How we perceive design and its fundamental parameters defines our perspective. Parameters such as size, proportion, repetition, hierarchy. How do we define hierarchy? Hierarchy is defined as when an element is given more importance in comparison with the other element. Hierarchy in architecture is usually given in building design and in construction to create a meaning to the elements, to emphasize. 

The hierarchy can be created by size, shape, color.

Hierarchy by size: Hierarchy by size can be created by giving a structure more importance in terms of size or a structure that is tall in comparison with the height or a structure that is small in comparison with the size.

15 Examples of Hierarchy in architecture - Sheet1
Hierarchy by size ©

Hierarchy by shape: Hierarchy by shape can be created by giving a structure more or a composite form of shape or a structure that is irregular in shape in comparison with the form.

15 Examples of Hierarchy in architecture - Sheet2
Hierarchy by shape ©

Hierarchy by color: Hierarchy by color can be made dominant by giving an element in the structure bold or composite color in the entire structure.

15 Examples of Hierarchy in architecture - Sheet3
Hierarchy by color ©

When we see or observe structures, the beautification comes out by hierarchy as well. 

Here are 15 beautiful examples of hierarchy in architecture:

1. Humayun Tomb

Humayun Tomb is in the Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India. It was built in 1570 and also was the first structure to use sandstone. UNESCO declared Humayun Tomb as the World heritage Building in 1993. Particularly the dome at which the top of the structure shows the hierarchy in the entire building. An aesthetic and as a design element it emphasizes the onion shape of a dome. This tomb is also known as Maqbara-I-Humayun. Resembling the hierarchy by shape.

Humayun Tomb
Humayun Tomb, World heritage site, 2012

2. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Iran

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on the eastern side of Naqsh-i Jahan Square was constructed in 1619. Also known as the masterpiece by the Iranian architect Master Mohammad Reza Isfahani. It almost took 18 years to build this and henceforth created a benchmark as one of the most beautiful mosques in Iran. The basic principles are seen but the most beautiful one is the hierarchy created by the dome. 

The dome comprises delicate ornamentation of silver and metalwork, the signature blue and turquoise tiles used to enhance the beauty. This is the most beautiful example of hierarchy by shape, color, size which enhances the structure.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Iran
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran, 2001

3. Legislative assembly in Chandigarh

The Palace of assembly in Chandigarh and designed by Le Corbusier is the perfect example of hierarchy by proportion. Its assembly is made with a hyperbolic shell with an average thickness of 15 centimeters. 

The most beautiful thing that has been shaped in the circular form for the hall setting a good example of acoustics. It shall end in an oblique section such that it receives a metallic framework. The circular form itself emphasizes the entire structural elements which are folded naturally.

Legislative assembly in Chandigarh
Legislative Assembly, Corbusier, Chandigarh

4. Dome of Florence Cathedral (Italy)

Florence Cathedral is in Italy was constructed in 1436 designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, an Italian architect, and sculptor. The Dome of Florence Cathedral is the most iconic element in history, it is the miracle of technology. The dome of Florence Cathedral has been crafted with a diameter of 45 meters where the church dome rises almost 107 meters in the sky. 

The dome of Florence is almost big, the size of a football field and thus it has a larger height than the tower of the church. The hierarchical element is outstanding because of the proportion given by Arnolfo di Cambio.

Dome of Florence Cathedral (Italy)
Dome of Florence Cathedral, Italy, photo © Arch20

5. The National Congress of Brazil

The National Congress of Brazil is designed by Oscar Niemeyer in the city of Brasilia, which was constructed in 1958. He is also famous for his curvaceous structure. The buildings use simple geometric shapes, combined in such a way that the building is both very masculine and feminine. A perfect tangible tension has been created by the sleek curves and impressing hard lines. 

The perfect use of geometry created the perfect hierarchical element in the shape of a saucer. The tall and flat circular part of the structure makes it iconic, and it stands out in the entire periphery.

The National Congress of Brazil - Sheet1
The National Congress of Brazil, Brazil, 2010
The National Congress of Brazil - Sheet2
The National Congress of Brazil, Brazil, 2010

6. Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy 

The Doge’s Palace in Italy was designed in a Venetian Gothic style. The structure has been given a subtle feel by the material. The structure holds hierarchy in the repetitive arches created. The beautifully crafted arches created a unique feature by getting an enhanced character. This resembles Gothic architecture. This style makes one think of the 17th century which is developed from Romanesque architecture. 

The key element which is highly repeated is pointed arches that hold a resemblance to Islamic Architecture. The pointed arches distribute the weight in a vertical rather than horizontal direction.

Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy 
Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy, 2001

7. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, United States

The Guggenheim Museum is a Museum of Modern Art designed by Frank with the best structure for Contemporary Architecture. It resembles the fluidity of nature, a water-like shape flowing with the rhythm. Created by the folds and unfoldings of the plates. Creates a unique hierarchy of folds and unfolds. 

