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Unit to Whole : Architectural Design concept
Unit to Whole : Architectural Design concept / Idea 

This concept is generally used in buildings which are designed as minimal monolithic forms. The most direct relationship between a unit and the whole occurs when the two are the same entity-when the unit is equal to the whole. For example, Cheop's pyramid comprised enormous quantities of stone blocks and claddlng pieces. Yet, the dominant perception of this building ts that of an identifiable entity.

1. Units equals to whole 
Direct relationship  between a unit and the whole. for example Pyramid of Cheops , Rufer house - adolf loos , house at weissenhof - le corbusier etc. 

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2. Units contained in whole : 
In the relationship of units contained in the whole, the units are structural components, use-spaces, or blocks of use-spaces. The whole is the dominant image, with the units not expressed on the exterior. For example Christ
Church - Nicholas Hawksmoo,  Auditorium building-Louis sullivan , San Spirito - Filippo Brunelleschi etc.

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3. Whole greater than sum of units
In this relationship, the whole incorporate more built form than that ascribed to the identified units.  for example Musgum Village , Assembly Building Chandigarh - Le Corbusier

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4. Units can be adjoining : 
The most prevalent form of unit to whole relationship is the aggregation of units to create the whole. To aggregate units is to put the units In proximity with each other such that some relationship is perceived to exist. 
for example Florey Building -James Stirling, Unity Temple- Frank Llyod Wright
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Front Desk Architects
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Units Overlap

Units overlap to form a whole through volumetric interpenetration. for example  In the Yale Architecture Building, a series of overlapping trays define interior space. and rotate set of forms overlaps in Salisbury School - Hardy holzman Pfeiffer. 

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Units Separate : 

Units may be separate and at the same time related to other units to form a whole. Separation can occur through physical isolation or through the articulation of the connection between the units such that the units are perceived to be separate.

Units which are related to other units can be separated through isolation or articulation of the connection to create perceived separation for example in Olympic arena - Kenzo tange the units are separated
by glass, a defined circulation element, and an atrium space. Glass is used to create perceptual separation and in Marina bay sands - Moshe Safdie separated form is shared common roof at top.

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Units can be overlapping : 
Since architecture is a three-dimensional phenomenon, the overlap-of units in the volumetric realm is by interpenetration For this to happen the units are identified as entities that partially share form or space with other units. The portion of the overlap is seen as part of each unit and at the same  time common to both.

Units can be contained 
To distinguish this relationship from units adjoined to form a whole, the building as a whole is the dominant expression with the units contained and not expressed. Embodied in this relationship is the concept of a building as a wrapper or container for units which  are usually spatial or structural volumes

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Manish Jain Luhadia 
B.Arch (hons.), M.Plan
Tel: +91 141 2743536 


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