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Topic for Debate
 
Form/Function: Which is first?
In the design process what should be the procedure ? How a designer should start ? Would it be, first FORM then FUNCTION or first FUNCTION then FORM or both at the same time ?
Rubel Raf
Responses
 
Form/Function: Which is first?
As design in architecture means intended purpose, functional aspect at times governs form of the object, if space to be used to create visual impact then form takes first place. The question is like, which is first egg or chicken, as we know that they are there and the cycle goes on that way form and function are like "hand and glove".
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
Thank you, sir Dushyant Nathwani for your response.
Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
But it is definite, that at the very beginning of a project, function comes first. No one start like this:

"I am going to build a squid shaped building, then,.....what will I do with it.......... uummm, ok I'll make it a hospital".(!)

This can never be a feasible design process. The first thought comes into designers brain is -- "what the building is actually -- is it a 'seaport' or a 'library' or a residence?" Then the form comes according to its function, context, concept, technology and aesthetic understandings.
Mohammad Tauheed
Form/Function: Which is first?
Thank you NEO for your opinion.
Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
In response to Mr Tawheed, I must say I strongly disagree. An object's function is the beholder's alone. Take a beam for instance. The beam's function, you would say, is to transfer a load to the posts supporting it. But what if this same beam has not been used in the building and left on the street. Kids see it and decide it would make a great skateboard ramp and therefore acquires an altogether new function. Was the beam designed for skateboarding? If the hospital goes out of business, does this mean we should tear down the building unless it is used again as a hospital? Egg and chicken...
Fadil El Mansour
Form/Function: Which is first?
The discussion being and idle talk here, the egg and the chicken are seen to be separate as they are two words. So are the architects and the architects-to be. The moment one hangs a shingle with the professional innsignia painted beside one's name, the form is to be visualized as separate from the function. The architect's drawing board creates the form on paper or on computer where the only function is the visual. It is conceptually visual in which only one's imagination can wander from room to room. It is also separate because the architect "designs" the form for the customer. It is not how the nests are made, huts are built, or barns are raised. There, it is not the egg and the chicken thing, but rather it is the turtle and the shell relationship between the form and the function.

Is the turtle concerned about how an onlooker sees how it looks?
Shailesh Dave
Form/Function: Which is first?
Interesting to know relativity, egg menifests in chicken, the concept of design menifests in real, tortoise and shell are two sides of the same coin, form and function are two sides of the same coin, I am sure the coin should be worth transaction. What do you all say?
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
In architecture, assigning 'function' to every space is a very recent (modern day) phenomenon. It's more of that obsession of 'justifying' or 'reasoning out' architecture. But with all this I don't mean the architecture should be devoid of function... But that function should be a subset of architecture. For me, relation of 'activity' seems more appropriate to architecture rather than 'function'.
Sachin Soni
Form/Function: Which is first?
To Soni,

In the English language the words 'activity' and 'function' are interchangeable.
Shailesh Dave
Form/Function: Which is first?
I think there's a difference between 'function' and 'activity' in terms of the 'spirit'. Two people come together and a 'place' is found. That activity is a generator of 'space' rather than its fuction. As old Indian proverd says, two people meet together under the tree and a 'school' is found. Now what is the function of a tree? I would like to tell Mr. Shailesh that these words are to be taken in the metaphorical sense. If we try to read poetry with bare grammar, its meaning will go over our head. That's where 'architecture' is different from the act of just 'making' a building.
Sachin Soni
Form/Function: Which is first?
Function or form...

Well it all depends on the design. I mean that the function of a design says or it requires certain froms that are needed and noone can deny it. So in this case function is more important than the form and it must be first.

But at other times form is much more important. It all depends on the design. But I consider that the best way to deal with the question is to look at both at the same time.
Roa Nassar
Form/Function: Which is first?
Dear all,

I am going to try and spice up the discussion a little bit here. Form and function aside, should it not be construction that is first? A building might be beautiful and might serve its function superbly. However, nothing of that will have any significance if the building does not stand.

