due 10/191

Visual Analysis (200 points)

Choosing one miniature building from the list below (pp.4-5), you should write a 2-page analysis
articulating how the physical form of the building conveys its function.


– 2 pages (600-650 words), Times New Roman font, size 12, double space.
– Don’t forget to include your name on the front page.
– DUE on “Canvas/Assignments/Visual Analysis” by 5pm, Friday, October 21. Please send

in Word file, not PDF.
– Late papers will drop one grade per day (i.e. AàA-).
– Plagiarism will not be tolerated.


I. Pre-writing Observation:
All architectural models are exhibited in Gallery 133 at the Art Institute of Chicago. If you
are in Chicago, please make a trip to AIC to take a close observation of the object before
writing. If you are currently not in Chicago, please check the object’s image on the museum’s
website (links are included in the list below) and take a close look at the image before

II. Paper Topic:

Focus your descriptions on the key question: What does the form of a building tell you
about its function? In this visual analysis, you should think carefully about the terms form and
When discussing the form of the building, you should assess these formal features (if it is

– Site/Orientation: Where is the building supposed to be located? How would it
interact with its surroundings?

– Size/Scale: What is the scale of the building?
– Materials: What is it made of (i.e. Brick, stone, glass etc.)? How do the materials fit

– Shape: Does it have foundation, gate, roof, etc.? How many floors does it have?
– Floor plan: What is the spatial organization of building? How are different

spaces/parts connected? How are the columns arranged?
– Structure: What do the structural details (i.e. bracket-sets, parts imitating timber

structures) look like?
– Ornamentation: What are the decorations, patterns, pigments, or carvings on the

You should then consider how these attributes relate to the function of the building. Try to
explore the idea of ‘function’ in these two contexts:

1) Considering the architectural model as a representation of real building, focus on the
practical/programmatic function of the building in ordinary life: What is the use of


the building? How are different parts/spaces of the building functioned, whether
separately or together?

2) Considering the miniature building as a mingqi (burial objects) for tomb uses, focus
on the symbolic function of the miniature building in the funerary context: What
formal features can define the miniature building as mingqi? To what extent are the
features realistic or imaginative? Where would the miniature building object be
placed in the tomb space?

III. Paper Structure:

1) Your paper should have a clear structure with an introduction (opening sentence(s)),
body paragraphs, and a conclusion/summariArchitectural terms
A list of some of the oft-mentioned architectural elements and terms that are likely to come up over
the semester in readings and class, and it will help your writing with the visual analysis paper. Please
look up their definitions and compile a glossary for yourself.

A few references and encyclopedia:
Guo Qinghua, A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture. Mulgrave, Vic.: Images, 2002.
James Stevens Curl, A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2nd edition, Oxford UP,


Visual representation of architecture:

• Layout
• Site plan
• measured drawing
• Floor Plan
• Elevation
• Façade
• cross section
• perspective drawing
• rendering
• vanishing point (as in a perspectival drawing)

Composition and Orientation system:

• parti
• axis
• transversal
• longitudinal
• orthogonal
• hexagonal
• octagonal
• gable side
• roof side

General terms:

• module
• grade
• courtyard complex
• hall

• corridor
• circulation
• massing
• hipped-and-gable roof
• pitched roof (vs flat roof)
• hipped roof
• pyramidal roof
• gable roof
• eave
• cantilever
• arch
• lintel
• portico
• entablature

Timber-frame structure:

• post-and-lintel system
• column-beam-and-strut framework
• column-and-tie-beam framework
• bay (jian, aka structural bay)
• architrave
• tie-beam
• purlin
• column
• pillar
• bracket-sets (dougong)
• brace
• block (dou, as in a bracket-set)
• arm (gong, as in a bracket-set)
• rafter (under the roof)
• strut
• mortise and tenon

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