Designing through section, not important anymore?


I just graduated with a BA and have been looking at different grad programs. I was recently in New York visiting some programs and was able to see a lot of student work. During my visits I noticed almost every project had "boring" sections. Mind you these are schools that are "ranked" (although I realize rankings are meaningless). The floor to floor heights were repetitive and every space inside was typically the same height (i.e offices, restrooms, galleries).

Do schools not stress the "section" anymore?

Oct 6, 16 1:41 pm
Non Sequitur

Perhaps you only looked at shitty student work.

Oct 6, 16 1:55 pm

If the work is on display I would imagine someone at the school(s) thought it was "good". 

Oct 6, 16 2:07 pm

Do schools not stress the "section" anymore?

Realized that as well which brings me to this point - I find it too much of a coincidence that morphosis' works, often having the most interesting sections, always seem to be panned by both critics and public alike.

Oct 6, 16 8:20 pm

​Or do they teach practical real world solutions instead of your typical no client no budget scenarios rampant in most programs?

Oct 7, 16 9:47 pm

Paul Rudolph and Lou Kahn often created really inventive sectional organizations and somehow avoided sucking like Morphosis.

Oct 12, 16 12:05 am

IRL no one cares unless its a CD section..

Oct 12, 16 4:42 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

the section was there for poor visualizers who also needed plans to organize space. with 3d modeling its a waste of time.

Oct 12, 16 7:08 am

Two things on the section -

1. LTL has a great book out called Manual of Section. If you are interested in sectional drawings, check this out. It's ridiculous how gorgeous these drawings are. Ok, enough fanboying...

2. If anyone has done renovation work in a building that has a complex, multi-level section, you know that the ADA & the current building code make it very difficult to make every space accessible. The stepped conditions that Rudolph and Kahn relied on have essentially been made illegal w/o extensive ramping or expensive lifts. I am not against the accessibility code, but universal access has taken away half of the surface to practically work with in section. The ceiling is still fair game for now, but flat floors are practically mandated unless architects get inventive.

Unfortunately this flat condition extends to the entry sequence as well. What were once grand entries into public buildings are now excessive unusable stairs that are in the way of the side service entry turned main entrance.

Oct 12, 16 8:07 am

^ that doesn't seem like an issue with universal design ... it seems like an issue with creativity in solving a design problem. It would be a shame if "architects [had to] get inventive."

Oct 12, 16 11:19 am

It's not just the students, it's everywhere! That's the beauty of computation and repetition. You have to think about a "problem" only once, look up the minimal requirements and use them as the maximum requirements, hit ctrl+c and ctrl+v until you reach a certain boundary et voilà, Bob's your uncle!

Oct 12, 16 3:20 pm

EI, I agree with half of your post - didn't mean to imply that it is something architects should just accept or that they shouldn't get inventive. However, it is a reality the 'boring' section the OP has brought up has been partly driven by the additional constraints of universal design. The level changes Rudolph could afford to do with 4' of stairs are now perceived as unaffordable in 48' of ramp and a landing. To think otherwise is ignoring history.

Universal design has become the normal, which despite the unintended consequences to the section, is a good thing overall. The point is the law has an important role in shaping buildings. Architects need to understand this, and figure out how to still create great spaces w/o taking the easy way of providing accessibility with a simple flat floor or dumbed down entry sequence.

Oct 12, 16 4:00 pm

Andrew.Circle, I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. Is your point that, due to changes in the codes and laws, buildings designed and built in the past can't be designed and built the same today? Seems self-evident to anyone who understands how codes evolve over time. I'm not trying to say that the same things can simply be achieved with just more creativity. However, I would say that similar effects are possible with some creative solutions. Will the design be considered unaffordable? Perhaps, but that depends on your client and you ability to 'sell' your design.

I suppose this relates to the thread started about John Portman and atria design. The question was asked if the IBC has gone too far and whether the code restrictions preclude the possibility of atria similar to those designed by Portman. At face value, perhaps. However, I'd venture that with some creative approaches it is possible under the current code. Will the design be considered unaffordable? Perhaps, but that depends on your client and you ability to 'sell' your design.

Oct 12, 16 4:48 pm

Rem's Seattle Library and IIT Campus Center are active in section and still meet the good 'ol ADA.

In my opinion, the dull sections being made in schools today come from a preoccupation with facade cladding skins and computer generated patterns.  

Oct 12, 16 4:57 pm

"In my opinion, the dull sections being made in schools today come from a preoccupation with facade cladding skins and computer generated patterns."

It's funny you mention that, I sat through a review where the same housing units where stacked for about 30 stories (in a small scale neighborhood) and then connected with the most awkward circulation I have ever seen. The projects "big idea" was a cladding system composed of louvers. I left after about three minutes...

Real world solutions have been mentioned above as the possible culprit for boring sections. I guess I always thought of school as a place where creativitity can thrive, rather than be limited.  

Oct 12, 16 5:15 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

detail sections are nice, but they do not teach detailing in school.

Oct 12, 16 5:16 pm

In school I had professors that stressed both section and detail and I feel like I learned quite a bit about them, and that I got good experience using them as a design tool. But I'll admit that it was due to the specific professors and not the school nor the program. Other professors in the same school didn't really care about the sections or details. They wanted to see the parametric facades while others only wanted to hear about the sustainable features. Still others only wanted to see how you arrived at early diagrammatic sketches. One of the most asinine parts of school was just figuring out which professor you had to pander to in which way.

Oct 12, 16 5:35 pm

A few diagrams and a couple of 3D views and you're done. 

I think I see about the same amount of sections and plans in student work these days. I know people who have gotten jobs with neither in there portfolios. 


Oct 12, 16 6:20 pm

Most real projects have boring sections. 

Oct 12, 16 6:20 pm

It was conscious decision for academia to discard the section as a drawing/view in which to design or consider building space.  Eisenmen did a lecture at the GSD titled:  "sections - what are they good for".  Some consider that lecture to be one of his most seminal theoretical breakthroughs to date.   Soon after, students quit drawing sections and the profession quickly followed.  I don't even include them in drawing sets anymore, or details, as I call them, "big sections" are equally useless if not more so.  

Oct 12, 16 6:50 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

that's a section, a big section. Paul Rudolph.

Oct 12, 16 8:02 pm

To add to Nutter's section (a fine one),





Fort Worth





Oct 12, 16 11:22 pm

in 3-4 years of me working I've drawn like 3 absolute basic sections and none of them are full building either. Only for levels...Plans and models are a must now.

Oct 13, 16 3:42 am

Manual of Section is a great book...

In school right now and just did a "designing in section" assignment. Frankly, I find it a struggle to think/design in section and I bet many other students do as well. For better or worse, the objectification of the architectural form is consuming the "design in section" sentiment...

Still learning...

Oct 13, 16 3:45 pm

Sorry for this seemingly trite response but when you make a model, you think in section as well as plan. It's just another step to make that cut vertically to check relationships versus plan.


Oct 13, 16 4:18 pm

The REX project in Dallas...great section.

Here's two Miralles projects:



Oct 14, 16 12:01 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

the ground as a solid hatch is always nice.

Oct 17, 16 7:59 am

This is a sample of recent B.Arch project from a school in Manhattan.


Oct 19, 16 2:16 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

very nice drawings.

Oct 24, 16 7:52 am

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in:

Please wait... loading
Please wait... loading