Figurative Geometry

/ Karen Pickering / Creative Workspace

Why is it important that what we do is distinctive? Architectural theory oscillates between the desire to be expressive at one end of the spectrum and be embedded at the other. The mood swings of the time influence which persuasion rises to the fore, at times buildings need to stand out and at other times disappear into the surrounding fabric.

Underlying form, is the need to meet the brief. For most buildings we imagine the building form comes from understanding the brief, but we should not underestimate how the framework provided by the attitude to expression and 'embeddedness' informs the envelope that wraps these uses.

As you can imagine, the ideal will be the reconciliation of use and form in an imaginary 'best fit', but what helps us merge the two aspects?

We have developed an idea of figurative geometry as a holder of these two requirements. Use needs an enclosure, the needs of use can be met in many geometries. We can experiment with the nature of these geometries as it wraps around the users and the restraint it offers in stopping the form of the building exploding all over the place.

How we contain that enthusiasm is important - one way is the application of a management armature over the uses in the form of a human scale grid. In that respect we used an 1800mm x 900mm imaginary tatami mat network in our buildings at the then Paisley University Union, Edinburgh Colinton Church and Aqualibrium, Campbeltown swimming pool. A curvilinear variation of this flexible geometric overlay containing form was exploited at Maggies Inverness, the Centre for Scottish War Blinded, Linburn and West End Medical Practice, Edinburgh.

Expression emerges where a particular use aspect is accentuated, 'embeddedness' achieved where use is rooted in the context. What experience has shown us is that we should seek to balance the qualities of expression and this 'embeddedness'. Geometry has been found to be a powerful mediator, reconciling the repetitive and modular, with shape tuned to activity conceived as flexible to setting.

Centre for Scottish War Blinded