The Mathematics of Domestic Modernism (1922-1934): An Analysis of Correlations Between Façade Complexity, Orientation, Address and Permeability

By Michael J. Ostwald and Josephine Vaughan.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A common view in design scholarship is that the form or shape of a building is a reflection of the exigencies of its site, function and materiality. Thus, the façade of a house is shaped by its orientation or siting, the approach to the entry and the number and type of openings in the façade (being a reflection of the functional zones of the interior). Regardless of whether individual architects agree with this proposition or not, the relationship between form, function and site, remains a touchstone in architectural pedagogy and critique. However, despite a large number of qualitative examples in support of this proposition being available, there has never been a quantitative approach to measuring this relationship. In response to this situation, this paper proposes the adaptation of one of the few, well-supported approaches for the mathematical analysis of the visual properties of an architectural design; computational fractal analysis. Using ten Modernist houses as a case study set, the data produced by the computational analysis of these works is coded into three categories, orientation, approach and permeability. In this way it is possible to seek evidence of any correlation between the formal complexity of a façade and the impact of siting, access and program on that building. The purpose of this analysis is not to assess the performance of these architects’ works, instead it is to propose one approach to testing the relationship between form and orientation, address and permeability.

Keywords: Computational Fractal Analysis, design assessment, domestic architecture

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.143-162. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.535MB).

Prof. Michael J. Ostwald

Dean, School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

Professor Michael J. Ostwald is Dean of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Australia, a Visiting Professor at RMIT University (Melbourne) and a Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University Wellington.He has a PhD in architectural history and theory and a higher doctorate (DSc) in the mathematics of design. He has lectured in Asia, Europe and North America and has written and published extensively on the relationship between architecture, philosophy and geometry. Michael Ostwald is a member of the editorial boards of the Nexus Network Journal and Architectural Theory Review and he is co-editor of the journal Architectural Design Research.

Josephine Vaughan

Research Assistant, School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

Josephine Vaughan is a research higher degree candidate at the University of Newcastle, where she is also a member of the architectural computing research group. Her postgraduate studies are focused on the fractal dimensions of buildings. Josephine’s architectural designs have been exhibited and installed regionally and nationally.


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