Technique And Terminology Of Modern Design

L-JnDER modern conditions, with emphasis on sunlight, plenty of air, and ventilation, simplicity in design means a sufficiency of space. Indeed, we shall find this question of space running like a keynote through modern design. This desire for space is also a reaction against the cluttered-up and stuffy house filled with meaningless bric-a-brac and ornate furniture: the chair upon which no one but a lightweight can sit; the rocker with its slender braces; the highly polished table, edged with cigarette burns; the painfully so-called comfortable cljair; the tip-top table in name and deed; and so on. Along with these examples come the stuffily upholstered furniture which never seems to be thoroughly cleaned, with tidies protecting the upholstery from greasy heads.

A house and furniture should be so designed as to xuelcome space. Life should be lived in space, with its sunlight and air—space in architecture, in painting, in sculpture, in furniture, with its growing importance in the new design. Space leads to new methods of approach in designing and a new adjustment of prevailing terminology. While, as we shall see, certain art principles are age-old, and have always been true and important, there are three terms which assume new importance and whose interpretation must be understood. They are volume, mass, and form, structural and aesthetic steps through which the designer advances to the completed form.

Volume, Mass, and Form

Possibly the best method to understand clearly these terms as applied to furniture design is through analogy with the activities of the sculptor: Suppose, for instance, he is carving a head and shoulders from the materials of his craft. First, he selects a block of wood or stone, possibly rectangular in its planistic relationship and just large enough to contain his proposed conception. This block of material, we will call

Figure 2. A—Volumetric Casing; B—Mass and Space Stage;

C—Form Stage his volume. As he drills his holes for depth, carves or chips away his surplus material, he is creating a mass from the volume of his stock; he has "roughed out" his design. We can consider the outer surface of his original wood or stone block a sort of casing or envelope, just enclosing the outside diameter of his pattern. As he continues to work on the blocking-out process, he perfects the mass into that which we will call its final form. The material chipped away forms the space of his design. Thus the original block was the casing or volume, which went progressively through the roughed-out or mass stage and the finished or form stage.

The space created by chipping away the material is an important design element, and in modern treatment has considerable bearing upon appearances. Frequently, in designing rooms, interior space is augmented by the addition of mirrors and glass which, by their reflections, give the illusion of added space, as seen in the frontispiece.

From the viewpoint of advanced modern designers, space is given a broader interpretation than the one adopted for

Figure 2. A—Volumetric Casing; B—Mass and Space Stage;

C—Form Stage this text. In architecture, space is to be considered as extending indefinitely not only outside the volume, but the form itself must represent a complete interpénétration with outer space. "A dwelling should not be a retreat from space, but a life in space, in full relationship to it," says Maholy Nagy.

Thus, one can realize that modernists consider traditional architects as negligent in the full realization of space possibilities. In designing modern dwellings, some architects consider their designs first as volumes or bulks, subtracting space until they arrive at the mass of the design, often allowing space to penetrate entirely through the building for light and sunshine. This space may be enclosed by glass, but nevertheless it? has the effect of space. In Figure 2, this plan has been depicted, in which a is the volume similar to the sculptor's block, b the roughing-out stage, and c the final or form stage, with light and air sweeping through the structure. New York sky lines seen through a haze, and high buildings mistily obscured to blur form, give excellent impressions of architectural masses with spaces marking their outlines. Imagine Figure 3 under these conditions, and you will get the idea of the blocking-out stage quite clearly.

In period furniture, heavy designs, like Elizabethan and Jacobean, Figure 4, place emphasis 011 mass; lighter furniture, like Sheraton, for example, Figure 5, represents more space emphasis than mass; while, similarly, late Gothic

Figure 3. The Form Stage

churches have impressive spaces and narrow masses. Gothic architects appreciated light penetration; structurally considered, they did not have modern materials to aid them, with the well-known results.

Regardless of the amount of space and mass, the volume from which these parts are subtracted is the starting point of the design method advanced in this text. For furniture, consider the volume as a transparent casing or box just enclosing the over-all dimensions of your design or piece of furniture. For square or rectangular forms, Figure 6, the volume must be rectilinear, while circular forms may also be similarly planned. As will be increasingly clear, the space of the design is just as important as the mass of the design.

