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Project 3: Defining Space With Planes

"Architecture is the thoughtful making of space.
The continual renewal of architecture comes from the changing concepts of space."
Louis I Kahn, 1957

Planes are one of simplest architectural elements that can create spaces.  Spaces had three dimensional properties that include: length, width and height.  We rely on our universal recognition of basic spaces and volumes to allow the viewer to understand the architect's intent.  Three dimensional variations of the square undergo interactions to reflect program and contextual needs.  There are 3 spatial relationships: (a) space within a space; (b) space overlapping a space; (c) space abutting a space.  Students will also explore the issue of economy in design.  One can make a square space with four walls, a roof and floor slab and one could explore other more creative ways of defining a space.  What is the minimum one needs to express clarity.  We also rely on controlling the sizes of spaces relative to surrounding spaces.  If one can define three spatial sizes and keep those sizes consistent, then one can identify which family the space comes from.  This project will explore the relationship of how spaces and volumes work together to clearly express the designer's intent and understanding. 

Methodology & Analysis:  Since no formal methodology is given to explore these design issues, the emphasis will be on the analysis of the projects.  Students will introduce their individual project (usually 3-5 projects at a time) and then the class will comparatively analyze them.  Each student will keep a journal and record various aspects of each project.  At the end of the entire critique, place a check next to what you think are the four (4) best projects in terms of the most successful interpretation and creative application of the concepts (do not share your opinion with any other students).  Students will be asked in groups of three to evaluated the projects on the following criteria, usually most and least.  Additional comments may come from the gallery at large but not from the designers whose projects are being critiqued.  The types of analysis used include: quantitative (counting how many times the rules is applied or features occur); qualitative (descriptive variations of success of the rule or features); collective group selection of success (poll the group).  The instructor will moderate the discussion.  This activity is designed to have students develop their understanding to concepts when applied in an interactive comparative multi-dimensional platform. 

Project 3 (Planes and Spaces) will be critiqued on the following concepts/criteria:

  1. Clearly defined spaces
  2. Economy of elements to make the as many spaces
  3. Integration of spaces; having 3 spatial relationships: (a) space within a space; (b) space overlapping a space; (c) space abutting a space.
  4. Three clear spatial size definitions (relative sizes vs. the use of shapes in the last project)
  5. Rules for using the planes
  6. Overall pattern or idea

Rules/Constraints for making the spaces with the planes:

  1. Planes may not abut end to end or overlap.  Only orthogonal ("T" and "L") connections are allowed.
  2. The entire project must be a min. of 15" high (think of this as a three dimensional chess game).
  3. All spaces must flow (no 4 wall dead ends)  
  4. No layer caking of planes are allowed (like stories in a building)
  5. Have a min. of 1 large space, 2 or more medium spaces, and 10 or more small spaces and use the majority of planes
  6. No symmetrical projects


  • 1 - layer of 15" x 15" x 1/4" foam core
  • 1 - white mat/matte board, both sides (20" x 30")
  • 1 - black mat/matte board, both sides (20" x 30")
  • 1 - hot glue gun and power strip

Cutting Requirements:

For each color board cut the following:

  • 2" x 2" - 36 pieces (144 sq.in.) 
  • 2" x 4" - 18 pieces (144 sq.in.) 
  • 2" x 6" - 12 pieces (144 sq.in.) 

Using the principles of defining space with vertical planes, as outlined in the class lecture, construct one or more spatial volumes using: a vertical plane, an "L" shaped plane, parallel planes, a "U" shaped plane, and a space defined by 4 sides. In addition, the following spatial constructions shall include small objects constructed from the cardboard that create having one or more of the following 3 spatial relationships: (a) space within a space; (b) space overlapping a space; (c) space abutting a space.  Each of the spaces should be related to one another as either a sequence of spaces. The more creative and original the design solution, the higher the grade.

Cut the mat board into pre-defined shapes as noted by the instructor. A series of three dimensional constructions shall made exploring the design principles of space. These constructions shall be prototypes. After several design investigations, the student will glue together his or her final design solution onto the 15" x 15" base.

Project Due Date: Next class from date of lecture.

Francis Ching, Architecture: Form, Space & Order, pp.: 99-120, 130-157, 166-169