Architecture Design Basics︎︎︎
What is form? 

Form can be described as a reference to both the internal structure and external outline, often in the shape of a three dimensional mass or volume.
Some of the characteristics of form include:

Shape – the outline of the form
Size – the dimensions of the form, proportions and scale
Colour – the colour of the form will affect its visual weight
Texture – the texture of a form will affect how light is reflected or absorbed
Position – where the form is located in relation to its environment
Orientation – the position of the form in relation to the ground, compass points or the person viewing the form

Primary elements

The primary elements of form are points, lines, planes and volumes – each one growing from the other. A point is a position in space, a line is the extension of a point. A surface or plan, is the extension of a line. A volume is a plane extended.

Transformation of form

Many variations of a form can be generated from the primary solids, by manipulating dimensions of the solids, or adding or subtracting elements.

The following sketches show:
  • Examples of how a cube can be transformed by altering its dimensions
  • Examples of how a cube can be transformed by subtracting portions of its volume.
  • Example of how a cube can be transformed with the addition of elements to its volume.

Subtractive and additive forms

Subtractive forms will have portions removed from its volume, but they often retain their identity until the profile is drastically altered.

Additive forms are produced by relating or attaching one or more subordinate forms to its volume. This can be broken down into different types of contact.

Spatial tension – where the forms are within close proximity to one another

Edge to Edge – where the forms are sharing a common edge

Face to Face – where the forms have corresponding surfaces which are parallel to one another

Interlocking – where the forms are inter connected to one another

Additive forms often grow and merge with other forms, creating relationships that can be categorised as below:


Centralised forms are often freestanding, and isolated within their context.


A linear form is often a response to a topography or site context. They tend to demonstrate a selection of forms along a line.


A radial form features a centrally located core with linear forms extending outwards from the centre. Radial forms can create a network of centres linked by the linear forms.


A clustered form tends to be a collection of varying forms. They are often based on a more functional requirement, and tend not to be regular or formal. A clustered form can be interlocking, face to face, or edge to edge amongst others.


A grid form demonstrates a form that is focused on a grid layout. These forms tend to be considered in third dimension and are of a modular framework.

Collisions of geometry

There are often occasions where two geometries will collide to create a new composite form. This may occur in many circumstances:

  • To suit the functional requirements of the internal space
  • To display a symbolic importance
  • To direct a space toward or away from a specific site context feature
  • To create a volume of space within an existing form
  • To demonstrate the nature of the structure
  • To create a symmetry in the building
  • To respond to site context or topography
  • To respond to an existing path or movement through the site

Architecture Design Basics

Welcome to mapping collaboration, a toolbox for workshopping and creating across disciplines...

In spite of a long history of interdisciplinary creation, from our earliest recorded arts to our present moment, artistic pedagogy has created divisions between disciplines. This has left artists in a "post-Babel" condition where we don't share the same language and definitions. It’s also encouraged artists to develop practices for devising, creating and composing work that are distinct to their disciplines.

The inspiration for this project came from faculty and students at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts where BFA, MFA and PhD programs in Dance, Theatre Production and Design, Visual Art, Film, and Music and Sound all work together in studio settings and playfully experiment with processes of art-making.

We wanted to create a database of projects, assignments and theory that we collect inside the studio and from research happening in other places. We are curious about how we collaborate and how structures reoccur, translate and deviate from one discipline to another.

Composition is central to these processes and offers a base for our approaches and experiments. We are excited about what our students are doing and inspired by the new languages in contemporary art and performance we continue to see develop.

︎︎︎select a category above to build assignments, learn more about how artists process ideas across disciplines and to create a collaborative process of your own

︎︎︎these tools are collected and used in workshops and classes; some are resources from artists; some are quotes about art-making and how bodies think and listen; others are ideas to expand and disrupt your own training and processes.  

︎︎︎Each idea is intentially short- and not meant to be executed as written, but to be adapted to your own practice and specific project/context. Some may be taken in parts or combined with others to spark new ways of training and making together.

︎︎︎submit your own ideas and tools so we can keep building this site!