Course Syllabus

The Architectonics of Music

Time - Scale


Art, and, above all, music, has a fundamental function […] to draw [one] towards a total exaltation

in which the individual mingles, losing his consciousness in a truth immediate, rare, enormous, and perfect.

If a work of art succeeds in this undertaking, even for a single moment, it attains its goal.

Iannis Xenakis, Formalized Music


The fusion of structure and light in Gothic architecture left us with genuine constructions of spirit and spatial energy. With music at the heart of its spaces, sculpture and painting were integral to the art of architecture. In an ultramodern way we could aim today for the fusion of structure and light. Architecture of inspired rhythm, counterpoint and scale analogous to certain works of modern music could strive for a synthesis of the arts. As music has an interior concept but no facades, we focus on the interior space, the quality of the spatial overlap, the potential of genuine structure fused with the power of natural daylight.

In this studio we will experiment with ideas of how canonical scales and the concept of time can be rethought, like composer Iannis Xenakis* constructed new and elaborate scales for his music. Some Architecture/Music aspects to consider:

  • Frequency, duration, interval
  • Time/ Movement sequence
  • Instrument / Technique
  • Material resonance/ resistance
  • Human scale/ macroscale
  • Light/ Shadow, Solid/ Void


Part 1. Music /Architecture

The initial studies of our studio will be in models of materials aimed at capturing spatial energy of daylight merged with structure. In this 6 week exercise, until Midterm, students are challenged to make a 16"x16"x32” physical model according to a piece of music by composer Iannis Xenakis. Each fragment of music serves as the experimental conceptual departure for a linear field. Working in teams of two (2) the aim is a proposal consisting of six (6) compositions sprung along the new Patras waterfront promenade.


Part 2. Patras, Greece

We focus this studio in Patras, Greece at a time when the country of the origin of Democracy has economic suffering as well as international migration stress. Patra, the third largest city in Greece, is located on the northern side of Peloponnese and its port is considered the gateway of Greece to Europe.

The hypothesis for the project is a patron, like the Stavros Niarchos foundation, intends to build a cultural compels focused on music and art along the waterfront of Patras. Our imagined patron pledges €650 million to activate the Patra’s waterfront with a series of cultural buildings positioned between the marina and the harbor-side, including a 800seat concert hall, a 500seat experimental music hall and a 1200seat amphitheater which can accommodate opera, Greek tragic drama, full orchestral concerts etc. With the sea as backdrop along this waterfront promenade will also be located galleries for contemporary art (2 @500m2) and spaces for sculpture (1000m2) as well as cafes and restaurants (3 @500m2).

The students will visit the site during the Kinne trip in Greece. The final review presentation will include a two minute video showing the interrelations between music, space & movement in time.


*Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) was an engineer by training, working as an architect for Le Corbusier from 1947-1959. He rejected conventional techniques of composition, inventing and constructing according to the laws of physical sciences.



Reading List

1) Stravinsky, Igor. Poetics of Music, in the Form of Six Lessons. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, fourteenth printing, 2000.
2) Treib, Marc. Space Calculated in Seconds. Princeton University Press, 1996.
3) Griffiths, Paul. Modern Music: The Avant Garde Since 1945. George Braziller, 1981.
4) Griffiths, Paul. Modern Music: A Concise History. Thames & Hudson, 1994.
5) Toshiko, Mori. Immaterial/Ultramaterial. George Braziller, 2002.
6) Books in any edition by Merleau Ponty a) Phenomenology of Perception b) The Visible and the Invisible c) The Eye and the Mind. (These should all be available via Northwestern University Press).
7) Holl, Steven. Parallax, Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.
8) Holl, Steven. Scale, Lars Miller, 2011.
9) Safont‐tria, Jordi; Kwinter, Sanford; Holl, Steven. Steven Holl ‐ Color, Light, Time. Lars Miller, 2012.
10) Xenakis, Iannis. Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (Harmonologia Series, No 6). Pendragon Press, 1992.
11) Xenakis, Iannis. Music and Architecture, trans. by Kanach, Sharon. New York: Pendragon Press, 2008.
12) Cage, John. Silence. Wesleyan, 1st edition, 1961.



Architecture is teamwork. Students will work in teams of 2.

The studio will hold desk crits on Mondays and joint studio pin ups every Thursday 1:30 – 6:30pm

Midterm review: Thursday, March 2 2017

Final review: Monday, May 1 2017


Course Summary:

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