Order, Formulas, and Rules

by Frank Cunha III

It seems like when you finally get it right in Architecture, Art, Music, Fashion, etc, you become a “sellout.”  So what is Right? How can we get it right? Will anyone know the difference?  In the music industry, record companies spend millions studying what kind of music we enjoy.  Recently I heard that they have developed a formula for what makes great music whether we consciously agree or not (they call it “musically satisfying”).  Is it any wonder we get those cheesy songs stuck in our head?  This comes as no surprise in a technologically advanced and transformative world.  Could the same be true for Architecture (Architecturally satisfying)?

Like many other Architects, I subscribe to hard copies and digital copies of various Art & Architecture magazines.  It’s fun to see all the new and exciting international projects that have been commissioned.  It’s also frustrating to see that many of the projects follow some sort of formula – It is easy/difficult to put a finger on it but given an opportunity – Budget, Client, Program, couldn’t we too fudge, I mean design something similar?  I remember an old college professor telling us how in his day he had to study / copy the Masters of his day for Architecture School.

I am pretty sure I did not miss class the day they taught the secret formula to creating great Architecture – Which leads me to ask, What is great?  I mean, we all have our opinions on the Masters of our day – Good or Bad.  What I mean to ask is something that delves deeper.  Besides the ability to obtain intellectual clients with extremely high budgets looking for “meaningful” design, how do these high profile Architects / Architecture firms land these clients?  Once they figure out this formula is it a matter of fine-tuning it and repeating it?

Although Architecture is filled with Order & Rules (figuratively and literally) should there be a Formula to producing great works of Architecture?

I would think that a world without figurative Order & Rules of today’s contemporary Architecture (that results in the “Same” different Architecture, the same way someone dyes their hair pink or blue to be different, to be like their friends) would result in a more meaningful, natural world of Architecture filled with unique projects emulating real emotion and artfulness.  When Architecture (or Music for that matter) begins to repeat these figurative patterns it also eliminates the artfulness of the unknown. The mystery of Architecture is not in the mathematics or science of Architecture but in it’s naïve soulfulness.  That is where I believe the true spirit of Architecture resides.

9 Comments on “Order, Formulas, and Rules”

  1. Bruce D. Turner, AIA says:

    This is a great topic and one which could (and should) be discussed for hours on end. But, as an aside to this I will offer that all too frequently there is too much focus on the “starchitecture” of the day. I recently attended a dedication ceremony for a building. It was a renovation project. The owner was thrilled to be back in the building and praised many simple things that were done on their behalf: raise the basement ceiling 6″ by using GWB instead of ACT; open the wall between the kitchen and dining room and put a peninsula counter in its place; remove a closet from the kitchen that had been a stair to the basement in the original building two renovations ago; provide them with accessible bathrooms; removing one wall enclosing the stair to the basement to open it to the entryway; etc. All of these decisions were elementary. They will never see the cover of a magazine nor win an award. But they will make a difference in the lives of the people using this building for years to come.

    In some ways I wonder if the “formula” for great architecture is similar.





  3. Steven J. Calvanico, AIA says:


    A small part of the answer to your Question, (I’ll leave the cap due to the magnitude of the query) may be found in the book- This is Your Brain on Music, the author states it takes 10,000 hours of dedication to master anything, I believe he is correct.

    For me, after one puts in their 10k effort, great architecture comes from pursuit of unsdestaning the idiosyncrasies of a given project,then weaving solutions into a meaningful design, but only if you have a willing and open minded client, which has to be explored one project/Client at a time.

    To do that requires dedication and the ability to sell the idea that Architecture is more than mere construction and the benefits are worth the cost.

    Hard work and often difficult, but worth it.



  4. fc3arch says:

    Great insight gentlemen – Always appreciate the feedback (and references) — Thanks!


  5. Wow I am BLOWN away! Frank lot of FASCINATING info here! The ART in Architecture goes way BEYOND the Creation of LOVE Beauty & Passion! For ME Architecture has ALWAYS been an INTEREST seeing this OPENS the doors even MORE! I Appreciate this so MUCH!!!!!


  6. I am truly pleased to read this weblog posts which includes lots of helpful information,
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  7. ask says:

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  8. ask says:

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  9. […] Order, Formulas, and Rules by @FrankCunhaIII […]


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