The Aperture Analyzed: The Form and Space of Openings

This seminar will focus on an essential component of architecture, the aperture, which has broad implications for our understanding of space. An aperture is commonly understood as a window or door, an element offering a controlled connection between interior and exterior in buildings. Simultaneously and more conceptually, an aperture is a frame, threshold, portal, passage, oculus, cleft, chasm, gap, valve or void. Louis Kahn placed the aperture at the very center of our conception of space saying that, “architecture itself had begun ‘when the walls parted and the columns became,’ admitting light and creating a system of support at the same time.” As a primary element of enclosure, the aperture frequently yields our most intimate contact with buildings, offering light, view and ventilation. As a mechanism for engagement, the aperture provides a connection with the outdoors, both literal and phenomenal, serving as a conduit for movement through and access to architecture. The term, aperture, therefore is profound and significant to our study, as the seminar seeks to explore the value of openings in three distinct, yet integrated ways: (1) its functional power of illumination, ventilation and view, (2) its derivation of form and its relationship to structure and skin, (3) its role in shaping public / private realms, defining spatial experience and the contours of our consciousness.

We will explore these issues through readings, analysis and design. Students will lead and participate in discussions of the readings each week and will engage in analytic exercises of specific works by such architects as Corb, Scarpa, Loos, Kahn, Chareau, Holl, Siza, Aalto, etc. Additionally, the seminar will examine notions of the aperture in the work of such artists as Hopper, Vermeer, Turrell, and Pichler. Students will then explore issues of the aperture through an aperture design project. The designs will explore the possibilities for the aperture to offer illumination and view, to develop tectonic and material conditions, and to imply territories of space and habitation. Please see the course isite for more detailed weekly topics and schedule.


Up to four seats will be held for MDes students.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.