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The Architecture of


yANYi Leong

The Architecture of


yANYi Leong

“… only in the vacuum lay the truly essential. The reality of a room, for instance, was to be found in the vacant space enclosed by the roof and the walls, not in the roof and walls themselves.” Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea, 1906

Content 1.



Form and Function


Case Study : CCTV Headquarters 2012 / OMA (Rem Koolhas)


Case Study : Simmons Hall 2002 / Steven Holl


Case Study : Chichu Art Museum 2004 / Tado Ando


Case Study : Salk Institute 1965 / Louis Kahn


Last Words



When people talk about architecture, they often only focus on the solid spaces that the building appropriates. However, these solid spaces cannot be defined without the void spaces. A mass is only a mass when it is illustrated by the empty space around it. The use of voids can be seen through the course of history. The Pantheon in Rome was designed with a circular, vertical void of the oculus to emphasize this sense of power of the gods. The Colosseum made use of a series of voids in the façade highlighted by the series of arches. Even many public squares such as the St Peter’s Square is designed as a void through the use of the solid buildings around. Architects all over history design spaces by incorporating voids into them without truly comprehending them. Voids in architecture are categorized into two groups, the visual voids and the perceived voids. Visual voids are negative spaces in solids that you can literally see. These include a range of architectural elements from all scales such as atriums, balconies, foyers, skylight, double volume ceiling, arches, doorways, windows and any form of openings. These voids are easy to picture. The perceived voids, on the other hand, are defined as the spaces that are bounded by these architectural elements. The interior and the exterior spaces of the building are considered a perceived void. As Eisenman explains in ‘Strategies of the Void’, Koolhas defines voids as the “latent force contained between the layers of the solid floors” (Eisenman, 2008). Koolhas, however, only defines the interior perceived voids and failed to draw links to the exterior. The exterior perceived voids is defined by the latent force of the exterior of the building that is bounded by the infinite site that it sits on. 4

Double volumn spaces and attriums are percieved voids.

Skylights are visual voids while the spaces in between floors are percieved voids.

The space bounded by the different floors are percieved voids.

The space bounded by the exterior buildings are percieved voids.

Door and openings are visual voids.

Images by Leong, Y (n.d.).

The space bounded by walls in a room are percieved voids.


Visual and percieved voids appear all through architecture but they are often not linked together but are seperate entities of their own.


Images by Leong, Y (n.d.).

Visual and perceived voids are often considered as two separate entities but in actual fact, they should be designed as one whole. These relief areas are often the spaces that people would occupy and hence retain the most memories of. Unfortunately, they are often disregarded or forgotten. Architects often are too focused on creating the solids that the voids are often just the resultant of the architecture. However, utilizing these voids in design would be able to open possibilities for a design that is pleasing to inhabit. Architecture should be designed through the absence rather than just their solids. While many architects have explored the idea of voids, few are able to tie the idea of perceived and visual voids nicely together. Many choses to focus on either one or the other and label their work as the study of voids. A successful study of voids would be able to make use of the visual voids to bridge the interior and exterior perceived voids and this could only be done through the comprehensive study of the form and function of the building.


Form And Function

The age-old question that architects through history argued over: which should take precedence, form or function? Louis Sullivan first raised this question when he uttered, “form ever follows function. This is the law.” His sentiments have gained him praise and criticism at the same time. While there are some that agree with his statement, the end of the World Wars flipped that idea. Architecture became about the form and the function became secondary. However, does one really have to follow the other? Greg Lynn (1992) in ‘Multiplicitous and Inorganic Bodies’, questions the nature of architecture interiority. He argues that interiority would have to first begin with the proportion of the human body. The understanding of the scale of the interior perceived voids would lead to the creation of functional interior. Lynn failed however, to develop that idea to the exterior of the building as well. A successful architecture is when both the form and function is intertwined rather than just focusing on one.


The function of the building determines the habitability of the building. On the other hand, the form of the building still matters. No matter how much our parents instruct us to not judge the book by its cover, it is inevitable. The look of the architecture would inevitably be our first and last impression of the building. Form and function should walk side by side all the while assisting each other. One should not be able to exist without the other. Each of the visual voids, each door, each window, each courtyard, each high ceiling, should relate directly to both of the interior and exterior perceived voids. The first case study would explore how a visual void is constructed without any thought of the perceived voids creates while the second case study explores how perceived voids are created without care of the visual voids. The last two case studies would demonstrate ways that both perceived and visual voids are carefully constructed.


