KEY WORDS: Diagrams, Architectural Diagrams, Architectural Design, Diagram Types, Representation Techniques
Diagrams are the essential representations for thinking, problem solving, and communication in the design disciplines. A diagram today is an architecture on its own and it has a direct voice without a language. They are compressed, abstract graphic forms of the information. The more information they stock, the better representation they can display. Considering diagrams as the placeholders and the ‘engines’ that organise the design period, communicate and represent the data which they gather inside by compressing, abstracting, methaporing and emphasising by its own symbols and language, we can figure out that today diagrams can be a tool that influence and shape the design process and the product but also a diagram can be the ‘product’ by itself. In the article, I will discuss the usage of architectural diagrams in the analysis & design period. Also I will try to analyse several categories of architectural diagrams with the purpose of finding these answers: how designers and architects think & approach in the design process, how they abstract the data and make connections, how do they interact with the ideas and graphical visuary images in the diagramming process. Mostly, I want to concentrate on the conceptual thinking ways and conceptual diagrams. Lastly, I’ll try to examine which kind of diagrams I mostly use in my design project process and will conclude as categorising my diagrams -that i produced at the design project master class- with the main points that I trace in my article.
1. what ıs a dıagram
Generally a diagram is a two-dimensional, symbolic representation of information, according to some visualization technique. The word graph is sometimes used as a synonym for diagram.
Anderson (1997) stated more general "diagrams are pictorial, yet abstract, representations of information, and maps, line graphs, bar charts, engineering blueprints, and architects’ sketches are all examples of diagrams, whereas photographs and video are not." On the other hand Lowe (1993) defined diagrams as specifically "abstract graphic portrayals of the subject matter they represent." ( www. wikipedia.org)
Diagrams are essential representations for thinking, problem solving, and communication in the design disciplines, they are especially used in mechanical and civil engineering, graphic design, architecture and physical planning. (Yi-Luen, Gross, 2001)
Data vizualization studies uses diagrams to abstract the information into some schematic and relational forms. Diagrams are one of the expressionist way of the data representation.
Figure 1 : General data visualisation abstract diagram
“A diagram today is an architecture. It is not a scheme, a simplification, nor a preparatory drawing to be translated into a language or a specific discipline. It is directly the space, form and the material of construction. The diagram is a direct voice without language . The diagram always works, at least partially through time. The diagram has been defined as the ‘minimal’ graphic element that explains a concept. It is the representation of an idea, of a process, of a space or concept, removing value from what is gesture and expression.” (Fisuras, 2002)
In architecture, drawings are the primary form of representation; they carry a design from conception to construction. But architectural diagrams are different than the drawings... Drawings are much more concerned about forms, light, material but diagrams focus on deeply to the concepts, flows, relations etc..
“Unlike the instruments of representation, - ideograms, graphs, maps, drawings- the diagram nowadays has become more direct and affective. The other representational ways vary from the analytic to the instrumental, between representation and space. An ideogram is a symbol, a gesture that describes the structure of an architecture. A graph is a simplified drawing that presents a piece of data or information, or a relationship between them. A map is the linguistic convention of a territory that defines positions, conditions or simply information about a place. A drawing explains or represents an organisation of form or material. The diagram, however works from an accumulation of information – the more information, the better. “(Fisuras, 2002)
An architectural diagram is made of symbols and is about concepts. It is abstract and propositional: its elements and spatial relations can be expressed as a set of statements. It explores, explains, demonstrates, or clarifies relationships among parts of a whole or it illustrates how something works (a sequence of events, movement, or a process). Its symbols may represent objects (e.g., a space or a piece of furniture) or concepts (e.g., service area, a buffer zone, accessibility or noise). A diagram omits detailed scale or realistic pictorial representations; it indicates spatial relationships only approximately using indefinite shapes.
In the last 20 years, the studies that are concerned about the architectural diagrams, have been increased. The theoreticians like Vidler and Somol, have been surveyed the diagrammatic works of architects such as Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Rem Koolhaas, Gregg Lynn and Kazuo Sejima. They tried to analyze how they utilize the diagrams at the design process.
Christopher Alexander characterizes design as matching program requirements with corresponding diagram (Alexander 1966, pp.85). He calls a diagram “any pattern which, by being abstracted from a real situation, conveys the physical influence of certain demands or forces...” The diagram is the “starting point of synthesis”; the end product is “a tree of diagrams.”
For Alexander, diagrams can summarize formal characteristics, or functional properties, but "constructive diagrams" provide a bridge between requirements and form. Thus the diagram illustrated above presents information on the traffic flow requirements for a traffic interchange in condensed graphic form in such a way as to indicate directly what form the new intersection must take. (Alexander,1966, pp.88)
Over the past few years, the diagram has occupied an essential place in the debates youching on architectural design. The diagram is a graphic representation of the evolution of a phenemenon.There are lines, a structure and a form, it works by education, abstraction and representation. As a medium, the diagram serves a dual function; It’s a form of notation, analytical and reflexive which sums up, but it’s also a model for thinking, sythesing and productive, which engenders.(Fisuras, 2002)
It is in the fundamental works of philosophers like M. Foucault, F. Guattari and G. Deleuze that one should seek the theoretical reason for the use of diagrams in design work in architecture.
