Epistemological Analysis of the Concept of Order in Architecture
YAPI, December 2009, Issue 337, p. 56-60.
A concept is not only a name shared by a group of objects, but expresses far more than this. A name is no more than an accepted symbol for an object. Yet the value of the concept includes its meaning and scope. A concept describes objects grouped according to certain common features. In other words its source is knowledge of those objects. The concept of order in architecture is one of the main classifiers, because it cannot be explained merely by the inclusion of certain spaces or buildings seen in the environment, but includes symmetry, repetition, similarity and other sub-concepts.
In this debate, when looking at the objects that make up space, the geometric shapes that constitute a space come to mind. Geometric forms are inherently organised on account of their own structures, because they are based on mathematical principles. When we begin to speak of the characteristics of shapes created by combinations of geometric objects, that is when we begin to speak of the concept of order. So even if the concept of organization in architecture is based on forms, can they be treated like scientific concepts?
Order is often used as a synonym for simplicity, but it can encompass any degree of visual complexity. Apart from the mathematical qualities that can be understood by analysis of the order, there is another aspect based on our sensory perception.
This dual quality in the concept of order, that is, the mathematical and sensory dimensions, bring to mind another dichotomy in philosophy: Rationalism and Empiricism. Rationalism and Empiricism usually appear to be entirely opposed to one another. However, when viewed as ways to achieve knowledge, a person may use the Rationalist method of mathematics on the one hand and the empirical methods of the natural sciences on the other. For concepts including the concept of order there is a subjective sensory as well as mathematical aspect to analysing the qualities of objects. To say that the concept of order that is experienced subjectively in the natural or man-made environment can be found by means of mathematical analysis follows the ideas of Descartes, who was a Rationalist; while to say that it can be discovered by means of the senses follows the ideas of Empiricists like Locke or Hume.
In this respect the content of the concept of order with reference to form in architecture concerns both sensory perception and mathematical principles. In other words, when an observer is inside an architectural space, he may perceive its ordered structure based on mathematical principles through his senses alone, and does not require further experimentation or mathematical analysis.