- Every building has elements which suggest direction. In most buildings there are strong elements of vertical and horizontal direction given by the shape of the building as a whole, by its parts and by its structural components, its window and other openings. By studying building interiors or exteriors it is possible to assess the overall visual effect f the horizontals and verticals in their composition.
Proportion- In architecture, this is the geometric relationship of the sides of rectangles and volumes, also the ratio or comparison of different parts of the composition. Classic and gothic architecture, with its greater detail, contained many more and varied proportional relationships than most buildings today. The evidence of the buildings of the past, and such information on their design as has survived, all indicate a very high concern with proportional relationships. It might be thought that the simpler forms of modern buildings place less emphasis on proportion, but it could be argued that, with fewer elements, there is a need for even greater care in their arrangements.
Solid and Void- The apparent effect of solid and void is peculiar to architecture. It is produced by the relationship between solid material and the voids of windows or other openings and, internally, in the way in which spaces are formed by the arrangement of solids which surround them. Although it embraces direction and proportion this relationship provides a distinctive element of composition.
Form or Shape- These may be seen in the overall arrangement of a building or in its parts where these have recognizable geometric shapes. Repetitions or variations of particular forms can provide a very strong element of composition. While shapes may contribute to proportion or direction, they do provide a separate characteristic arising from the way in which we are able to recognize distinctive forms. For instance, the pitch of a roof will provide a certain form which we will recognize quite easily and relate to other roofs which have a similar pitch. When a roof is of a distinctly different shape it will appear strongly dissimilar. Repetitions of gables or oriels may be seen as a series of matching shapes, even related shapes of different sizes. These are the basic elements of composition. When we look at a building superficially we may not recognize them or distinguish between them. Nevertheless, we assess their overall effect and respond to what we see either intuitively or consciously. Many students can compose their designs intuitively to produce Unity, particularly when the practical constraints are simple. As a building becomes more complex we find it more and more necessary to identify the aspects of Unity in order to maintain good composition in the face of increasing technical complexity.
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