What type of drawing is best adapted to the modern spirit, and how can we delineate the factors of space and mass to secure a comprehensive impression? Designing by means of the customary side, front, and top views or, to use its technical designation, orthographic projection, is inadequate for

Figure 4. Mass Emphasis in Period Furniture

Figure 5. Space Emphasis in Period Furniture

Figure 4. Mass Emphasis in Period Furniture

Figure 5. Space Emphasis in Period Furniture

The Volumetric Casing or Envelope the purpose. In this type of drawing, each view shows but one side of the object, as front view, side view, and so on; and it is difficult to picture the whole design with its spaces and masses in their positions and in complete relations—to assemble these views in the mind as a picture of the whole pattern.

The term "picture" in the previous paragraph suggests the use of perspective, showing simultaneously several sides and thus allowing one to compare masses and spaces. The major objection to this method is this: To design in perspective, one must be a capable perspective draftsman, with complete knowledge of the subject—the result of training which few beginners possess. Moreover, it is desirable in some way to measure one's sketch, and perspective measurements are indeed difficult.

Modified Isometric

These objections are partly answered by the use of what will be termed "modified isometric," illustrated 011 Plate 1 and explained in the following paragraphs. If isometric drawing may be termed "conventionalized perspective," modified isometric can as readily be called "stylized perspective." And, as modern design is extensively stylized, modified isometric drawing seems eminently satisfactory as a design vehicle for creative expression.

Without entering into details, let us say that isometric projection in its unmodified form is based on representing a cube, placed in such a manner as to cause the rear, lower corner to be exactly covered by the front, upper corner. This view is developed by tipping the cube, as shown in

Figure 6. A Rectilinear Volume

Figure 7, Plate 1, through several positions until a} Figure 7, gives the basis for isometric projection.

Figure 8, Plate 1, shows the cube of Figure 7 turned around in usable form. It is noted that all receding horizontal edges are at an angle of thirty degrees to a horizontal line and, while three surfaces are shown, there are no vanishing points.

The lack of convergence in retreating edges, but always seen in actually looking at objects, gives a "pushed-up" appearance to the rear surfaces, particularly of long objects, also the illusion of a slight increase in height in vertical planes as they go back from the front, vertical edges. However, as one becomes accustomed to the views, these defects and distortions no longer become troublesome.

Moreover, in isometric practice, it is customary to measure actual lengths, widths, and heights directly on the cube or other form, as shown in Figure-8, Plate 1. For vertical edges and heights, this practice is not open to objection; but measuring surfaces which retreat or go back from the front make them appear too long.

These objections are met by the following procedure: The 30° angle of isometric has been retained as a feature, and the volumetric casing of rectilinear objects is drawn as is the cube of Figure 8. All heights may be measured directly on vertical lines wherever they may occur and in the appropriate scale, as will be developed in this chapter.

Shortening all retreating surfaces to simulate their actual appearances, or foreshortening, brings us to the use of a new drawing instrument, the foreshortening triangle.

The Foreshortening Triangle

The foreshortening triangle can be made from the tip of an old 3o°-6o° triangle by sawing and filing and finally finishing with sandpaper. The full-size drawing of this triangle is shown in Figure 7a, and is exactly the size with which the drawings in this book were made. A heavy sheet of celluloid

MoDinco Isometric Volumes terminology amd method of measuring volumes•

FIG- Z. ISOMETRIC VI CW EVOLVED FROM ORTHOGRAPHIC PROJECTION •

^ACTUAL MEASUREriENT5 I OH EDGES

FIG- Z. ISOMETRIC VI CW EVOLVED FROM ORTHOGRAPHIC PROJECTION •

^ACTUAL MEASUREriENT5 I OH EDGES

On

FIG« ©• LINE \-ACTUAL±OCPTHSM FIGMO THE MEARE5T

ISOMETRIC MEASURE.' FIG* MODIFIED VERTICAL EDGE ESTAB-

ISOMETRIC MEASURE * L16HES THE SCALE AMD

UNIT OF MEASURE*

NOTE: IN ISOMETRIC PROJECTION VERTICAL EDGES AS (X* FIG* © ARE SHORTER THAN ACTUAL MEASURE ,WHILE IN MODIFIED ISOMETRIC, VERTICAL EDGES AND PLANE3 APE CONSIDEPED AS ACTUALLY VERTICAL AMD MAY HAVE HEIGHTS MEASURED DIRECTLY ON ThtEM»

METHOD ONE.

FIG* II. ESTABLISHING-SCALE I UNIT OF MEASURE

METHOD ONE.

