Friday, February 28, 2014

Architecture & Music (Part 2): Frozen Music

Johann Wolfgang von Goeth

Johann Wolfgang von Goeth gained notoriety in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a German philosopher, poet, scientist and artist. He is perhaps best known by the public as the author of Faust. He is best known among architects for a single quote: "Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music." Architects have long loved the connection between architecture and music, perhaps because these two abstract art forms share so much in common: rhythm, proportion, and harmony being chief among them. Let's look at these principals.



Kohl Building at Oberlin College- Westlake Reed Leskosky
Rhythm in music refers to patterns of sounds tied to the beat. Rhythm in architecture refers to the repetition of architectural elements. In either application the rhythm can be regular or irregular, or even a mixture. The lyrical pattern of windows and panels in the Kohl Building is one example of rhythm in architecture.




The Parthenon
Proportion is the comparative relationship of one part to another or to the whole. In music it refers to the space between notes. In architecture it refers to the distance(s) between elements or forms. Mathematics often plays a significant role, as evidenced in the proportioning systems developed and implemented by the Greeks in buildings such as the Parthenon.




Falling Water - Frank Lloyd Wright

Harmony refers to the pleasing and balanced arrangement of elements in an aesthetic whole. In music it is the arrangement of sounds in the composition. In architecture it refers to the patterns between forms and materials. Falling Water is a stellar example of harmony. Not  only is there harmony between horizontal and vertical forms, but also harmony between natural and manmade materials.

There are other connections as well.  Music begins in the creative mind of the musician, who has the talent and training to compose.  If done well, the listener will experience positive sensations from the work, even if he or she does not understand why. Likewise architecture begins in the creative mind of the architect, who has the talent and training to design.  If done well, the owners and users will experience positive sensations from the work, even if he or she does not understand why.

Finally, I think it is interesting how musicians compose - some begin with the melody and then write the lyrics, while other do the opposite. Similarly in architecture, some architects begin with the plan and let the form follow, while others begin with the form and let it instruct the plan. Such form-base architecture has led to fame for some architects. Next time we'll look a the connection between architecture and fame in the next post: Architects and Starchitects.  Join me.