Cut-Away Leaf Art

Cut-away leaf art – by Lorenzo Duran

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“The planning, approval, construction and commissioning of a building project is a dynamic process. It involves the input of various professional, to be realized. The realization of most projects can be easily accomplished or extended over many years in some cases abandoned, with the actual executors i.e. the professionals changing hands. In order to properly suggest solutions, to reduce the incessant collapses of buildings, it will be important also to look at some of the processes involved in constructing a building and therefore the causes.

Four important groups of people are responsible for the development of any building project. The expert consultants (architect, structural engineer, services engineers and quantity surveyor), the building contractor, the client and the planning authorities (regulatory authorities). I will limit my discussion on the role of the Structural Engineer within the group of expert consultants, since his inputs are directly linked with the building’s overall structural stability and performance.

A building must be produced from a set of well prepared documents called contract documents. These documents consists of the architectural drawings, structural drawings, service drawings, material specifications, contract conditions and bills of quantities.

These documents are produced at the instance of the client by the expert professionals for the purpose of the project. These contract documents are the basis of the legal documentation and contractual obligations entered into between the client and the building contractor. The building contractor here is one who possesses the expert knowledge to interpret these documents, experienced in the art of constructing buildings, and equipped to the level of assignment.

In all civilized societies there is the need to coordinate all urban development in order to make sure that standards are maintained, and adequate infrastructure is provided and integrated into the planning process to ensure that the environment is not overheated. Part of the developmental process in the construction of any building is the granting of permission from the relevant planning and regulatory authorities in any urban centre, city or locality, to the developer to proceed. One of the functions carried out during this process is the cross checking of the structural engineers designs in the form of his calculations and drawings, to ensure they are right, and conform with the appropriate code of practice in use in the particular area or locality.

Similarly, all building contractors are registered, and part of the clauses requires that an engineer with a specific minimum level of expertise is an integral resource in the firm.

What is collapse? Simply put, the building frame in whatever form has lost the capacity to sustain the loads applied to it and therefore develops various structural defects, that it can no longer be of use and subsequently major members break up under load, dismembered and crash to the ground.

Since the buildings process is dynamic and involve humans in all stages of planning approval, procurement, construction and commissioning, it is therefore safe to say that the solution to incessant collapse must centre on the Human aspect. The solution must address the issue of why buildings collapse? When we identify the reasons then it will be easy to apply the solutions.

i. Faulty contract documents, especially deficient structural engineering input.
ii. Faulty implementation of the contract document by the contractor, and bad construction practice.
iii. Unprofessional interference in the construction process by the client.
iv. Inadequate supervision of the construction work during implementation, so as to properly interpret drawings and specifications.
v. Unauthorized change in the contract documents especially the structural drawings without due authorization from the original designers.
vi. Defective materials, by not conforming strictly to the material specifications in the document(s).
vii. Ignorance.

Based on the reasons given above, I propose the following solutions to tackle the problem of Building Collapse in Nigeria.

1. All Structural drawings must be prepared by a qualified structural engineer, licensed to practice structural engineering by COREN, and a corporate member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers, and Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers. All such drawing must carry the professional stamp of the institution. The structural engineer in preparing the documents must also have taken into consideration, the site for the project, by commissioning a soil investigation, assignment to determine the engineering soil characteristics of the soil. Most buildings have come down because of inadequate foundations, in spite of fantastic structural frame.

2. Planning approval for structural drawings must attract some degree of professional responsibility. Planning approval agencies in both state and local governments must be adequately staffed with qualified structural engineers, who can check the submissions of the structural engineers on the project. They must also share joint responsibilities for the safety and structural adequacy of the documents which have their signatures on them. If the planning authorities are short staffed, such assignment can be contracted to outside consultants.

3. The building contractor has the professional responsibility to execute the project according to specification, therefore the weight of responsibility on any contractor, must be properly backed up by experience in the field. The key personnel, must have executed a similar project. The contractors key staff, the site engineers etc. must be knowledgeable to the extent that he can interpret the documents. He must also be able to relate horizontally with the structural engineer. This will result in design intentions, assumptions and specifications being properly carried through to execution. If the contractor lacks adequate experiences for the assignment in questions, then certain quality implementation will suffer.