“An abstract machine in itself is not physical or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic, it is diagrammatic...It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form...The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality. “(Deleuze and Guattari, 1987)
“The diagram acts like a surface that receives inscriptions from the memory of that which does not yet exist- that is of the potential object. This provides traces of function, enclosure, meaning and site from the specific conditions. These traces interact with traces from the interiority and the anteriority to form a superposition of traces. The superposition provides a means for looking at a specific project. Both specific project and its interiority can be written onto the surface of a diagram that has the infinite possibility of inscribing impermanent marks and permanent traces. Without these permanent traces there is no possibility of writing in the architectural object itself.” (Eisenmann,1999, pp. 32)
“The diagram is an intermediate or interstitial space that lies between space and time.” (Eisenmann, 1999, pp. 34)
Diagrams can serve an explanatory function, clarifying form, structure or program to the designer and to other and notations map program in time and space , primary utility of the diagram is an abstract means of thinking about organisation.
Unlike classical theories based on imitation, diagrams do not map or represent already existing objects or systems but anticipate new organisations and specify yet to be realised relationships. The diagram is not simply a reduction from an existing order. Its abstraction is instrumental, not an end in itself. Content is not embedded or embodied but outlined and multiplied. Simplified and highly graphic, diagrams support multiple interpretations.
Diagrams are not schemas, types, formal paradigms or other regulating devices, but simply placeholders. They work as abstract machines and do not resemble what they produce.
A diagram is a graphic assemblage that specities relationships between activity and form, organizing the structure and distrubution of functions. As such , diagrams are architecture’s best means to engage the complexity of the real. The diagram does not point toward architecture’s internal history as a discipline but turns outward, signaling possible relations of matter and informations.
“The diagram … is an engine, a motor: it doesnt want to impose itself on matter, but no engage in a process of continuous formation it operates at the backside of the image, on it’s band side. Diagrams are the informational nodes and codes of the world. They are faces in a landscape singular perceptions connecting streams of actions” (Fisuras, 2002)
As a compression of information, a diagram is a graphic representation of dynamic process synthesised through compression, abstraction and simulation.
“The place of the diagram corresponds to an operational, intersubjective field, which is put together over a given period of time , where meanings are formed and deformed in an interactive way” (Ben van berkel & Caroline Bos, Metapolis dictionary, 2003)
2. SEVERAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND EXAMPLES OF ARCHITECTURAL DIAGRAMS
The diagrams, which we can call as the compressed data nodes, can be cathegorized in many various ways, connected with the fields that they focus on. In this chapter, I tried to focus on to the contemporary diagrams that are used generally in the analysis and design processes and also I focused on to the types which I took benefits from, during producing diagrams for my semestre project.
2.1 Spatial Diagrams:
They are spatial organisations. Spaces that can be created , modified, visualized, manipulated not only by altering drawings and volumes, but also with program clues, marks of past or future states, futures of light or information - maps of influence. Generation of differentiated spaces by means of codes in a general ambiance. Each code generates a particular space.
Figure 2: OMA - Yokahama Project - Data Map, 1992 (http://dau-grainofsalt.blogspot.com/2009/12/thoughts-on-situate-art-commission.html , 05.25.2010)
Diagram above is noticing the peak hours of the market fall in the early morning, our hypothesis proposes a complementary spectrum of events, which would together exploit to the maximum the location and its existing infrastructure, to create a 24 hour "peak" composed of a mosaic of heterogeneous 21st century "life".
2.2 Chronometrical, Chronographical , Chronological Diagrams:
Figure 3 : Moebius House, 1995, Ben Van Berkel& Caroline Bos
Diagram doesn’t present a state in time, but it’s own evaluation. A lineal conception of time makes the world appear narratively, in a casual linking.
This type of diagrams, beyond giving information to a specific time period, mostly talk about time sequences and they make their own assesments, put forward relational ensembles. Chronometrical, Chronographical, Chronological Diagrams enable to understand the time in sequences and to narrative perception styles and also enables to establish random connections.
2.3 Sequence and Serial Diagrams:
They explain a data - that is regarding to an ensemble- by separating it to some intersections and expressing it in the act of sequences and series. They don’t talk about randomly chosen sequences but temporal sequences that has been lined up in an apparent time period .
First example at the figure is the diagram that the writer Laurence Sterne has expressed the
Figure 4: 1. Laurence Stern, Tristram Shandy, 1759 (http://biblioklept.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/shandy.jpg, 05.25.2010)
2. Kazuyo Sejima, abstraction of movements for zigzag typologies, Metropolitan Housing Studio, 1995-6
2.4. Structural Diagrams:
Structural diagrams talk about the structural data, make connections between the structural elements and building, abstract the relationships, connections etc.
