• Gareth Ngwenya

Precedents for Architecture Students

Updated: Feb 18

There is often a debate of whether or not precedent studies are something architecture students should spend their time looking into. Some people feel that studying architecture precedents take away from originality and forming more creative ideas. However, having a point of reference to start with can be helpful in conceptual design, increasing knowledge and critical thinking within architectural design.

Studying architecture precedents can also be a great way to dissect projects with the intent of analysing the plan, section, elevation, site, etc. As an architecture student, your focus would primarily be on residential buildings but the following list will also highlight other types of buildings so without further ado, here are ten precedents for your dissection:

1. Hanoi University Building (FPT University) - Vo Trong Nghia Architects

This building has gridded facades with recessed windows incorporating trees that not only work as sustainable elements but also provide shade and cooling from sun exposure. Nghia's firm has offices in Ho Chi Minh City, the city where the university stands. The building promotes the university's sustainable credentials to all visitors by its charming green facades.

This building is a great source of inspiration for students looking to design within environmental design or assimilate sustainable design.

2. Barcelona Pavilion - Mies van der Rohe

The Barcelona Pavilion is a classical piece of architecture that Mies van der Rohe designed for the 1929 International Exposition to promote modern architecture. Unlike most pavilions though, Mies designed the space as a place of escape rather than a viewing of paintings and sculptures. The pavilion is a great demonstration of, and to quote Mies, "less is more." The design truly expresses this sentiment through the use of materials like marble which illuminate the space and glass that blurs the lines between the interior and exterior spaces.

This is a building that is truly loved by architects and a precedent for the ages. The simplicity of the structure is a lesson for aspiring architects that doing too much isn't always the best approach.

3. Villa Savoye - Le Corbusier

Villa Savoye, like the Barcelona Pavilion, is another great contribution to modern architecture. This building was an essential precedent at the turn of the 20th Century. The building embodies Le Corbusier's Five Points of architecture, a checklist of necessary design components.


-Flat Roof Terrance

-Open Plan

-Ribbon Windows

-Free Facade

These design elements can be used as a guide in designing in the language of Corbusier, that is, modern architecture. His designs were never without much consideration for spatial planning and minimalistic aesthetics.

4. Stahl House - Pierre Koenig

The Stahl House is considered a work of art. It is one of the most iconic buildings in modern architecture and has been seen in multiple movies and television shows like the Simpsons. Its glass and steel structure allows the observer to appreciate the gorgeous Los Angeles views from the hilltop on which it stands. The glass and steel facades give the roof a floating feeling quite reminiscent of the Barcelona Pavilion.

This house is an art piece being one of the most visited and appreciated buildings today.

5. The Pierre - Olson Kundig

The Pierre is a precedent that feels like it was carved into the earth. The house is nestled into a rock, making it very much a part of the environment it inhabits. Furthermore, the house incorporates cement, wood and steel, elements which to the eye, give it a sense of belonging to its surroundings. A great precedent to use for aspiring architects due to how it makes use of the environment, not changing it, but adjusting itself to its surroundings.

6. Fallingwater House - Frank Lloyd Wright

An incredible house designed by a remarkable architect, Fallingwater hides in the Bear Run Nature Reserve. The house seems to float on top of a waterfall, bringing nature right to the doorstep of this spectacular building. The house was also inspired by Japanese architecture which is evident in the harmony created between the site and the building. The house has a reinforced masonry structure that reflects the mountainous terrain that the building is surrounded by.

Like The Pierre, Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrates how an architect can reconcile man and nature within a space.

7. Simpson-Lee House - Glenn Murcutt

Located in the Blue Mountains, Australia, with the use of simple materials like polished concrete, steel structural frames and painted brickwork this house has influences and qualities similar to that of a secular monastery. The spaces are well connected by a linear pathway where the pavilions meet the garages ultimately leading to the major living spaces. It's open plan spaces connect the viewer to the mountainous environment.

  1. Vo Trong Nghia

  2. Mies van der Rohe

  3. Le Corbusier

  4. Pierre Koenig

  5. Olson Kundig

  6. Frank Lloyd Wright

  7. Glenn Murchutt

#architecturetips #ArchitectureBlog

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