CAse Study // CCTV HeAdquArters 2012 / OMA (Rem KoolhAs)

Imagebyby Image OMA OMA (2012)

OMA, led by Rem Koolhas designed a new office building for the China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing, 2012. The building is conceived with a large visual void in the middle. The 44-storey skyscraper is a visually stunning architecture that can be viewed from many different part of the city. This building itself is a literal manifestation of the function of the building by mimicking the process of TV making into a single visual effect. The glass structure is held up by a series of trusses that can be seen on the building faรงade. The structure helps breaks the faรงade into segments allowing for a series of framed voids to be conceived. Though the building has a giant void in the middle of it, it is certainly not a manifestation of the design of the void. The empty space that is enclosed by the loop serves no functional purpose. The negative space that was left by the building could have been utilize to increase the floor area of the building and hence, allowing for larger movement in the space and lowered cost and time of production. The visual void was a resultant of the solid spaces and has no coloration with the internal or external perceived space.


CAse Study // Simmons HAll 2002 / Steven Holl

Image by Steven Holl (2002.)

Steven Holl designed Simmons Hall at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002. The conception of this building is based on the idea of a sponge where the students are able to interact with each other. His design incorporates the introduction of natural light and ventilation into the building through a series of large openings and the small square shaped openings on the faรงade of the building. Five large voids cut through the solid building that responds directly to the main entrances, specific view and outdoor terraces. These voids are designed to fit the internal needs of the space by creating open spaces that allow the students to occupy. The exterior grid system would double as the structure of the building, leaving square voids for light to funnel through the building. These grids allows for a special light effect in the dormitories. Though Holl attempted to design the building through the absence, he failed to understand the connection between the perceived and visual voids. The interior perceived space of the building is well designed for optimal behavior of the space; the exterior perceived space of the building is neglected. This resulted in a heavy mass of a building with no connection to the surroundings, causing the overall architecture to be very distant.


CAse Study // Chichu Art Museum 2004 / TAdo Ando

Image by Benesse Art Site Naoshima (2015).

Tado Ando was commissioned to design the Chichu Art Museum in the island of Naoshima, Japan. His museum was designed underground with a series of voids that allowed light into the museum spaces. It almost seems as an impossible task, designing underground yet allowing natural light to light up the museum space. However, Ando manages to design the museum through the realization that galleries and museums are void spaces that display the specific work. Hence, the design of his museum is conceived through the idea moving through a series of voids. Each room was designed with the specific exhibit in mind. Instead of creating a building on top of the terrain or clearing the terrain in general, Ando manages to made use of it to his advantage, allowing the exterior to influence how he design and position the rooms internally. In turn, the cut outs of each room is determined through looking at the specific functions of the room. By doing so, he manages to find the balance between the amount of natural light that is able to enter the space and the amount of distractions that these opening would cause. Ando designs the entire building through designing each visual void with direct relation to both the internal and external perceived voids.


CAse Study // SALk institute 1965 / Louis KAhn

Image by Liao, Y (n.d.).

The Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, United States of America, was design through the collaboration of Architect, Louis Kahn and the founder, Jonas Salk; both being of Russian Jewish decent in America. The 11-hector campus consists of two symmetrical building that is divided by an open plaza with a strip of water running down the middle reflecting the two sides. Kahn modeled his plan after other “intellectual retreats� such as monasteries and manages to conceive a plan that is both monumental and tranquil. The two reflective building was done through the design of the open space. The voided area in between the two buildings was a deliberate attempt to capture the vast tranquility of the site and reflecting it back into the design of the building. The strip of water in the middle further accentuate the vastness in the design, reflecting the sky above and hence bring focus to the large void in the vertical axis. Kahn made use of the external site and landscape to reflect the same notion into the empty plaza that he created. He manages to central his design around the visual void and making use of the perceived voids to reflect the similar ideas into the grand design.


