AMNP Reviews: The Function of Form


Farshid Moussavi and ACTAR have released the first follow-up to 2006’s hugely popular The Function of Ornament,

Farshid Moussavi [now formerly of FOA], Harvard’s GSD, and Actar have responded to the widespread success of 2006’s The Function of Ornament – a self-described ” graphic guide to ornaments in the twentieth century” – with a second volume entitled The Function of Form. Over two and a half times the size of The Function of Ornament, in FOF Moussavi sets out to investigate the complex relationship established between form and function in modern / contemporary design – using the book’s introduction to both discuss various perceived historical relationships between form and function, and then to [essentially] argue that the actual relationship between form and function in architecture is in conflict with the dualistic view of modernism in the 20th century.

[Take that, Mies.]


The vast majority of the book is then organized into chapters by material/structural system – with each chapter investigating the variations possible within each system. This is achieved by first identifying the ‘base units’ of the system to be explored, and then tessellating those base units in the horizontal, vertical, and curved directions. For instance, the first chapter looks at grids and frames – establishing the base unit of one-way frames as ‘composed of a rectangular grid of columns supporting a pair of primary, parallel beams along the column lines which in turn support secondary beams that span between them at much closer intervals than the centers of the columns’. This ‘base unit’ is then tessellated in the 3 directions, creating various permutations of the one-way frame – which are further organized by spatial affect.

S.R. Crown Hall at IIT by Mies is the first example given in the book, representing a one-way frame tessellated horizontally – and having the spatial affects of ‘openness, lightness, freedom, horizontality, and specularity’.


The book goes on to investigate hundreds of variations of systems and their base units – providing a unique view of the relationship of form and spatial sensations and affects. FOF takes an in-depth look at the physical and atmospheric affects of each system, investigating the sometimes subtle differences in affects produced. The forms produced by each tessellated base unit are given a 2-page spread, with a simple 3d image meant to convey the spatial affects of the particular system on the left page – and a detailed description of the various components, including plan and axonometric drawings, on the right page.


A must-have for any designer, The Function of Form makes for a tremendous resource as a reference when investigating possible forms/structural systems for a given project – allowing readers to quickly compare spatial quality and affects of various systems, while also providing reasonably in-depth explanations as to how these qualities are achieved by the different systems.


The Function of Form, by Farshid Moussavi – edited with Daniel Lopez, Garrick Ambrose, Ben Fortunato, Ryan Ludwig, and Ahmadreza Schricker
Published by Actar and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Available from for $26.37, here.

::Review copy of The Function of Form provided by Actar::

Posted: December 17th, 2009
at 11:40pm by orangemenace

Tagged with ,

Categories: architecture,books

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  1. […] AMNP reviews The Function of Form, a book by Farshid Moussavi and ACTAR have released the first follow-up to 2006’s hugely popular The Function of Ornament, a must read by any account. […]



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