Architectural massing is a design process that helps in achieving a unified and coherent architectural configuration by acts of composing and manipulating various three-dimensional forms. Used by designers in the initial ideation and conception stage, it helps them visualize the project and understand the inter-relation of the building with its surroundings. Massing can affect the experience of a space, defining both its interiors and the exterior form of the building. The alteration of massing could be both additive (repeating or accumulating masses) or subtractive (creating voids or spaces within a mass by removing parts from it).  Representation of the various steps in this process becomes important as it needs to effectively communicate the idea. 

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Importance of Architectural Massing

Architectural massing is a method of design development where we understand the relationship between both the building with its surrounding context as well as the building with its subparts. It is a process through which the designer defines the identity of the project as well as its impact within the urban environment. From the exterior, an interesting façade with a well-defined composition of solids and void masses is more appealing than a plain surface. It creates the most impact especially from a distance; the architectural details, then, serve to re-emphasize the massing. The choice and play of materials can significantly alter this as transparent or layered materials can be perceived differently from a distance. The design development of the project continues with further detailing of these masses. 

Methods of Representation 

There are various methods of representation in architectural massing, each of which emphasizes the study it was used for and reveals certain factors of the building. Massing diagrams and models are the most common methods of representation. There is often a certain overlap between the concept stage and the massing process, which sometimes results in the concept models being similar to the massing models. Massing models have the advantage of being 3D; it gives a feel for the solids and voids with respect to each mass and the overall concept. Massing diagrams however hold the advantage of being quick to sketch over to develop more details and define the building. Each designer has their own favourite and preferred way of developing their designs; some tend to think better when physically handling each block within the model to come up with a good composition, while others prefer sketching and doodling to develop the idea.

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Strategic use of Representation

Different methods of representation can be used to portray different studies through massing. The relationship between the building and its immediate context is one of the few studies that use massing as a tool of representation – the overall building height and form with respect to the surrounding buildings, how much it blends within the locality, how much it stands out as a unique building, how it interacts with the backyard waterbody or the opposite park. A massing model of the building with its surroundings, gives a basic understanding of the overall context and its effect on them. 

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A play of solid and void within the building itself can transform a generic form into an interesting and efficient building. Creating green spaces within the masses can be a step towards being eco-friendly while breaking up the continuous block. Formation of green terraces by reducing the floor plate of the higher floors helps in reducing heat gain within the structure and the overall visual weight of the building. Providing for fresh air in the open or semi-open spaces on the upper levels, it also adds a sense of colour with the shades of green. Vertical gardens are another solution to the inclusion of green in the building and to effectively breaking the heavy mass.

Breaking continuous volumes by insertion of ‘green’ spaces 

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Sciographic analysis can be understood with the use of massing sketches or models. This is mainly the effects of shadows due to the floor plate massing or specific overhangs. The shaded courtyards become more pleasant than open spaces which are usually under the direct scorching sunlight – these spaces then become functionally active spill out areas, reducing heat gain of the site. Exterior projections help in creating shadows of various sizes and shapes, and these in turn form varying patterns through the day as the sun changes its position. The ratio of solids and voids helps determine the overall composition of the building while maintaining the flow of light into the building. It also creates a visual depth and interesting play of volumes.

Sciographic analysis through massing study 

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Every building has different zones which determine the varying levels of a particular trait – programmatic or functional, areas of restricted access, sound, etc. To effectively determine the circulation routes of the many users of the building, proper zoning is done within each of these traits to match the correct combination of overlapping zones. Different massing models/ sketches can help visualize and decode these requirements efficiently. Design development can also be traced using these sketches/models which will help in communicating the original train of thought to others. 

Various zoning analysis through massing 

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Advantages of Architectural Massing 

Massing includes the overall size and form of a building. It brings to reality the scale of the project, with respect to the surrounding context as well as with its own subparts. The interior spaces are dictated largely by the overall massing and can determine the functionality of the space to a large extent. An efficient massing composition adds character, a sense of identity and dictates the overall expression of the building when viewed from outside. The impact of massing on the overall architecture of the project impacts its general feasibility within the given constraints like government regulations or site restrictions. 

Author

An architect from Kerala, who best expresses her feelings through doodles and words, Naomi is still in a self-discovering journey, be it through music, traveling, or volunteering. Her positive attitude towards life motivates her to make the world a better place to live in, one step at a time.

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