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  • Form and space are complementary and inseparable aspects of architecture.
  • The form of a building is its physical substance: the materials and structures that make up the building and enclose or create the spaces within it.

1) Formation of Space in Architecture

  • In architectural language, the relationship between form and space can be thought of as a ‘solid-void relationship‘.
  • The spaces created by a building include both interior space and exterior space, which may interweave or influence each other.
  • Architectural elements like columns, walls, floors and ceilings are physical elements that shape a space.
  • Form contains functional spaces and space offers particular experiences.
  • Parameters controlling form and space include shape, degree of enclosure, dimensions, proportions, materials, colours and textures.
  1. In plan, columns at four ‘points’ of a square grid define a rectangular space in between. In elevation, they are seen as vertical linear elements of the space.
  2. In plan, a row of columns creates a ‘line’ that separates two spaces. At the same time, it creates a vertical ‘plane’ — walls are vertical planes, and floors and ceilings are horizontal planes. They create the ‘volume’ of spaces for our daily activities.
  3. Buildings in a city can be regarded as large-scale ‘volumes’. The elevations of the buildings create external spaces between their vertical planes. These spaces may be narrow streets or wide plazas. 

Elevation – An elevation is the vertical exterior surface of a building: its front, back, and sides. 

Plan – A plan is a scaled drawing showing the layout of the building.

2) The Relationship of Form and Space

i) Shape of Form and Space

  • In buildings, walls and ceiling and floor surfaces are shaped to enable specific functions and create a certain type of spatial experience.
  • Architects may choose organic, flowing shapes or right-angled geometries to create a particular environment.

ii) Form follows function

  • Many architects have a signature style that can be seen in the forms they choose to create.
  • Depending on the project or the client, they may focus mainly on accommodating a certain function or on creating an interesting spatial experience.
  • Form and space are complementary: form creates space. And since the space must be used for particular functions, form must follow function.

3) Five points of modern architecture

— Le Corbusier

  • Pilotis: Space is structurally supported by pillars (points). The building is raised off the ground to provide circulation space and room for services.
  • Free façade: Because of the use of pillars, the façade of the building is formed according the internal use of space rather than supporting walls (plane).
  • Open floor plan: Since pillars are the only structural elements, floor space is left free from a rigid configuration of structural walls.
  • Horizontal strip windows: Horizontal windows allow a view across the horizon and bring natural light into the building.
  • Roof garden: The roof garden is conceived as a compensation for the area of ground plane consumed by the building’s footprint.
  • A grid of pillars is the basic structure of the building, supporting horizontal beams and slabs.
  • Elevating the first floor provides a better view through the strip windows.
  • Rooms can be configured according to the function of the space.

4) Degree of Enclosure

  • The degree of enclosure of a space depends on its function and nature and the degree of privacy or weather protection required.
  • It affects the comfort of the space, influencing factors like natural light and ventilation.
  • From the outside, the elements of enclosure also influence the elevations of the building.

Three typical ways to vary the degree of enclosure:

  1. The structural formation of building components can be designed to create openings.
  2. Permeability of the enclosure is influenced by fenestration or skylights.
  3. Transparency can be created by using glass, polycarbonate, or other transparent or translucent materials. 

i) Façade

  • A facade or façade is generally the most important exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front.
  • The word comes from the French word for “frontage” or “face”.
  • In architecture, the façade of a building is often the most important from a design standpoint, as it sets the tone for the rest of the building. 

ii) Fenestration

  • Fenestration is the arrangement of openings or windows on the building envelop.

5) Summary

  1. In architectural language, the relationship between form and space is often conceived as a ‘solid-void relationship‘.
  2. Form contains functional spaces and space offers particular experiences.
  3. Parameters controlling form and space include shapes, dimensions, proportions, materials, colours and textures.
  4. Different kinds of forms and spaces are created in response to functional requirements, context, or the architect’s desire to create a unique spatial experience. 


  • The Church of Light in Osaka, Japan was designed by the architect Tadao Ando.
  • The structure is made of opaque concrete with the exception of an opening behind the altar that forms a cross. 
  • Natural light passes through this gap to illuminate the interior of the church and create a sacred and peaceful atmosphere.

  • I.M. Pei designed these transparent pyramid-shaped skylights as additions to the Louvre Museum in Paris. 
  • Their geometry and transparency contrast interestingly with the surrounding historic buildings. 
  • The skylights provide natural illumination to the museum’s underground reception area.

  • Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France was designed by Le Corbusier. 
  • Coloured translucent glazing and irregular openings create a dramatic pattern of light inside the chapel.

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