4. Every building project has more than one structural solution. Therefore when a particular solution is adopted by the structural engineer, his design and subsequent drawings are products of all assumptions, written and unwritten. Therefore adequate supervision to ensure that all structural elements are constructed according to the drawings is very important. It also affords the designer the opportunity to certify that the works are error free. It is very unwise to assign fresh school graduates as is common practice, the duty of supervising structural works, except in the company of his supervisor. You cannot supervise what you do not understand in building works. It is also an extension of this fact that the primary structural engineer must be involved in the supervision of his works. The practice of engineer A to design, while engineer B is asked to supervise is very dangerous, and must be stopped. The design firm must be asked to supervise the project to ensure the design is fully implemented. It also ensures that a design consultant is not cheated out of his professional assignment.

5. During the planning approval stage, the structural engineer signs a document of undertaken to supervise the project. This document must be made legally binding on the client. The practice today is that most clients do not take the declarations in the paper serious, and subsequently begin the construction work without the knowledge of the consultant engineer.

6. At the inception of any construction work, during the excavation works, the structural engineer must be invited to verify the soil, approve the soil as appropriate at its specified depths as adequate for the building foundations.

7. No alteration to the scope of the original building works in terms of changes to frames, floor, and building heights, must be done without the written approval of the structural engineer. The supervisory engineer unless he is the design engineer cannot alter any major structural detail. No other building professional can alter or authorize structural work except the structural engineer.

8. The client must not give direct instructions to the contractor, his intention and preference must be directed to the architect or engineer, who can evaluate the request, before instructing the contractor accordingly. In similar manner the contractor can listen to the client, but he cannot act on any such directives by the client. The client must also promote discipline on his project by ensuring that no action of his undermines the authority of the supervisory professionals on his site.

9. Defective Material: It is a known fact that most of the reinforcing rods in the market are substandard and inferior in quality, some of the cements are caked and are therefore expired. Therefore a proper certification programme must be carried out in direct proportion to the scale of the building project, to ensure that only tested materials, or whose source is sure are used for the construction.

* Concrete must be mixed in the right proportion specified, and water used must be drinkable.
* Avoid the use of open earth gravel, which are not washed, in concrete works.
* Avoid hand mixed concrete. Concrete must be placed at location immediately after mixing to avoid it setting.
* Re-mixing of set concrete must be avoided.

10. The imposition of severe sanctions on any contractor whose building project collapses. This will compel the contractor to employ the appropriate level of manpower relevant to the project, ensure without pressure that all necessary supervision and approvals are obtained at every level of the project.

11. Finally, collapse of building do not all occur only during construction. Some buildings have collapsed because of the following reason including:

* Change of use.
* Modification of existing building frame to increase or change capacity of present use.
* Undermining of the foundation due to flood, poor drainage, poor location of soak-away pits.
* Activities relating to construction works on adjacent site.
* Lack of maintenance: Any structural defect must be promptly reported to a competent structural engineer for advice.

It is my conclusion therefore that the solution to the incessant collapse of buildings in Nigeria, is more of an information/knowledge problem than the writing of a set of rules. If all the players in the construction industry, the professionals, the building contractors, the clients and government agencies understand why the building process must be taken serious, then the problems of collapse would have been solved.”

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Rationalism began as a 17th century ideology that led to the Enlightenment, a period in history where reason was the primary instrument for justifying and understanding the “hows” and “whys” of things and circumstances. The Enlightenment was a time where concrete evidence through scientific research flourished and Rationalism influenced all field of endeavors and even simple daily tasks.[1] In layman terms, to be rational is to be understandable, measurable or definite. Using this as premise, Rationalism in architecture therefore pertains to accuracy in designing and building the height, breadth or depth of a structure. Architectural Rationalism was a solid evidence of the Enlightenment influence in the field of architecture. It continues to persist in the modern world as an independent art movement though much of the modern Rationalist designs have little resemblance to Enlightenment architecture.

Henceforth, this essay attempts to contextualize Rationalism by differentiating its two variants: 18th century Rationalism and the recent 20th century development. The similarities and differences of their respective designs and, if possible, functions are noted to give us an idea on how Rationalism has evolved as an architectural ideology. The essay also includes discussions on sub-movements, their pioneers and their trademarks.

18th Century Rationalism

The Enlightenment Architectural Rationalism was focused on being symmetrical, having accurate measurements of classic shapes, and functionality. It clearly reflected the spirit of the times where science, mathematics and logic were at the peak of their influence.

