empAthos Nation Enterprises
empAthos Nation Enterprises Experimental Environmental Design Initiative

Flexible Design

Mrs. Cheryl J. Mason-Middleton

In the late 1970's this designer was taking her classes at the university and learning about design and functionality of space and all the baffelgab of architectural development. As I revisit those concepts I realize that the failure of architecture hasn't been far from the doorstep of the architectural profession, and that good design starts, proceeds through and ends with the individuals who will ultimately have to live with the space. Architecture doesn't simply mean buildings. It means people and their possessions and their tools and furniture and all the things that they will do in the space and all the feelings that the space will evoke.

During my design schooling, I also developed an interest in Library Science and took that as a minor. I became aware of a primary problem that all libraries suffer: Collections grow, buildings don't. Buildings have traditionally been created as megalithic structures that don't move or change as the needs of the occupants change. To accomodate this inflexibility, libraries either build other structures or reduce their collections.

The problem with the first response, building new structures, is that there are sometimes too many limitations of space. The problem of the second is that information gets lost and future generations no longer have access to the information that may need to be revived for whatever new problems that may arise.

I gave a lot of thought to the problem, and I realized that the first issue, building more buildings, could be designed into the library's structure itself by designing the building to grow and change as the need developed. This is preferable to the second solution as the removal of materials from a collection (usually for lack of use) effectively destroys information.

An Archimedean solid known as a Truncated Octahedron, evoked interesting conceptualizations:

The Truncated Octahedron provides a unitary form that can be joined, several units together, with no spaces in between allowing architectural flexibility. A unit may be added or subtracted as needed, or moved from one part of the structure to another.

As a three story structure, its form may enclose a large open space, or be subdivided into three separate floors. Floors form a hexagonal shape or a triangular shape with truncations at each corner.

The structure is unified and self supporting, but is not limited to the inefficiencies of the usual box like structures common to modern buildings. Because it continues to use straight lines, and flat surfaces at reasonable angles, there is a minimum of wasted space, and may be built out of readily available materials. Vertices are joined at 90 at the square surfaces and 120 at the hexagonal. Since this form more closely defines a rough sphere rather than a box, it tends to enclose more volume for its area than a box.

Mathematics related to the Truncated Octahedron can be found at:
Wikipedia - Truncated Octahedron
Math World - Truncated Octahedron

As this is just one approach that could be applied to a particular problem, it doesn't represent an approach that belongs in every situation. The point is that it represents flexibility in approaching design problems, and considers what the space needs to accomplish for the people living in the space.

Website built by Mrs. Cheryl J. Mason-Middleton, BFA.
This page was last modified on 12/15/08.
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