Form Beyond Useful Purpose

(Welcome!  This is the 5th post in the “Crafting Places” series, which began on October 4, 2010, with a “Preface”, accessible on-line at  All published posts in the series can be accessed through the “Urban Design” sub-page “Crafting Places” of this “RenaissanceRules” site.)

Antecedents and Contemporary Studies

C.    Rob Krier’s “Form Beyond Useful Purpose”

Rob Krier’s “10 Theses on Architecture”, formulated by 1982, include timeless comprehension of how man’s efforts can bring a sense of place to cities – always including the buildings, the spaces that inhabit them, and the human activity that enlivens them – and always moving beyond “function only” (Krier, Rob, On Architecture, Academy Editions, London, 1982). 

"It Seemed Like a Good Idea, Sir"  (c)2008 Randy D. Bosch

"It Seemed Like a Good Idea, Sir" (c)2008 Randy D. Bosch

“These principles have applied since man began to plan his buildings rationally and see architecture as an aesthetic product, that is, giving his building form beyond its useful purpose.”  Rob Krier




Those of his ten theses most applicable to Crafting Place are paraphrased as follows (refer to the book for his original text and substantive examples for application):

  1. Function, Construction, Form: Of equal value, not prioritized; the three together determine architecture.
  2. Function and Construction: Useful elements to be correctly used in every planning and building project.  “Only when raised to an aesthetic level does a building become architecture”.
  3. Means of Aesthetic Sublimation: Proportion, Structure, Materials use, Color “and the  artistic interpretation of these”.
  4. Aesthetic Dimension: The deeper significance of beauty in architecture is man’s need to impart a poetic dimension to useful objects on the scale of city planning and building projects, in order to communicate the ‘spirit’ of the age to future users.  
  5. Geometry: “Architecture IS organized geometry”, its contrast with living nature, not an “adjustment to nature, gives it value as a creation of man.
  6. Scale in architecture is related to human body size and behavior, perception and sensitivity patterns, NOT to technical or structural principles or only economics.
  7. Urban Architecture: Any new work must “fit into the general order and offer a formal response to existing spatial patterns”.
  8. The City as a Whole was forgotten in the 20th-century, in “favor” of collections of individual buildings.  All of urban history show that “the complex structures of streets and squares are necessary communication zones and centers of identity”.  Cities in any age need traditional concepts of urban planning.
  9. History: “Proper appreciation of historical heritage filters experience of the past to the advantage of planning for the future”.
  10. Responsibility of the Architect: The Architect alone is responsible …”.  Good luck getting the developer or Planning Commission to take the rap for poor, dysfunctional, uneconomical, unsafe, or unaesthetic urban design and architecture!

Does your City and its buildings have GOOD “form beyond useful purpose”?  Perhaps it did, at least a little bit, in the past, and some newer work may be given that assessment.  Perhaps, as citizens and as community leaders, it is time to acknowledge and share the responsibility for creating a sense of place that will be an attribute now and in the future.  Together, agree and act to

Create a “sense of place”


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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