Neoclassicism was a widespread movement under the Rationalist wing. It was established in reaction to the flamboyant and seemingly excessive Baroque and Rococo styles. During the neoclassicist boom, many artworks and structural designs of the classical Graeco-Roman era were recalled together with the architectural works of Italian Andrea Palladio.[2] The movement was named “neoclassical,” as opposed to pure classicism, as not every classical design was applied therein. Neoclassicists only selected from the wide array of designs those feasible to society. Neoclassicist designs were characterized as follows: symmetry, columns that functioned as support, minimalistic design composed of basic geometric shapes, and an overlaid triangular gable commonly known as pediment. The symmetry, functionality, and geometrical aspects of the neoclassicist movement were defining characteristics of the Rational ideology.[3]

The Pediment[4] A Column[5]

Existing in the 16th century towards the culmination of the Renaissance period, Andrea Palladio was the first known architect to revive and apply the classical designs of Graeco-Roman society in many villas, palaces and basilicas. His architecture became an essential foundation of Enlightenment Architecture. As a dedicated follower of Vitruvius and his timeless principle of “firmitas, utilitas, venustas,” Palladio carefully ensured that his structural designs were durable, useful, and attractive as stipulated by Vitruvius in his ten-volume masterpiece “De Architectura.” Palladio was also particular about proportions and putting a purpose on every structural component.[6] For instance, a portico or terrace must be utilized in such a way that the surrounding scenery was seen in its full glory. He wanted geographical attributes of the estate to match with the house’s structural design. The palazzos, villas and basilicas he designed displayed the intermingling values of beauty and the social environment and position of their respective owners. An urban palazzo was different from a provincial palazzo; likewise, an agricultural villa was different from a residential villa. Palladio designed structures according to their context.[7]

Palladio had contributed several design innovations in public buildings and churches. Most Palladian works were made of affordable materials, usually stucco, traditionally made with lime, sand and water, to cover and bind bricks. His urban structures for prestigious Venetian owners had high classical porticos with pediments that extended as far as the second floor and were supported by giant colonnades. These porticos were raised above ground level and on the same level as the rest of the ground floor. This raised floor called “piano nobile,” was reused in later variations of neoclassical architecture. Palazzo Chiericati in the city of Vicenza was a fine example of this urban structure.[8]

Palazzo Chiericati (1550-1557)[9]

Rural villas were rather different. Instead of the piano nobile, there was an elevated podium bordered by lower service wings, connected with an elegant curving flight of stairs. The owner maintained residence at the elevated portion. Villa Foscari (also La Malcontenta) was among the mid-16th century designs of Palladio that employed this renowned building format.

Villa Foscari (1559)[10]

The 1570 publishing of Palladio’s work “Quattro Libri dell’Architettura” (The Four Books of Architecture), stretched his influence far beyond his home country Italy. Palladio’s architectural drawings and discussions contained in the book set the stage for neoclassicist expansion in the key European countries of France, Britain, Ireland, Spain and Germany.[11] Even more remarkable was his influence in colonial and post-colonial America, where his designs were replicated in the houses of well-known families, state buildings and even the private abode of Thomas Jefferson, the freedom President.[12] Along with Palladio’s treatise, the unearthing and dicovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum Roman towns destroyed by volcanic eruption during the classical period, was thought to inspire the interior designs of 18th century European houses and edifices.[13]

The Ruins of Pompeii[14] Interior View of a Herculaneum House[15]

In Europe, neoclassicist architecture developed at different paces. Some sources estimated that the movement reached its peak in France with Etienne-Louis Boullee and Claude Nicolas Ledoux. The two architects followed principles of rationality into their Graeco-Roman inspired designs. Boullee was known for fusing geometry with the standard classics. This original neoclassical deviation might have been influenced by his work as an educator and philosopher at “Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees.” Like most neoclassicists, his designs were minimalistic, devoid of ornamentation, bold enough to repeat certain structural components, especially if they were functional (i.e. columns), and sought to emphasize the purpose of the structure and its parts. Boullee also proposed a cenotaph, an approximately 500-foot sphere rooted on a round foundation, for the English scientist Isaac Newton. This was not feasible to build but as a professional engraving, the style gained prominence. Boullee’s works were later revived by 20th century Rationalists and more popularly by renowned Modernist architect, Aldo Rossi. Contemporary architects found his designs unique and very inventive – although some would consider them “illusions of grandeur.” The Hotel Alexandre in Paris, known for its flanking courtyard doors and Corinthian columns, was one of Boullee’s surviving works.[16]