The 'construction' part of the procedure should be incorporated into the design process from the very begining. If you do not think about construction, you might develop a superb form or superb function (or superb form AND function), only to see the whole concept be split apart by walls or pillars inserted into concept just to make it stand.

Best regards,
Luka Trkanjec
Form/Function: Which is first?
Construction / structure is always there to hold the form and allow function to menifest, that's why studying organic growth clears all doubts as well smooths out the design process. Say, how a multiple leaf holds itself in the context of the branch /trunk and of the tree as a whole; study the vein network, which has function to provide food material to each cell as well form the grid to hold the leaf together and to give structure to the leaf.

Nature is the best designer and is always available for study.
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
Yes, but one slight problem with nature is that she often requires milions of years to design her products and the desing process is never complete, but always continues to evolve. Most human investors object to a wait that long and they want their investments to be finished, though I believe that spaces and buildings should be given a chance to evolve and develop through time.

However, when I mentioned construction as source of inspiration, I was mostly thinking about works of Pier Luigi Nervi, an Italian engineer and one of the pioneers of modernism in that country. His approach to desing was neither formal nor functional, but structural. He developed beautiful, poetic forms in solid concrete based on purely structural calculations, which were also - because they served their purpose superbly - highly functional! So, both form and function derive from structure.

Best regards,
Luka Trkanjec
Form/Function: Which is first?
During the design process, building type decides whether form or function is important.

For example, between the design of a school and a mosque feelings and requirements are different. With the school, building type demands a regular and organized design while the mosque is a totally form-oriented building.
Zahid Ramzan
Form/Function: Which is first?
Well... A structured expression in any artform serves function as well.

Take Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome and the latter development of space-frames to cover long span effectively.

Consider also how we mix during design process flow, intension of use of space [function] in forms of expression and get justification to form and structure, say, in any building (school, mosque, airport, etc.)
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
Hi!

As with the organic architecture of Wright, we can easily understand that form and function are the same. If you have some misunderstanding about these sentences you should know that before us we have the history of great architects.

If I ask what is function, it would be impossible for me to explain the real essence of that word. And then if i try to explain the form it will take a lot...

The function of the tree is in its form and its form is its function. Now, can one say which should be considered first when one deals with design? My friends, we know the user defines the object and for the better definition of the object we should educate the user through our design.

The human body is the best example to your question. Just look at your face, your hands and after that you will know the mystery of form and funtion. And my friend, look at nature if you really want to understand your question. I hope one day you will know which should be considered first and you will know that the beauty of an object is in the balance of both...

Simply... form and function are the same if you really want to be good architect or designer.
Esa Khan
Form/Function: Which is first?
I would agree to what Esa says.

Really, architecture does not go into the duality of 'form' and 'function'. It is above this dual phenomenon. It can be analogous to a tree or to a human being. The design process in architecture is more 'esoteric' in nature when compared to the other design fields. Therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint directly the relationship of form and function in architecture.
Sachin Soni
Form/Function: Which is first?
A most subtle comment of one of our professor at Pratt Institute back in the mid 80's regarding the relation of form to function in architecture was that:

"Architecture is the beauty of form polluted by function."

But the form-function discourse that flourished in the 50's and 60's seems to have really faded away. My question is:

Is it really still viable to re-think it, again?
Wael Samhouri
Form/Function: Which is first?
Hi everybody, I want give my idea for this topic.

In first step of design you have to know why you are designing and this is human nature. I mean to think before doing anything, to be clearer if your client asks you, for example, "Why did you design this form?" You'll reply to him by telling him the function of such a form. So, you have to know the function first then you have design... Thanks.
Ahmed Saleh
Form/Function: Which is first?
After looking at this long discussion, I want to point out a very basic aspect of art called "Architecture"...

"Function" is only the difference between ARCHITECTURE and ANY OTHER ART FORM: painting, sculpture, writing, photography, music, etc. All these arts are mainly for the enjoyment and for the expression. On other hand architecture has basic function to LIVE - IN. So, as most of the friends have truly said: Function is first, then everything follows. If it goes otherwise, it is an injustice to the user of building.
Vishal Vyas
Form/Function: Which is first?
Dear Vishal,

That is actually a quite untrue and faulty argument. Most of the architecture that was built over milennia and over civilizations actually did not have the basic function 'to live in'. They were there, to put it bluntly, mainly for the enjoyment and for the expression.