Figure 5: Toyo Ito,
2.5. Flow Diagrams:
Generally they are used in the complex, relational processes and systems for to express the data which belongs to interrelations and to the fragments of the entire system. They questionize and explore the causalities between the fragments of the system and process. For instance, they can express the change of one fragment in the system and its’s effects to the whole system. As an other example; they can talk about a spatial organisation and the relational network between it’s fragments.
Figure 6: FOA, International port terminal,
3. Classifying my diagrams which i produced in THE semestre project
The project is focused on an old railway line in
Parallel with this main points, we can call the diagram below a ‘sequence and serial diagram’ which talks about the differentiations and flow of different layers at the project area.
It traces the old railway line sectionally and gives information about the layers, size, environmental relations with the residential areas, vehicles and pedestrians, fluidity and permeability of the line.
Figure 7: Sequence and serial diagram example
Next image shows, superposes and compares the structural magnitudes around the project area in the act of relational manner with the vehicle and pedestrian circulation directions. While the stripes show the sprawl of the railway line, circles resembles the mass and magnitude of the environmental residential area and the lines resembles the vehicle and pedestrian connectional roads.
We can discuss this example as an ‘sequence & serial’ diagram. Briefly, by scanning the area, diagram examines the relations sequentially, in a limited time period, that the old railway line establish with it’s environment.
Figure 8 : Sequence & serial diagram
Basically, the project aims to design a promenade which interrelates with different cultural landscape functions along the line. By this purpose; in the first frame below; I searched for some fuctions which will take a part and specific areas for this fuctions on the line. This is a base frame for the second one. Because the second frame analyses the locations where these functions will convert to a structure and this figure also struggles to design the area with paying attention to the emptiness and to the fullness. Third frame proposes an entire shell with its fuctions, instead of proposing point structures. As for the last frame, it expresses this entire shell with the vehicle and pedestrial movements as the partitions of the shell. This four serial diagrams below can be called as both a ‘flow’ and a ‘sequential’ diagram. They both talk about the fragments and the entire area, their interrelations and the functional flows inside the system. The diagrams scan the area with sectional conditions and search for the accurate settlement for these cultural landscapes and scenario.
Figure 8 : Flow and sequence diagram
As it is mentioned above, a diagram today is architecture and also it is a direct voice without a language. We use diagrams in the process of design for to reach to a concrete, architectural object. But it also can serve as a way of understanding method.
Considering diagrams as the placeholders and the ‘engines’ that organise the design period, provide communication and represent the data which they gather inside by compressing, abstracting, methaporing and emphasising by its own symbols and language, we can figure out that today diagrams can be a tool that influence and shape the design process and the product but also a diagram can be the ‘product’ by itself.
Sometimes, diagrams can take us to the last, finalized objects and they put great influence to the design process. Because they are the compressed information nodes, so they can serve as a concrete design key for the last object. But sometimes the process doesn’t finish with a concrete object. It just stays as a starting informational point or it can take you to the different perspectives, much more far away from your first point of view. Although it doesnt end with an object, it explores different perspectives, brings new openings, layers about the space, time, conditions to the project or subject.
So diagrams can eighter take you to a final destination or they can end up with new beginnings – new point of views and starting points.
Allen, S., 1999. Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City. New York: Princeton Architectural Press
Allen, S., 2000. Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation. London: Routhledge
Allen, S., 1998. ‘Diagrams matter’ ANY: Architecture New York, 23, pp. 16-19
Alexander, C., 1966. Notes on the Synthesis of Form.
Aureli, P. V., 2006. ‘Architecture After the Diagram’ Lotus International, 127, pp. 95-105
Benjamin, A., 2000. ‘ Lines of Work: On diagrams and drawing’. In: Architectural Philosophy: Repetition, Function, Alterity ,
Berkel B. and Bos, C., 1998. “Diagrams :Interactive Instruments in Operation” ANY: Architecture,
Bert S. H., 1996. ‘The Didactic and the Elegant: Some Thoughts on Scientific and Technological Illustrations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.’ Ed: B. Braigie, Picturing knowledge: historical and philosophical problems concerning the use of art in science.
Deleuze G. and Guattari F.,
Edwards, B., 1979. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: a course in enhancing creativity and artistic confidence. Los Angles: Tarcher.
Eisenmann, P., Somol R. E. , 1999. Diagram Diaries,
FISURAS, 2002. Ed: Soriano, F., Julio, numero doce y medio, 12,5
Ito T., 1996. ‘Diagram Architecture’, El Croquis, 77 , pp. 18-24
Lowe, Richard K., 1993. ‘Diagrammatic information: techniques for exploring its mental representation and processing.’ Information Design Journal 7 (1), pp. 3–18.
Rowe, P., 1987. Design Thinking,
Somol, R. E., 1999. ‘Dummy Text or the Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture’, Diagram Diaries,
The Metapolis Dictionary of Advanced Architecture: City, Technology and Society in the Information Age, 2003.
http://christianhubert.com/writings/diagram___abstract.html (accessed 30.03.2010)
http://www.federicosoriano.com/FS_principal.swf ( accessed 30.03.2010)
http://www.aiborg.net/blitzinbits/AAdrl/BENJAMINDIAGRAM.htm (accessed 30.03.2010)