Atmosphere in architecture

Apr 22 '07 36 Last Comment
Apr 22, 07 2:07 am

I am interested to do some research on atmosphere in architecture but the topic is too broad and can't narrow down my focus......... any thoughts? Also, which essays should I look at?


Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Apr 22, 07 2:51 am

Uh... for us to help you narrow it down, you're going to need to narrow it down a bit yourself.

What have you been reading / looking at recently that has made you interested in 'atmosphere'?

What does 'atmosphere' mean for you?

Who are your favourite architects?

Are you interested in historical examples, or do you want to focus on contemporary work?

Moataz Faissal FaridMoataz Faissal Farid
Apr 22, 07 2:56 am

atmosphere in architecture ? wat does that mean ??

Apr 22, 07 5:28 am

you can tell he's edgy because he's smoking in front of a no smoking sign.

vado retro
Apr 22, 07 8:53 am

nice rug grandma.

Apr 22, 07 10:21 am

there are some essays by Gernot Bohme out there, including his short piece in H&dM's Natural History, that might give your research some thematic clarity.

Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke
Apr 22, 07 10:26 am

Reyner Banham's The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment as well as Peter Sloterdijk's contribution to Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Bruno Latour, ed.), has stuff on atmosphere and architecture.

Apr 22, 07 12:37 pm

Duuuuuuuuuuhh....also MAYBE just MAYBE try out Peter Zumthor's book called ATMOSPHERES!

David CuthbertDavid Cuthbert
Apr 22, 07 1:02 pm

atmosphere - I thought he's asking about HVAC and stuff like that. The theory of air conditioning

Apr 22, 07 1:24 pm

Guys.......thanks for your responses.........

Regarding atmosphere in architecture, I am looking at these contemporary projects [please let me know if there are other important or more recent projects that I missed]:

HD&M: Ricola factory, Laban Theater, Dominus Winery, Signal Box, schaulager basel, Prada, The Goetz Collection, Greek Orthodox Church,

Ben van Berkel: ACOM Office Building

Steven Holl: D. E. Shaw and Company Office

Peter Zumthor: Thermal Bath at Vals, Kunsthaus Bregenz

Jean Nouvel: Cartier Foundation, Arab Institute

Bernard Tschumi: Glass Video Gallery

Petra Blaze: Curtain screens

Francois Roche: Contemporary art Museum at Bangkok

Peter Eisenman: Aronoff Center, Berlin Memorial

Diller Scofidio: Blur Building

Greg Lynn: Tea set

Decoi: Another Glass House

Fumihiko Maki: New Congress Center in Salzburg

Toyo Ito: Tower of Winds

REM: Seattle Public Library

Sejima: Saishunkan Seiyaku Women’s Dormitory


But, I am strugling to find some hitoric example of atmosphere in architecture....need your help

Regarding cross disciplinary reference, I looked at the works of some installation artist like: James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Ernesto Neto, Richard Serra, Tara Donovan


I also have a list of essays regarding atmosphere/effect/affect in architecture... but I need to shortlist the number say 10-20. Can you help me regarding this? my selected essays are [please let me know if I missed any important essay about the topic]:

Rowe, Colin. Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal

Colomina, Beatriz “Skinless Architecture” in Tschumi, Bernard/ Cheng, Irene. The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. 68, 69.

Wigley, Mark “Still Effects” in Tschumi, Bernard/ Cheng, Irene. The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. 106-107

Rashid, Hani “Real Virtuality in Tschumi, Bernard/ Cheng, Irene. The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. 114

Kipnis, Jeff “On Those Who Step into the Same River” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. Mood River. 2002 34- 48

Kwinter, Sanford “Hydraulic Vision” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. Mood River. 2002 32- 33

Lavin, Sylvia “In a Contemporary Mood” in Hadid, Zaha / Schumacher, Patrick. Latent Utopias: Experiments within Contemporary Architecture. 46-47

Lynn, Greg “A New Style of Life” in Hadid, Zaha / Schumacher, Patrick. Latent Utopias: Experiments within Contemporary Architecture. 146-153

Livingston, Margaret. Vison and Art: The Biology of Seeing.” 17-23

Livingston, Margaret. “Equiluminent Colors” in Vison and Art: The Biology of Seeing.” 66-67

Livingston, Margaret. “Acuity and Spatial Resolution” in Vison and Art: The Biology of Seeing.” 68-78

Wolfflin, Heinrich. Renaissance and Baroque. 23-70

Fiell, Peter and Charlotte. Designing the 21st Century. 14-25

Treadwell, Sarah. “Volcanic Matter” in Taylor, Mark, Editor. Surface Consciousness. 36-42