Cenotaph for Newton (1784)[17] Hotel Alexandre (1763-66)[18]

Like his compatriot, Ledoux was very idealistic in his architecture, always wanting to “build with a purpose.” For this he and Boullee were branded “Utopians.”[19] Ledoux designed many theatres, hotels, residential homes, and buildings, supplied with rotundas, columns and domes from the Graeco-Roman period. His known architectural innovation was the “architectonic order,” best exhibited through his design on the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans. He was appointed Royal Architect for the express purpose of building a structural design for efficiently extracting salt. The Royal Saltworks became a significant example of 18th century Architectural Rationalism for its extensive use of geometry and logical arrangement of shapes to facilitate the extraction and transportation processes. Another design was drawn after the first was disapproved.[20]

Facade of the Royal Saltworks, France[21]

Aerial View of Ledoux’ Second Design (1804)[22]

There were many other prominent figures under the neoclassical movement but few were as Utopian as the works of Boullee and Ledoux. French writer-teacher-architect Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand influenced several German Rationalists by adding principles of economy and convenience to the existing architectural Utopia.[23] The later renditions of neoclassicism in Britain, America, and Spain disregarded the attachment to symmetry and geometry that Palladio himself and the French neoclassicists were very particular. However, they did retain much of the functionality aspect. For example, neo-Palladian British architects William Kent and Inigo Jones invented the flanking wings to give more space in the house interior.[24] This concern for utilizing space was still an archetype of 18th century Rationalism.

20th Century Rationalism

20th century Rationalist architecture was interchangeably called Neo-Rationalist. Although the designs were different from 18th century rationalism, neo-Rationalists continued to practice important principles of Rationalist Architecture. The simplistic form and ornamentation was still retained; the functionality aspect became known as “theme.” In fact, as many historians claimed, neo-Rationalism was an evolution of 18th century Enlightenment Architecture.[25] The need to justify architectural works remained strong as it had then. The Enlightenment brought about the Industrial Revolution around 18th-19th centuries. The effects lasted and were carried over to the 20th century, where industrialization became a fad. Economic advancement was no longer associated with brick and wood but with new elements like steel, iron and glass. As industrialization reached its peak in the 20th century, the growing importance of machinery led to the development of an “industrial architecture,” composed of those new elements.[26]

Modernism was the dominant rationalist movement of the 1900s. It basically aimed to employ new materials suited to the spirit of industrialization and free architects from the bondage of styles, which curtailed individual touches. The works of early Modernists Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany and Frenchman Le Corbusier were mostly products of socio-political revolutions. Following World War 1, the German Modernist ventured into new structures that “meet social needs.”[27] The Bauhaus design school resulted from this venture. Bauhaus became identified as the “International Style,” adopted by many Modern structural designs in various countries.[28] The following are famous examples of Bauhaus architecture.

The UN New York Base by Le Corbusier[29] The Gropius Residence in Lincoln[30]

The International Style was characterized by rational principles of minimalism and functional design and structure. Neoclassical pediments, columns and flanking wings were replaced by rectangular shapes of concrete cement, steel, and other new elements. There were hardly traces of particular cultures or social context and a neutral architecture that was universally applicable prevailed.[31]

Modernists like Frank Lloyd Wright tried to balance nature and structural designs.[32] Later, Postmodernists movements emerged to deconstruct the universality of Bauhaus and infuse “local identities” into modern architecture so it can connect with people’s sentiments.[33] Aldo Rossi, Italian theorist-architect-designer-artist, was among the celebrated Postmodernists. His valuable contribution to urban architecture was building contemporary structures without neglecting the historical value of the city or site where it would be built. He stressed the social significance of monuments and cemeteries and also advocated that structures be strong enough for succeeding generations to witness.[34] San Cataldo Cemetery expanded by Rossi (1971)[35] Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht by Rossi (1990-1994)[36]


18th and 20th century Architectural Rationalists are linked by the ancient principles of “utilitas, firmitas, venustas.” Their respective movements were generally non-ornamental and useful in structure, design and theme. In the area of symmetry, the use of geometrical shapes, and projecting cultural and individual sentiments, the two Rationalist regimes differ. 18th century Rationalists were unified in advocating truth and beauty in architecture while neo-Rationalists had individual contradictions.[37 Nevertheless, both strands justified Architecture’s major roles in society and in people’s lives.


