Friday, April 11, 2014

Design is all in the details

As Mies van der Rohe was fond of saying, 'God is in the detail'; a quote often attributed to him but in fact  much older. Details have been on my mind lately as I'm currently reading Phillip James Dodd's book "The Art of Classical Details" which I would whole-heartedly recommend to all of you.
While walking around the city the other day I was looking at some of the quieter buildings that normally would be under my radar and noticed that some of them had ravishing details. This brick townhouse below is almost a pattern book for a Victorian brick maker. All of that detail is of brick -such unusual shapes!
This iron railing seen below had amazing curvaceous brackets -simple but lovely. On buildings such as a standard row-house these details make all the difference and have stood the test of time. Have you seen anything that has caught your eye lately? What did we do before camera phones to capture our visual world?


Tatiana Dokuchic said...

My favourite example of "design in the details" has to be the Petit Trianon (of which you've blogged).

At first glance it looks like an unremarkable cube and you wonder what the fuss is all about. I've been examining the details for years now and I'm still blown away by all the beauty of the details.

Thanks for providing more examples!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Tatiana, thats a great example (and not only because it's my favorite building!). They can make all the difference!

Stephilius said...

Details, details.... How often have we seen an otherwise beautiful building or room ruined by crude or inappropriate details. And then, an awkward or ugly building or room given charm, at least, by some wonderful flourish of detail. It's so often a make or break component.

(And, yes, the Petit Trianon is an excellent example - though exquisite proportion is just as important, in that case.)

Meg Fairfax Fielding said...

I love looking at the amazing details on my office's two early 1900 buildings. There are several types of brick-work, books, faces, and other details. It's gorgeous.

You can see it here:
and here:

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Meg those are pretty wonderful!! I wonder what people will say about our public buildings we're building now in 100 years...if they still exist.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Stephilius -yes sometimes these details can ruin a space as well, lest we forget!

Row homes and Cobblestones said...

In Philadelphia on streets like Delancy the details whisper their history as you walk by and hear the echo's of grandeur of another time in the past. Yes, it's always in the details. Funny my next poetry I will post is talking about blending the old with the new in a historical city. To carefully ponder tearing down the past to build buildings that won't last.
There is great reward in taking a walk through old streets lined with homes and take time to appreciate their breathtaking detail work.
I am going to Amazon now to purchase the book, thank you for your thoughtful post.

Karena Albert said...

Kansas City has several historical neighborhoods and it is always a pleasure to walk or drive by the gorgeous homes!

The Arts by Karena

Mark Ruffner said...

Hi, Stefan,

I'll look for that book. The great thing about attending to details is that even though many people will not zero in on them, they will still unconsciously recognize that the whole is better.

Windlost said...

Hi Stefan, it looks like a great book that I need to read. Haha. I need some training. I do think God is in the detail(s). Engineers are always saying that if we do a great job, no one notices. I think the same is true for a lot of architecture, the more humble kind - not the grand enterprises, but the humble residence, etc. The whole thing can be so pleasingly done with scale and light, but we don't really see it as all the detail, just a pleasing space. What doesn't scream for attention is often what makes something so perfectly balanced feeling.

But speaking of details I love all those fine details on old buildings. Why are things not made with the same art that they used to be???!!

I remember when I was at McGill thinking that the math building was so boring (a large concrete block from communist China) and that surely the math guys could have come up with something a little more interesting. But sadly it was probably just the low bid, our new criteria for success.

Ugh. Glad people like you exist, who still study and care so deeply about all this stuff. :)

xo Terri