Pyramids, temples, cathedrals, mosques, pagodas, palaces, courts, castles... These buildings do not have a function in the true sense of word; they are formal expressions of human beliefs, ideologies, religions. Just like all other branches of art were.

Best regards,
Luka Trkanjec
Form/Function: Which is first?
Hello everybody,

Thank you all for your valuable and helpful opinions.

I was designing a 'transit terminal'(for bus and water transports). Here I found that, first I picked the form, which is a circle (the reason behind that is to express the node point of vehicular and pedestrian circulation), then I put the circulation in it and the different functions aside from the circulation paths. In the meantime I was adopting the construction process of that building. Was I right or wrong?

With regards and respect,
Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
as mentioned,abstracting function in the geomatric form gives better biginig,while detailing determination of space function comes first,say desiging a bed is normally rectangular by concept,as a abstracted v.big excutive suites round beds with water matteres is v.ideal.it is always hand in glow,means form should fuction in tendem.
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
To respected Fadil El Mansour (about his response on 10th june):

You did a mistake at the very beginning of your contribution because you started with the word 'object'.

But at the very beginning of a design-work there is nothing, design starts from zero. Then from where did you get the 'object'-'beam'? Think from zero; start with empty brain, no pre-concieved idea. Then, from where will you start design work? From function or form?

Definitely, the answer will be 'function'. Because the first question that will come to a designer's brain is: "what?". "What am I going to create?" Then, why, how, when, where etc. But the answer of the first question -- what -- comes from function.

Thanks for all,
Mohammad Tauheed
Form/Function: Which is first?
The debate of form and function is modernistic in the tradition of architecture.

I guess anyone who has gone through the least bit of architectural history will agree with me. Architecture, if viewed within the tradition of modernism is sequential, linear and explosive etc. The form/function dichotomy can be analyzed with recourse to Hume-esque terminology. According to Hume, in a sequential relationship nothing follows from the following except for change, which itself accounts for nothing. It's a paradox. (To be continued)

Response are more than welcome.
Azar Raza
Form/Function: Which is first?
Change is great contributor to whatsoever happens, in reality, architecture responds to change and form as well. Function is the most essential ingredient of architectural expression accommodated by change. They are integrated in design.
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
I have just seen the topic being discussed and here are my thoughts on the same. What comes first, form or function? Does either of them come first? Are they not part of a whole? Can they be so easily segregated in words? Let us take space as an example, every space is unique, its programmatic requirement is limited due to its uniqueness. The program is formulated by the space it inhabits, it commands all the qualities that the program takes, its form, its function. The respect given by the built to the unbuilt or vice versa, the quality of spatial interactions between the built, the unbuilt etc. are all decided by the space within which the program is determined.
Moinak Basu
Form/Function: Which is first?
Hello everybody,

This topic was raised by me and I got some responses from many people, which helped me a lot, but still I am unable to decide how to start in a design. So I am requesting for some suggestions. Please reply. Thank you,
Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
we start at times by bubble diagram of functional necessity to grid and scale ultimately getting form of beulding.
Dushyant Nathwani
Form/Function: Which is first?
A design process can be self sustained...without peeking at the result... u can explore what u get if u start designing in relation to form and formal aspects of architecture; then attempt all over again keeping program as your datum.Observe;try to re read your work;but to do that u will have to define for your self in absolute terms these words...form and program.for that u will have to get off the drawing board and visit a few basic books like "form space and order" and "architecture for u".and if u cant find them well i sugest u should look at the works of a few formalists like Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry,Zaha hadid,(http://www.eisenmanarchitects.com/) and also their counterparts. see if u can find their writings.
Adeel Mumtaz
Form/Function: Which is first?
Let this not be a war fed by opposing view points (pro form Vs. Pro function)but a dialogue for better understanding with a purpose and a useful outcome.

