Principles of Architectural Detailing by Stephen Emmitt
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Principles of Architectural Detailing by Stephen Emmitt

Preface to Principles of Architectural Detailing by Stephen Emmitt:

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 challenges that we face. Our focus is on the detail – the joint solution – 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 specification and finally 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 components is influenced by conceptual design decisions, while on the other hand the conceptual design will be influenced by the details and means of construction.

So, when developing conceptual designs for the building we should also be working on conceptual designs for the details.

We start with this observation 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 specifically address the detailing of buildings and the detail design process from first principles.

Instead, construction technology 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 sequence 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 first principles.

The result is that both students and practitioners tend to copy the familiar solutions offered in the books, journals and office master files with insufficient thought for the consequences of their actions.

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