11 points of architecture

By Paul Runaghan.

There are many influences that inspire me as a designer but crucially there are two major personal influences. The first is the decade which I was born and the second is how we look to nature either directly or in Biomimicry to inform and inspire ourselves. These two influences can be captured into two key images.

The first is Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the surface of the moon. Born in 1966 I was surrounded by imagery and technical advancement that did not question and was not scared of what was not achievable. Rather, it encouraged us to think differently to make it achievable.

The second is RJ Mitchell’s Supermarine Spitfire. Through the analysis of bird’s natural flight, their aerodynamics, agility and ability to change direction quickly he developed one of the world’s first monoplanes – the Supermarine S5 – that won the Schneider trophy in 1927. This conceptual approach, continued research and development evolved into one of the world’s most iconic, deadly and stunningly beautiful airplanes to date. “If it looks good it will fly good.” – Bill Lear, the creator of the Lear Jet.

The following 11 points influence and create the backbone for all my thoughts and approaches to architecture and design, and is reflected in all work that I produce. There is no hierarchy in the number sequence.

Architecture must have identity, seduce, shape, and perhaps more importantly, evoke emotional response.
Influence: “Design is that area of human experience, skill and knowledge which is concerned with man’s ability to mould his environment to suit his material and spiritual needs.” – Archer, Royal College of Art, 1973

Mathematics, Architecture and Music
Is architecture the bond between calculus and beauty? Design is as much an expression of feeling as an articulation of reason. It is an art as well as a science, a process and a product, an assertion of disorder, and a display of order.
Influence: “Form follows function ‘ that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Restrict the use of ornamentation
Influence: “Beauty without depth is just decoration.” – Metadesign

To use the concept of visual elements to create an architectural composition or define 3d dimensional space. Simple rhythms are everywhere outside architecture. For example, nine swallows sitting on a telegraph wire may sit on the same wire each day but will perch in a different position. More complex rhythms make use of what in jazz music is called “counterpoint”, that is, two or more intersecting or overlaid rhythms. This is seen frequently in classical architecture, where a series of columns and openings are overlaid on top of a series of smaller openings. Rhythm should not be misinterpreted as uniformity.
Influence: Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture ‘ 1962.

Creating Atmosphere
Create architecture in which you can experience not only visually but also by touch, smell, sense and hear.
Influence: Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture ‘ 1962.

Strong Concept
Illustration/sketch of the Primary building form should not be more than four unbroken lines.

Consider design as it would be published in the architectural press. A piece of architecture has five key views, three prominent external views and two prominent internal ones. Whatever happens during the evolution of a project, hold on to these key views and the integrity of the architecture will shine through.

To take into account the technique of production, the material to be used and the purpose for the object is wanted. Investigate how to utilise traditional and contemporary materials in new ways and new forms of construction.

A common definition: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (World Commission on Environment and Development 1997). The approach is to be holistically sustainable:

  • Socially ‘ an inclusive development accessible by all;
  • Economically ‘ a deliverable development based on what the market can sustain;
  • Environmentally ‘ part of a world agenda to combat climate change.

The impact of innovative and informed thinking in problem solving in the built environment generates new working practices, increased dynamism and creativity. We must remember that above all we seek new solutions with clarity and purpose, as we understand the extraordinarily positive influence good design has on people’s lives.

Be captivated by the light
“A truly great structure needs to stand the test of time. To create a building with presence one must always consult with nature and be captivated by the light. The light in Prague is different to the light in Barcelona and is different to the light in Tokyo. Always consult the light.” – Christopher Plummer, The Lakehouse 2007

Paul Runaghan is Senior Design Leader of Woods Bagot in Perth.


Woods Bagot
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