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An introduction to the beauty and the importance of a foundation in architecture

Is beauty an essential consideration in architecture?

  • On the roof, single figures might be set in silhouette against the sky, at gable top and especially gable ends;
  • The load therefore bypasses the weak layer and is safely transferred to the strong layer;
  • At the building site, master stone masons made the final precise carvings, to ensure that each stone block would slot into place without the need for mortar;
  • End Bearing Piles In end bearing piles, the bottom end of the pile rests on a layer of especially strong soil or rock.

You might not think so, but every architect aspires to make something beautiful, to create some type of visual delight in their work. Beauty is impossible to define: Beauty is up to us as individuals. The experience of walking through them could have been described as scary, or upsetting, or ugly, or maybe beautiful, depending on the person.


I hope that other people will find the distorted reflections as beautiful as I find them. Thoughts on beauty may change — for example, I used to think that old American cars were ugly, with their superfluous fins and so on: When an architectural problem is solved by an idea, that idea is always there to be seen in the building — the idea has a visual manifestation that is beautiful.

It is all about culture, context, personal history, acquired taste and, most importantly, ideas. Behind every beautiful building there is a bright, intelligent, cultured client.

Design Disciplines

They take the importance of beauty for granted and, if we argue with a client about a project, it is not usually about the visual side of things — arguments are instead about price per metre, or about how many cubic metres they can squeeze in here or there.

But sometimes clients are even more insistent on what they think is beautiful than architects. A case in point is the Design Museum in Holon, which opened in 2010.

In our original presentation the six ribbons of Cor-Ten steel that wrap around the building were shown with gradation in colour, which the client thought was beautiful. Later we discovered that Cor-Ten, whatever its initial colour, naturally turns a dark chocolate-brown colour once left in the Middle Eastern sun. I was willing to move the goalposts and accept it, trying to explain to the client that we should allow the Cor-Ten to do whatever it does.

  • What on earth is it?
  • This is because water in the soil around the foundation can freeze and expand, thereby damaging the foundation;
  • Traditionally, this triangular space contained the most important sculptural reliefs on the exterior of the building;
  • Even the gods, shown receiving the procession, are intimately real and folk-like, though oversize;
  • It took hard graft at the cultural coal face to force us to see the beauty in, say, the Lake District thanks to Wordsworth.

But the client insisted on the gradation that we had already showed them. We worked with the Polytechnic of Milan to research a method that would produce the lasting gradation of colours that the client wanted. So in a way I lost the argument, but I was pleased that I lost. Architects have to sell their ideas and reasons to planners on committees who, although less educated and qualified than them, have the last say, but I take my hat off to any enlightened, idealistic planners out there who think about beauty — I hope there will be more of them in the future.

What on earth is it? And who gets to decide what it is? But if beauty is relative what exactly is it relative to?


Well, I would argue first that beauty is not relative to something natural, deep and authentic. None of that mystic individualism for me.

No, there are reasons why we find things beautiful — or ugly. Or, for that matter, beautiful-ugly. And that reason is culture.


Both our individual cultural psychology forged through our own experience and the culture of the epoch we belong to. From Rubenesque figures of the 17th century to size zero of the 21st century, what we decide is beautiful changes according to circumstance.

  1. Although its pedimental and metope relief sculpture is laid out in the Doric style, it also has an Ionic style frieze which encircles the building.
  2. And who gets to decide what it is? At the Parthenon c.
  3. They are legally obligated to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare.

It took hard graft at the cultural coal face to force us to see the beauty in, say, the Lake District thanks to Wordsworth. Or in a three-chord raucous cacophony thanks to punk — or Stockhausen, depending on your take. When people use the word beauty in design they are seeking refuge from the difficulties of modern life.

Sam Jacob The history of modern art is often a history of the desire to smash through the prevailing idea of beauty. In the early 20th century the aesthetic niceties of the 19th century were shattered by new kinds of aesthetic drawn from sources such as the primitive African masksthe industrial grain silos and the everyday urinals.

The beauty carousel revolves like this: It drips with associations of value, class and money. Using the word beauty allows us to frame the very same subject in a way that avoids these uncomfortable issues. It suggests higher, more authentic, objective and timeless qualities to the worldly concerns of taste.

Which is, quite frankly, both disingenuous and a dereliction of duty for any creative practitioner. When people use the word beauty in design they are seeking refuge from all of the difficulties of modern life — all of its doubts, fears and challenges.

They are attempting to place themselves outside of the machinations of taste and beyond the vagaries of fashion which is also a no-go word, especially in architectural circles. But avoidance only serves to construct a refuge of arch-conservatism, aligning oneself with the status quo.

  • Roof All early temples had a flat thatched roof, supported by columns hypostyle , but as soon as walls were made from stone and could therefore support a heavier load, temples were given a slightly sloping roof, covered with ceramic terracotta tiles;
  • Doric Order of Architecture The Doric order is easily identified by its plain capital, and lack of column-base;
  • The load of the building is transferred through the pile onto the strong layer;
  • That said, Ancient Greek architects took a highly pragmatic approach to the rules surrounding proportions, and when it came to the mathematics of an architectural design they took "appearance" as their guiding principle;
  • Pile foundations are capable of taking higher loads than spread footings.

Far better to recognise architecture and design as an aesthetic-cultural battleground of political issues. Driven by a desire to challenge myths of accepted beauty, these buildings have become, in time, beautiful.

Ron Arad RA is an architect, designer and artist. Sam Jacob is an architect, writer and curator. These are just two opinions in this debate. What do you think?