Questioning the Primacy of Topology over Geometry: A Configurational Analysis of the Rural Houses (1984-2005) of Glenn Murcutt.

Michael Ostwald


One of the fundamental axioms of the Space Syntax method is that the topology of the plan shapes the geometry of the design. That is, the social relations embedded in the configurational properties of the plan are the catalyst for the programmatic qualities of a design, which in turn influences its form. Over the last four decades a large volume of research has been published in support of this assumption, most of which has been derived from urban studies or the analysis of large buildings. However, several isolated studies of architect-designed houses have suggested that the reverse is potentially true in such cases; that geometry takes precedence over topology. The present paper adopts a variation of the classic Justified Plan Graph (JPG) method to test the relative primacy of geometry and topology in five large houses designed by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. The JPG of each house is analysed and the data derived from this process is then used to construct a series of inequality genotypes. These genotypes are tested against an intimacy-gradient benchmark configuration, against equivalent data for earlier Murcutt houses and finally though comparison with the calculated fractal dimension of each plan. The paper concludes that the data broadly supports the primacy of geometry over topology in these houses, although there are several factors which complicate the result.


Justified Plan Graph; Space Syntax; Fractal Analysis; Glenn Murcutt

Full Text: JOSS_2011_p223-246.pdf