FIG* II. ESTABLISHING-SCALE I UNIT OF MEASURE

FIGo 12. ESTABLISH IMO HEIGHT OF VOLUME*

FIG* 13* DRAWING- MEASURING- LINE AND CHECKING WIDTHS*

FIG-H.U6ING THE TORESMORT-ENING TRIANO-LE TO ESTABLISH DEFTH*

FIGo 12. ESTABLISH IMO HEIGHT OF VOLUME*

FIG* 13* DRAWING- MEASURING- LINE AND CHECKING WIDTHS*

dimemsion for working-drawing

FIG-H.U6ING THE TORESMORT-ENING TRIANO-LE TO ESTABLISH DEFTH*

of the approximate thickness of a triangle serves adequately. It is possible to use thick, tough cardboard, as supplied with this book.

In use, the actual depth of the volume is measured on the horizontal line, as in Figure 9, Plate 1. This line is termed the line of measure. The transfer line, made with the long edge of the transfer or foreshortening triangle, carries this distance properly foreshortened to the surface to be measured, and registers the depth of the surface. By studying Plate 1, these points of procedure will be clear, particularly in Figures 8 and 9. Heights are measured as in true isometric. Compare the cubes of Figures 8 and 9 for the improved and more natural appearance of the modified form.

There are still objections and distortions in the method, but in time, the experienced draftsman will make allowance for these; while the type of procedure itself is the simplest and least technical for the purpose of creative design. Moreover, the completed modified isometric sketch is capable of being measured and translated into the working drawing from which the design is constructed.

The designer should have both the 30°, the 6o°, and the foreshortening triangles at hand for immediate use, using the latter only for measuring. If desirable, this triangle may be re-

The Foreshortening inforced with a firmer

Triangle cardboard backing.

Figure 7a.

The Volume and Its Isometric Rendering Method One

To become thoroughly familiar with this new technique, the beginning designer should pursue the step-by-step procedure which follows. Let it be assumed that the dimensions of the volumetric casing are known.

Step j. It is customary to select some scale for the design. Frequently, the scale of one and one-half inches to the foot is serviceable, while larger objects may be reduced to one inch to the foot. Small objects are to be drawn full size. For the coming study of proportioning, the metric system is invaluable as a timesaver and, if one so desires, the scale of one millimeter to equal one centimeter is adequate.

Step 2. For convenience, the nearest vertical edge of the volumetric casing is always drawn first and designated as the unit of measure, Figure 10, Plate 1. Figure 11, Plate 1, establishes this edge drawn to the selected scale with the 30° triangle and T-square, as is the customary practice in instrumental drawing.

Step 3. From the top and base of the unit of measure, extend light lines indefinitely to the right and left with the 30° triangle, thus defining the height of the volume, Figure 12, Plate 1.

Step 4. Draw a horizontal line through the base of the vertical edge or unit of measure of the volumetric casing indefinitely to the left and right. This is the line of measure. From the front corner, where that corner touches the line just drawn, measure the widths or depths of the left and right surfaces, using the scale originally selected. This step completed appears in Figure 13.

Step 5. With the long edge of the foreshortening triangle on the T-square, transfer these true lengths to their foreshortened or apparent lengths by means of the transfer lines, as in Figure 14, Plate 1.

Step 6. Complete the volume, as shown in Figure 14. To avoid interference with the lines of the volume, all transfer lines must be kept light.

The volume now stands complete, with three visible surfaces showing in their approximate relationships and sizes. Spaces and masses readily may be planned within this volume, with an approach to reality and the advantages of this technical approach quickly appreciated.

Step 7. Figure 15 depicts Figure 14 translated into the customary working drawing for shop production, minus, of course, its dimensions.

The Creative Approach to Volume Design Method Two

Designing is a creative process by which we express our feelings, our emotions, regarding art forms. Let us consider some specific problem as, for example, a coffee stand. For creative designing, there must still be established a unit of measure, as so many inches to the foot, large enough to give freedom to our design attempts.

Step /. A slightly different method of handling the unit of measure is preferred by some designers. With T-square and triangle, draw the center edge of the volume which later will enclose the coffee stand, Figure 16, Plate 2. Select some convenient unit of measure for the front edge, as 100 millimeters or one inch to the foot, and measure off on the front vertical edge, as at Figure 16, Plate 2.

Step 2. With the 30° triangle, extend the edges of the volume, as at Figure 17, Plate 2, to the left and right.

Step 3. Check off on these edges what you feel to be the correct and pleasing widths for the sides, keeping the lines free and light.

Step 4. Complete sides and top. Study all planes of the volume; left, right, and top. Do the surfaces seem too nearly alike or monotonous? Do you feel that they could be im-

The Creative Approach to Design method two • step in yolume amd mass planning coffee stand fig. i© . establishing thl unit of measure as imm-icm or j'- i ft. etc. the un it of measure usually 13 a functionally governed dimension

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