I’ve read too many books on writing, but the most succinct and enlightened may be 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick.  Five samples (emphasis original throughout):


Good design solutions are not merely physically interesting but are driven by underlying ideas.  An idea is a specific mental structure by which we organize, understand, and give meaning to external experiences and information.  Without underlying ideas informing their buildings, architects are merely space planners.  Space planning with decoration applied to “dress it up” is not architecture; architecture resides in the DNA of a building, in an embedded sensibility that infuses its whole.

#2 + #3 + #6

A figure is an element or shape placed on a page, canvas, or other background.  Ground [a.k.a. space] is the space of the page. . . . Space is called negative space if it is unshaped after the placement of figures.  It is positive space if it has a shape. . . . We move through negative spaces and dwell in positive spaces.


Suburban buildings are freestanding objects in space.  Urban buildings are often shapers of space.


A tall, bright space will feel taller and brighter if counterpointed by a low-ceilinged, softly lit space.  A monumental or sacred space will feel more significant when placed at the end of a sequence of lesser spaces.  A room with south-facing windows will be more strongly experienced after one passes through a series of north-facing spaces.


Denial and reward can encourage the formulation of a rich experience.  In designing paths of travel, try presenting users a view of their target – a staircase, building entrance, monument, or other element – then momentarily screen it from view as they continue their approach.  Reveal the target a second time from a different angle or with an interesting new detail.  Divert users onto an unexpected path to create additional intrigue or even momentary lostness; then reward them with other interesting experiences or other views of their target.  This additional “work” will make the journey more interesting, the arrival more rewarding.

Every page of 101 is my favorite dark truffle.  I’m afraid to read too much at once.


  1. And I’d just emptied (ignore those 300-odd buy-laters) my Amazon cart. Faced with you fecund bloggy sources of surprising books, I obviously could be saved only by global economic collapse. Oh wait.

    Vell, we’ll be awaiting the triggered poems. People are wider in the winter – I might spin that one myself.

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