In my opinion it all comes down to human needs, so let's see which human needs need to be fulfilled first:

From Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs(see figure),we will notice that the second most basic need after the physiological needs (air, food, water, etc.) is the need for safety. The need for safety was the driving force for man to design and build a safe shelter and setting for various activities.
On the other hand, Aesthetic needs come in sixth place. This layer of needs cannot be reached until the underlying needs have been met. For example you cannot appreciate the beauty of a building (layer 6 of needs) if u cannot breathe or if you are starving to death (layer 1). Similarly, if you are homeless you will desperately need a shelter and the "urge" for that (layer 2) will be much stronger than the "want" for a house with a form expression (layer 6).

In conclusion:

1- Form follows function in terms of priority: As proved in the previous paragraph.
2- Form follows function in terms of sequence: If form comes first, this means creating a shape that could be used for anything. Like making a box and using it as a chair and it will work. But, which will be more convenient and more fulfilling the need, To rest a box or a chair designed to comfort the sitting person?
When function comes first, u have in mind that there is a purpose for the design and part of the needs it fulfills is it visual expression.
Sherif Mahdy
Form/Function: Which is first?
Dear Sherif,

I would disagree both with you and with Maslow's pyramid. Humans are too complex beings that their needs and wants can be structured so simply, one atop of other. Culture, however expressed, is the basic need and atribute of our species; all humans feel the need to create something, to organise, to fight boredom, to do something else than merly surviving, and this need is as strong, or sometimes even stronger, than the basic need for survival itself. There were people like Van Gogh who created art despite the fact they barely had anything to eat.

We should also remember that in overall history of human race, houses are relatively new invention. For a 100,000 years, people have been living in caves and similar natural shelters which provided them with all the comfor and saftey they needed back then. They did not suddenly decide to build houses because they need a functional shelter; they already had that provided by nature. The reason why people started to create architecture was because they were bored of caves and wanted to do, to try, to create something new; which, all in all, is not a functional, but a formal need and expression.

Thus you cannot say that form comes out of function as neither you can say that function comes out of form. As someone pointed out earlier in this thread, they are one, two sides of the same coin. As in any natural creation, tree, flower, skeleton, shell, etc. (and let us remember that humans are also part of nature, and anything that humans create, architecture included is thus also part of nature), all the parts and the whole (which is always more than the sum of basic parts) serve both form and function, and the two are so closely tied together that you can hardly, if ever, truly distuingish one from another.

best regards,
Luka Trkanjec
Form/Function: Which is first?
i agree with luka in rejecting maslows pyramid. the fundamental flaw with maslows pyramid is that it looks at all these needs as mutually exclusive phenomena.

let me cite an example. when the migrant labourers come to the city and make a rudimentary shelter, they make it out of cloth and tin sheets and whatever they find. however, they make it as beautifully as they possibly can. we were studying some of these so called shanty towns and the moment we went inside the houses, they were mud floors but swept clean and kept immaculately, with small paintings on the tin sheets made with charcoal dipped in water!

what i am hinting at is that the idea of beauty always goes together with purpose or function. the idea is not to make things work, the idea is to make them work beautifully. the small houses of jaisalmer come to my mind, they are infinitely more aesthetically developed than some super rich five star hotels.

it is the analytical mind which tries to separate form and function and then try to answer each of them separately. architecture is a field of synthesis. we need to appreciate the interconnectedness of things rather than trying to pry things apart. yes, i agree that the field of architectural criticism, or learning from our environment needs analytical frameworks, but design should not fall in to this trap.

the form-function debate itself is pointless as there can be no answer. no, i would like to rephrase it and say that there SHOULD be no answer.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Form/Function: Which is first?
Peter Eisenman, writes in his book, Reworking Eisenman, "Post functionalism does not mean that a building should not function; rather the form should not necessarily represent that function". So may be if we look at this topic in relation to the above statement we might be able to see beyond the linier relationship (following one another)of form and function.
Adeel Mumtaz
Form/Function: Which is first?
i think both in the same time,anything transformed into certain form because certain forces exerts on it due to function it performs.
Sitwat Saeed
Form/Function: Which is first?
Hello everybody,

This topic was raised by me and I got some responses from many people, which helped me a lot, but still I am unable to decide how to start in a design. So I am requesting for some suggestions. Please reply.

