The architectural detail

Dictionaries define “detail” as a small part in relation to a larger whole. In architecture this definition is contradictory, if not meaningless. . . . However it is possible to observe that any architectural element defined as a detail is always a joint. Details can be “material joints,” as in the case of a capital, which is the connection between a column shaft and an architrave, or they can be “formal joints,” as in the case of a porch, which is the connection between an interior and an exterior space. Details are then a direct result of the multifold reality of functions in architecture. They are the mediate or immediate expressions of structure and the use of buildings.

Marco Frascari

The following are photos of student works exploring the detail with corrugated cardboard.

“Perceptions are the ideas or sign of objects resulting from an interpretation of sensations that is carried out by process of unconscious geometrical inference. The placing of details has a key role in these processes of inference. The visual sensations guided by the tactile sensations are the generator of the geometrical propositions. In architecture, feeling a handrail, walking up steps or between walls, turning a corner, and noting the sitting of a beam in a wall, are coordinated elements of visual and tactile sensations. The location of those details gives birth to conventions that tie meaning to a perception. The conception of the architectural space achieved in this way is the result of the association of the visual images of the details, gained through the phenomenon of indirect vision, with the geometrical proposition embodied in forms, dimensions, and location, developed by touching and by walking through buildings.”

Marco Frascari, “The Tell-the-Tale Detail”, VIA 7: The Building of Architecture (1984): 23-37.