Data-cluster analysis of correlations between façade complexity and orientation in Modernist architecture
Authors: Ostwald, Michael J.; Vaughan, Josephine; Chalup, Stephan K.
A common assumption in 20th century design analysis and critique is that the visual qualities of a domestic structure are, in some way, a reflection of the siting of the house, its orientation and program. The first two of these, siting and orientation, are associated with environmental conditions and the supposition that architect-designed houses possess façade forms which broadly respond to their context. This implies that the architect has modified the form of the design to capture or restrict light, to control heat or shed snow and to take advantage of the possibilities of natural ventilation. But how might it be possible to begin to critically evaluate this assumption method?
The present research tests the idea that augmented computational fractal analysis techniques can be used to investigate the relationship between façade complexity and orientation. The paper outlines the proposed method and then applies it to twenty Modernist houses. The houses being investigated fall into two categories, Early Modern (1920-30s) and Late Modern (1970-90s), and they represent the works of two major architects from each era; respectively Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray and Peter Eisenman and Kazuo Sejima. In total, five houses by each of the four architects are analysed, giving mathematical results for the visual complexity of 73 facades that are clustered by orientation. The data cluster charts are then subjected to a simple observational test to identify the existence of any patterns. In this way, the paper demonstrates that it is possible to use largely quantitative methods to investigate if any correlations exist between these architects’ approaches to design and the degree to which they are responsive to the physical environment. For the specific cases considered, the paper concludes that a loose correlation does exist for the early Modernist works, but not for the later ones.