"All pictorial form begins with the point that sets itself in motion... The point moves ... and the line comes into being-the first dimension. If the line shifts to form a plane, we obtain a two-dimensional element. In the movement from plane to spaces, the clash of planes gives rise to body (three-dimensional) ... A summary of the kinetic energies which move the point into a line, the line into a plane, and the plane into a spatial dimension."
The Thinking Eye: The Notebooks of Paul Klee
This opening chapter presents the primary elements of form in the order of their growth from the point to a one-dimensional line, from the line to a two-dimensional plane, and from the plane to a three-dimensional volume. Each element is first considered as a conceptual element, then as a visual element in the vocabulary of architectural design.
As conceptual elements, the point, line, plane, and volume are not visible except to the mind's eye. While they do not actually exist, we nevertheless feel their presence. We can sense a point at the meeting of two lines, a line marking the contour of a plane, a plane enclosing a volume, and the volume of an object that occupies space.
When made visible to the eye on paper or in three-dimensional space, these elements become form with characteristics of substance, shape, size, color, and texture. As we experience these forms in our environment, we should be able to perceive in their structure the existence of the primary elements of point, line, plane, and volume.
As the prime generator of form, the
A point marks a position in space. Conceptually, it has no length, width, or depth, and is therefore static, centralized, and directionless.
As the prime element in the vocabulary of form, a point can serve to mark:
the two ends of a line
the intersection of two lines
the meeting of lines at the corner of a plane or volume
the center of a field
Although a point theoretically has neither shape nor form, it begins to make its presence felt when placed within a visual field. At the center of its environment, a point is stable and at rest, organizing surrounding elements about itself and dominating its field.
When the point is moved off-center, however, its field becomes more aggressive and begins to compete for visual supremacy. Visual tension is created between the point and its field.
Piazza del Campidoglio , Rome, c. 1544, Michelangelo Buonarroti.
The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius marks the center of this urban space.
A point has no dimension. To visibly mark a position in space or on the ground plane, a point must be projected vertically into a linear form, as a column, obelisk, or tower. Any such columnar element is seen in plan as a point and therefore retains the visual characteristics of a point. Other point-generated forms that share these same visual attributes are the:
Mont St. Michel , France, 13th century and later.
The pyramidal composition culminates in a spire that serves to establish this fortified monastery as a specific place in the landscape.
Two points describe a line that connects them. Although the points give this line finite length, the line can also be considered a segment of an infinitely longer path.
Two points further suggest an axis perpendicular to the line they describe and about which they are symmetrical. Because this axis may be infinite in length, it can be at times more dominant than the described line.
In both cases, however, the described line and the perpendicular axis are optically more dominant than the infinite number of lines that m