Thank you, (and please visit www.archsociety.com)

Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
I agree that form and function can be deduced as the parts to the whole, a balance of expression. Taking this into a perspective of design, one can enter a space, a space being anything from a courtyard to a disused car park, or a space that is the leftover of something else designed near it..a 'dead zone' if you like, a space accidentally created without a particular purpose.

However, the concept is whether it could be deliberately undesigned for a purpose... An inhabitant decides its function from what he/she/ 'it' wants to do within it (not necessarily meaning internally). What one experiences in one space can reflect upon what can be experienced in another.

For example, the view from an undesigned 'fragment' (the dead-zone) to a textured series of existing historical walls (an architectural condition) could inform the fragment as being one that captures that constellating condition, whether through a new internal/external texture, or to a constructed device/detail. It could become a bookshop specializing in the nature of building and geology, an artist's workshop whose interest lies in the texture of cities, or it could be used by a Parkour free-runner.

This notion effectively brings one condition into another. The form and function of which is dependent of each other. This small, yet expandable example could also influence the technique of influencing new life into degenerating spaces.
Armeet Panesar
Form/Function: Which is first?
Available materials shaped by local environmental conditions.
Daniel Owen
Form/Function: Which is first?
Both at the same time.
Hande Gunozu
Form/Function: Which is first?
Dear Rubel,

To me you seem to be on a wild goose chase. You still haven't got a 'helpful' answer even after 2 years because there is no prescribed standard answer to your question. There can never be one.

And this is what makes the whole design process so interesting... challenging but interesting.
Every architect has to realise what his/her strengths and weaknesses are and thereby design accordingly. What have you realised about yourself after these two years? Go as per your own spontaneity, whether you have a technical and a practical bent of mind or a dreamer's way of looking at architecture, and then progress from there.

Just be confident of yourself and don't be influenced or disheartened by pre-conceived notions of a good or a bad architect or architecture or design. Otherwise you will just do yourself and the profession a great disservice.
Shubhru Gupta
Form/Function: Which is first?
Shubhru, I like your answer.
Yes, one needs to be free without any preconceived notions.

I personally feel that in 80-90% cases, it is 'Form FOLLOWS Function'. In 5-10% cases it is form and function going together, in the rest 0-5% cases there is function partially following form. (Percentages are meant more as phrases rather than actual figures).

Frankly, I've seen no project where function follows form.

You also need to define the scale at which you are talking about it. For example, if you have decided the approximate openning size and THEN only discuss about the various shapes and aesthetic combinations possible, then there could be a lame justification of function follows form, but I don't buy that argument.

All the old buildings had the same principle - form FOLLOWS function. However grand they may had been.

If you see the great domes, vaults and arches, they were built to span such large spaces as well as to look grand. So it was like achieving two goals with one action.

I think that it is the same now also... maybe more... except partially in case of wall/facade treatments of the 'Baniya Baroque' or 'Punjabi Gothic' types as seen in Delhi and a large part of NCR and surrounding areas.

(Warning! Spillover effect of this architecture could be coming to a town near you.. :-))
Chitradeep Sengupta
Form/Function: Which is first?
thank you every body for your kind writings.

there is a discussion going on similar to this one. I'll be glad if you give your comments there.

http://www.archsociety.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?2668.last

and you can get me on >>>

www.rubelraf.blogspot.com
Rubel Raf
Form/Function: Which is first?
function.... form follows function
Maya Sanskrit
Form/Function: Which is first?
Have you ever accepted a bycilce on which you can not ride? So function is first.
However you can transport may things on it , some better, others may require modifications. So there can be several functions covered. Thransformed old industrial buildings are good examples.

And if you then can give the building a good form, charcter and space etc. , I would consider it good architecture.
Norbert E. Wilhelm
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