Exercise 3 / project: the contrivances_Omar Alameddine

Vitruvius mentions in Book X of The Ten Books On Architecture, that the astronomical bodies are connected by a mechanism of revolution which rests on the circular geometry as its trajectory. So the items that govern our lives on earth are bound by a geometry which could be imitated and used for human convenience. Vitruvius explains the components of such a contraption emphasizing two main elements: the circle and the line. Combined together, these elements form a machine or an engine which facilitates different tasks such as hoisting materials for construction. Other items stem from this technological advance such as military machines: The Ballistae, The Catapult, and other siege weapons.

The interest on the circular form is not unwarranted. A few experiments with different forms as the backdrops of a rotary machine has led to the realization that the circle is probably the ideal form by which one uniform force can be transformed into another uniform force with the same magnitude but a different direction. The illustrations below show three different geometries which were the subject of this experiment. The result for the square background was an interruption of movement focused around the edges of the square. The result for the elliptical background was an interruption of movement focused around the far ends of the ellipse. The circular background returned an uninterrupted motion.

vitruvius 2 [Converted]

vitruvius 1 [Converted]

vitruvius 3 [Converted]




A prominent figure in the history of Renaissance Art, Leonardo Da Vinci, has displayed an interest in the potential of the machine. Several designs of rotary machines figure in his sketches. The book entitled Leonardo’s Machines: Secrets and Inventions in the Da Vinci Codices reveals many of Da Vinci’s sketches which focused on different functional machinery. His sketches would often describe the different elements of the composition along with the means to assemble them.

An interesting aspect of Da Vinci’s design is that he uses the circle oriented in one direction to manipulate another circle in another direction. For this exercise, I will address the different possibilities generated by this change of orientation to produce a machine not as a tool for production rather a product in itself. Buildings are characterized with having a specific program. By using a mechanical process such as those described in both Vitruvius’ writings and Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches; is there a way to manipulate the program of a building; or at least its envelope?.

The Facade that has been developed using this mechanical system introduces an architecture that actually announces its activity. If the pattern is opened up, that would mean that the space behind it is active; if the pattern is closed off, that would mean that the space is currently inactive. In this modern age, architects have been aspiring to create architecture that would reveal its function. A government building has a typology that is different from that of a residential building. To push the boundaries of that definition to the point where the architecture would reveal if the space is occupied or not is a breakthrough. Also, when the facade is opened up, it allows light to shine through the openings and creates a patterned shadow on the ground which would move as the day passes.



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