Structural Proportions | Aesthetic Components of Architecture

Architecture is a design process which involves planning, designing, creating, erecting, constructing and executing construction of various types of buildings that are functionally efficient, economically viable and aesthetically pleasing.

The two most important factors in the design of a building are Form and Function. Functionality is the most important aspect of building design. The other aspect is building form or aesthetics.

Lotus Temple, India
Lotus Temple, India

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty.

Aesthetic components of Architecture also deal with the Proportions of the structure….

In this article, we will discuss different types of Proportions and study Structural Proportions in detail…

Proportion is the geometric relationship of the sides of volumes (e.g., rectangles). It is also the ratio or comparative size of individual parts of the composition. We cannot measure these relationships accurately by eye, but we can compare them and try to judge the relationship of one part to another on a proportional basis.

Buildings belonging to Classical or Gothic Architecture have better proportional relationships than most buildings today.

Solid and Void

The relationship between solid (walls, roofs, etc.) and void (windows and other openings) structural units is very important inorder to form a good composition.

The above figures show examples of some solid and void units.

For example: Cemetery Chapel, Turku, Finland

Cemetery Chapel, Finland
Cemetery Chapel, Finland

Proportions deal with the masses and the spaces. The primary properties of mass are height, width and depth. Proportion is the visual relationship of these properties with respect to each other. The observer does not see these as an individual but as an entire mass. Any mass can be identified by the geometric shape and the dimension of the form. Like there are Seven Elements of Unity, there are three factors of proportion:

  1. Material Proportion
  2. Structural Proportion
  3. Manufactured Proportion

Structural proportions

In the construction of buildings, structural elements such as beams and slabs are required to span over spaces and transmit their loads through vertical supports. Again, dimensional proportions play their role in restricting the height, width and depth of these structural elements under a given load condition. Checking Structural Proportions involve:

  1. Checking beam design
  2. Checking beam design for deflection

Checking the design of beam

  • In a beam with a certain load ‘W’, if the span is doubled, the stresses due to bending would be increased four times. If the depth of the beam is also doubled, the stress would remain the same. Thus there is a proportion between the span and the depth of the beam for safe stresses.
  • Checking beam design is the first important step towards checking the stability of Structural Proportions.

Checking a beam design for deflection

  • The proportion of the span of a beam influences the deflection of the beam. For pillars and columns, the ability to support a load depend on the height of the column.
  • If a column is very tall and its cross-sectional dimensions are small, the column will buckle or bend sideways. If the sectional dimensions are kept unchanged and the height is reduced, the column would be stable and safe. Thus, there is a proportion between the height of the column and cross-section of the column for safe construction of columns in buildings.
  • Similarly, proportions govern the construction of the foundation of a building. The foundation should be designed to transfer the load from buildings to the soil: small area foundations for string soil and large area foundations or weak soil.

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