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Principles of Architectural Detailing By Stephen Emmitt, John Olie and Peter Schmi

Principles of Architectural Detailing By Stephen Emmitt, John Olie and Peter Schmi

Principles of Architectural Detailing By Stephen Emmitt, John Olie and Peter Schmi


This is a book about architectural detailing from the level of the conceptual design through to the physical realisation of
design intent during construction. 
It addresses the creative act of making buildings and introduces concepts and models that we can use to achieve and retain creativity in architecture.
It is a product of our collective endeavours as architects and
academics striving for a better response to the ecological chal-
lenges that we face. Our focus is on the detail – the joint solu-
tion – although we have also emphasised the importance of the
detail within the overall building design. This is because the act
of design is not sequential in the sense of making a conceptual
design for the whole building, then the details, then the speci-
fi cation and fi nally its construction. It is an iterative process in
which abstract concepts are developed, tested and redeveloped
continually with the aim of producing a set of information from
which the building can be constructed. On the one hand the
choice of structural systems, services, materials and compo-
nents is infl uenced by conceptual design decisions, while on
the other hand the conceptual design will be infl uenced by the
details and means of construction. So, when developing con-
ceptual designs for the building we should also be working on
conceptual designs for the details. We start with this observa-
tion because the conceptual thinking at the level of the detail is
vital to the successful construction, maintenance and eventual
disassembly of the building and should be included in the early
design iterations. This is especially true when using a whole-life
approach to our built environment.
There are, to the best of our knowledge, very few books that
specifi cally address the detailing of buildings and the detail de-
sign process from fi rst principles. Instead, construction technol-
ogy books illustrate typical details, providing familiar solutions
to common problems, with little explanation as to why they are
composed as they are and without much guidance as to the se-
quence of assembly. Likewise, literature on sustainability tends
not to deal with construction details and it is also rather rare for
architects to talk about their approach to the materialisation of
their designs. As such there is little guidance available to the
student of architectural design to help in the development of
details from fi rst principles. The result is that both students and
practitioners tend to copy the familiar solutions offered in the
books, journals and offi ce master fi les with insuffi cient thought
for the consequences of their actions.
With greater awareness of ecological matters and the en-
vironmental impact of buildings on both our health and our
planet, we face a challenging future. We can only guess at fu-
ture climate change and its effects, perceived or otherwise, on
our approach to building design, construction, use and reuse.
What we do know, however, is that tried and tested approaches
to construction may well be inappropriate. It is with this in
mind that we have written this book, a modest attempt at en-
couraging a more ecological approach to architectural detailing
from fi rst principles. Our goal was simple – to write a concise
book that would help students and practitioners to understand
the underlying factors and principles of architectural detailing
and the research still required. The contents are deliberately
generic so as to appeal to detailers wherever they happen to
work, supported by practical examples, checklists and graphics.
Likewise, the principles outlined and illustrated are designed
to be of equal value to those working with new build, refurbish-
ment and alteration works. Although our book is intended as an
introduction to architectural detailing, we have assumed that
readers already have a little knowledge of design and construc-
tion. To aid clarity we have kept references out of the text; in-
stead we offer some recommended reading in the appendices.
We hope that the book will inform, stimulate, encourage and
assist those charged with designing and detailing buildings,
leading to an exciting and invigorating environment that re-
spects our health and enriches our planet.


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