Iterrante, VIctoria. “Conveying 3-d Shape and Depth…” in Taylor, Mark, Editor. Surface Consciousness. 61-64

Kipnis, Jeff. “The Cunning of Cosmetics” in Levene, Richard. El Croquis 60 + 84 Herzog and DeMeuron 1981- 2000. 405-411

Lynn, Greg/ Leach, Neil. “The Structure of Ornament” in Leach, Neal (editor). Digital Tectonics. 63-68

Kipnis, Jeff. “Preface: Give it a Name” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 15-16

Riley, Terrance. “Light Construction” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 23-41

Muschamp, Herbert. “Buildings That Hide and Reveal.” In Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 43-45

Mertins, Detlef. “Transparency: Autonomy and Relationality” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 134-144

Kipnis, Jeff. “P-TR’S Progress” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 148-154

Vidler, Anthony. ”Transparency” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 263-273

Scheerbart, Paul. “Glass Architecture.” In Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 345-368

Evans, Robin. “Mies Van Der Rohe’s Paradoxical Symmetries” in Kipnis, Jeff ed. The Light Construction Reader. 399-415

Haswgawa, Yuko. “Space that Obliterates and Erases Programs” in Levene, Richard. El Croquis 99 Sejima and Nishizawa

Wigley, Mark. “The Architecture of Atmosphere” in Daidalos no 68

Da Costa Meyer, Esther. “Speak, Memory” in Artforum, Jan. 2005

Jones, Wes. “Postcool.” in Log 5, 93-100

Lavin, Sylvia. “Towards and even Newer Architecture” in Log 3? , 21-27

Stafford, Barbara Maria. Good looking essays on the virtue of images. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT P, 1996. 4-40

Cache, Bernard. “Gottfried Semper: Stereotomy, Biology and Geometry” in Perspecta 33, Michael Osman, Adam Ruedig, Matthew Siedel, Lisa Tilney editors. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2002.

Cache, Bernard. “Digital Semper” in Anymore, Cynthia Davidson, ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts/ London, England: The MIT Press, 2000. 190-197.

Lynn, Greg. “Surface Effects” in Anymore, Cynthia Davidson, ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts/ London, England: The MIT Press, 2000. 230-237.

Lavin, Sylvia. “Plasticity at Work.” In Kipnis, Jeff. “Mood River” Wexner Center for the Arts. Ohio State University. 2002. p. 74-81.

Chee Pearlman. “Designing Desire” In Kipnis, Jeff ed. Mood River. Columbus, Ohio. Wexner Center for the Arts. 2002

Herzog, Jacques/ Kipnis, Jeff. “A Conversation with Jacques Herzog” in Levene, Richard. El Croquis 60 + 84 Herzog and DeMeuron 1981- 2000. 27-37

Lupton, Ellen “Fluid Mechanics”. In Design Culture Now.

Benezra, Neal “The Misadventures of Symmetry” in Benezra, Neal. Regarding Beauty. 17-38

Sebastian Weber and Kai Vockler "Luminous Bodies: On the Production of Atmospheres"

Bruce Mau "Styling Life"

R.E. Somol and Sarah Whiting "Notes Around the Doppler Effect and other Moods of Modernism"

Sylvia lavin " ‘The temporary contemporary’ in Perspecta no.34 Spring 2003 / p.128-137

Apr 22, 07 1:25 pm

that is a SICK album!

Apr 22, 07 2:56 pm

Joel, I'd still like to know what, exactly, atmosphere means to you. That is an expansive list of resources relevant in different ways to different perceptions of a vague word.
It won't get narrowed down without some precision in your definition.

Apr 22, 07 3:07 pm

To me.........Atmosphere is a swirling climate of intangible effects generated by a stationary object. It is the climate of ephemeral effects that envelops the inhabitant, not the building.

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Apr 22, 07 3:35 pm

It seems to me that all those references are potentially relevant to your definition of atmosphere. Together, though, they probably constitute a doctoral thesis.

There's always too many references to read. Narrowing down your topic might simply consist of picking two written references you have read, and a handful of built references, and starting from there. It sounds arbitrary, but narrowing down often is. How long is the research paper you are working on at the moment?

Apr 22, 07 4:14 pm

Hi Joel...

If I could be so bold as to recommend something I was a part of....
I think you'll enjoy it. I've included a brief of the book below as well as the contributors involved. Hope it helps.

