Ways of Looking at Buildings

What do you see when you look at a building?

For me, it was usually a vague impression: it's old. It's new. It's beautiful. It's boring. It's got lots of windows. It's plain and looks like a prison.

But as I started looking closer, I started noticing more subtle differences. And I noticed I didn't have the vocabulary to describe that interesting … thing … over the sort of doorway area.

I wanted to learn more about what makes buildings special, and I needed to learn about all those elements so I could recognize them and talk about them.

Here's what I've learned.

There are lots of ways to look at a building:

  • Type: What was this building built for?
  • Composition: What is the overall layout, the most basic design, of the building – especially the facade?
  • Massing: How are the overall shapes of the building put together?
  • Style: Does it use elements of a particular architectural style?
  • Ornamentation: What details have been added just to decorate the building?
  • Parts of buildings: What common and uncommon elements can you see – doors, windows, balconies, towers?
  • Facade Material: What is the building made of – especially the front, the most visible part?
  • Construction: How was it built?

As I add new places to this site, I'll be exploring the different ways of looking at buildings.