part five: use & beauty; challenge & comfort

Reclining Chair (William Morris, 1866)



This week we look at the idea of the "usefulness" of a building from a few different angles. How important is aesthetic delight the "utility" of a building, and vice-versa? Can a useless thing be beautiful? Is a really spectacular building that's hard to live with worth it?

learning objectives

At the conclusion of this part of the course, you should be able to:

  • xxxxx (REMEMBER--recall facts and basic concepts) define, duplicate, list, memorize, repeat, state
  • xxxxx (UNDERSTAND--explain ideas and concepts) classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select
  • xxxxx (APPLY--use information in new situations) execute, implement, solve, use, demonstrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch
  • xxxxx (ANALYZE--draw connections among ideas) differentiate, organize, relate, compare, contrast, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test
  • xxxxx (EVALUATE--justify a stand) appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, critique, weigh
  • xxxxxx (CREATE--produce new or original work) design, assemble, conjecture, develop, formulate, investigate

for Thursday (11 PM)

Use and Beauty

Vitruvius had established three criteria for architectural merit: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas. Taking for granted the first one--since what good is a building at all if it can't support the weight of its roof?--a number of writers through the nineteenth century and beyond considered the importance of "use" and "beauty," often finding them dependent on one another. Consider how these themes are valued by:

  • William Morris (England, 1834-96)
  • Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (France, 1814-79)

While Morris and Viollet-le-Duc represent very different views of architecture and design, they share the importance of usefulness (which they both value) and aesthetics (although they define merit in the latter quite differently). (They were also, each of them, rather interested in structural design inspired by the middle ages, but their applications are rather divergent here, too.)

Also part of this conversation of use and beauty, in the latter days of both Morris' and Viollet's lives, the world's most famous and influential architecture school was founded. Founded in Paris, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts espoused yet another way to think about the interplay of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas--with a yet another definition for the latter.

Watch this mini-lecture on the Ecole:

  • Take this quiz

for Monday (11 AM)


  • Watch this presentation on the history of "art" in architecture: Italian Baroque, Seattle Church, Farnsworth; Decon

In your pairs/groups, investigate the "disaster" building assigned to you last week.


Directions for the disaster project. Submit tonight. Gallery or instagram.

for Monday (11 AM)

Project 1 (cont.)

Submit your final essay tonight.

  • Here is the grading rubic.

for Monday (11 AM)

continuing project 1

Develop your history into an essay

Submit for peer review

Find the rubric here

for Tuesday: on campus

red yellow blue


  • Challenge.& Comfort (Goldberger)
  • Disaster buildings
  • Use & Beauty

Presentation & Reflection

for Tuesday: online

red yellow blue


  • Challenge.& Comfort (Goldberger)
  • Disaster buildings
  • Use & Beauty

Presentation & Reflection

  • History: Classicisms à la Speer, Lincoln, Seagram
  • profession/education: Ecole, licensure, ID, engineers