[1] Hackett Lewis. (1992) “The age of enlightenment,” History World International at

[2] Steve Fallon & Nicola Williams. (2008) Paris: city guide, United Kingdom, Lonely Planet Publications, p. 48.

[4] University of Pittsburgh at

[5] Old House Web at

[6] Bernd Evers, Christof Thoenes & Kunstbibliothek. (2003) Architectural theory: from the renaissance to the present, Germany, TASCHEN pp. 6-7.

[7] Sam Smiles & Stephanie Moser. (2005) Envisioning the past: archaeology and the image, Maine, Blackwell Publishing pp. 98-114.

[8] Douglas Lewis, Andrea Palladio & International Exhibitions Foundations. (1981) The drawings of Andrea Palladio, Texas, The Foundation, pp. 158-163.

[9] Essential Architecture at

[11] Caroline Clifton-Mogg. (1991) The neoclassical source book, New York, Rizzoli, pp. 88-175.

[12] David Watkin. (2005) A history of western architecture, London, Laurence King pp. 114-513.

[13] H. Keethe Beebe. (1975) “Domestic Architecture and the New Testament,” The Biblical Archaeologists, volume 38, number 3/4, pp. 89-104.

[14] Virtual Tourist at

[16] Helen Rosenau. (1976) Boullee & visionary architecture, New York, Harmony Books pp. 1-27.

[19] Barry Bergdoll. (2000) European architecture, 1750-1890, New York, Oxford University Press p. 97.

[20] Elizabeth Basye Gilmore Holt. (1966) From the classicists to the impressionists: art and architecture in the nineteenth century, Connecticut, Yale University Press pp. 227-311.

[21] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at

[23] Joy Monice Malnar & Frank Vodvarka. (2004) Sensor design, Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota Press p. 8.

[24] Inigo Jones, William Kent. (1727) The designs of Inigo Jones: consisting of plans and elevations for publick, England, W. Kent pp. 1-73.

[25] Christopher Crouch. (2000) Modernism in Art Design and Architecture, New York, St. Martin’s Press pp. 1-10.

[26] “Industrial architecture,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online at

[27] Richard J. Evans. (2003) The coming of the third reich, New York, The Penguin Press, pp. 122-123.

[28] Henry Russell Hitchcock & Philip Johnson. (1997) The International Style, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 1-5.

[29] “International Style” at

[30] The Digital Archive of American Architecture at

[31] Hazel Conway & Rowan Roenisch. (1994) Understanding architecture: an introduction to architecture and architectural history, London, Routledge pp. 22-24.

[32] Kathleen Karlsen. “Saving Civilization Through Architecture-Rationalism and the International Style,” at—Rationalism-and-the-International-Style&id=888138

[33] Hazel Conway & Rowan Roenisch. (1994) Understanding architecture: an introduction to architecture and architectural history, London, Routledge pp. 22.

[34] Terry Kirk. (2005) The architecture of modern Italy, volume 2: visions of utopia 1900-present, New York, Princeton University Press pp. 208-214.

[35] Cornell University Blog at

[36] Brian Rose at

[37] Sarah Williams Goldhagen. “Ultraviolet: Alvar Aalto’s embodied Rationalism,” Havard Design Magazine at

[Source: UK Essays]

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Merry Christmas from Archgreentecture

Wishing you all a Merry, merry,.. Christmas, and a Prosperous New Year, too! Stay Blessed. Peace n’ Love!!

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Petra: The Rock-Cut Capital City

Petra, Jordan (6th Century BC) – Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and inhabited since prehistoric times, the rock-cut capital city of the Nabataeans, became during Hellenistic and Roman times a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India, a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.

Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. An ingenious water management system allowed extensive settlement of an essentially arid area during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.

The Outstanding Universal Value of Petra resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings. The fusion of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Deir (“monastery”) represents a unique artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD.

The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear exceptional testimony to the now lost civilizations which succeeded each other at the site.

[Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre]

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House Boat

Do you want to “cruise”? …Come join the (crew) house boat (sailing in the waters of Kerela) 🙂

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Mandela on the Mountain

“Mandela on the Mountain” – A monument design to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday – By WHIM Architecture.

Rest In Peace, Madiba!

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