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Geometry’s Role in Architecture

Geometry’s Role in Architecture
The Italian Cultural Institute of New York recently hosted an exhibition of the work of 20 students from Rensselaer’s School of Architecture. Called “Reinterpreting the Baroque,” the show featured research conducted by the students while they studied abroad in Rome, Italy, during the fall 2007 semester.

While abroad the students took a studio course that explored how geometry operates in Italian Baroque architecture—an opulent style characterized by irregular shapes and ornamentation, which became popular in the 17th century.

The first phase of the studio employed parametric modeling to reveal how integral geometry was to the conception of these Baroque works. The second phase utilized the generative qualities of these parametric analysis models to speculate on how these principles may inform and become relevant to contemporary design. The models were re-contextualized, under an entirely new set of criteria and parameters in order to generate new effects and performance.

Each project positioned the parametric principles in very different ways, and the results varied greatly, according to Assistant Professor of Architecture Andrew Saunders, who led the studio in collaboration with School of Architecture Rome Program Coordinator Cinzia Abbate.

“Logical and mathematical operations are the language for structuring geometric relationships within computation, and are no doubt the key reason for architects’ piqued interest in mathematics today,” says Saunders.

The exhibit will continue traveling, and is currently headed to Philadelphia and back to Italy for display.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.