Unit One Summary: Foundation of Design

As we journeyed back in time to visit the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the Foundations of Design were created. We see the principles and elements repeated throughout history in simple shapes and forms.

We started this unit in Salisbury, England discussing Stonehenge. Quickly we came to realize, prehistoric times were not simple times. The shape of Stonehenge is a circle, one of the predominant shapes in nature. The shape that represents life, an infinite line, never completely ending is made out of rings of giant stone. With no written record of what Stonehenge was actually used for, the experts have guessed to believe its’ purpose was for either religious ceremonials or burial places. This is a massive structure, that took much planning and strategic maneuvering. The interesting thought is that someone at this time was “designing” these structures.

Heliopolis, or “city of the sun”, was also a prehistoric place of massive design. The Great Pyramid of Giza used deliberate design technique. The Egyptians were very in tune with the cosmos, always wanting their structures to reach up to the heavens. The pyramids were designed so the sun would hit the very top and the sun would come down and reach the four corners of the earth. The Egyptians also incorporated design elements and principles such as size, color, dominance, and contrast. The Egyptians constructed these massive columns with written language. They designed the columns with such great height to impose and create intimidation. Also the Sphinx is enormous stone structure. The pyramids were made out of limestone, which is a lighter color than the rest of the sand of the desert which made them appear even larger. All of these giant creations were built to portray power and authority of the pharaoh in their hierarchical society.

Just from these ancient civilizations, we see the repetition of these shapes and forms: circles, groves, and stacks.

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As ancient Greece comes along, we start to see a combination of these shapes together.

Groves + Stacks = Temples + Palaces

The Greeks were all about Order and Proportion. They wanted the ideal structure. The Greek mindset was perfection on both the inside and the outside. The Greeks were known for their columns; Tuscan the prototype which was plain, doric the archetype which had a fluted shaft, ionic the archetype which had a fluted shaft and horns, Corinthian another archetype which had a fluted shaft and leaves, and lastly there was the composite column which was a hybrid that had a fluted shaft, horns, and leaves. As their designs went along, they each kind of based it off the one previous to it adding a little something different.

Many Greek buildings were made for religious purposed or to honor the gods, like the Parthenon.

As Rome comes along, they create many of their structures based off the Greeks. Unlike the Greeks where they strived for perfection, the Romans were only interested in the façade. They only cared about what their structures looked like from the outside, trying to impress one another.

Rome was also known for their centrality and ultimate authority. The saying, “all roads lead to Rome” is very apparent. They created a grid system of roads and pathways to connect everything together that lapsed the entire Roman Empire.


The gothic cathedrals were massive structures constructed during the middles ages. Again as we have seen it before in the cathedrals were designed to reach as far up to the heavens as possible. That connection between heaven and earth is something that is repeated in almost every civilization. The cathedrals were similar but varied regionally. These structures all across time were expressions of faith in glass and stone. The cathedral in Salisbury used stained glass windows in its’ structure. The light would shine through the glass and heat up the cold damp stone. The cathedral in Florence, where is climate is warmer, used mosaic stones. The sun would reflect of the shimmery stone and light up the church.

As history repeats itself, design repeats itself as well. Every society and civilization builds off other ideas already created. The simple forms of the circle, groves, and stacks have been used over and over again.


Gothic Cathedrals

The most interesting cathedral to me, was the creation of the the cathedral in Florence, Italy. I chose the prompt of construction: the spirit of making represents forward-thinking design and language: representing region, each cathedral speaks a different dialect.


Compared to the other gothic cathedrals, such as those being Salisbury, cologne, and Amiens, the Florence cathedral is very innovative and represents forward-thinking design. For the first time, we see the “dome” shape being used. Interestingly enough, it was not a true dome, it was more of an octagon. Also there were two domes, one inside of the other. This way, it looked proportional from the inside and proportional from the outside. All of the other cathedrals seem to cling to the traditional gothic shapes and forms.

Each region shapes the design of its’ cathedral. As you can see the cathedral in Florence is the main focal point of the city. The rest of the buildings are created in unison with it, repeating the color, and lines. The cathedral beings the whole city together. The region greatly affects the function of the cathedral as well. The gothic cathedral in Salisbury for example uses stain glass windows. As the light shines through the glass, it not only brightens up the cathedral but creates warmth. Contrary to Salisbury, Florence uses mosaic tiles in their cathedral. The warmth of the climate and bright sunshine reflects off the tiles and illuminates the cathedral.

Pence Hall: Elements and Principles

Pence Hall is located in central campus and is now home to the College of Design. It was built in 1909 and was originally used for Physics and Civil Engineering. It was named to honor Merry Pence, the chairman of Physics department and the designer of the building.

Today Pence Hall looks like this:

Drawing from Hersey’s thesis, the classical elements of Pence Hall create a story of why the designers and architects constructed their building the way they did.

Some classical elements and principles they used were:

Shape- The designers used a geometric shape to construct this building

Size-The size of the building is fairly large. At the time this was being constructed, physics was an up and coming topic that held importance or status.

Direction-The direction of the lines of the building are horizontal.

Color-The designers chose to use a red brick with accents of grey cement for around the front entry and windows.

Balance-The building is very symmetrical which creates an equal balance. There is the same amount of windows on either side of the center entrance.

Repetition-The windows are placed in a repetitious manner.

Contrast-The color of the cement that is used to accentuate the windows and the front entry contrast with the red brick.

Harmony- The building as a whole, has similar shapes and lines which create harmony.