ARS 285 Intro to Architecture: Language and Craft

Department:  Studio Art
Faculty:  James Middlebrook

Spring 2009 & 2011

The Botanic Garden portion of this course relates form and function in architecture and biology by using plants as inspiration for assignments.

The components of the Botanic Garden project include photography or sketching to visually observe a plant; abstraction in two and three dimensions; constructing a spatial composition within limits; examination of skin/surface and structure by drawing, computer modeling, or physical modeling; and production of abstract diagrams to analyze formal systems and show organizational principles, enclosure, structure, and solids/voids.

These steps lead to the design of a Flower Pavilion (hypothetically sited on the Smith College campus) that requires development of spatial language derived from the Flower Analysis.

Class exercises are supplemented by a lecture from Botanic Garden director Michael Marcotrigiano on the relationship of form and function in plants.

Student projects exhibit


The formal properties of plants facilitated discussion of design aesthetics beyond traditional discussions of Architecture and its associated classical organization principles, such as symmetry, axis, hierarchy, datum, and proportion. 


James Middlebrook