From a Representation of Form to a Simulation of Space
Edited by Sean Lally & Jessica Young

Christopher Hight, Michelle Addington, Sean Lally -Weathers, OCEAN NORTH, Open Source Architecture, Marcelyn Gow, Tobi Schneidler-Maoworks, Helene Furjan, GNUForm, Bart Lootsma,

SOFTSPACE explores how once elusive conditionings of space are now opening entirely new possibilities for our understanding, creation and experience of architecture. In the past, advancements in the visualization and simulation of energies and material qualities – such as air, gas, fire, sound, scent and electricity – have been used simply to refine preconceived spatial, organizational and formal conditions. More recently, the appropriation of digital tools into architectural design has been focused on innovative form, structure and geometries while neglecting the vast range of materials and energies previously dismissed as simply atmospheric, qualitative or residual to the design process.

Today, through the development and dissemination of technologies, these energies and intensities can become architectural materials visualized and operated upon as systematically and accurately as the forces that guide structure and geometry. SOFTSPACE explores the spatial and organizational potential of these advancements, and their relation to historical and ideological trajectories. Through contributions by emerging architectural practices and essayists, SOFTSPACE takes stock of current advancements in design and research and examines the potentials of such "energy matters" to act as catalysts for design innovation today

Apr 22, 07 4:26 pm

My research would track the movement in architecture away from the modern notions of space, volume, and firmness toward the sensibilities of effect, atmosphere, and the ephemerally fashionable.

It would begin with a historical survey of architectural effects covering over two thousand years of architectural innovation, providing the basis for inquiry into various contemporary sensibilities of atmosphere. Case studies will be explored concerning practitioners, OMA, HDM, Jun Aoki, Kazuyo Sejima, Toyo Ito, Peter Zumthor, Kivi Sotama, Gnuform and others as well as similar sensibilities currently found in art, motion pictures, motion graphics, the fashion industry, and product design................

Any thoughts ?

Apr 22, 07 4:49 pm

what about buildings featured in movies?

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Apr 22, 07 5:41 pm

How big a piece of research is this? a half-year dissertation? a 1000 word paper? a doctoral thesis?

Apr 22, 07 5:49 pm

a 45 min lecture-presentation which should include ............a historical component (how the topic has a discernable genealogy), a contemporary component (that is observable within a number of practices today), a statement of interdisciplinary applicability (the concept or vocabulary has some importance in fields outside of architecture - be it science, art, society, economics or technology), a meta-critical statement (this shows the argument’s awareness of its own positions within the discourse of the discipline), and finally some example of the student’s own work (in order to situate the production within the context of his or her own

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Apr 22, 07 6:16 pm

OK, so that's about 3000-4000 words. Lets approximate 5 equal sections of 600-800 words. That's not much time to cover all those references.

Seriously, pick a couple of papers, read them, then start writing.

Apr 22, 07 6:22 pm

Help me to pick 10-20 from the list.....the most canonical ones

Apr 22, 07 6:31 pm

joel- grow up! this is your education, not ours. learn how to think for yourself dammit!

HEY ARCHINECTORS- don't help write this guys paper! just think what will happen after graduation and you end up working with them:

"TK please help me do the job i'm paid to do. I don't know how to pick 20 books to read from a huge list..."

Carl Douglas (agfa8x)
Apr 22, 07 6:40 pm

Joel, whoever compiled the list you are working from has already done most of the work for you. There are not 10-20 'canonical' papers on the topic. Select the papers you feel you can respond to. Also, I'll say it again. 10-20 papers is too many for a 45 minute presentation. Unless you were required to read that many or something. The way to get started is not to pick the few most important papers. It's to pick up one paper and start reading.

I'm afraid I can't offer any more help than that really. Good luck.

Apr 22, 07 6:49 pm

you can eliminate:

HD&M: Ricola factory, Laban Theater, Dominus Winery, Signal Box, schaulager basel, Prada, The Goetz Collection, Greek Orthodox Church,

Ben van Berkel: ACOM Office Building

Steven Holl: D. E. Shaw and Company Office

Jean Nouvel: Cartier Foundation, Arab Institute

Bernard Tschumi: Glass Video Gallery

Peter Eisenman: Aronoff Center, Berlin Memorial

Greg Lynn: Tea set

REM: Seattle Public Library

Apr 22, 07 6:50 pm

and replace with schindler...

Apr 22, 07 7:38 pm

Don't forget the section on Atmosphere in the Lavin/Furjan primer "Crib Sheets." That section features statements, many of which are subjective definitions, on atmosphere and allied terms by leading practitioners and critics both old and new. It will either give you a good feel for contemporary range of thinking on the subject or just confuse you...that's for you to work out.

