"Jined" Architecture

To minimize the effects of the harsh New England winters, farmers built their houses and animal shelters as joined or "jined" units.


The practice of "an angled approach" to architecture refers to the relationship of pathway to building. At Katsura villa the avoidance of a direct route from a distance to the destination speaks to the notion that this might deter evil spirits, although, somewhat like the Greek model, a fuller appreciation of multiple facades is gained through this angled approach.


The notion of decay in Japan, on some levels (see also the concept of "sabi") suggests disrespect and therefore offends the spirits. Rather than allowing these Shinto shrines to reflect their deterioration, these buildings, which are associated with agricultural and cultural prosperity through Imperial tradition, have been rebuilt on adjacent sites every twenty years. This has, with hardly an interruption, been continued for almost 1500 years. At the top, old shrines, at the bottom, reconstructed shrines.


Mexcaltitan, Mexico.

Pre Aztec Settlement

Douglas House. 1971

Harbor Springs, MI/Richard Meier, Architect


Thronecrown Chapel, 1979

Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Fay Jones and Associates







The contour line is a graphic technique used to illustrate the topographic qualities of the land.

All points on a given contour line are at the same elevation--at or above (rarely below) sea level, the usual fixed or datum elevation.

Dashed lines indicate existing conditions.

Solid lines represent proposed alterations to existing conditions.

On a concave slope the contours are shown spaced at increasing intervals with the lower contour lines spaced further apart than the higher ones.

Valleys are indicated by contours pointing uphill. In crossing a valley, contour lines run up the valley on one side, turn and cross the stream, and run back the other side.

By convention, contours are labeled on the high side.

Every fifth or tenth contour line should be drawn with a heavy line to simplify reading.

Every contour closes on itself somewhere, either within or beyond the limits of the map. In the latter case, the contours will run to the edge of the page.

A contour that closes on itself within the limits of the drawing is either a summit or a depression.

Depressions and summits are usually indicated by a spot elevation at the lowest point or highest point.

On a convex slope, contours are shown spaced at increasing intervals going up a hill; the higher contours are spaced farther apart than the lower contours.



Contours and Grading


At times, grading to obtain a desired Finish Floor (Fin. Fl.) elevation requires cutting into and filling of surrounding ground planes.

This method of balancing the volume of material cut away with an equal amount filled in is both visually satisfying and economically practical.


Procedures for grading in fill.









The project shown opposite is presented with some requirements. These are listed below:



1. Platform is 25' x 40.'

2. Slope to the north is 3% (33.3:1).

3. Side slopes should be designed at 30% (3:1) grade.

Find N.W. and N.E. Spot Elevations, and regrade area around platform in fill.


  • Determine spot elevations at northwest and northeast corners. slope x distance, 0.03 x 25' = .75'.
  • Subtract .75' from 220' = 219.25' This is corner elevation.
  • To find 219' contour, for 3:1 slope, measure perpendicular distance from 219.25 spot elevation. Since there is a 1' vertical difference for each 3' of horizontal measurement, the 219 contour lies 0.75' from the spot elevation
  • x (horizontal distance from 219.25 to 219.0)/0.25 (elevation difference between 219.25 and 219.0) =3/1 (proposed slope ratio). x = 0.75.'
  • Measure 0.75' from spot elevation and mark point.
  • Repeat procedure for other sides to establish extent and position of 219 contour.
  • Repeat for other contours, determining 1' vertical distance for every three feet measured horizontally.


Either indicate smooth transition to existing grade (as shown) or develop the site with additional structural support, such as retaining walls.

Contours and Water flow


Water moves downward influenced primarily by gravity.

Surface water flows downward perpendicular to contours

Retaining walls are subject to a variety of forces as indicated in the illustration to the right.


Care must be taken to assure that adequate structural integrity is maintained in these constructions, and that any anticipated water build-up is managed through proper draining systems such as weep holes, piping and porous back fill.

Contour Lines at Retaining Walls.


What happens to contour lines at retaining wall?

a. Similar to curbs and stairs, the contour lines again follow along the face of the structure.


b. On construction drawings contour lines are drawn to the edges of the wall. Since these lines are superimposed on the face of the wall, they are not seen.


Spot elevations are required at appropriate points, such as at top of wall (t.w.) and at bottom of the wall (b.w.). These are accurate instructions and control precisely the height of your structures.



The Architecture of Vegetation


Although it is comforting to think that any type of vegetation is possible for any given site, the reality is quite different. Numerous factors,among them soil type and chemical property, moisture availability, and minimum and maximum temperature ranges, restrict the potential for healthy growth of trees, shrubs and ground covers. The following chart indicates the broad zones where generalized minimum temperatures determine appropriate types of plants (zone tolerance usually found in plant manuals) for a given region.

Ecological Planting

Intelligent planting design provides opportunities not only to enhance the visual qualities of architectural form, but also to contribute to beneficial environmental strategies, from limitations on soil erosion to conservation of energy reliant heating and cooling systems. The following image illustrates one manner of careful planting--of evergreen (B.) and decidious (A.) trees and shrubs--to reduce dependence on hvac systems. Prevailing winter winds are presumed to come from the northwest--top left of image.



 Paving Paradise - Parking



Efficient ratios of parking space (and circulation corridors) to paving area are greatest with 90 degree parking configurations, as shown in the upper opposite diagram.














Angled parking, which might be most useful when space limitations do not allow wide areas allocated for cars, is less efficient in establishing ratios of parking space to paved areas.



Shaded areas, right, indicate unused areas necessary to accommodate angled parking. The more acute the angle, the greater the usused area.

A mix of right angle and parallel parking can result in potentially dangerous situations, as a result of limited visibility and untested driving skills exhibited while backing into traffic and parked cars.


Building/Site Relations


Building and site should always try to acknowledge, through cooperative siting, the strengths inherent in each of their individual elements.


On the right are terms associated with the horizontal and vertical siting of an individual building.

The Zoning Envelope, shown at right, describes terms associated with regulations affecting buildings and specific sites.

Green Architecture

The Wind Rose reveals, on a monthly basis, the percentage of time wind is blowing from any of the 16 compass points or was calm. Each notch represents 5% of the time. The number in the center of the circle represents the percentage of time there was no wind.
The solar access boundary determines how tall objects may be before they obstruct the sun.
Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Gelsenkirchen, Site Plan

Gelsenkirchen, Sections, revealing climatic alterations as a result of constructed site conditions.



Floor Area Ratio explained.