The unevenness which is created is the resemblance of the distinct language of architecture. Breaking the repetitive monotype profile with structures, Guggenheim Museum is a symbol of Contemporary Architecture.

Guggenheim Museum, New York City, United States, photo © James Auden

8. Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil

The Cathedral of Brasilia is in Brazil designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer. The structure is almost a crown-like hyperboloid shape that appears to pin down to the ground. The building appears to be of striking shape and a beautiful glass ceiling. The structure is undeniably beautiful as its exterior is dominated by the 16 curved concrete columns because Oscar Niemeyer loved curves. 

These curves are inward, branching back outwards to create a hyperboloid shape. An hourglass profile makes one think of a white crown or crown of thorns which is 131 feet in height.

Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil
Cathedral of Brasilia, Brazil

9. Sydney Opera House, Australia

The Sydney Opera House in Australia was designed by Danish Architect John Utzon. This is the first example of the Expressionist building. Utzon did not want this geometric shape to pull out of the shell. He wanted them to look like bright sails on Australian dark water. Folding the shell-like structure of the Sydney Opera House created a beautiful hierarchy resembling nature, the fluidity of the water.

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sydney Opera House, Australia

10. The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic

The Dancing House is the nickname given to the National Nederlanden; it is designed by Vlado Milunić and constructed in 1996. It took on a debate about this non-traditional design in the period of Baroque, Gothic, And Art Nouveau styles. This structure is the symbol of deconstructivism because of its unusual shape. 

The dancing shape is supported by the 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and size. The building brings out the different hierarchies in the surrounding as it carries authentic shape distorting.

The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic
The Dancing House, Prague, 2001

11. London City Hall, England

The London City Hall is designed by Foster + Partners as an office and headquarter. By day it may appear as a tight ball of architectural muscle but at night it appears to be glamorous with its dramatic interior which is revealed in the night. It is said that City Hall is considered as the Capital’s most symbolically important project which showcases the art of transparency and shows the potential for a wholly sustainable and virtually non-polluting public building. It comprises an Assembly chamber, committee rooms, Mayor’s cabinet, staff room providing 12,000 square–meters of accommodation on ten levels.

London City Hall, England
London City Hall, England, photo ©archive

12. Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

The Auditorio de Tenerife is in Spain, designed by Santiago Calatrava and constructed in 2003. The magnificent structure is a masterpiece of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is also regarded as the finest contemporary building in the Canary Islands. The building was originally a form of wave, folding like a wave of the moon. 

The beauty of this structure is such that if one moves away at a particular distance from the structure, the auditorium looks like an element of the mountain of foam is about to crash. The hierarchy which has been created is phenomenal standing out in the entire periphery.

Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain - Sheet1
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain ©archived
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain - Sheet2
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain ©archived

13. Strasbourg Cathedral Fold in France

Axis Mundi was invited to the proposal for the new Cathedral of the city of Strasbourg in France. The structure is made of a series of unfolded arches that rest on a submerged “Latin cross” on the floor. The concept for this project was the unfolded arches which were used to invite natural light for the indoor light. A basic example of hierarchy by proportion and size in terms of height can be called Strasbourg Cathedral Fold. 

The floor plan is an abstracted Latin cross that is sunken into the ground which further exalts the massive volume of the interior space. The interior spaces are minimally cladded with oak and bronze.

Strasbourg Cathedral Fold in France
Strasbourg Cathedral Fold, France ©Architecture Digest

14. The Universum science center museum in Germany

The Universum Science Center Museum is in Germany. It is a science museum, to showcase experimental things. The most beautiful thing about this structure is that it is not rectangular, not straight, and not orthogonally geometrical. These are the fascinating things that make this structure stand out. The reflecting sheets as a facade create a shimmery effect. The non-rectangular shape creates an emphasis, making it a hierarchical element.

The Universum science center museum in Germany
The Universum science center museum, Germany ©arch20

15. The white tower building in Spain

The white tower in Spain was designed by Francisco Javier Saenz de Oíza in 1969. This is the only concrete structure that was originally ahead of its time; it is a set of vertical-looking trees on the lookout to open terraces and garden cores. This unique, prominent building creates an example of hierarchy by proportion. The way this structure has been designed inspired by the “tree” creates a tall structure in comparison with the other structures in the periphery.

The white tower building in Spain
The white tower building, Spain ©Architecture Digest

Every structure has its unique elements that emphasize and show the hierarchy along with its beauty. Hierarchy by size, shape, and color may vary but the perfect blend of proportion and scale defines the structure. The exterior beauty of any structure can be achieved by the amalgamation of size, proportion, and the perfect blend of hierarchy.



Ar. Ritu Gosavi is a published co-author of the two anthology " A poet's Pulse" and "Slice of life" , graduated from College of Architecture Nasik .A brilliant content writer since 2019 bringing light on social and patriarchal norms through her writing page called "Ruminant". An architect, author, and audacious , a classical and japanese literature lover.