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Tectonics – An Investigation into the Concept of Visual Balance in Architecture

Concepts of visual balance and stability play a major role in many theories of the visual arts and architecture. It is still one of the cornerstones of architectural aesthetics that buildings are judged intuitively according to visual harmony and stability. For architects, designing the visible form of buildings is usually an intuitive, but sometimes rationally based exercise in arranging shapes and masses into a balanced, yet dynamic whole. These formal design aspects are often identified as architectural tectonics. While the term has been widely used in different ways since classical antiquity, it has remained a somewhat nebulous notion.

This lecture is a systematic attempt towards an understanding of this concept from the viewpoint of perceptual psychology and the study of eye-movements while looking at facades. Using examples from historical and contemporary architecture, the lecture will suggest principles of architectural composition that can be validated through this kind of design research.

Ralf Weber is a Visiting Professor from Germany, where he is a Professor of Spatial Design in Architecture and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Faculty of Architecture, Dresden University of Technology.

He received his Diploma in Architecture at the University of Dresden. Thereafter, he practiced architecture in Stuttgart, Germany in the office of Frei Otto / Rolf Gutbrodt and taught at Stuttgart University before moving to Berkeley, California, where he received a PhD in Design Methodology, Environmental Psychology and Aesthetics. He taught for several years at UC Berkeley before he returned to Dresden after the reunification of Germany, when he was appointed Chair for Spatial Design in Architecture. He has held visiting professorships in Ankara, Kent State, Florence and Potsdam.

In his teaching and research he attempts to build bridges between the disciplines of architecture and design on the one hand and the theories of aesthetics and visual perception on the other. He is the internationally published author of the books: On the Aesthetics of Architecture; Aesthetics and Architectural Composition; and Thema Material as well as numerous articles bridging the fields of architecture, aesthetics and psychology.

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