Your list of potential sources is both amazingly thorough and insanely broad. The whole point of the resurgence of this term in contemporary thinking is to redefine it...the redefinition will be necessarily narrow, exclusive, and, to some degree given the slipperyness of the term, subjective.

But if you want my personal opinion, Lavin and Kipnis are the two key thinkers on the subject as it is expressing itself in contemporary practice. They deal with it most directly. Kwinter is also deeply sympathetic but it takes more work to figure out his position. And the Lally/Young book is excellent but you need to read the essays all the way through, not just look at the pictures. (The one by Michelle Addington will surprise and impress you.)

May 17, 07 9:47 am

You might want to have handy a good explanation of why modern buildings were not aimed at generating an effect. I know it's not a flashy-gooey effect, but maybe a feeling of brave new world freedom? I would think about it, a juror might well ask you that. Especially if you try to define what you mean by atmosphere as a kind of late-modern turn away from "function". I think historians have done a good job of explaining how irrational this expression of function is, how emotional it is.

I was thinking, if you really do want more historical examples of atmosphere, I took a class on historiography where we read 19th century theories of architecture and empathy. Men like Wolflin had some interest in recent psychological research and used that to argue for users having an identification with buildings. I think it was mostly on the basis of comparisons with one's own body. Although Wolflin also made some comments about the ease of following curved lines versus straight ones, as regards eye physiology? I think he had been reading some of Wundt, who is regarded as one of the first experimental psychologists. Anyway. Worringer probably also wrote some stuff on empathy and aesthetics if you are interested. Um, for an easier entry, I think David Watkin talks about some of this in his The Rise of Architectural History.

That said, the huge problem with studying something so subjective as emotional response, is that it's so un-predictable. There were tons of studies of meaning and emotion among the post-modernists who seem to have concluded that without nailing down the context and the user's past experiences, it is almost impossible to say what particular form / shape / color will cause a response. And people get bored / acclimated to effects, how do you accommodate that? Is it just to be a building for tourists who see it only once? Perhaps, but how satisfying is that for a thesis project? On the one hand, staging effects is way too easy and on the other, it's way too hard.

Well, the way it used to work was you had a more or less unified class of educated European men who shared a pretty standard schooling and knew what the references were. And if they didn't, they kept their mouths shut.

May 17, 07 11:38 am

i see a lot of parallels between what joel calls "atmosphere" in architecture, and genius locci...

Jun 4, 07 6:57 am

It's my first post in archinect. I sorry, my english isn't from Oxford

The word atmosphere is ambiguous in architecture ¿space and light, intime perception, meditation, mystic connection from the objet at the individual conscience, not objetive and not measurable issue......?

An historic example can be The Agripa's Panteon in Roma ( without tourists, better said,in its time, in the antiquity)

Jun 5, 07 6:49 am

Atmosphere needs attributes

atmosphere intimate
and other

Maybe an architectural task is new attributes create on the word atmosphere and then to materialize them

atmosphere liquid

Jun 5, 07 6:51 am

Is a adjetives recipient

Alex MaymindAlex Maymind
Jun 5, 07 8:09 am

i would focus first on what atmosphere is not, the difference between its effects versus something ambiance, mood, or affect, that elusive term being hideously bastardized by architecture students everywhere. You might want to start by looking at how atmosphere is a reaction to the indexical, Wittkower/Rowe/Peter. Kipnis comes out of this lineage and is strong because he positions his work to it, even when there seems to be no trace of it. Look at those projects but also find unexpected examples, maybe a circus or a mall has an atmospheric effect that is valuable to the discussion.

Alex MaymindAlex Maymind
Jun 5, 07 8:13 am

I would really read all of those Kip articles to start with, also. PtR's progress and cunning of cosmetics being the two most important. Definitely situate with Wolfflin and maybe Worringer too. "empathy and abstraction" is an important art historical book on subjectivity's interaction with the emerging formalism of that period. What kind of class is this for?

Jun 5, 07 12:40 pm

when you experience looking some sculptures you can see how the objet, the sculpture, is putting a riddle at the space while you 're contemplating this act

Jun 5, 07 12:58 pm

who farted....or as some would say, "just a little bit of Architectural Atmosphere."

Jun 6, 07 7:20 am

it´s possible to attach atmosphere and caracter both concept and then, sameway, architectural typology and atmosphere

Jun 20, 07 2:04 pm

I have been told many times that I have been posting discussions on affect and atmosphere but was unaware of such posts. I now see the odd coincidence between this posts of "JOEL BURKE" and my name, confusion solved, as for affect my personal definition varies a bit but thats for another time

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