LAst Words

Koolhas and Holl both designed their buildings through the use of visual voids; Koolhas focuses on the external form while Holl’s focus was on the internal functions. However, they both fail to comprehend the notion of perceived voids. This connection between the visual and perceived can be seen through Ando and Kahn’s buildings. Both Ando and Kahn manage to design the absence in their architecture through the justification of both the form and function. This is important as both the exterior and interior function and its associated visual would eventually affect how inhabitable the actual architecture is. Architecture is designed for human habitation, it is important for architects to be able to deliver it. Architecture is more than the design of solids. As voids are defined by the solids; the solid, likewise, are defined by the voids. The empty spaces that the solids occupy is more important then the mass of the building itself. It is these empty spaces that humans interact with and hence, would form impressions of. The design of the voids should not be secondary to the solid mass but rather architecture should be designed through the spaces that are bounded by them. Understanding perceived and visual voids would help assist in architectural design. The visual voids should placed strategically through the analysis of the perceived voids and it should be used as a tool to bridge the two perceived voids that it is bounded by. An effective architecture design is one that is able to combine these relationships of voids and unify them through the absence.  


Bibliography Adrian, H. (2016) The void architecture - more than just emptiness. Available at: https:// (Accessed: 26 September 2016). ArchDaily (2012) CCTV headquarters / OMA. Available at: http://www.archdaily. com/236175/cctv-headquarters-oma (Accessed: 30 September 2016). Dale (2013) The beneath the earth art of Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2016). Benesse Art Site Naoshima. (2015) Benesse Art Site Naoshima, photograph. Available at: (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Eisenman, P. (2008) ‘Strategies of the Void’, in Lourie, A. (ed.) Ten Canonical buildings: 1950-2000. New York: Rizzoli International Publications. Holl, S. (2002) MIT Simmons Hall, photograph. Available at: projects/mit-simmons-hall?&status=built. (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Holl, S. (2007) Urbanisms: Working with doubt. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, New York. Kuloğlu, N. and Şamlıoğlu, T. (2012) ‘Perceptual and visual void on the architectural form: Transparency and Permeability’,, 1(2), pp. 131–137. doi: 10.5618/ arch.2012.v1.n2.4. Leong, Y. (n.d.) Multiple, personal photograph. Liao, Y. (n.d.) Salk Institude / Louis Kahn, photograph. Available at: http://www.archdaily. com/61288/ad-classics-salk-institute-louis-kahn/5037df8528ba0d599b000124-ad-classicssalk-institute-louis-kahn-photo. (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Lynn, G. (1992) ‘Multiplicitous and Inorganic Bodies,’ Assemblage no. 19. Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States: The MIT Press. Pp 33-49. Mollard, M. and Curtis, W.J. (2012) Louis Kahn: The space of ideas. Available at: https:// article (Accessed: 26 September 2016). OMA. (2012) CCTV - Headquaters, photograph. Available at: cctv-headquarters. (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Perez, A. (2010a) AD classics: Salk institute / Louis Kahn. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2016). Perez, A. (2010b) Simmons hall at MIT/ Steven Holl. Available at: http://www.archdaily. com/65172/simmons-hall-at-mit-steven-holl (Accessed: 30 September 2016). Samlioglu, T. (2016) ‘The concept of void as spatial effects’. Sullivan, L.H. (1896) ‘The tall office building artistically considered’.


The Architecture of Non Architecture Š 2016 by Yan Yi Leong. All Rights Reserved. This manifesto is written for an assignment in the Master of Architecture course in the University of Melbourne. It is an examination and expression of the author’s own beliefs and values towards architecture and design. The information contained within this manifesto is strictly for educational purposes. If you wish to apply ideas contained in this manifesto, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

Special thanks to my parents, Cheryl Chua & Leong Kin Weng, who gave me more than everything that I can ever wish for. Toby Horrocks and Dr AnnMarrie Brennan of The University of Melbourne, who guided and taught me about 21st Century Architcture.

And a special mention to Kaldi the Ethiopian Goatherd and his dancing goats for the discovery of the coffee plant and invention of coffee. & Ninkasi, the ancient patron goddess of brewing, for the first brewed beer.

The Architecture of Non Architecture  

Form and function has to go hand in hand rather than one following the other. This can be done through the designing of voids, both visual a...

The Architecture of Non Architecture  

Form and function has to go hand in hand rather than one following the other. This can be done through the designing of voids, both visual a...