Wednesday, September 14, 2011


By Dempson Haney

Does size matter?

When you think of architecture, at what size do you picture it being? With Australia you think of the Sydney Opera House, but what about the Bug in Vienna. With England comes the grand Cathedrals, but also the Rolling Summer house. France is well known for the Eiffel Tower, but you are unlikely to have heard of the Information Point. Great architecture doesn’t have to come with a great price. Sometimes that is the only way a community is able to afford great architecture is if it comes in a small package. A great book given to me as a gift is “XS” by Phyllis Richardson. It can be found at Barnes and Noble or Books a Million for $30. This book is pretty much full of precedent studies of small architecture that normally doesn’t get the glory as its larger predecessors. There are three editions and I myself own the 3rd which focuses more on “work of those who are stretching definitions, perceptions and expectations, as well as, in a more literal sense, material performance, site specificity and function.” (Richardson p11) Small structures are a great way for an emerging or existing architect to experiment with different materials, arrangement of spaces, and other aspects of architecture ready to make their mark. The perk of small structures is that they usually don’t end in a catastrophic failure more common with the typical building.

Karim and Rames Najjar brothers conceived what is now known as the Bug. The Bug’s, “envelope is an instrument of communication.” (Richardson p24) Apparently it undergoes a shape change based on the movement inside. The Bug is capable of holding only one occupant and as the occupant moves throughout the structure it shifts its center of gravity to stabilize itself. The Bug is allowed to shift by its use of coordinating planes and hinges. The concept is put best by the author.

“The Bug is a philosophical exploration that strives to visualize the solitude of man in his environment. In the same way that a hermit, in seclusion, can have an impact on society by the fact that people know he exists, the Bug allows a person to be separate from the world , but since his movements are echoed in the shifting of the structure, he is still visible and in the world as the box changes shape.”

Besides pretty pictures, this book also touches base on the philosophical side of it’s architecture. There are also the occasional details which are nice for those who are concerned on how it works. These details aren’t highly explainable but understandable. The book contains a total of 46 case studies ranging from pavilions and park sculptures to homes and laboratories. This book has a small price compared to most design/architecture books, takes up a small space on the shelf, but leaves a big impression.

Richardson, P(2009). Small Structures. (third ed.). New York: Universe Publishing.

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