Niezabitowski, Andrzej M. "Architectonics: A System of Exploring Architectural Forms in Spatial Categories," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 3, issue 2 (2009).
Comparative researches based on visual analyses of different architectural objects enable separation of the small number of basic recurrent units defining spatial aspects of architectural form independently of when and in which cultural circle the object was created. These basic units of spatial structure can be termed spatial universals. Using them in accordance with some basic and universal rules of assembling into larger wholes makes possible creating any spatial objects as well as transforming them into different ones. At the same time words of natural languages contained in dictionaries give us important clues how people think about space. Another important clues are included in some recent theories of perception. All these findings taken together have been the basis to create the system of notions and terms regarding space in architecture. It is founded on basic and universal spatial elements (units) and rules of their composing into larger wholes. The paper is the trial of presenting such a notional system which was termed architectonics (or morphotectonics). Basic notions enabling description and analysis of spatial structure of any architectural object have been introduced. Fundamental spatial units have been also distinguished based on the principle of hierarchical structure – from elementary ones, through more and more complex up to largest ones playing decisive role in defining the whole architectural object. Basic spatial morphological features called also cardinal ones have been differentiated. Primary kinds of articulation have been discussed dealing with the empty space (internal or external), line, surface and volume and their elementary units had been distinguished. Besides morphological features characterizing composing elements the rules of their assembling have been specified, which have been termed syntax or relational features, characterizing spatial wholes composed of elements. Both morphological and syntax features may be treated quantitatively or measured by means of introduced coefficients. The presented system of notions as well as the quantitative approach should enable objective description and analysis of the built environment which is the necessary condition of research dealing with relations between man and his behavior and the environment, if these researches have to fulfill such elementary scientific criteria as repeatability, verifiability, internal and external validity and inter-subjective communication. The presented methodological proposal is addressed in particular to research on perception and cognition of the built environment and people’s reactions to it, such as evaluations, associations and emotions. It could be also useful in historical research carried both in comparative and systematic perspective, as well as in environmental aesthetics where comparing the new object with existing surrounding is of crucial importance. For the reason of limited place the paper is restricted only to presenting the system itself, while applications should be the subject of different publications.